The Kodenkan Judo of Master Okazaki

| "These are the Keys..." | Okugi | Harold McLean | Overview of Kodenkan | Introduction to Shinin no Maki | The Meaning of Judo | The Meaning of Kodenkan | Sincerity | The Breeze in Sumi-E | True Man | Bibliography | AJG Newsletter, Nov 1941 | Marion Anderson's Notebook | Official Kodenkan Mokuroku | Okazaki's 1925 Diploma | Letter from Bud Fuller | Tsaikontan Classic | Citations I | Citations II | Judo, The Gentle Way (Excerpts) | Taoist Tales | Even Hell under the Upraised Sword | Kodenkan Musings | Historical Photos | 3 versions Esoteric Principles

Judo, The Gentle Way

by Alan Fromm and Nicolas Soames 


The following is excerpted from Judo-The Gentle Way (JTGW), by Alan Fromm and Nicolas Soames, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1982, ISBN 0-7100-9025-0.

(JTGW, p. 18-21), “Art in western society has been almost exclusively regarded in terms of an art object. It may be a piano sonata or a symphony, sculpture or painting, novel or play, but the importance is in the work of art itself. The artist, as much as his audience, is concerned with subjugating everything to his art because it is the work that will be judged by others, not himself.

“However, in some societies, in the East, and particularly in China and Japan, this is only one aspect of art. Equally important is the fact that the individual can also develop a high level of skill in his actions in order to make a work of art out of himself - not for the admiration or the gratification of an audience, but for a deeper experience of his own life. It is interesting to note, also, that in Japanese society personal effort is more widely admired than talent because it is considered that only through mastering a skill after a long and hard struggle will the individual change and develop, enabling him to lead a far richer existence. In its essence, this is what makes Judo, Kendo, Aikido and the rest Martial Arts (emphasis added).

“So, Judo is about personal change, personal development. That is one reason why it is called a Path or a Way. As we travel along it we change. We change physically. We become fitter and more flexible; we develop better posture and therefore our movements become less wild and more coordinated. When a white belt is attacked, he often goes as stiff as a board. Everything stiffens, including his mind. When a more experienced Judoka is attacked, he doesn’t remain immobile, but he only moves what he really needs to move.

“We also change mentally. Our muscles and bodies move according to the dictates of our minds. At the beginning, in Judo, our minds are either in a state of shock, when attacked, or a state of confusion as we try to assimilate what are really complex techniques which themselves alter in thousands of tiny ways according to different situations, different partners. Through diligent training, however, Uchikomi, Randori, Kata, we can begin to sort out some of these mental confusions and achieve a greater clarity. Two things differentiate the advanced Judoka from the beginner: a clarity of mind and the ability to translate mental decisions into controlled action, creative action.

...“In common with other art forms, Judo demands a high level of technical skill. To turn fast and with great accuracy, to remain very sensitive to your partner’s movements and to capitalize on his weaknesses requires constant practice, and certainly a daily practice - it can be demoralizing to see how quickly the finely honed edge of a top Judoka becomes blunt with a few non-active days.

“From its conception, Judo was regarded as a physical, mental and spiritual training, and, strictly speaking, the grade a Judoka wears should denote a level attained in all three aspects. Sadly, only too often it marks purely a physical achievement. But in many ways, the Judokas themselves are the losers - until they come to teach and begin to influence others.

“One of the most enjoyable and satisfying experiences in Judo comes when working with a partner of similar attitude; the concentration, the creative moves, counters and combinations involve the two people in a deep and absorbing Randori where physical limitations are forgotten and time seems to stand still. When this happens, one feels a sense of uplift, and penetrating clarity because the total self is involved in an artistic expression of the highest quality. This is Judo as Art. Compare that to two participants in a contest spending most of their time fighting for grips and being satisfied to end the contest with a small knockdown technique. The harmony is nil and the standard of creative technique is poor. Here the emphasis is on brute strength and the crude formula of a winner and a loser.

“This is not to decry the importance of competition. Those who practice Judo as an Art should have no reservations in entering competitions dominated by sportsmen. Superior technique should prevail, and if it doesn’t, more practice is required. It is as simple as that. It is the superior technique and the creative imagination needed to produce it that is important, not winning or losing. The impromptu laps of ‘honor’ or brandishing of a fist to the audience after a successful hold-down degrades judo. Success in individual competitions means little when compared to a high aim of self-development that a true interpretation of Judo entails. It is because of this almost introverted nature of Judo that it has never succeeded as a spectator event on a broad-based level. Judo is for the participants and those watching who have a substantial idea of the intricacies, and not really for a general audience waiting to be stimulated by human combat.”

(JTGW, p. 26), “But there is a mystery inherent in the Martial Arts. When a person has trained diligently in the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of his art, and when he has begun to acquire the freedom from physical and mental fear and attained a certain unshakable poise noticeable in all his actions, he becomes, in a sense, greater than the sum of his parts. This is where the mystery of the Martial Arts lies. This is the real goal attainable, to some extent, by all who follow the path in a disciplined, methodical and imaginative manner. This is what makes Judo not just a sport, not just a form of self-defense, but an Art form in its own right, and the practitioner an artist.”

Prepared by: David A. Scheid