Principle of Highest Efficiency

Dr. Kano put forward the Principle of Highest Efficiency as one of the central pillars of his system. He used to give illustrations in the physical field, which are familiar to all students of Judo; for instance, unnecessary force should not be used in making a throw, but just enough to make it succeed. This was contrary to some of the older Ju-jutsu teachings that the whole of the body-force should be put into the throw. Dr. Kano gave some illustrations from the field of ordinary behaviour. I remember when I heard him speak about argument and debate. I was then about seventeen years old, and very energetic. I sometimes used to get excited in an argument, and begin to shout. As I was big and even then fairly strong, sometimes the opponent would become nervous, and would stop arguing against me. So I found this quite a good method of winning an argument. At least, I thought it was a good method. But Dr. Kano in his lecture said something like this: ’In an argument, you may silence an opponent by pressing an advantage of strength, or of wealth, or of education. But you do not really convince him. Though he is no longer saying anything, in his heart he still keeps his opinion. The only way to make him change that opinion is to speak quietly and reasonably. When he understands that you are not trying to defeat him, but only to find the truth, he will listen to you and perhaps accept what you tell him.’

This was quite a surprise to me. But these words, spoken in beautiful English by this cultured Japanese gentleman, had a big effect: my behaviour began to change. I realized that my attitude to an argument had been inefficient, because it had brought in something quite unnecessary: namely a desire to win. To bring in such things is against the principle of Highest Efficiency.

Dr. Kano had recommended us to study the application of this principle everywhere in life, and my interest in it was now roused. I did indeed discover it as a sort of Efficiency of the Heart and Mind, and found it in very unexpected places. I will give a few examples. These were things which I had half- noticed, but never understood.

The first two examples are: typing, and shorthand. Before I went to London University, I thought it would be a good idea to master these two skills. At that time, very few students thought like this. But in fact, they gave me a great advantage. I was studying Law. Some lecturers spoke slowly, and students could write most of it down in their ordinary handwriting. These were parts of law where the main thing was to memorize. We students took down the lectures, read some of the books, and learnt much of it by heart.

But there are other parts of law where students have to be trained to Think. These lecturers spoke rather quickly. They deliberately made it difficult for students to take notes. One of them, author of a famous book on law, said to us: I will give you examples, but I will not give you the chance to write them. I do not want you to learn them by heart. I want you to think, to think, to think. Then you must construct your own examples. ’ So most students did not attempt to take notes of his lectures. He saw me writing, however. I took down every word, and at home I typed it out. Then I learnt most of it by heart. This lecturer was my personal tutor. Every three weeks I had an interview with him, at which he asked questions. He was surprised that sometimes I could reply in his very words. He asked me about it, and finally I confessed that I knew shorthand. He was not pleased.

What I want to say here is this:I noticed that when I was writing fast shorthand, I must not think about the meaning of what I was hearing and writing. He spoke at about 140 words a minute sometimes. I could just manage to take that down in good shorthand. But if I began to think about what he was saying, my shorthand would become hesitant and faltering.

Sometimes he made a joke. If I began to laugh inwardly, I found my writing was checked. So I learned to pay no attention to the meaning; just to keep the smooth flow from the sound of his voice through my head and into the shorthand of my pen. At the end of the lecture, I had little idea of what had been said.

But I had a full report of it, in excellent shorthand.

In the next day or two, I would type it all out. I found the same thing with typing. If I began to think of the meaning, it would interrupt the even current of the typing. I developed a technique for typing the notes. I put the shorthand notebook on

a little music stand just beyond the typewriter. I kept my eyes on it, and typed entirely by touch, without thinking what it meant. When I had finished a lecture (about eight pages) I pinned the sheets together, and had a rest. Then I began to read them. It was like reading a book for the first time, and it was very easy to learn.

These early discoveries taught me something about mental efficiency. I realized how many unnecessary thoughts we have, which disturb the important central concentration.

A friend of mine in the Foreign Office told me something similar. In the old days, telegrams came in cypher – that is to say, they were composed of letters that apparently had no meaning. But when an expert used the secret cypher machine, the meaning would become clear, word by word. He himself for a time was Cypher Officer to the Prime Minister. He told me that once, a message came which the Prime Minister was waiting for. It was most important. When the message came, my friend was called to the Prime Minister’s room, and he began working on it, with the machine. The Prime Minister was walking up and down impatiently. But then he was called away. He came back just as the long and complicated job was finished. He said: ’Well, what does it say, what does it say?’ My friend simply passed him the sheets he had written, saying: ’I don’t know, Sir. ’ The great man looked at him as if he were mad. Then he snatched the sheets and quickly read them. The message was satisfactory, and he gave an order over the telephone. Then he said quietly: ’Why did you say you did not know?’ The Cypher Officer my friend told him: ’I never think of the meaning when I am working on these, Sir. If I do, it interferes with the concentration needed.’ He told me that the Prime Minister stared at him, and then slowly nodded.

Some simultaneous interpreters have told me the same thing. It is a very difficult job. They have to listen to a man talking in, say, French, and translate it and speak it in another language. While they are speaking, they must also listen to the new sentences which the speaker is uttering. It is a great feat of concentration. They have told me that though one must understanding the meaning of what is said, one must not think of anything beyond the bare meaning. The translator must not think: ’How will this affect my country?’ or ’Perhaps this is all a lie.’ If he thinks such thoughts, his concentration will be disturbed. Then he will make mistakes. He must hear the names as if they were the names of unknown people. Nothing to do with him.

Again, my brother was an expert golfer, with a handicap of Plus Three. He told me that when facing a vital shot, he had learnt to drop from his mind all thoughts of the consequences. ’If I think that I must get a birdie here because otherwise I cannot keep in the lead, my shot will be uncertain. I dismiss all those thoughts, and just think: the shot, the shot, the shot. I visualize a perfect shot, and nothing else.’

Some people say that it is impossible to control the mind. How can a translator listen to the names of his country and its people as if they had nothing to do with him? In an ancient Indian text, the pupil says: ’I think it is impossible to control

the thoughts of the mind. It is like trying to catch hold of the wind.’ To which the teacher replies: ’It is indeed difficult to control the mind. But by practice, and by learning to be indifferent, it can be done.’ The expert translator, and the others, can do it. After years of practice they can detach their minds from everything else.

In the examples given above, we can see that it is necessary to be indifferent, unconcerned, with anything outside the job one is doing. These are special cases, and by practising in these fields, one can become indifferent to other things. But this sort of practice gives that skill only in the particular field. Many expert golfers, very calm when playing, are unable to control their temper, or nervousness, at other times. The Budo training was far superior because it was for the whole of life, not just one small part of it.

© Trevor Leggett

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