Saturday, January 23, 2010

The meaning of Judo

Judo: "The way of gentleness".

The word "judo" shares the same root ideogram as "jujutsu": "jū" (柔?), which may mean "gentleness", "softness", "suppleness", and even "easy", depending on its context. Such attempts to translate jū are deceptive, however. The use of jū in each of these words is an explicit reference to the martial arts principle of the "soft method" (柔法, jūhō?).

The soft method is characterized by the indirect application of force to defeat an opponent. More specifically, it is the principle of using one's opponent's strength against him and adapting well to changing circumstances. For example, if the attacker was to push against his opponent he would find his opponent stepping to the side and allowing his momentum (often with the aid of a foot to trip him up) to throw him forwards (the inverse being true for pulling).
Kano saw jujutsu as a disconnected bag of tricks, and sought to unify it according to a principle, which he found in the notion of "maximum efficiency".
Jujutsu techniques that relied solely on superior strength were discarded or adapted in favour of those that involved redirecting the opponent's force, off-balancing the opponent, or making use of superior leverage.

The second characters of judo and jujutsu differ. Where jujutsu (柔術, jūjutsu?) means the "art", "science", or "techniques" of softness, judo (柔道, jūdō?) means the "way" of softness. The use of "dō" (道?), meaning way, road or path (and is the same character as the Chinese word "tao"), has philosophical overtones. This is the same distinction as is made between Budō and Bujutsu.

Use of this word is a deliberate departure from ancient martial arts, whose sole purpose was for killing. Kano saw judo as a means for governing and improving oneself physically, mentally, emotionally and morally. He even extended the physical principle of maximum efficiency into daily life, evolving it into "mutual prosperity". In this respect, judo is seen as a holistic approach to life extending well beyond the confines of the dojo.

Kano and mifune

Extract taken from

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