The Kodenkan Judo of Master Okazaki

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The Meaning of Judo

Professor Okazaki's


(Mastering "Stillness in Movement")

When Dr. Kano adopted the term Judo to describe his new system, he was not the first to use the term. Its first usage appeared about 50 years prior to Kano’s usage; however, this in itself is of little concern. The important point is that –jutsu and –do schools existed in Japan for hundreds of years. Many feel that by identifying the suffix the can determine something about the curriculum but this is not always true. But, first let us say what the two terms generally connote.

Jutsu means art or science, art in the sense of technique or Wasa being employed. More appropriately, it is the study of a method of doing something and thus science is the more appropriate term.

Do means Way. It is from the Chinese Tao that refers to Way of Life. In ancient China, there was Tao or simply Way as taught by Lao Tzu and Chaung Tzu. There was the Tao of Confucius and Mencius as well as the Tao of Buddhism. These are all Ways by which one can lead a better, fuller life – in harmony with one’s family, neighbors and Nature.

From earliest times in China, prior to the arrival of Zen Buddhism to Japan, there was a union of martial techniques with the practice of a Way. Indeed, the term Dojo with which we are all familiar means “Place where the Way is practiced”. Dojo, then really means temple. It is not necessary to identify which Way or temple where one practiced. Suffice to say, in ancient China, first Taoist temples of Lao Tzu and then Buddhist temples were the gathering places and study halls for martial practice.

This means that martial practice has always been associated with the betterment of self. This does not mean that all martial schools from ancient times emphasized this aspect, only that there is an association from antiquity where the betterment of self was a concomitant goal with the study of the martial curriculum. For this reason, as the Chinese philosophy migrated to Japan and became inculcated into Japanese society, those aspects of self development which aided the Samurai into becoming better fighters quickly found their way into the study and practice of martial schools.

Samurai (the professional warriors of Japan) had an interest in anything that would improve their chances of survival for theirs was a life devoted to studying methods of fighting and preparing themselves for death in combat. All three of the Chinese philosophies – Taoism, Buddhism & Confucianism found a home in the Samurai’s studies.

Taoism brought the concept of Wu Wei or non-action as well as Chinese medicine to Japan. Since the practice halls were often places of brutal engagements, it was beneficial to know how to heal the injured and restore the unconscious. Thus, Katsu & Kappo came to play a significant role in the advanced curriculum.

The concept of Wu Wei found a home primarily in the Jujutsu, Aikijutsu and Yawara schools (or basically schools of unarmed combat). This principle is exemplified by yielding. In modern Judo “when pushed – pull, when pulled push" and Jujutsu/Aikijutsu “when pushed – turn, when pulled – enter”. (It is this concept that was developed by Dr. Kano in the Seiryoku Zenyo or Maximum Efficiency/Minimum Effort axiom and became his vehicle for propagating his form of Jujutsu.)

Buddhism (particularly Zen) brought a way of dealing with death to the Samurai, for in order to be a great warrior, one must reconcile oneself with death. (This may have been easier when people were dying from injuries suffered in class as well as duels for the slightest offense, for to see death on a constant basis could inure one to it.)

One of the first concepts taught to the warriors was Isshin or “one-mind”. This means to focus all one’s will and spirit on the opponent directly in front and attach with abandon. This often resulted in mutual death (Aiuchi). If one fighter had a weaker spirit, then the stronger might survive to kill another warrior (and so on). Eventually, one warrior army would defeat or put another to rout. As this was one of the easiest concepts to teach, it became quite prevalent – particularly during the warring period when the warlords needed new recruits on a regular basis (fresh fodder so to speak).

After the warring states period, other teachings and concepts began to take root. The concept of Mushin (no-mind) became the goal of the sword schools. This is the highest accomplishment of spiritual training achieved only after years of meditation and practice in the dojo. It is the state where the mind is “mirror-like” – it reflects everything and has no attachments to anything. This is the purest mind for fighting as it allows one to react spontaneously to all forms of attack. Thus, Mushin-consciousness signifies mastery.

So, spiritual development became a key component to developing mastery of martial skills. Without it, one was fearful and weak and could easily be defeated. After having undergone spiritual training along with martial training, one went beyond life and death to being at peace with oneself and in harmony with one’s surroundings.

The third philosophy to enter the dojo was Confucianism. This primarily concerns itself with respect for one’s parents, teachers and seniors. It emphasizes a community spirit, but if there is no opportunity to help the community, then to help the family and if there is no family to help, the to improve oneself.

One of the chief principles of Confucianism is Sincerity. Professor Okazaki wrote, “Every student of Judo should realize that Sincerity is the foundation of all virtues”. Confucius said, “Sincerity is the Way of Heaven. The attainment of Sincerity is the Way of men. He who possesses Sincerity is he who, without an effort, hits what is right and apprehends, without the exercise of thought; - he is the sage who naturally and easily embodies the right Way. He who attains to sincerity is he who chooses what is good and firmly holds it fast.” (Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. XX, 18). Thus, Professor Okazaki stressed the primary ethic of Confucianism as one of his chief principles.

