“He who can suppress a moment’s anger may prevent many days’ sorrow.”Tryon Edwards
When one thinks of philosophy, most think of academics, politicians, and writers. Among those are a chosen few who have devoted their lives to the path of fighting. Among the most philosophical minds are those whose lives have been burdened by the constant uncertainty that war and its results may bear upon the soul. Martial arts and philosophy have been strange bedfellows for as long as humanity has lived due to a life that may very well lead one closer to death. A warrior faces the worst nature has to offer in violence, therefore, it is likely they will wish to ponder upon the meaning of life with more clarity than one who has not had to face violence regularly.
This discussion will focus on the philosophy of one of the most practical and deadly martial arts in all human history. The art of judo. Judo has a rich history in Japan and has gained international fame to the point of becoming an Olympic sport. This discussion will not focus so much on the history of Judo as much as incorporating the philosophy that makes the martial art a way of life. In this post, the topic of the principles of judo will be briefly discussed in a way that one can use the philosophy in real life even if one is not a judoka. To begin, a few principles will be outlined and broken down to determine where and how one can use them in everyday life.
To start, Judo literally means “The Gentle Way”. The goal is to use “maximum efficiency” in its throws and techniques with minimal effort on the practictioner in a way that even a small judoka can best a bigger opponent. Many of the throws utlilize taking the opponent off balance as opposed to trying to out muscle them. A good judoka doesn’t necessarily have to be bigger or more powerful than his/her opponent because many of the techniques use the ground, gravity, or the opponent’s own momentum as weapons.
“The pine fought the storm and broke. The willow yielded to the wind and snow and did not break. Practice Jiu-Jitsu in just this way.”Jigoro Kano
How can this translate into everyday life? There are situations where a person has no control over the events that take place. The best one can do is flow with the movement and play their part. In judo, many of the throwing techniques require one to acknowledge that they will fall to the ground to complete the technique. In this way, one can complete a perfectly executed technique with little effort on their own. Instead of resisting movement, the judoka flows with the opponent’s momentum to execute a throw or sweep technique. In life, there will be instances where one is better off rolling with the punches and only doing what is within their control instead of attemtping to control the situation. If a judoka tries too hard, they can hurt themselves instead of their opponent in the same way that if one tries to control a situation instead of learning when to yield and adapt, they can make the outcome far worse than intended.
Another core principle of Judo is “Mutual Welfare and Benefit.” Jigoro Kano believed that in its core, Judo can help a person become useful for society at large. In judo, the safety of each practitioner is enforced considering how easily one can kill someone using the techniques in a real world street fight. The point of many judo techniques is to ensure that one can stop the opponent without requiring them to be brutally injured or killed to stop the fight before it escalates.
“Apply just the right amount of force — never too much, never too little.”Kano Jigoro
In real life situations, de escalation can save more lives than it can hurt. If you can fix a problem without having to create another one, you’ve saved yourself a lot of trouble in any environment. It takes less effort to walk away from a possible confrontation than to continue an argument in hopes of winning just to stroke your ego. You thought of the mutual benefit of yourself and the other person by not turning a disagreement into a fight. You don’t always have to have the last word. Mutual welfare and benefit translates well into the larger scope of something like disagreements between individuals by ensuring no one has to get hurt. Safety First.
In Judo, one tends to practice the “art of falling” in the very first days of class in order to understand that you WILL fall down whether you’re being thrown or are throwing your opponent. When you practice the art of falling, you are able to do so without much injury. As said previously, sometimes it is better to yield and let yourself flow with the movement than to resist. Learning how and when to fall can sometimes be the difference between victory or injury. We can all learn the art of falling in our lives to understand our role in the grand scheme of this universe. If one learns how and when to fall, a positive outcome can manifest from of a bad situation in any area of your life.
There are numerous aspects to judo that can be discussed at length. These basic principles are only the beginning of a lifelong journey into the heart of what it means to be a judoka. The principles and philosophy of judo can benefit a person in numerous areas of their life and I would encourage the reader to dive deeper into it. One can either do this by researching the philosophy or by actually practicing the martial art itself.
Until the Next Daydream…