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Classical Judo: Maximum Efficient Use of Mind and Body

Date Posted: 2001-03-16

In the final part of his series, Okinawa resident Robert V. Anderson, Jr., who publishes the bi-monthly magazine Ko Ten Ha Judo, explains how the founder of Judo inaugurated the style.

What Jigoro Kano taught in the Eishoji Buddhist Temple had yet to be called Judo. It wasn’t until Jigoro had built the dojo on the vacant lot next to the Eishoji Buddhist Temple that Jigoro Kano called his system Judo. He called his students together in commemoration of the new building and told them: “It’s no reflection on any of you, but nowadays few men of good character would pursue an interest in Ju Jutsu for long. Those who do are generally roughnecks, men who are fond of fighting or who don’t have enough mental discipline to get an education. My own belief is that Ju Jutsu training should improve a man’s character as well as his physical powers. I hope you agree. In my opinion, the ideal should be to prevent fights, to promote education and to cultivate good manners and civilized behavior. From today, we will no longer practice Ju Jutsu. We will practice something new, which we will call Judo.”

Jigoro Kano explained why he chose the name Judo over Jutsu in a lecture given in 1898:

“…When I began to teach, Ju Jutsu had fallen into disrepute. Some Ju Jutsu masters made their living by organizing troupes composed of their followers, and putting on exhibition matches to which admission fees were charged. Others went so far as to stage bouts between professional Sumo wrestlers and Ju Jutsu men. Such degrading practices of prostituting a martial art were repugnant to me so I avoided the term Ju Jutsu and adopted Judo in its stead. Then, to distinguish it from the Jikishin Ryu which employed also the term Judo, I called my school the ‘Kodokan Judo’, though the title is rather long.”

The major difference between Kodokan Judo and classical or combat Ju Jutsu is the elevation of an art to a principle based on the principle of the maximum efficient use of mind and body incorporating the concept of “Ju.” Jigoro Kano explained “Ju” in his book: “What then does this ‘gentleness’ or ‘giving way’ really mean? To answer this question let us suppose that we estimate the strength of a man in units of one. Let us say that the strength of a man standing in front of me is represented by ten units, whereas my strength, less than his, is represented by seven units. Now, if he pushes me with all his force, I shall certainly be pushed back or thrown down, even if I use all my strength against his. But if, instead of opposing him, I were to give way to his strength by withdrawing my body just as much as he had pushed, taking care at the same time to keep my balance, then he would naturally lean forward and thus lose his balance.

In this new position, he may become so weak, not in his actual physical strength but because of his awkward position, as to have his strength represented for the moment by only three units instead of his normal ten. But meanwhile, I, by keeping my balance, retain my full strength, as originally represented by seven units. Here then, I am momentarily in a superior position, and I can defeat my opponent by using only half of my strength, that is half of my seven units, or three and one-half, against his three. This leaves one-half of my strength available for my purpose. If I had greater strength than my opponent, I could of course push him back. But even if I wished to, and had the power to do so, it would still be better for me first to give way, because by so doing, I should have greatly saved my energy and exhausted my opponent’s.

Sometimes an opponent takes hold of one’s wrist. How can someone possibly release himself without using his strength against his opponent’s grip? The same thing can be asked when somebody is seized around his shoulders from behind by an assailant. If thus, the principle of giving way cannot cover all the methods used in Ju Jutsu contests. Is there any principle which really covers the whole field? Yes, there is, and that is the principle of maximum efficient use of mind and body. Ju Jutsu is nothing but an application of this all-pervading principle to the way of attack and defense.

Jigoro Kano invented the belt rank system known as the Dan system (the name attached to an individual who attained the rank of Black Belt). This system was adopted by other martial arts and some martial arts modified the system to meet their particular needs. There was no belt rank system for martial arts until Kano invented Judo.

The following quote from Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts truly expresses the state of Judo today: “Classical Judo represented a quasi-fighting art with consideration being given primarily to training of mind and body through prescribed exercises; included were aspects of physical education, self-defense and competition. [Jigoro] Kano substituted the word ‘opponent’ for the word ‘enemy’ of Ju Jutsu but did not mean to remove the self-defense values completely. Because of the modern stress on the contest, physical education and self-defense have been relegated to secondary positions and the over all balance established by Kano has been lost” I teach Judo as it was prior to WW II.

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