I spent three years trying to master hane-goshi (spring hip) which I saw marvellously performed by a famous judo man, T. Kotani, when he visited London with Dr. Kano in 1935. My own teacher told me, ‘You will never be able to use that as a contest technique; you had better stick to haraigoshi, which is similar but suits your build better. Your physique and movement is quite different from Mr Kotani’s.’
But I was captivated by what I had seen, and in addition to the full training programme which my teacher set, I also practised about twenty minutes a day at hane-goshi. The teacher said no more, but after three years I had to admit he was right. I could only bring it off against much weaker opponents whom I could throw easily in any other way.
The teacher remarked, ‘That was a good experience for you. Remember it when you come to teach. I did not say any more because hane-goshi is similar in many ways to harai-goshi, and I knew the practise you put in at it would help you with your own throw in the end.’
He referred to this incident once again much later on and said, ‘At least you didn’t complain that I had told you wrong. You tried for yourself and you found out. And you did keep up your practice with the things which I had told you to do. Some of them here try a throw for three weeks and then come to me and say, ‘I’ve been trying it for three weeks now and still can’t do it. Are you sure it is going to suit me?’ I fed like saying to them, ‘I myself have been trying it for thirty years now and still can’t do it properly either!’ I don’t say it, but it has taken m? a long time to get used to all these little doubts which Western people seem to have all the time.’
Later when I came to teach I realised the truth of his words. Sometimes after watching a beginner for some time carefully, I have concluded that his progress can be along such and such a path. I can see clearly in my mind’s eye how his one-sidedness can change to a co-ordination of the whole body; how his shortness of arm can be turned to advantage by holding the tips of the opponent’s sleeves. In my experience, I have seen each of these transformations several times, and been through similar ones myself. I estimate that he has enough interest in judo to keep up the practice.
But when I have told him what to do, after about three months I see a doubt coming up in his mind because he doesn’t see much success and he seems to be getting worse. There is nothing more to tell him when he asks me about it. The seeds are there, and it is a question of watering them by practice, and waiting. When one is inexperienced as a teacher, one gets quite worried about the pupil’s situation; his anxieties rub off on to the teacher, as it were.
But an older teacher realises it is useless to worry or even think about it. The thinking has been done already, and a proper programme has been carefully worked out to suit this pupil. Either he will follow it, or he will not.