I remember my first encounter with judo when I was in elementary school. I picked up a book about many different martial arts. It was an encyclopedia of sorts that every page had a different art form and a reader's digest like entry of what the art what about. I flipped the page from karate to judo. On the page there was one man totally getting drilled into the ground from a super power throw and it said "gentle way" underneath it. I said to my friend, "It doesn't look very gentle to me!" It didn't take an expert to see the contradiction being presented.
I have been falling deeper and deeper in love with the set of skills and traditions that come from Judo studies. I was recently reading a thread on JudoForum, where long time students and teachers of the art actually did not have a functional working knowledge of what the word Judo means. This surprised me because really the name of the art form should be it's defining thesis. It is what the art strives to search for.
Judo means 'Soft way' or 'path of softness' I like the 'gentle way' translation too.
When watching much of popular judo you can clearly see people have little concept of softness, or are even trying to obtain it. What then makes a soft technique? What is the goal on the soft way?