Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Ju don't really mean that

I mentioned in a previous post on the judo exercise, junokata, that one loose translation that I tend to like to use for the name is, "THE kata of judo."  Too often people hear "ju" translated as "gentle" or "soft" and they develop the idea that to do ju, you have to be flaccid or weak or overly-compliant.  Junokata is a prime expression of the principle of ju, but it is not at all about flaccid weakness.
The principle of ju, and its expression in junokata, is about strength - maximally efficient use of your power in unresisted lines and planes.
I was reading somewhere - probably on Sensei Strange's excellent blog - that the kanji for ju involves ideograms for a spear and a plant, suggesting that it is the sort of pliable strength that allows the smallest of seedlings to spear its way up through the earth, even perhaps finding a way through concrete.  The strength of a spear within the pliability of a plant... that's pretty cool.
In the context of junokata there is definitely strength.  Uke is not compliant, but rather sets up a particular kind or direction of strength so that tori can practice flowing and growing around that particular plane of resistance.  That's part of the reason that there is no falling in this kata - by the time uke falls, the demonstration of ju is over.  Uke has been uprooted decisively by tori's pliable application of strength, and despite their own application of resistant power, so a fall is un-necessary.

Patrick Parker
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