Kano Jigoro Sensei, the founder of judo, taught the core ideas behind the practice of judo are jita kyoei 自他共栄 (calligraphy on left) and seiryoku zenyo 精力善用 (calligraphy on right). My previous discussion of jita kyoei 自他共栄 is
|精力善用 Seiryoku Zenyo read from right to left. I assume this is a Kano original.|
'Seiryoku zen'you' is a phrase the founder of judo Jigoro Kano often wrote as a calligraphy piece. Generally the idea is translated as "maximum efficiency with minimum effort." This is idea is generally regarded as one of the core driving philosophies of the noble art of judo.
Recently I have started working out with a sports focused Judo group again, and their ideas about this are very different than the teachers I have had before. They are trying to use and increase strength and power in order to score their throws. I feel this is a prevailing attitude in much of the judo world. It is also one that has a lot of proven success. On the other hand there is also an approach to judo that focuses on using minimal use of power while gaining maximum effect. I have had some teachers that successfully do Judo with less than 8 ounces of pressure. The great judoka Mifune was said to have 'air technique' or technique that was so soft it felt like you were fighting air.
So let's turn our attentions to this guiding principle of seiryoku zenyo 精力善用. I have found typically there are many ideas that can be found in these Japanese sayings that one translation alone cannot capture. Often too we accept other people's translations without investigating for ourselves the deeper lessons the characters might have to offer.
a spirit, a soul, energy, vigor, be expert, refined, fine
strength, might, power, force, authority, influence, agency, assistance, support, effort, exertion, energy, vigor, ability, capacity, resources
So these first two characters combine to form the idea of energy.
精力 - seiryoku - energy; vigor; vigor; vitality
good, goodness,virtue, a good deed
business, use, service, employ, take, adopt, apply, for
善用 - zenyou - good use
So probably the most basic translation seems to be 'good use of energy'. Using a bit of poetic license I thing we could say "efficient energy'.
Interesting the idea of 'minimum effort' really is not mentioned, rather is poetically implied as being a necessity of 'good use of energy'.