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JUDO-RON 90- Judo -Art and Aesthetic contents

Everyone associated with JUDO or perhaps acting as a witness to the competitions cycle is most likely of
the opinion that judo is a martial art or an effective method of fighting. One must go beyond the visual
display of its success in combat situations to find out the other hidden values of this primary educational
structure.
Aim
This essay will attempt to highlight some of the artistic and aesthetic values contained in its total
curriculum. This is my own perspective and not necessarily that of the whole judo community.
I believe that a small dissertation into the social dimensions of the judo concepts ought to be used to
foment greater love and consideration for its hidden significance and possibly it might lead to a greater
integration of judo in the community at large and foster a better social harmony.

From a martial art to an education system.


Professor Kano identified his Kodokan judo as a method of education where superior teachings of
values, skills and sociability are passed down from learned teachers to willing students, thus fostering
qualities that can be applied to improve society from one generation to another. Having abstracted the
essentials from the Ju-jutsu of yesteryears, adding physical principles and the social dimensions to his
Kodokan Judo system, he promoted it as a total educational curriculum applicable to his nation at a time
of prime needs.
Because of the current visibility obtained through the international competition circles, we have the
tendency to recognize judo activities and the judoka mostly through their combative performances.
What takes place in the dojo is still an enigma and a series of limited activities or performances
witnessed by only a few students, dedicated teachers and supporters alike who comprehend the relative
synchronization and complementarity between the various techniques, the corporal, the mental
development and the socialization factors involved.

The true value of judo is first reveal when we study it from every aspect.
Kano Jigoro, Mind over Muscles p.109

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Defining judo Art


Is judo an art form at the same level of other liberal arts such as arithmetic, astronomy, philosophy or
the visual arts such as music, painting and theater etc.? Surely not. The knowledge and practice of judo
have not spread through the general society and as yet to become or will never become the most
sought after activity by the Canadian at large. Its active population is much too small to be considered
an appeal to mass audience. Although not of the same scale of endeavor, judo still contains some
elements worth reflecting upon: it can benefit different segments of society such as children, teenagers
and adults of both sexes and its principles can be applied to most daily life situations. Familiarity and
experience with its different facets will reveal its true worth. As we proceed to recognize its richness, its
uniqueness and beauty through its total curriculum, we soon fall in love with it. If we venture to define
art as a form of knowledge or as an alternate way of thinking or doing different things or actions from
the common culture, we can better appreciate it. We soon discover that Judo is neither an exclusive
wrestling skill nor a preparatory exercise to organize a segment of the population to better cope with
wars and defeat potential enemies.
There is one way (through the development of aesthetic sentiments) in which judo
practitioners cultivate refine tastes and a way in which judo enters another realm beyond the
practical. Not everybody grasps the full meaning of judo but there are some who do.
Kano Jigoro, Mind over Muscles, p.72

The martial systems of yesteryears


Taking judo for a simple representation of past Japanese Martial arts compendium may be to simplify
our concept too much and lead us to lose sight of its other components. When most of us refer to judo
as a martial art, we are not determining and expressing that judo itself is an art as we conceive other
arts in the liberal sense. Martial arts can be interpreted to mean: systems, domains, processes,
specialties, methods and ways. The practitioners of such are known as artists, specialists and stylists. In
judo, we call them judoka or judoists.
We have to understand that the Genesis of martial arts goes back some millennia of changing social
patterns identified with various class struggles, wars, conflicts resolutions and cultural changes that
transformed so many countries including Japan. Such a transformation took place in Japan during the
internal wars period that lasted over 300 years. We also have to accept the broad description of the
general classification assigned to the codified systems and traditions linked to selected combat practices
either with weapons or free hands. (Bow-archery-swimming-stick and spears-swords etc.)
Until the beginning of Meiji period of 1887 those systems had been practiced by samurai for centuries
for a variety of reasons and were noteworthy for their offence and defense skills efficiencies. Most were
taught and associated with some form of physical health and fitness purposes beneficial at the Clan
levels. Others were preeminently used as entertainment values for the peasants and noble class alike. At
times and a few of this methods were encompassing the synthesis of mental, physical, and spiritual
development as taught through Zen practices. The teaching of those systems took place at the Clan
temple or special schools (Koryu) as noted in the 1664 book by Minamoto Musashi the master
swordsman of his generation. (The book of five rings)

