What Judo Teaches Us

We have to become able to meet disadvantages. In most sports, if there is some injury, people say, ‘Oh, you can’t expect me to go on; I’ve got a bad elbow’ or whatever it is. But in Judo we are trained to go on even with injuries. We know that the body is only 30 percent effective, perhaps only 20 percent effective. But we are not demoralized, and we can use the remaining 30 percent or 20 percent, whereas many people, if they are injured or feel a little sick, cannot do anything at all. They are completely knocked out.

The ability to keep up morale in the face of disadvantages can be a great help for our lives. There is a saying in Japan, ‘Every man has seven faults’. Well, to know that we have faults but to go on in spite of those faults, to find ways of lessening them and avoid having those faults completely destroy our lives—Judo would help us with that, if we think back to the times when we have been injured. Not demoralized. Injured but not demoralized.

We have to become resourceful and we have to become objective. An expert on the ground whom I saw and knew at the Kodokan was a vicious man. He used to put the locks and just put them on a little bit more to hurt. He did not do any damage, he never caused any injury at all, but he would just hurt. He was an expert on locks on the ground, and in those days the rules were wider, so there were more locks.

Well, I practised with him. I could throw him some times, but on the ground he was much better. I experienced this and saw him hurting other people. No one liked to practise with him, and I was among them. But then I realized: ‘No, Pm wrong. He’s a most unpleasant man, and it’s not very nice to have these little pains, but you can learn a lot’. I did practise with him regularly, and as a matter of fact after a time he stopped doing it.

Another thing which Judo can teach us is: ‘Hold tightly, let go lightly’. Suppose I am holding this stick tightly. You would have to be quite strong to make me let go in the ordinary way. But if someone comes along who knows, he can just press the end of the stick in exactly the right direction. I may be holding like mad, but sooner or later the pain at the root of the thumb is going to be too bad. I am forced down and out of balance trying to hold on, but in the end I have to let go. And my balance has been destroyed, and my hand hurts.

In general, if we are holding an opponent and he moves in the right way and gets out to continue trying to hold on and on, one’s own position is ruined. In these cases we should hold tightly, but when we can see that it’s going, let go abruptly and even push it away.

Then we retain the balance, and we can turn and move freely in a good position to meet whatever may happen next. For this can happen in life. We must apply this in life. We try something very hard, put all we have into it. Then it begins to go, to leave us. We think: ‘No, no. I’ll hold on. Don’t go, don’t go’. But it goes, and we are left regretting; our balance, so to speak, has been destroyed. Instead of that, Judo can teach us to let go, even cheerfully to push it away, ‘Go, then’. Judo can teach us how to do that.

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