The ju in judo means “gentle” or “giving way,” and do means “way” or “principle.” Professor Kanō Jigorō created judo in 1882 in Japan, based on ancient self-defense methods.
I practiced judo about 20 years ago; an unrelated injury keeps me from fighting today, since a judo match is full-force combat. (Little can equal the thrill of full-force combat.) Though I only studied judo for a few years and was never especially good at it, I learned a lot.
In a judo throw, you help your adversaries fall from their own force by giving way in their path toward the floor. The principle is to obtain maximum efficiency with minimum effort, especially in the use of your spirit and body.
Professor Kanō insisted that judo’s five basic fighting techniques should be applied to life in general.
1. Analyze yourself and your adversary, as well as your surroundings. When you understand the strengths and weaknesses of both of them and yourself, you will know what to do.
2. You must take the lead. Those who play chess, Kanō said, know that their movements influence the movements of the adversary.
3. “Consider fully, act decisively.” This is not the time to hesitate or think twice.
4. “I would now like to advise you on when to stop,” he said. “When a predetermined point has been reached, it is time to cease applying the technique.” Have a goal and use it.
5. “Walk a single path, becoming neither cocky with victory nor broken with defeat, without forgetting caution when all is quiet or becoming frightened when danger threatens.” Know your purpose and be calmly prepared.
“Mental stability and an unbreakable calm are important factors in a judo fight,” Kanō said. “Judo can be considered as the art or philosophy of balance, and as a means to cultivate the sense and state of balance.”
But he adds: “The idea of considering others as enemies can be nothing other than madness and the cause of regression.” To practice maximum efficiency in combat and in life, there must be order and harmony among people. “This can be realized only through mutual aid and concession. The result is progress and mutual benefit.”
The first thing you learn in judo is how to bow, because you will bow a lot during a class or match. It’s the way to express gratitude and respect to your adversary, your teacher, and to your fellow students because they have given you a chance to become a better person.
I learned a lot, though too often I forget to live what I learned. In judo, every fight, win or lose, can lead to improved technique and efficiency.