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This article is written by Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo - 1882.  From his book entitled “Kodokan Judo”, reprinted by Kodansha International Ltd., 1986


Encouraged by my success in applying the principle of maximum efficiency to the techniques of attack and defense, I then asked if the same principle could not be applied to the improvement of health, that is, to physical education.

Many opinions have been advanced to answer the question, what is the aim of physical education? After giving the matter a great deal of thought and exchanging views with many knowledgeable persons, I concluded that its aim is making the body strong, useful and healthy while building character through mental and moral discipline. Having thus clarified the purpose of physical education, let us see how closely the common methods of physical education conform to the principle of maximum efficiency.

The ways in which persons train their bodies are many and varied, but they fall into two general categories: sports and gymnastics. It is difficult to generalize about sports, since there are so many different types, but they share one important characteristic: they are competitive in nature. The objective in devising them has not been to foster balanced physical development or sound health. Inevitably some muscles are consistently overworked while others are neglected. In the process, damage is sometimes done to various areas of the body. As physical education, many sports cannot be rated highly-in fact, should be discarded or improved-for they fail to make the most efficient use of mental and physical energy and impede progress toward the goal of promoting health, strength and usefulness.

By contrast, gymnastics rate highly as physical education. Practice is not injurious to the body, is generally beneficial to health, and promotes the balanced development of the body. Still, gymnastics as commonly practiced today are lacking in two respects: interest and usefulness.

There are many ways in which gymnastics can be made more appealing, but one that I advocate is to do a group of exercises I have tentatively worked out. Each combination of limb, neck and body movements is based on the principle of maximum efficiency and represents an idea. Done in combination, they will effectively promote harmonious physical and moral development. Another set of exercises I created, the Seiryoku Zenyo Kokumin Taiiku (Maximum-Efficiency National Physical Education), is practiced at the Kodokan. Its movements not only lead to balanced physical development but also provide training in the basics of attack and defense.

For physical education to be truly effective, it must be based on the principle of efficient use of mental and physical energy. I am convinced that future advances in physical education will be made in conformity with this principle.


So far I have touched on the two main aspects of judo training: development of the body and training in the forms of attack and defense. The primary training methods for either purpose are (1) kata and (2) randori.

Kata, which means "form," is a system of prearranged movements that teach the fundamentals of attack and defense. In addition to throwing and holding (also practiced in randori), it includes hitting, kicking, stabbing.

slashing and a number of other techniques. These latter occur only in kata because it is only in kata that the movements are prearranged and each partner knows what the other will do.

Randori means "free practice." Partners pair off and vie with each other as they would in an actual match. They may throw, pin, choke and apply joint locks, but they may not hit, kick or employ other techniques appropriate only to actual combat. The main conditions in randori are that participants take care not to injure each other and that they follow judo etiquette, which is mandatory if one is to derive the maximum benefit from randori.

Randori may be practiced either as training in the methods of attack and defense or as physical education. In either case, all movements are made in conformity with the principle of maximum efficiency. If training in attack and defense is the objective, concentration on the proper execution of techniques is sufficient. But beyond that, randori is ideal for physical culture, since it involves all parts of the body, and unlike gymnastics, all its movements are purposeful and executed with spirit. The objective of this systematic physical training is to perfect control over mind and body and to prepare a person to meet any emergency or attack, accidental or intentional.


Both kata and randori are forms of mental training, but of the two, randori is the more effective.

In randori, one must search out the opponent's weaknesses and be ready to attack with all the resources at his disposal the moment the opportunity presents itself, without violating the rules of judo. Practicing randori tends to make the student earnest, sincere, thoughtful, cautious and deliberate in action. At the same time, he or she learns to value and make quick decisions and to act promptly, for, whether attacking or defending, there is no place in randori for indecisiveness.

In randori one can never be sure what technique the opponent will employ next, so he must be constantly on guard. Being alert becomes second nature. One acquires poise, the self-confidence that comes from knowing that he can cope with any eventuality. The powers of attention and observation, imagination, of reasoning and judgement are naturally heightened, and these are all useful attributes in daily life as well as in the dojo.

To practice randori is to investigate the complex mental-physical relations existing between contestants. Hundreds of valuable lessons are derivable from this study.

In randori we learn to employ the principle of maximum efficiency even when we could easily overpower an opponent. Indeed, it is much more impressive to beat an opponent with proper technique than with brute force. This lesson is equally applicable in daily life: the student realizes that persuasion backed up by sound logic is ultimately more effective than coercion.

