Judo The Japanese Art of Self Defense

By Professor Jigoro Kano

Professor Kano is the foremost teacher of Jiu-Jitsu in Japan. The following article is the substance of a lecture upon this topic that he delivered before the Asiatic Society of Japan, at the British Embassy in Tokyo, last July. The first part of the lecture was devoted chiefly to illustrations of the various holds and methods of attack, in which the lecturer was assisted by six experts.

The purpose of my talk is to treat of Judo as a Culture, — Physical, Mental and Moral, — but as it is based on the art of attack and defense, I shall first explain what this Judo of the contest is.

In the feudal times of Japan, Judo, then more commonly known as Jujutsu, was practised by our samurai, together with other martial exercises, such as fencing, archery, the use of spears, and so forth. Judo was an art of fighting, generally without weapons, although sometimes different kinds of weapons were used. The attack was principally throwing, hitting, kicking, choking, holding the opponent down, and bending or twisting the opponent’s arms or legs in such a way as to cause pain or fracture. We have multitudinous ways of defending ourselves against such attacks.

A main feature of the art is the application of the principles of nonresistance and taking advantage of the opponent’s loss of equilibrium; hence the name Jiu-Jitsu (literally soft or gentle art), or Judo (doctrine of softness or gentleness). Now let me explain this principle by actual examples.

Suppose we estimate the strength of a man in units of one. Let us say that the strength of this man (an assistant) is ten units, whereas my strength, less than his, is seven units. Then if he pushes me with all his force, I shal certainly be pushed back or thrown down, even if I use all my strength against him. This would happen from opposing strength to strength. But if, instead of opposing him, I leave him unresisted, withdrawing my body just as much as he pushes, at the same time keeping my balance, he will naturally lean forward and lose his balance. In this new position he may become so weak (not in actual physical strength, but because of his awkward position) as to reduce his strength for the moment, say to three units only instead of ten. Meanwhile, by keeping my balance, I retain my full strength available for any emergency. Had I greater strength than my opponent, I could of course have pushed him back; but even if I wished to push him back, I should first have left him unresisting, as by so doing I should greatly economize my energy.

This is one instance showing how an opponent may be beaten by being left un-resisted. Others may be given.

Suppose my opponent tries to hoist my body, intending to make me fall. If I resist him, I shall be thrown down, because my strength to resist is not sufficient to overcome his. If, on the other hand, I leave him un-resisted and, while so doing, pull him this way (illustrating), throwing my body voluntarily on the ground, I can throw him very easily.

I could multiply these examples, but probably those I have given will suffice to enable you to understand how one may beat an opponent by not resisting him. But there are cases to which this principle does not apply. Suppose, for instance, my opponent takes hold of my right wrist and I resist him, there is no means of releasing it from his hold. The best way would be to move my arm so that my whole strength is used to counteract his hand grip, the strength of which is of course far inferior to my concentrated strength and therefore gives way to it. In such case I used my strength against his, contrary to the principle of nonresistance.

Again my opponent grips me from behind; I cannot release myself by nonresistance and must either throw him, using the strength of my body to break his grip, or slide down obliquely, releasing myself and releasing his grip at the same time. These examples serve to show that the principle of nonresistance is not applicable in all cases.

Is there, then, any principle which never fails of application? Yes, there is! And that is the principle of the Maximum Efficiency in Use of Mind and Body. Nonresistance is only one instance of the application of this fundamental principle.

On careful consideration we come to see that we make an unnecessary expenditure of energy in ordinary bodily contests, and also in our daily lives. I shall show you, by some examples, how a small exertion of energy is often sufficient to perform some of the most marvelous feats in physical contests.
Here is a man, either standing still or moving a leg or legs. When he moves, he gives me an opportunity of throwing him by slight exertion on my part. I will first show you how to throw him in case he steps forward with either foot.
Suppose he advances his right leg: I shall not be able to throw him if I push that leg from behind, so long as it is still off the ground and his body is supported by his left leg. But if I push it (from the back near the tendon of Achilles) just as his foot is touching the ground, and at the moment when the weight of his body is in process of being transferred to the front leg, a slight tap will be enough for me to throw him. And if he steps backward, a slight kick applied to his front leg at the proper moment will enable me to throw him very easily.

