By Clyde Lewis
We have all heard the stories of Jigoro Kano, and his principles of the betterment of mankind through the study of judo. But how many of us truly aspire to this lofty goal? This is not another training guide or a teacher telling you yet another way to perform Tai otoshi. Instead, this paper is being written to inspire all judoka to ask themselves this question: What is my level of judo? And just maybe to help find the answer that has been so elusive to myself.
Now, right off you may say that I’m a Shodan or Yonkyu. Or you may say I’m a state champion or an elite player. My goal is not to minimize ranks or competition. Ranks are a great way to gauge your proficiency at performing certain techniques. Competition can be fun and very rewarding. But is winning a shiai or getting that black belt the ultimate goal for studying judo? Or is there something more that can be derived from the study of judo than just trophies and belts? And if so, how do we go about getting there? My instructors have always taught that winning is secondary to learning and ranks are meaningless outside of the dojo. Although, I do have to admit when I first started judo I wanted to win a competition more than I wanted to learn to get my butt kicked on a regular basis. But as I have progressed in my study of judo my instructor’s words have started to become more clear. Win or lose. Pass or fail. My goal is to come off the mat a better and wiser man. To have learned something about myself, and to hopefully have made my opponent or partner a better judoka as well.
And how does this transfer into daily life? That is the most enigmatic part of the puzzle. I think just the recognition of what is right and fair in everyday life is part of becoming a better person, as well as acknowledging that my way is not the only way in judo, and life.
An example of what I believe to be the most important thing learned by any martial artist follows in this story about a disturbing situation that I found myself in.
I had been the topic of discussion among some of my fellow judoka. Most of which was slanderous and quite self-serving on their part. I found this out due to a misdirected e-mail. The content of the e-mail was to say the least shocking and hurtful due to the fact that the person sending it I had called a friend. My first reaction was to defend myself against his words. But after careful reflection and some helpful guidance by my instructors I decided to leave the situation alone. It was hard to suppress the human reaction of revenge. And to disprove the allegations. But something inside, something instilled by my instructors was stronger. It was at that moment that I experienced Satori or enlightenment. And had to accept that in their eyes what was said was true. But at the same time really doesn’t matter.
So here are the questions that I hope will open the door to discussion for many. Do any of us really endeavor to live up to a higher code of conduct? Do any of us really have an obligation to? These are the questions each of us must answer for ourselves. And I hope that we have the courage to question our commitment to our arts and sports each and every day. And to try not to put others down just so we can experience the least important part of the arts. I will leave the opinion as to what is least important to be answered by each of us individually. Because really the path can only be shown to us. We must decide whether or not to take it.
As for myself I believe that judo and all other martial arts are more than just a fighting style or a sport. I believe that they can be useful mechanisms to make us better people. To make us more accepting of others by seeing that just as we all have our own way of effecting a technique, we all have distinct ways of living our lives. And we all have a great deal to teach each other. On and off the mat.
This article was provided by the author, Clyde Lewis, of Gentle Ways Judo in St. Cloud Minnesota. This page is copyright © 2001 by Neil Ohlenkamp, JudoInfo.com, USA. All rights reserved. Last modified July 8, 2001.