by Kazuzo Kudo, 9th dan (1967)
Judo uses three types of training method: formal exercises (kata), freestyle fighting (randori), and matches (shiai). In the formal exercises we determine various instances in which defense or attack might be necessary, establish rules for controlling body motion in accordance with correct judo theory, and practice using these set movement rules. We will omit discussions of both the formal exercises and the techniques used in them.
In freestyle fighting two men practicing together make free use of the throws and the grappling techniques to polish and refine themselves. In matches, too, we make use of all the techniques at our command, but in this case the aim is to defeat our opponent.
Training order calls for thorough training with freestyle fighting and then participation in matches. Once you have gotten to the point where you are pretty good in judo, you will decide what things you need special training in and practice them yourself in formal exercise training. In this section we will be discussing freestyle fighting training only.
The three kinds of practice
From years back, we have been taught that there are three kinds of practice: first rapid techniques applied against a man who is better at judo than you are. In this type of practice you get thrown a great deal. We call this sutekeiko, or throw-away practice, in Japanese. The second method is to practice with someone about on your level with the same approach you would have if you were engaged in a judo match. The third method calls for your practicing with someone not as good at judo as you are. This is not supposed to be a chance for you to shove and push with the strength of your body and arms; it is supposed to be practice in which you use proper body motions, force your opponent off balance, and use techniques that you can handle with ease.
Practicing to win is an error
One of the most striking things to happen on the postwar judo scene is the almost total disappearance of practice for practice’s sake, not for the sake of winning. Is it that before the older men could teach the younger ones how important this practice is, judo became popular through match after match, or is it that the young people today have grown much stronger than young people used to be? We are told in precise detailed explanations that all virtue lies in practice for practice’s sake. It is so significant to progress in the techniques that we must not overlook it. Ignorance of this importance and the attitude that one is a senior or one is a teacher and need practice only to win is a grave error. Prewar senior judo men and teachers gave hot scoldings for this attitude.
Practice for practice sake is the basic element of progress. To repeat, practice for its own sake is the key to progress. Rather than thinking of throwing or downing your opponent, think that he is actually being good enough to become the model on which you can both polish up the techniques you are good in and learn many new techniques. Pay no attention if your opponent throws you or turns your own attack against you. Practice with the single idea of learning the body movements and the techniques themselves. In practice sessions use as many right techniques, left techniques, and counter attacks as you can. Naturally, with all this activity one of these practice bouts can only last two or three minutes. That is all right, but remember, work out, rest a moment, work out again, rest again, and keep this process going throughout the entire practice session.
Nowadays, practically everybody thinks that the thing to do is to have an advanced judo man teach you what to do and then for everyone to practice with someone more or less on their own level of proficiency. This notion results in the young man anxious to practice but standing glumly around in the training room because he is ready to work out but is so good that no one will practice with him. Such an attitude, of course, is folly.
All-important practice with beginners
Find yourself a beginner, or a child, or someone poorer at judo than you, and with the mental attitude we have already explained, practice with them. Someone who is anxious to train and full of high spirits may not want to do this, but the person who can use his own techniques to effortlessly throw even a beginner just as he thinks he ought to throw him is sure to develop into a fine technician.
If you are practicing with someone poorer than yourself and you find that the technique is not working out as it should and you cannot force him off balance, do not get disgusted and attempt to use force to push or shove him down. Your purpose in practice should be to make yourself stronger and more skilful in the techniques. The late Seijiro Hashimoto (ninth dan) claims to have gained his proficiency by always practicing with someone poorer in the techniques than he was.
One of the most important things in practicing with someone not as good at the techniques as you are is to take plenty of falls yourself. If your green opponent comes in with a good attack, immediately let him throw you. This will help the poorer man master the technique. The better of the two can then easily use his body movements to force his opponent off balance and apply a technique to him. In this way, while he is unaware of it, you can gradually plant the seed of knowledge of the essence and basic nature of these techniques in the less skilful man. Letting your opponent throw you is also a good way of mastering the technique your opponent is using to throw you.
Anyone can tell from watching judo of late that less skilful men are not practicing with more skilful ones, and that they are not practicing for practice’s sake alone. When they fall, even if the throw was performed in a cooperative way, the fall they take is not good. They use their bodies only. Of course, the body cannot take this kind of treatment too long, but in addition, people who fall this way do not make progress in the techniques. You may well ask why this is true, but the fact is that if you look at these people after a little time has passed, they have made no progress.
The basic element in judo is the ability to fall. The thing to remember is to take a good wide fall when your opponent comes in with a successful attack. A man good at the techniques is also good at falling, and a man good at falling is sure to make great progress in the techniques.
The road to progress
Anyone who is just beginning judo training aspires to progress and wants to become as strong and as skilful as possible, as quickly as possible. Probably all of you wonder if perhaps there is not some secret, some mysterious clue that I can pass on. I will tell you my own path to progress, but it is so everyday a story that I myself feel a little ashamed of it. Try not to be too surprised.
A thousand points
During the heat of the summer, in 1919, at the Kodokan, I offered prayers for success and went through a course of training of one thousand points. That is to say, one at a time, over a period of 31 days, I trained with one thousand men, one point per man.
