Thursday, April 22, 2010

Two most important lessons in judo

I recently read Judo Memoirs of Jigoro Kano by Brian Wilson. Much of the book is very interesting, but just as interesting as the biographical material, is an essay by the author, titled, "Judo's Influence on Japanese Society," in which he describes the structure and operation of local (what we'd call grassroots) judo clubs (machi dojo). The amazing thing about Wilson's description to me is how close it is to the way our dojo operates here in southwest Mississippi. Wilson could have watched us playing judo and written nearly the same essay.
  • run on a commercial basis (i.e. not subsidized by the government)
  • small dojo, perhaps no more than 20 tatami (our mat space is 18x36)
  • ex-champion instructor (that's me ;-) lives on the premises
  • teaches anyone showing interest in judo
  • usually only 2 classes/day - kids in late afternoon and adults in early evening
  • kids as young as 5-6 years old
  • integrated classes (boys&girls of all ages)
  • 1-hour classes
  • part-games part-judo
But probably the most remarkable part of this essay is Wilson describing the prime objective of these local machi dojo. What do you think these grassroots programs in Japan consider their most important objectives? Preparing the next Olympian? Teaching osotogari? Self-defense? No.
According to Wilson, the ethic in these classes is that their most important objectives are twofold:
  • to teach students how to fall without injuring themselves (ukemi)
  • to teach students how to behave in the dojo (reigi)
I was so impressed with this that I proudly stole it. Frequently during warmups, I'll have a little Q&A session with the kids, including...

  • Q: What does the word judo mean?
  • A: Gentle Art
  • Q: What are the two most important things to learn in judo?
  • A: How to fall properly and how to control yourself (or sometimes I'll accept "How to fall and how to behave.")
.I recommend Judo Memoirs as an excellent, interesting read...

Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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