Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is this Judo, the soft, gentle way?

I am continuing to look at my relationship with judo,and defining what is. I am searching under the idea that judo is indeed a soft and gentle art form, like the name of the art implies it should be.

I realize the world is a big place and many people practice with different goals. That being said much of the examples the art of judo gives us comes from the sporting world. In sports judo people use power to crush power. They often throw with no control, causing themselves to topple over and causing uke to land in terrible positions. The art of ukemi, falling to protect oneself and negate energy, is lost on the competitor and they intentionally try to fall poorly so their opponent is not given points.

Today I offer this film. From what I read he is an Olympian in the art of judo. He likely could throw me through walls, dimensions and time itself. But, has he lost sight of the thesis - does he practice the gentle way? While he excels at sport and fighting does he really understand judo, the way of softness, as intended by the founder?


  1. Is this judo? I'd say yes. It's unpleasant judo Rhadi jokingly calls it "ugly judo". It's certainly aimed at a different goal than the kind of judo that you and I like to play, but I think it's still judo.

    I personally don't like the "soft, gentle" translations of "ju" because they can be misinterpreted to mean something like "flacid" or "wimpy." There are too many weird connotations of "soft" in English. I prefer "flexible" as in "the way of flexible tactics" or "the way of adaptability." (though those might be less than literal translations of ju)

    Is it judo? It abides to a large degree with the principle of maximum efficient use of power (he is powerful and he uses his superpowers skillfully) although it doesn't really abide with the "mutual welfare and benefit" idea (but no olympic rules shiai abides by that now anyway" So, maybe it is "half-judo"

    Besides, check out the deashi at 1:40 - you'll never see a more perfectly timed, soft, technical, effective deashi thrown anywhere by anyone.

  2. It is not maximum efficient use of power. Kano's teaching is 'maximum efficiency with minimum effort.'

    Minimum effort. Does pulling someone off the ground and throwing them several feet straight up making them land on their head constitute minimum effort? He is a power house no doubt. He advertises being a strength coach. He is big and he knows how to use it ALL. The man is a warrior for sure.

    Speaking as a technician though I suppose I would be more impressed if he used none of the brawn. I feel like he demonstrates 'maximum power and maximum effort.' Perhaps this is what brings a player to the olympics, but it is not the image I wish to shape my judo in.

    I am sure he is a lovely fellow, I am merely trying to find the examples of what I like, and what I do not wish to shape my practice in the image of.

  3. Just my 2 cents... For me, the discrepancy comes down to the division of weight classes. In sport judo, you tend to fight guys your same size, so while, sure, you might do some "proper judo" (as Roy from "Dog Judo" is fond of saying), they can also get away with using pure strength here and there.

    As I understand it, in the early days, players weren't divided into weight classes, and if you ask me, being a small person doing randori with a big guy, strength isn't much of an option. Which means you HAD to rely more on proper kazushi, "blending" with your uke's center/movement, exploiting architectural weaknesses, etc.

  4. I don't especially disagree with you. Also I really shouldn't enter this word-battle with you because I am nearly unarmed - you are much, much more conversant in Japanese than me... but...

    Kano in 'Mind over Muscle" on page 43 says seirokyu zenyo is a contraction of 'seirokyu saizen katsuyo'. seirokyu refers to something like 'best practices' and saizen refers to 'the best way' to do something and katsuyo means something like 'practical application'

    so the phrase seems to mean something like 'the best way to do something practical".

    the contraction, seirokyu zenyo, seems to have been loosely translated as something like "maximum efficiency" but it makes no mention of the frequent "minimal energy" part of the saying.

    that's why I like to translate it (again, loosely) as 'maximally efficient use of power' (the definition of power is the ability to do something or to make something move.)

    so power is not really a no-no. you have to have _some_ power in order to move them or make them do something. sucky, inefficient, wasteful use of power is non-ideal. Rhadi's straight-up hand throws were probably _not_ the best use of his power, (and it was certainly not mutual welfare to let them land on their heads) but it was:
    1)effective for his purpose
    2)attractive to his clients
    3)within the agreed-upon ruleset
    4)skillful, technical use of power based on exquisite timing and decent kuzushi

    Would I ever do or teach that style of judo (even if i had that much power) - no. I prefer, like you, to teach the "minimal effort" judo, But I do think Rhadi's is a valid expression of judo - at least within the extremely imperfect context of olympic shiai.

  5. I can see how one may view this and think that it is just someone using brute force to pick up his opponants and to slam them down.

    However, when wactching it one will see that he does no simply rush into his opponants but picks his momments. Yes he is very exploisive, but at top level competition, one has to be, for everyone knows techniques and counters and most of the time it is physical attributes like timing, speed, power and explosivness (everything portrayed here) that will decide the outcome of the fight.

    A great find from youtube by the way

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