I was twenty-one then, a sophomore at the school where Jigoro Kano was the headmaster, and brimming with vim and vigor and impertinence. Why did I decide to undertake this perhaps overtaxing practice training course? The preceding autumn at the Great Kodokan Red and White Match I had been lucky enough to break away from my group and advance to the third dan. One of my group-mates at that time was the late Seijiro Hashimoto from Shikoku. Also jostling to get ahead in the same number were Kasaro Date (first dan), Sunao Goto (second dan), Hisao Imai (second dan), and Kogo Sasaki (first dan). All these men were bigger and stronger in freestyle fighting than I, and I knew that if I wasted my time, they would pass me by.
Four training suits
As I have said, this all took place in summertime, when afternoon practice began at 1:00 p.m. and lasted till 4:00 or 5:00, or until the last person went home. Regulations were not too strict; roll was taken twice. The atmosphere was relaxed.
I always laid out four sets of training clothes, because with the heat and my copious sweating I knew I would not get along with fewer. When the practice session for the day was over, I would take all four sets, heavy with sweat, to a nearby well, wash them, and hang them out on a bamboo pole. This would leave me in nothing but my underwear, but by morning my practice clothes were usually pretty well dry.
During the course of these thousand points, my weight went down to 153 pounds, though I stayed healthy. But this heavy period of overwork caught up with me in the autumn. At first, though I did not feel strained, none of my techniques would work regardless of who my opponent was. Gradually it came to the point where I was the one most often being thrown, and people of lower judo standing than I were looking better in practice than I did. Even if I tried to pep up, my strength failed me. Although I said to myself, “This can’t be!” the situation was a fact, and there seemed to be nothing I could do to remedy it. “Is this the end of my judo talent?” I worried.
Zen saved the day
Though I was impatient for improvement, I had to wait. I decided that for six months I would practice lightly — two or three bouts a day — and would use all of the rest of my time for nothing but seated Zen meditation at the training hall. To everyone’s surprise, I followed my own course, sitting or standing alone at the hall or sometimes lying spread-eagle on the floor. Gradually I recovered in both mind and body.
Suddenly one day I thought, “In judo, while you are moving, force your opponent off balance, and apply your technique.” Right after that, my techniques began to work. Perhaps it was because by that time I was my own healthy self again. Nevertheless, it was then that the idea of applying the attack after you have forced your opponent off balance and are still moving began to permeate my thinking. I might go so far as to say that this idea was my enlightenment.
It is almost fifty years since the thousand-points exercise, and from that day till this, my skill has never failed me. In addition, since I long ago gave up smoking, I do not today run short of breath. I think I can thank the thousand points for this.
In connection with matches I want to emphasize three points. First, if you have not had plenty of training in both applying attacks and in being thrown, you should not think of taking part in matches, and your instructor should not think of letting you. Of course, anyone just starting out in judo training wants to find an opponent and show what he can do in a match, but if that person lacks sufficient training he is inviting injury and accident.
Second, even if you are just at the point in development where a match is around the corner, hold off on public matches yet awhile. In other words, when you have a good basis of training and practice in the freestyle fights, first take part in a simple match by way of a test. Gradually, the degree of importance of the matches in which you can participate will increase until, before long, you will be able to take part in public matches with complete peace of mind. Sooner or later. everyone must take part in matches, and you must be sure to be particularly careful about them and do all you can to work out the best ways for you to make a good showing in them. Taking part in a large number of less important matches is the best way to get yourself used to them and ready for the more important ones. Following this path of gradual introduction to public exhibitions through accumulated experience is the best way for anyone.
Finally, all instructors must train their students to obey the judges’ rules and the competition arrangements and never to regard them lightly.
Once you are able to participate in the kind of match that has a great deal of prestige attached to it, whoever you are, if it is your first experience you are sure to have a case of stage-fright. How far you can go to overcome that feeling is the big question. Since I first began taking part in matches, after each one I have been guided by a period of introspective analysis. This has helped me to overcome that initial fit of the butterflies. At each of the really big matches, however, it is impossible to avoid a certain amount of mental upset. The thing to remember is that being able to recover your spiritual balance as quickly as possible is the way to victory.
Although, of course you enter a match to win, as Jigoro Kano has said, the greatest value lies in following the way and gradually achieving victory. Do not think that anyway you win is all right as long as you do win. Remember the way you win is very important.
In championship matches, put up the best fight you can. Do not forget that until you have attained the championship you must face each of your opponent’s, not to fight only, but to win. Always have self-confidence, and always use your head. I shall always criticize even a champion who fails to follow this rule.
From a technical viewpoint, the most important thing in matches is to come to grips with your opponent. Always stay a jump ahead of him, and win. I absolutely cannot accept the attitude that you should attempt to stay away from your opponent when he comes forward or that you should move around the training hall without even trying to come to grips with him. When he comes forward, the thing to do is to go forward yourself, stand in a beginning position with him, get the jump on him, apply your technique, and maintain control of him. If you do not, you will have no idea of what winning is.
Perhaps this point is not a technical one, but it is vital all the same. Never give a match up halfway through. Never say that you do not feel up to it, that your condition is bad, and throw in the towel. Fight to the very end, always looking for your chance to break through. If you stick it out the goddess of victory is sure to smile on you.
In conclusion, I want to repeat for emphasis that the judo man’s cheerful and courteous attitude makes victory all the sweeter.
In Judo, as in all things, we must practice and use our heads to devise better ways of doing things. –Kazuzo Kudo, 9th dan