Another tenet of randori is to apply just the right amount of force-never too much, never too little. All of us know of people who have failed to accomplish what they set out to do because of not properly gauging the amount of effort required. At one extreme, they fall short of the mark; at the other, they do not know when to stop.

In randori we occasionally come up against an opponent who is frantic in his desire to win. We are trained not to resist directly with force but to play with the opponent until his fury and power are exhausted, then attack. This lesson comes in handy when we encounter such a person in daily life. Since no amount of reasoning will have any effect on him, all we can do is wait for him to calm down.

These are but a few examples of the contributions randori can make to the intellectual training of young minds.


Let us now look at the ways in which an understanding of the principle of maximum efficiency constitutes ethical training.

There are people who are excitable by nature and allow themselves to become angry for the most trivial of reasons. Judo can help such people learn to control themselves. Through training, they quickly realize that anger is a waste of energy, that it has only negative effects on the self and others.

Training in judo is also extremely beneficial to those who lack confidence in themselves due to past failures. Judo teaches us to look for the best possible course of action, whatever the individual circumstances, and helps us to understand that worry is a waste of energy. Paradoxically, the man who has failed and one who is at the peak of success are in exactly the same position. Each must decide what he will do next, choose the course that will lead him to the future. The teachings of judo give each the same potential for success, in the former instance guiding a man out of lethargy and disappointment to a state of vigorous activity.

One more type who can benefit from the practice of judo are the chronically discontented, who readily blame others for what is really their own fault. These people come to realize that their negative frame of mind runs counter to the principle of maximum efficiency and that living in conformity with the principle is the key to a forward-looking mental state.


Practicing judo brings many pleasures: the pleasant feeling exercise imparts to muscles and nerves, the satisfaction of mastering movements, and the joy of winning in competition. Not the least of these is the beauty and delight of performing graceful, meaningful techniques and in seeing others perform them. This is the essence of the aesthetic side of judo.


 Contests in judo have as their rationale the idea that the lessons taught in matches will find application not only in future training but in the world at large. Here I would like to point out five basic principles and show briefly how they operate in the social realm.

First is the maxim which says that one should pay close attention to the relationship between self and other. To take an example, before making an attack, one should note his opponent's weight, build, strong points, temperament and so on. He should be nonetheless aware of his own strengths and weaknesses, and his eye should critically assess his surroundings. In the days when matches were held outdoors, he would inspect the area for such things as rocks, ditches, walls and the like. In the dojo, he takes note of walls, people or other potential obstructions. If a person has carefully observed everything, then the correct means of defeating an opponent will naturally become apparent.

The second point has to do with taking the lead. Players of board games like chess and go are familiar with the strategy of making a move that will entice the other player to move in a certain way. This concept is clearly applicable to both judo and our daily lives.

Stated succinctly, the third point is: Consider fully, act decisively. The first phrase is closely related to the first point above, that is, a man should meticulously evaluate his adversary before executing a technique. This done, the advice given in the second phrase is followed automatically. To act decisively means to do so without hesitation and without second thoughts.

Having shown how to proceed, I would now like to advise you when to stop. This can be stated quite simply. When a predetermined point has been reached, it is time to cease applying the technique, or whatever.

The fifth and final point evokes the very essence of judo. It is contained in the saying: Walk a single path, becoming neither cocky with victory nor broken with defeat, without forgetting caution when all is quiet or becoming frightened when danger threatens. Implicit here is the admonition that if we let ourselves be carried away by success, defeat will inevitably follow victory. It also means that one should always be prepared for a contest-even the moment after scoring a victory. Whether a person's surroundings are calm or turbulent, he should always exploit whatever means are at hand to accomplish his purpose.

The student of judo should bear these five principles in mind. Applied in the work place, the school, the political world or any other area of society, he will find that the benefits are great.

To sum up, judo is a mental and physical discipline whose lessons are readily applicable to the management of our daily affairs. The fundamental principle of judo, one that governs all the techniques of attack and defense, is that whatever the objective, it is best attained by the maximum-efficient use of mind and body for that purpose. The same principle applied to our everyday activities leads to the highest and most rational life.

Training in the techniques of judo is not the only way to grasp this universal principle, but it is how I arrived at an understanding of it, and it is the means by which I attempt to enlighten others.

The principle of maximum efficiency, whether applied to the art of attack and defense or to refining and perfecting daily life, demands above all that there be order and harmony among people. This can be realized only through mutual aid and concession. The result is mutual welfare and benefit. The final aim of judo practice is to inculcate respect for the principles of maximum efficiency and mutual welfare and benefit. Through judo, persons individually and collectively attain their highest spiritual state while at the same time developing their bodies and learning the art of attack and defense.



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