In time, what came to distinguish the –Jutsu schools form the –Do schools was the emphasis on their practice. If we have not indicated that Do concepts were part of most martial schools then we should so like to state. From early on, the warriors learned that only spiritual development allowed them to overcome their fears of combat and so they prepared themselves as both warriors and, in a manner of speaking, as acolytes.

With the beginning of the Edo period in the 1600’s, many Samurai no longer felt the pressures of war. Their schools dropped all vestiges of combat activity and used martial practice strictly for the development of their spirit. Such systems as Kyudo (archery), Iaido (drawing the sword) and Kendo (Way of the Sword) come to mind. These are schools of the Do without the vestige of Jutsu.

Thus –Do forms of martial practice have a long history, both as part of inherent teachings of systems, as well as a specialized practice without the emphasis on combat forms. The emphasis is on the practice. This can be verified by visiting any Kyudo or Iaido school. What they do is not important. How they do it is!

One of the first actions of emperor Meiji was to dissolve the Samurai class. Since Samurai were unused to work and had no trade skills, many took to using their martial knowledge to rob and intimidate the populace. For this reason, Jujutsu became associated with the decadence that befell the Samurai class as a result of their abolition.

Kano wished to preserve Jujutsu. In order to do this, he needed to change the public’s opinion about the purpose and use of this martial art. He took those martial techniques that he could preserve in a safe environment and continued to teach and modify them until they lost nearly all their resemblance to their original combat form. He wished to create a –Do school while preserving the essence of Jujutsu. Due to Kano’s success, the name Judo came to be synonymous for the type of Jujutsu taught at his school (the Kodokan). This is in spite of the fact that the original meaning of Judo has become lost due to the emphasis on the sport element. Dr. Kano, himself, stated the principle of Judo was embodied in the Jita Kyoei or mutual welfare/assistance. This has a similar meaning in the Hawaiian word Kokua and is to be found in the Dojo where each helps the other to learn. Moreover, Judo embodies the practice of least effort that is rare in sports events, for it entails yielding to aggression in order to overcome. This requires a disciplined mind and a type of training seldom seen today.

As we have said earlier, Do means Way. It’s usage in the martial arts means the practice of developing one’s spirit (or character as Professor Okazaki said). Thus, when Professor Okazaki wrote, “Since the fundamental principle acquired through the practice of Jujutsu has been elevated to a finer moral concept called Judo, ‘the Way of Yielding’, it may well be said that the primary object of practicing Judo is perfection of character.” If we read this sentence closely, the emphasis is on the practice and this is important. Professor Estes used to say that if one practiced for one hour and was exhausted so that they could do nothing else, then he did not know what they were practicing. But, if they felt refreshed and invigorated so that they felt as if they could continue for still another hour then “you are practicing my Judo”. Again, the emphasis was on the practice. How one practiced was important. To Professor Estes it distinguished “his Judo” from “that other stuff”. The other important point is that both Professor Okazaki and Professor Estes used the term Judo differently than the way it is used today (by most). Also important is that Professor Okazaki’s uses the word character where others might have used spirit, thus we might assume Professor Okazaki held character synonymous with spirit.

As we have attempted to demonstrate, Judo is the practice. Jujutsu is what one practices and Judo is how one practices. But the how is very specific for it to be Judo. It connotes a special attitude with which a person enters a Dojo and then steps onto the mat. The how of the practice means to concentrate solely on the technique one is doing, or if listening, then on the instructor. It means to be quiet on the mat, attentive to one’s surroundings and to regulate one’s breathing to avoid exertion and stress. The how means to cultivate the “mirror-like state of mind”. When one practices in this manner, one is practicing Judo. What one is practicing is Jujutsu.

This is as Professor Okazaki declared it, as Professor Estes taught it, and as we now convey the meaning restored to its significance.

Thus, what today is called Judo is really Kodokan Jujutsu or International Jujutsu. This is because it does not meet the criteria of a Do form. Their emphasis is on competition and sports events rather than spiritual or character development. It is perhaps for this reason that Professor Okazaki declined to join Dr. Kano’s Judo federation. Professor Okazaki may have been convinced that his was more a Judo school in the Ancient Tradition than Dr. Kano’s in the Ancient Way, for it is in the Kodenkan schools today where harmony with one’s partner is taught. It is where yielding and blending are part of the curriculum. And, it is where the development of character is a prerequisite for advancement. These are all aspects of Do schools.

So, when someone asks what type of martial art is being practiced, the answer is, “What is being practiced is Judo, the techniques are Jujutsu.” This reinforces the idea that a special attitude is required for the proper learning of a martial art, an attitude that is still taught today by many Kodenkan schools.

1991, 2002, 2009; David A. Scheid, All Rights Reserved

Prepared by: David A. Scheid