Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Three Levels of Judo

From Mind Over Muscle: Writings from the founder of Judo, pp94-5:
The Three Levels of Judo
We have now established judo's three aspects -- training for defense against attack, cultivation of the mind and body, and putting one's energy to use. We have also affirmed judo's highest goal as self-perfection for the betterment of society. For the sake of convenience, let us place the foundation -- training for defense against attack -- at the bottom and call it lower level judo. Let us call training and cultivation, which are by-products of training for defense against attack, middle-level judo. The study of how to put one's energy to use in society comes last, so let us call it upper level-judo.
When we divide judo into these three levels, we can see that it must not be limited to training for fighting in the dojo, and even if you train your body and cultivate your mind, if you do not go a level higher, you truly cannot benefit society. No matter how great a person you are, if you die without achieving anything, as the proverb says: "Unused treasure is a wasted treasure." It can be said that you perfected yourself, but it cannot be said that you contributed to society. I urge all practitioners of judo to recognize that it consists of these three levels and to undergo their training without undue emphasis of one aspect over another. -- Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo
Since the passing of the founder of Judo in 1938 can it be said that mainstream judo has truly honored Kano's aims? I think that it's fair to say that modern "Olympic" judo prioritizes victory in sporting contest as its main goal.

Now: With this in mind, which judo would you rather study? Modern "Olympic" judo, or Kano's classical judo?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pushing your boundaries

Gregg Mozgala is an inspirational artist. In March 2008 the 31-year old actor performed multiple roles in a well-reviewed production of Romeo and Juliet, working around his significant cerebral palsy.
The company, formerly known as Theater by the Blind, mixes able-bodied actors and actors with disabilities. Mr. Mozgala, who has cerebral palsy, in particular shatters the myth that actors with mobility problems make for static productions, throwing himself around the stage with abandon.
In his latest project Gregg has teamed up with choreographer Tamar Rogoff in an original dance piece, Diagnosis of a Faun. Please read the New York Times article about the project, and be sure to view the embedded video.

Gregg Mozgala in a dance rehearsal

After reading and seeing the video snippet -- and for those in New York, getting along to a performance -- I trust that many people will be inspired.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

You don't have to be great all the time

In her fabulous book, Writing Down the Bones, author Natalie Goldberg introduces a Zen-inspired practice of writing, whereby one sits and writes for an allotted time, say five or fifteen minutes without stopping, without correcting, always keeping the pen moving. This is not writing for publication, but rather writing as spiritual practice, more akin to meditation, therapy and martial arts practice than writing for an audience.

Here's my favorite anecdote from a book packed with wonderful vignettes:
Artistic Stability
I have a pile of spiral notebooks about five feet high that begin around 1977, my early years of writing in Taos, New Mexico. I want to throw them out -- who can bear to look at the junk of our own minds that comes out in writing practice? I have a friend in New Mexico who makes solar houses out of beer cans and old tires. I think I will try to build one out of discarded spiral notebooks. A friend who lives upstairs says, "Don't get rid of them." I tell her she can have them if she wants.

I pile them on her stairs leading up to her apartment and leave for Norfolk, Nebraska, for four days to do a writing workshop. When I return she looks at me oddly, plunks herself down in the old pink chair in my bedroom: "I've been reading your notebooks all weekend. They are so intimate; so scared, insecure for pages, then suddenly they are not you -- just raw energy and wild mind. And now here you are -- Natalie -- in the flesh, just a person. It feels so funny." ...

She said it was empowering to read my notebooks because she realized that I really did write "shit," sometimes for whole notebooks. Often I tell my students, "Listen, I write and still write terrible self-pitying stuff for page after page." They don't believe me. Reading my notebooks is living proof of that. My upstairs neighbor said, "If you could write the junk you did then and write the stuff you do now, I realize I can do anything. There's so much power in the mind. I feel like who knows what I can do!" She said the main thing she saw in the notebooks -- whole notebooks of complaints, boring description, and flagrant anger -- was an absolute trust in the process. "I saw that you kept on writing even when you wrote 'I must be nuts to do this.'"
When you see someone do something amazing, it's a mistake to attribute it to mere talent. You just don't see the hard work.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Female exemplars in Taijiquan

More from Turning Silk: A Diary of Chen Taiji Practice, by Kinthissa:
Apart from Chen XiaoWang's* magnificent XinJia** renditions, I have seen only one other person whose XinJia has impressed me. This was a woman, Japanese, one of the six, all teachers, who came to Sydney in 1997. She was of a narrow and light build. Her delicacy had a lithe power, it brought out quite a different quality in XinJia's character. I find wildness suits women. Female practitioners have a paucity of exemplars to be inspired by. Master Chen said that the woman was gold medal material, only her responsibilities in running an organization did not allow her enough training time. When I have asked him if the training for women is different from men's, his reply has been, "No, it is the same." When I enquired after women in his family who had reached a high level in TaijiQuan (as one hears almost exclusively of men), he said that some had excelled in their early years, but then they had married, etcetera.
* Chen XiaoWang is Kinthissa's famous teacher. An impressive video of Chen XiaoWang in action.
** XinJia ("new frame") is a more modern form of Chen style taijiquan, compared to the LaoJia ("old frame"). In her book Kinthissa writes interestingly and in detail about her experiences studying both frames.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The road to wisdom

From Turning Silk: A Diary of Chen Taiji Practice, by Kinthissa:
Practise mindfully, with ease in the heart. Practise because it is doing one good, not because it will make one a master. To become a master, or mistress, of TaijiQuan is a very long aim. Practising without expecting the day to arrive soon will be the most sensible way. Remember the road to wisdom: "Err and err and err again -- but less and less and less."
The quote within the quote is from a grook of Piet Hein:
The road to wisdom? Well, it's plain
And simple to express:
and err
and err again,
but less
and less
and less.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Theme of the month November 2009: Fun and games

It's a busy time of year. Qualification contest, gradings and kata competition are all coming soon. So let's lighten things up with some fun and games.

In the last month I've taken my young son to a few kids' judo classes, and I've been stealing ideas for my regular class. Naturally, adults like a bit of fun too. Here are some of the activities and games that I've either tried, or plan to try soon:
  • Dive rolls over increasing numbers of class mates (arranged like sardines)
  • Rolls using big gym balls
  • How many throws can you do in thirty second seconds (racing back and forward between two ukes)
More generally, this month I'd like to leaven competition and grading preparation by bringing a bit of playfulness and game elements to our training. For example, with qualification judo contest coming up, I'd like to try some mock bouts in which points are awarded to pairs of participants for the most breakfalls, to encourage an attacking (and safe) approach to judo competition.

How about you? What are some fun activities that both kids and grown-ups look forward to in your classes?