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Hey 1950 Called...
They Want Their Martial Art Back!

Damian Ross
The Self Defense Company
Most people know me as President of The Self Defense Company providing practical simple, easy to learn self defense training programs. But I am also a life long grappler both on the collegiate and international level. It seems that grappling has found its way back into the good graces of the martial arts community. Since 1990 the UFC, Brazilian Jujitsu and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has found its place to the main stage. Now every wrestler willing to get punched and choke has another means to make their skills pay off.

So with all this latest and greatest "trends" in the martial arts, why am I still practicing Judo?
Yes, Judo, the "red headed, step child of the martial arts community" the little known but widely practiced martial art. Why do I still practice your grandfather's martial art?
First of all, all of those submissions, leg locks, neck cranks and dislocation are in Judo. Pick up a copy of Kawaishi's My Method of Judo if you can get it and you'll see everything you could possible imagine when it comes to submissions, joint dislocations (any joint, leg, are, shoulder, wrist) and every strangle you can picture. You see, before the UFC this stuff has been going on since before 1892! But submissions, though nice and cool to do, are not the reasons I still practice Judo along with the Self Defense Training System methods of self defense.
Judo provides a few intangibles that other martial arts and combat sports don't provide.
It teaches you to stay on your feet. When you train you learn how not to be moved, taken down, tackled or thrown. For learning how to stay on your feet against an aggressive opponent, there's no better way.
Grip fighting
Try to put your hand on a Judo person. Try to pin them down. You won't be able to. Grip fighting is the hidden secret to the Judo-Self defense link. You can know all the "wrist releases" you want, but try to do them against someone who trains in judo (good luck). Even with limited training in Judo, you will be difficult to control.
On your feet, one false move could end the match. On the ground you have a handful of seconds to get something going. Nothing in the combat sport world replicates this sense of urgency and intensity better. In addition to being restrained by rules, combat sports like mixed martial arts, Brazilian jujitsu, boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling and the like, all teach you to feel your opponent out and look for an opening. You can make certain degrees of mistakes and recover. In the urgency is amplified. This is import to train your mind for combat: take your time, but hurry up! This best prepares your state of mind for what can happen in the real world.
There are a lot of combatives men ho couldn't last a second on the judo tatami (I even know one so called expert who got throw by a woman). To his defense she is nationally rank, but she did give up 40 pounds to him! I also know world renowned martial artists who couldn't hack it doing the "gentle way". The nature of the sport develops character (kokoro). It is not easy even to participate reluctantly. Even if you "dog it" you still have to do something.
The Best for Police or Security Work
This is the only way to deal with a non-compliant subject. Try that fancy wrist lock when its just you and your partner trying to wrangle a guy to the ground. When you're training n Judo you are always practicing non-lethal restraint on non-compliant subjects. IF you can do it on the Judo mat, you can do it on the street- no different.
So the moral of the story is simple, if you want to learn REAL non lethal methods of restraint, learn how to stay on your feet and maintain a dominant position: go do Judo.
If you want to know how to save your live: Train in the Self Defense Training System. I will always practice and teach Judo, but when the rubber hits the road, I go for what I know works.

judo are easy to grasp and are essential for the person studying the technique of judo.

Judo techniques enable a weak and small man to overcome a large and strong man because they are based on scientific principles of leverage and balance. The first thing to learn is never to oppose strength to strength. If you do that the stronger man will inevitably win.

Remember that when he is on balance he is strong, but off balance he is weak, providing you have retained your own balance to take advantage of his weakness. A man is on balance, you will find, if he stands upright, and keeps his centre of gravity inside a small circle drawn round his feet.

Before you execute a throw you must break his balance by getting his centre of gravity outside that circle. ("Centre of Gravity" is a scientific term, and for those who are not familiar with it, it means the point at which a person 's or an object 's weight acts. The point at which you could balance him on a support, in plain language.)