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Genesis
When following the Eastern Genesis trail of martial arts, we can trace the development of various
Chinese systems originated during the Xia Dynasty more than 4000 years ago and to the Yellow Emperor
Huangdi (2698 BC).
For us, in the Western hemisphere, the term martial art was in vogue in Europe as early as the 1550s. It
has a Latin signification and means "arts of Mars", the Roman God of war. Some references to chivalry
and martial arts and hand to hand combat traditions can also be found in Ancient Greeces boxing,
wrestling and pankration exercises. Some of these systems had dual purposes: training for war and
used as entertainment for the society as found with the gladiatorial combats taking place in major cities
at different periods of time.
Closer to us, we know that professor Kano was deeply involved with the Olympic movement since the
beginning of the 1900s and as such, although he appreciating the values of sports to improve the soul
and body and recognized their importance to world peace, he insisted that the true judo practitioners
should not become performers for the sake of entertaining alone but rather should make greater use of
the principles fostered by the judo system.
Acting out the art of judo
When witnessing the international challenges and performances of judo athletes, we can easily be in
admiration before the changes and transformations of original techniques they do for the express use of
securing an efficient win to best suit the event. We can observe with interest the evolution and
transformation of these techniques as they create new possibilities of implementation in given
situations, thus creating new promises for implementation by others. Yet, although the new forms of
movements do provide technical solutions for the immediate, can we be sure that the exploitation of
such transformations and innovations are sign of progress and that new comers can emulate them with
similar efficiency or are they just stylistic innovations that will fade away with new champions?
When performing general judo activities, we need to consider the total environment, under which the
practices take place, as such, it is important to try to be in harmony with oneself and with the different
partners. It is necessary to sense our energy volume and capacity and be able to liberate its flow and use
it intelligently with the minimum waste and maximum effectiveness.
When both partners are synchronized and accommodate each other in the realization of their waza, the
technical ensemble may well look like a dance involving free movement, coordination, agility, good
posture, freedom of energy transfer, creativity and respect for the principles espoused in the original
doctrine.
Art contained in the performance of technical judo (waza) is a reflection of the interplay between
partners and can be seen by other observers as a nonverbal form of communication containing the true
message of Professor Kano and available for mimic or enactment by others. When performed within a
sufficient time frame, it allows further appreciation of its purity and expose its values.

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Practical judo art


The judo artist will find the ideal footprint of the technique in its original fluid pattern created by the
application of proper Kuzushi-Tsukuri-Kake combination. I cannot think of better venues to recommend
towards the discovery of the artistic qualities of this triad-combination other than to suggest to realize
the beauty in rhythm, the exuberance, and delight in the practice of the following:
1.Yaku-soku renshu or the controlled practice where each partner perform throws for throws taking
advantage of the opportunities being presented through a dynamic pace or undertaking alternative hold
downs and exits techniques;
2. Renzaku-waza or when undergoing techniques following others;
3. Nage Komi or repetitive and similar throwing techniques, performed in a dynamic surrounding and
involving precise numbers of repetitions with the coordination amongst partners.
4. Kata Geiko or performing kata serials of choice paying ATTENTION TO THE TRIAD; and
5.Randori type matches where both players play an important part in giving and receiving for the sake
of learning to keep applying the principle of flexibility and intelligent use of energies.

