I knew well a judo man who was a fine technician and strategist on the mat, but he was too kind-hearted. At least, that is the only way I can describe his attitude in important contests. He seemed to be thinking: ‘If I beat this chap, who has come here with such great hopes, he’ll be very discouraged and depressed. It probably means so much to him, whereas I don’t really care if I just draw with him.’ We used to say to him: ‘Look, that chap doesn’t want your kindness. He wants you to go all-out. Against a better man, he wants to fail: then he’ll improve. He’s come here to fail.’ But nothing we said made any difference: he was too nice, he was too kind.
Well, just before he went on the mat for one big contest, the teacher took him out of the hall, into a corner, saying he had something to tell him. (He spoke about this later, to a few close friends. That was in strict confidence, but it’s a long time ago now). When they were alone and no-one could see, the teacher spat in his face. It’s a nasty experience. He said he just stood there, dumbfounded.
The teacher produced a little towel and wiped his face clean, and led him by the arm back to the hall, where his name was just being called. ‘Go on,’ he said, ‘go on.’ To general surprise, this man who usually went to the centre of the mat very politely, now strode on with a face like iron. He won in almost no time.
It must be emphasised that this was a very exceptional case. Being kind-hearted is not exactly a weak point, but it is against the spirit of contest, which requires one to fight very hard. The basis of judo is peace, and there is peace and friendship before and after the contest. But during the contest, the two are taking the role of intense rivalry and competition. There is still an underlying peace, which shows itself in the fact that they keep to the rules even in the keenest contest, but within those rules they may and must try everything in order to win.
As Dr. Kano said, the battle is not fought with hatred or enmity. In some old texts the opponent is called teki (enemy), but Dr. Kano never used the term teki, but rather aite, which means the one who faces you, and includes the sense of both partner and opponent. There are no personal feelings, either of hatred or of over-kindness.
The case I have described was very exceptional, and the teacher used a very exceptional method. It cannot be recommended generally, and I doubt whether Dr. Kano would have altogether approved of it. It was effective, but I feel he would have found some other way.