The second principle you should understand and think about is the action of levers. You know how much easier it is to lift a heavy object by putting a crowbar under it. If you rest the end on the ground, have the object a little way up the lever, and lift the other end of the bar, you are using your crowbar as a lever of the second class. If you put a support under your crowbar, put one end under the object and press down on the other end, you are using it as a lever of the first class.

The effort you use multiplied by the distance from the point of support (fulcrum) is equal to the resistance you lift multiplied by its distance from the fulcrum, and the resistance divided by the effort is called the Mechanical Advantage of the lever. (There is a third class of lever which does not have a Mechanical Advantage, but this will not concern us.)

Applying this to turning an opponent about a line drawn perpendicularly down through his middle, you will see that the wider your hands are apart in gripping him for this purpose, the greater will be your Mechanical Advantage. You will be able to see this applied in throws. Get the greatest Mechanical Advantage you can. Dr. Kano stated the principle as "Maximum Efficiency, Minimum Effort".

Direction of pulls and timing of attacks are also of paramount importance to success.

Aims Of Practice

From the brief statement of principles above, it will be seen that the immediate aims of practice are three-fold:
1. To learn the techniques.
2. To learn non-resistance, so that the opponent can be made to put himself off balance.
3. To develop speed and timing in the application of the techniques.

These are the immediate aims of a beginner, but there are more fundamental aims as well. As you progress, you will find that you reach a point where you can see that an opportunity to throw is going to occur, and you have developed enough speed to take advantage of that opportunity. This is very good, but beyond this, you will reach a stage in which you are practicing with an opponent, and suddenly he is down, without conscious thought on your part.

Then your body is automatically reacting in the right way to the situation, and that is true Judo. We may think of it as being like a telephone exchange. When you see an opportunity and take advantage of it consciously, that is like a manual telephone exchange, in which the operator in your brain has to plug in. When you automatically take advantage of the situation, that is like an automatic telephone exchange, in which the act of dialing a number is already making the connection, without any delay at the exchange.

These are the basic principles of Judo, and can be easily learnt. The actual practice of Judo of course takes much more time and effort.


Free book on basic armlocks and strangles
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Trevor Pryce Leggett; Physical Education, Judo, and Kano's Original Intention. An interview conducted October 6, 1999 with the assistance of Richard "Dicky" Bowen.

"The future of Budo is in response." -T.P. Leggett-

While in London I was able to visit with Britain's senior Judoka, Trevor Leggett. With his eighty-five years stretching through Judo, Buddhism, Education, Language and Psychology in many ways he is a Renaissance man. His many books on both Judo and Buddhism have been the gate for several generations of readers to enter Asia. Quick to get to the point he said he preferred the interview to focus on things important to him rather than on himself. So it was.

He recalled how at the age of seventeen, hearing Kano lecture on Judo. "Judo for life not competition" was his message. Leggett recalled how even in old age Kano stood straight with impeccable "shinzen hontai" or balanced posture. In Leggett's book on Judo kata Kano is pictured with the same posture demonstrating the Ju No Kata, or kata of ideal movements. "Even better than his younger partner" says Leggett. Leggett continued, "Kano did not want Judo in the Olympics. Yes, he had an interest in the Olympics but this was not to do with entering it. Judo has been destroyed by competition. Kano said it was "Maximum efficiency leading to mutual aid and understanding" The animal movements of a man controlled by a ritualized activity which in turn becomes friendship and understanding. The understanding gained on the judo mats is then extended to business and into interpersonal relationships and into life generally. Judo was not supposed to become a political arena.

Kano said, that to try to force through one's point of view by stressing advantages of wealth, of strength, or political advantage may overcome the opposition for the moment but the opponent is not really convinced, he has to be convinced by calm reasoning. With Judo protocol and courtesies to keep the animal aspect in check wedded to a vigorous physical exchange, Judo can cut through class and cultural differences to create a comradery of friendship. The ritual of bowing, particularly the kneeling bow, is part of this development. The emphasis on cleanliness is also part of this. Walking down a dirty, smelly hall does not do one any good.