Next I shall show how it is if he is standing still. In that case he may be compared to a log of wood standing on its end. Unless he resists me with his bodily strength he may very easily be pushed or pulled down. And if he resists me, he will be thrown even more easily by merely pulling or pushing in the direction he is exerting his strength. This shows how strength properly applied may control strength several times greater.

Again, a man is standing in his natural position and I attempt to twist his arm. In this case I shall find great difficulty, as he has full power to defend himself. But taking advantage of his unguarded moment or his moving in a certain direction, I pull him in that direction and disturb his balance. Then I can easily twist his arm, and by holding and pressing it near the elbow joint with my arm, I can entirely incapacitate him from free action; as, unless he yields to me, he will be hurt and may even get the joint dislocated.

Next, I will show how I can choke an opponent. Here also it is advisable to upset his physical equilibrium. There are many opportunities of throwing an opponent out of balance, in the course of a contest. One is when he attempts to hit me. If he shoots out his right arm and tries to hit my face, then,avoiding the stroke, I take hold of his sleeve or arm near the elbow joint with the left hand and pull it, just at the moment he is a little out of balance. I bring my right arm in front of his neck and push him from behind with my left hand near the base of his spinal column, thus completely upsetting his balance. I can then bring my left hand up and choke him.

These are all illustrations of the principle of the Maximum Efficiency in Use of Mind and Body. On this principle the whole fabric of the art and science of Judo is constructed.

Judo is taught under two methods, one called Randori, and the other Kata. Randori, or Free Exercise, is practiced under conditions of actual contest. It includes throwing, choking, holding down, and bending or twisting the opponent’s arms or legs. The combatants may use whatever tricks they like, provided they do not hurt each other, and obey the general rules of Judo etiquette. Kata, which literally means Form, is a formal system of prearranged exercises, including, besides the aforementioned actions, hitting and kicking and the use of weapons, according to rules under which each combatant knows beforehand exactly what his opponent is going to do.

The use of weapons and hitting and kicking is taught in Kata and not in Randori, because if these practices were resorted to in Randori injury might well arise, while when taught in Kata no injury is likely to happen as all the attacks and defenses are prearranged.

Randori may be practised in various ways. If the object is simply the training in methods of attack and defense, the learner’s attention should be directed especially to the most efficient way of throwing, striking, kicking, bending, or twisting, without special reference to developing the body, or to mental or moral culture. But if the object is physical, mental, or moral culture, the training in methods of attack and defense may be confined to such phases of Judo as are necessary to this culture.

One great value of Judo, as physical culture, lies in the interest accompanying its practice. In Judo every movement has some meaning; and as Randori is not the mere repetition of a certain number of fixed movements, but an innumerable combination of diverse movements voluntarily chosen by the combatants to meet the need of the occasion, the spirit in which these movements are done is quite different from that of movements made according to certain arbitrary rules.

Again the limitless variety of movements in Judo fits it for physical development, aid the variety of ways in which training is possible makes it suitable to everybody, old and young, robust and weak. The result of a systematic training in Judo is not only to develop a strong and healthy body but also to create in a man or woman a perfect control over mind and body, and make him ready to meet any emergency, either from accident or from attack. Although in Judo exercise is generally between two persons, and in a room specially fitted for the purpose, those conditions are not always observed. It can be conducted by parties or by a single person, and in the playground or an ordinary room.
I will explain how one can be mentally trained in Judo. Mental training can be done by Kata as well as by Randori, but more successfully by the latter. As Randori is competition between two persons, using all the resources at their command, an opponent will seize any opportunity for attack. A learner should therefore be made aware, if possible, of the strong or weak points of his opponent, his mental and physical characteristics; everything, in short, which may help him to devise means to beat him. Such training, if properly conducted by a competent instructor, tends to make the learner earnest and sincere, cautious and deliberate in his actions.

