Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ju don't know Ju!

So, they say that this judo thing that we do is based on the principle of "ju", which is supposed to mean something like "gentle," but westerners tend to assign some screwed-up connotations to the word, "gentle" - connotations like "flaccid" or "weak" or "wimpy."
Sensei Strange (pictured above, working his ju magic) has discussed the kanji for ju at his blog a couple of times here and here.  And I'm no Japanese language scholar, so I thought I'd dig a bit into the English denotations for the words we frequently use for ju. says re. GENTLE ...

    adjective /ˈjentl/ 
    gentler, comparative; gentlest, superlative
    1. (of a person) Mild in temperament or behavior; kind or tender
      • - he was a gentle, sensitive man
    2. (of a person) Noble or having the qualities attributed to noble birth; courteous; chivalrous

      • Moderate in action, effect, or degree; not harsh or severe
        • - a little gentle persuasion
        • - a gentle breeze
      • (of a slope) Gradual
        • - a gentle embankment
      verb /ˈjentl/ 
      gentled, past participle; gentled, past tense; gentles, 3rd person singular present; gentling, present participle
      1. Make or become gentle; calm or pacify
        • - Cobb's tone gentled a little
      2. Touch gently
        • - her lips were gentling his cheek
      3. Make (an animal) docile by gentle handling
        • - a bird that has been gentled enough to sit on the hand

    and SOFT ...

    adjective /sôft/ 
    softer, comparative; softest, superlative
    1. Easy to mold, cut, compress, or fold; not hard or firm to the touch
      • soft margarine
      • - the ground was soft beneath their feet
    2. Having a smooth surface or texture that is pleasant to touch; not rough or coarse
      • soft crushed velvet
      • - her hair felt very soft
    3. Rounded; not angular
      • - the soft edges of their adobe home
    4. Having a pleasing quality involving a subtle effect or contrast rather than sharp definition
      • - the soft glow of the lamps
      • - the moon's pale light cast soft shadows
    5. (of a voice or sound) Quiet and gentle
      • - they spoke in soft whispers
    6. (of rain, wind, or other natural force) Not strong or violent
      • - a soft breeze rustled the trees
    7. (of a consonant) Pronounced as a fricative (as c in ice)

      • (of a market, currency, or commodity) Falling or likely to fall in value

        • Sympathetic, lenient, or compassionate, esp. to a degree perceived as excessive; not strict or sufficiently strict
          • - the administration is not becoming soft on crime
          • - Julia's soft heart was touched by his grief
        • (of words or language) Not harsh or angry; conciliatory; soothing
          • - he was no good with soft words, gentle phrases
        • Not strong or robust
          • soft, out-of-shape executives in a computer company
        • (of a job or way of life) Requiring little effort

          • (of news or other journalism) Regarded more as entertainment than as basic news
            • - fashion is regarded as soft news
          • Willing to compromise in political matters; moderate
            • - candidates ranging from far right to soft left
          • Foolish; silly
            • - he must be going soft in the head
          • Infatuated with
            • - was Brendan soft on her?
          • (of a drink) Not alcoholic
            • - all they had was ginger ale and a few other soft drinks
          • (of a drug) Not likely to cause addiction

            • (of water) Free from mineral salts that make lathering difficult

              • (of radiation) Having little penetrating power

                • (of a detergent) Biodegradable

                  • (of pornography) Suggestive or erotic but not explicit

                  I think the first 3 definitions for the adjective GENTLE are interesting, and I especially like the first couple of definitions for the verb TO GENTLE.  Brings to mind "The Uke Whisperer!"  There are several interesting definitions in the entry on SOFT, but overall, those ideas don't fit my understanding of ju.

                  Ooh! Wait! What if we look up my personal favorite - FLEXIBLE

                    adjective /ˈfleksəbəl/ 
                    1. Capable of bending easily without breaking
                      • flexible rubber seals
                    2. Able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances or conditions
                      • flexible forms of retirement
                    3. (of a person) Ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances
                      • - you can save money if you're flexible about where your room is located

                  Well, that's just about exactly what I mean when I talk about judo - with perhaps shades of GENTLE as defined above. ;-)

                  So, how do y'all think judo or ju is like or unlike those denotations for SOFT or GENTLE?

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                  photo courtesy of Tanakawho

                  Patrick Parker
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