Modern Judo has done away with these ideas and abandoned the intent of Kano. This along with the overemphasis on competition has morally and technically bankrupted Judo. It was not intended as a sport for an audience to watch, it was a practice to be participated in. The cleanliness, the order, the ritual courtesies led by a good teacher - this was the path Kano taught. This creates understanding with accompanying technical proficiency.

One tough medical student who practiced randori with me would say, "Thank you" after I threw him and "Excuse me" after he threw me! Initially I did not understand his pedantic adherence to saying this over and over. Then I realized. It was his way of checking himself and his own temper. This is what allowed him to maintain his own self observation and discipline.

And this is not unique to the Japanese. The old aristocratic British after the French Revolution took up boxing so they could settle scores without the authority of the sword (which characterized the French way). The story of Squire Smith shows this. Squire Smith tied his horse up to go in a shop and a cartman pushed it aside. The Squire emerged from the shop catching him and they had a fight. They were separated by the police but the carter went home wondering whether the Squire, his landlord, would have him thrown out of his house. Instead the cartman received a handerchief from the Squire. When he opened it he saw two golden coins and a note which read, "That was the best fight I've had in many years!" Empty hand combat can transmute into friendship. But this cannot happen with a sword.

I asked Leggett for his views on physical education and his comment was, "They need to get away from ball games. Life is not a ball that you can throw and kick and steer. These ball games require too much space and have no relevance to life. On the other hand if they taught Kendo, or Judo, or some sort of stick-fighting - that is something that teaches economy, posture and timing. These are traits used in life and can also give one a way to defend oneself.

Judo for instance teaches you how to use the body and movement in changing furniture around! Exercises from Judo and other martial arts, like Shaolin, you can do everyday with minimal space. They are good for you and have utility in life. The one ball game I believe is the exception is golf because it favours experience and spans age groups. At sixty-five I could still play golf against young men in their twenties and win. Admittedly as a trained judoman I could retain balance well into age. But still it required too much space and most cannot do it everyday. For some time I had a ball on a string hanging from the doorway and a small wooden sword. I would hit the ball with the small sword and try to hit it again and again while it swung from each hit. It develops timing and responsiveness.

"As for Karate it is most illogical, attempting to hit from a distance without holding or getting close, hitting hard objects when it is obviously smarter to hit soft spots, and jumping in the air with kicks to the head when the foot is the farthest weapons from the head! I am aware this is mainly in films but the emphasis is still all wrong. Best get close, use economy and hit soft spots with the closest weapon."

When I mentioned wrestling his comments were, "The Greeks wrestled naked but we wear clothes so clothed wrestling, Judo, is more practical. From Judo one learns balance, coordination, and speed but above all response. The Judo training has not to be merely technical but include strategy and mental training. For instance in my black belt classes I used to get them to hold each other, to hold, and then walk round and they were not to attack each other at all. But when I clapped my hand one of them who had been designated in advance would suddenly flair up into an attack and continue furiously until he either threw or was thrown. Now the value of this in life is considerable and a pupil who later became a librarian told me that a semi-unbalanced man - semi-lunatic perhaps - came to the library once and terrified the staff. He was called down. He faced this man who was twitching and muttering and making threatening gestures, and as he stood there and calmly faced him, he suddenly thought, "I have been here before. This is just like the judo hall. If he suddenly flairs up and attacks me furiously I am ready for it. I know what to do." So the training was very fruitful for him. This kind of mental training you can get in Judo.