At the same time, one is trained to decision and prompt action, because in Randori, with the opponent always on the alert, one must know what to do and do it at once. Randori not only trains the will of the learner but gives him mental composure. In Randori each of the parties is generally ignorant of what the other purposes, and must be prepared for any kind of sudden attack. This attitude of being ready to meet any emergency trains one to keep his mind composed, because if confused he will be easily beaten when the attack comes.

Everybody will admit that one important means of self-improvement is seeing the successes and failures of others, and it is by the exercise of the power of attention and observation in the training-hall that one acquires ability indispensable not only in Judo but also in actual life. The next step is to devise the means of beating an opponent. For this the powers of imagination, of reasoning, and of judgment are essential, and proper training in Randori requires the exercise of all these powers. Furthermore, as the study of Randori is the study of the relation between two competing parties, hundreds of valuable lessons are derived from it. For the present I will content myself with giving only a few examples.

In Randori we teach the learner to act on the fundamental principles of Judo all through, no matter how physically inferior his opponent may seem to him, and even if by sheer strength he can easily overcome him; because if he acts contrary to principle his opponent will never be convinced of defeat, no matter what brute strength he may have used. It is hardly necessary to call attention to the fact that the way to convince an opponent in argument is not to push this or that advantage over him, be it from knowledge, wealth, or power, but to persuade him in accordance with the invariable rules of logic. The lesson that persuasion and not coercion is efficacious, so valuable in actual life, we may learn through Randori.

Again we teach the learner, when he has recourse to our tricks in overcoming his opponent, to employ only as much of his force as is absolutely required for the purpose in question, cautioning him against either an over or under exertion of energy. There are not a few cases in which people fail in what they undertake simply because they go too far.

To take one more instance: in Randori we teach the learner, when he faces an opponent who is madly excited, to score a victory, not by directly resisting with might and main, but by playing his opponent till his very fury expends itself. The usefulness of this attitude in everyday transactions with others is patent: as is well known, no amount of reasoning could avail us when confronted by a person so agitated as to have lost his temper; all that we have to do in such a case is to wait till his passion wears itself out.

Now all these doctrines we learn in the practice of Randori. Their application to the conduct of daily affairs is a very interesting subject of study and invaluable as an intellectual training for young minds.

As to the moral phase of Judo, — not to speak of the discipline of the exercise room involving the observance of the regular rules of etiquette, courage, and perseverance, kindness to and respect for others, impartiality and fair play so much emphasized in Western athletic training, — Judo has special importance in Japan. Because, as I have already mentioned, Judo — together with fencing and other martial exercises — was practised by our old samurai, and the spirit of the high code of honor they observed has been handed down to us through the teaching of the art.

In this connection let me explain how the principle of the Maximum Efficiency in Use of Mind and Body helps in promoting moral conduct. A man is sometimes very excitable and prone to anger for trivial reasons; but when he comes to consider that to be excited involves an unnecessary expenditure of energy, benefiting nobody and often doing harm to himself and others, the student of Judo must refrain from such conduct. One is sometimes despondent from disappointment, is gloomy, and has no courage to work. Judo advises such a man to try and find out the best he can do under existing circumstances. Paradoxical as it may seem, such a man, to my mind, is in the same position as one at the zenith of success. In both cases there is only one road to follow — the one he deems best at the time. Thus the teaching of Judo may lift a man from the depths of discouragement to vigorous activity with a bright hope in the future. The same reasoning applies to persons who are discontented. Discontented persons are often in a sulky state of mind and blame other people, without properly attending to their own affairs. The teaching of Judo makes such persons understand that such conduct is against the principle of the Maximum Efficiency in Use of Mind and Body.

Taken from – The Living Age, Volume 314
Published: 1922
Page 727 – 731

From the Japan Advertiser, July 29
(tokyo American Daily)

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