Economy-Effectiveness-Efficiency

About judo aesthetics


I was once told that: physics, physiology and psychology are the conduits to best learn the sociology of
human behaviors and that it is through societal culture that we can best define aesthetic values. I now
realize that focusing on various forms of behavior, one can determine the true values of individual and
group performances. That is where I think that the aesthetics values reside.
The sociologist Nicholson enunciated amongst many other theories in 1997 that: our understanding of
the act of aesthetic would mean that we easily assimilate our self to the others when we feel that the
values they project conform to our understandings of the qualities of the said objects or their
philosophical contents. As such, the mundane or regular aspects are easily transformed into objects of
love, admiration and appreciation. The free expressions without social constraints are what attract us
towards the object in question and excite our desire to be associated with them.
We understand that Professor Kano wanted the judoka to develop new affinities, new sensations and
feelings between our emotions and the objects in question. He wished that all judoka could develop
their aesthetic sentiment and comprehend the actions they perform or consider the elegance in what
their partners can display. He said:
I hope students of judo will master their own waza and enjoy watching the waza of others. I
hope they will come to realize and appreciate the beauty in their own movements and come to
appreciate the graceful and dynamic movements of others.
Kano, p.109 Mind over Muscles.

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Japanese aesthetics
Although present for centuries, our attention towards the study of Japanese aesthetics only started a
little over two hundred years ago. The Japanese aesthetic is part of its cultural heritage and comprises a
set of ancient ideals that partially include: temporary and stark beauty, the beauty of natural aging
layers towards a gracious ending, the performance of tasteful display and profound grace and the
subtlety present in various actions.
In the previous section dealing with the art of judo, you will have noted that such values have endured
the stress of time and are quite relevant today.
Evolution
Over the various periods in the history of Japan, we discovered that the aesthetic values also covered
the beauty of things even when considered imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Things in
blossom, or things in decay, suggesting the retained value in their impermanence. In this concept,
beauty is expressing an altered state of consciousness and can be seen in most of the mundane and
simple objects. This also suggest a linkage to the Zen philosophy of accepting the present moment as a
special entity worth consideration.
Other aesthetic attributes were given to different forms and objects, amongst them: Fukinsei:
asymmetry, irregularity; Kanso: and simplicity; Koko: basic, weathered; Shizen: without pretense,
natural; Yugen: delicately profound grace; Datsuzoku: limitless and without curtailment of convention,
free; Seijaku: tranquility. Jo-ha-ky is yet another concept describing the modulation and movement
applied in a wide variety of traditional arts. As each of these things can be found in observing natural
elements, it can suggest a similar attribution to qualities of the human character and associated with the
correctness of daily conduct. This, in turn would suggests that these qualities can be taught through the
appreciation of, and the practice of the numerous art forms. We also find the use of the word Geid
attached to the various traditional Japanese visual arts such as: Noh (theater), kad-Ikebana (Japanese
flower arrangement), shod (Japanese calligraphy), Sad (Japanese tea ceremony), and yakimono
(Japanese pottery) as all these disciplines carry an ethical and aesthetic connotation attached to the
process of creation.
Samurai practicality
To introduce discipline into their training, Japanese warriors followed the examples found of the arts
that systematized their practices through prescribed forms called kata. In time, the training in combat
techniques was somewhat incorporated similar to the way the arts were practiced. They even imparted
some aesthetic concepts and the general philosophy associated with the arts forms. We conclude that
these concepts were tacit and effective communication medium used throughout the martial disciplines
of the period.
Professor Kano also made extensive use of KATA forms in his curriculum. About the usefulness of kata,
he said:
Kata expresses natural energy flow, I would like to create many of these kind of kata with the
purpose to develop aesthetic sentiment through or various postures while at the same time
educate the body.
Kano, p.27 Mind over muscles