In children again we used to teach not merely technique but also self control. At the end of practice when they are pouring with sweat, we used to make these classes of perhaps twenty or thirty boys of between eight and fourteen or fifteen, sit in rows and say, "Now keep perfectly still for ten minutes." They would sit there staring straight in front of them, and then one of the instructors by prearrangement would knock over a chair. The head would turn to look and see what happened and we would shout, "Keep still!" The heads would go back and stare straight in from of them. Then the next week, the class, they would be sitting there and this time two of the instructors would seem to be picking a fight, and of course the heads would begin to turn. "Keep still!" And they would go back and stare straight in front of them fixedly. Then the third week we would arrange for some catastrophe to happen, some furniture would be knocked over apparently and somebody would cry, "Oh, ooh!" and the heads would shift a little bit. "Keep still!" And they would stare straight in front of them. After that they were very proud of their ability to sit quite still no matter what crashes or disturbances happened. They had learnt the value of self control and they were very proud of exercises it. And we did in fact have a letter from one school to the secretary of the Renshuden Judo Club saying, "Thank you on behalf of all the teachers in this school. Tommy's attitude towards his teachers has been transformed along with his general behaviour since he took up Judo."

I know also there has been controversy over keeping the names of throws in Japanese and learning the Japanese language phrases to go with Judo. I insisted that the Japanese terms must be retained rather than translations into English, into French, into German, and so on. Because retaining the Japanese words the students can talk to each other internationally about Judo. If the terms are translated they cannot. And in music after all we all use the Italian terms, sonata and so on. Again, the students were happy to learn a bit of a foreign language because that was something to be proud of.

Occasionally an old Chinese boxer would come through the Kodokan and show some kata. My own feeling on kata is it would be best to do about two years of Judo for a foundation in response and then build your katas on this. That way one could get some working skill in two or three years time. Otherwise I recall the Chinese require a much longer time five, maybe eight years.

On exercise philosophy Kano said western exercises are dead as they do not employ the mind. This manuscript on so called Shaolin exercises I have been going through (A Version of The Muscle Change Classic) says some very interesting things. There is a passage which that says, "Imagine riding a horse under trees and reaching up for them. That makes your muscles do many more things than simply saying "Raise your arms." This employment of the mind is a key to body movement.

Kata is rather like a student of a foreign language learning endless phrases in that language in order to cover all the eventualities that may arise. In fact he will never be able to cover everything that may happen. But he will get a large number of phrases so he will be fairly adequate for a good deal of the time. But in learning languages you have to finally be able to construct your own new sentences. In the same way the kata, learning the kata, consists in making fixed responses, learning fixed responses to fixed attacks of various kinds. And you can get quite an adequate vocabulary, say for many situations. But in the end you need randori, free practice, where you have to invent your own responses naturally and not rely on fixed responses which you have learnt in the form of kata.

In Japan for instance I learnt from associating with the young judomen some slangy phrases which were not appropriate as a matter of fact coming from a foreigner. And my teacher told me that. So that we need a certain amount of correct form but in the end there has to be creativity. But the creativity must not simply stand by itself without the knowledge of the correct forms otherwise we shall fall into inappropriate things.

These two aspects; correct form and creativity or adaptability, are the essence of martial arts and this is the training which prepares one for life.

Kano Jigoro 1936 letter to Gunji Koizumi.
"I have been asked by people of various sections as to the wisdom and the possibility of Judo being introduced at the Olympic Games. My view on the matter, at present, is rather passive. If it be the desire of other member countries, I have no objection. But I do not feel inclined to take any initiative. For one thing, Judo in reality is not a mere sport or game. I regard it as a principle of life, art and science. In fact, it is a means for personal cultural attainment. Only one of the forms of Judo training, the so-called randori can be classed as a form of sport... [In addition, the] Olympic Games are so strongly flavoured with nationalism that it is possible to be influenced by it and to develop Contest Judo as a retrograde form as Jujitsu was before the Kodokan was founded. Judo should be as free as art and science from external influences -- political, national, racial, financial or any other organised interest. And all things connected with it should be directed to its ultimate object, the benefit of humanity."

Kano Jigoro 1936 letter to Gunji Koizumi.