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Aesthetic principles
We can generally surmise that there are nine principles to take into consideration when referring to
Japanese aesthetics. Without going into a deep analysis of every technique in the Kodokan judo Gokyo
series of GOKYU techniques and Kata, we can easily find examples of the relevant principles and
appreciate their importance. These are: Wabi-sabi (imperfect) Miyabi (elegance) Shibui (refinement) Iki
(originality) Jo-ha-kyu (slow, accelerate, ending transition) Yugen (mysterious) Geido (discipline and
integrity) Ensou (the void and emptiness) Kawaii (attractiveness and beauty).
Judo kata like the techniques found in the Gokyo are continuously in need of improvement and
refinement. When presented before an audience or viewed by the partners the techniques can project
the elegance and beauty. The tai-sabaki movements illustrate the refinement and conform to a
prescribe rhythm that can be adapted to different pacing or speed.
With each period of study and practice of the Gokyo, we reinforce the bases from which we will
construct new techniques and launch into free practices or Randori as part of our continual
development. Through multiple exposures we will gain the motivation to develop the ideal technical
patterns and master the TRIAD (Kuzushi-Tsukuri-Kake). As a rule, the Gokyo will enhance our perception,
sensibility and awareness of physical demands as well as improve our memory skills and better
understand the signification and spirit contained in each technique.
Meanwhile, the Kata will become our technical grammar with which we can dissect various components
and identify the elements demanding extra attention to ensure successful applications during Shiai. Kata
performance will induce more observation, experimentation, imagination, and development of the
principals involved with defensive and attack skills. Some of the techniques may seem bizarre or
mysterious as they are not frequently observable by the non-initiated. Both the triad pattern and the
ritual found in kata performance follow set patterns demonstrating discipline in the intelligent use of
energy. The displacement of the players is best performed while making the maximizing the use of the
void or the empty space between the partners. The overall presentation of a Kata is fast becoming an
attraction to both the spectators and the performers when performed within the rules of engagement.

_______
Kodokan archives showing Professor Kano supervising a women class performing Kime-no-kata

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Conclusion
We have made a quick visit in the judo sphere and hope that we were able to identify that the judo
curriculum as presented by Professor Kano as a total physical education system contains the basic
elements of beauty and elegance and that it can be considered as a form of art. The true essence of judo
can be found in the practices made in the dojo. That is where the original knowledge is passed on to the
new generation of judoka and the techniques displayed offer the pertinent time for profound reflections
and adaptions.
We have to be careful not be taken away by the advertisements of the various sports industries whose
goals are to encompass the judo activities, namely the competition amongst the champions, as part of
their entertainment programs. As such, they are developing a new culture where power and
championship are idolized to the detriment of ensuring the total development of the judoka that should
take place at the base level.
There are tremendous pressures being exercised at the dojo level, to embark upon this competitive
culture and adjust the teaching priorities accordingly. This new demand could seriously affect the quality
of judo teaching and prevent the students from developing a strong affinity towards judo when they are
not successful in competitions. Let us consider the total values of judo and give-receive much
satisfaction and pleasure from practicing what we best love of the art.
Have a good training session.
Ronald Desormeaux, Rokudan,
Judo teacher, University of Toronto
March 2015

References
Jigoro Kano-Naoki Murata, Mind over Muscle, Kodansha International, Tokyo, 2005
Toshiro Daigo-Teizo Kawamura, Kodokan New Japanese-English Dictionary of judo, Kodokan, 2000
Charles Hackney, Martial Virtues, Tuttle publishing, Tokyo, 2010
Tsunetomo Yamamoto, Bushido, The Way of the Samurai, Square One publishing, PA USA, 2002
Photos are from the Kodokan judo Institute archives, Tokyo
Note: This article contains and is registered with the Canadian National Library, Electronic Data Bank. For additional
information please contact: Ronalddesormeaux@gmail.com

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Conclusion
The aesthetic value is a concept of the imagination representing our capacity to observe from a distance
and appreciate the beauty or the pertinent characteristics of something that catches our senses as it
relates to the self-pleasing of color, form, smell, noise, touch or uniqueness..

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