Technical Training as a Means

When one looks at a high-speed photograph of a ballet dancer in mid-leap, one can get an uneasy feeling. One knows that this figure is not really flying and must come down very quickly. Yet it remains impossibly hanging in the air. It is very unnatural and against the whole spirit of ballet dancing, which is movement. The photograph is frozen movement: it is a contradiction. So it makes some people feel uncomfortable, and I am one of them.

Soon after I began Judo in 1930 at the age of 16, I had this kind of experience in connection with Budo. I was a member of the London Budokwai (yes, this is how it was spelt), the first Judo club in Europe. Every year we had a big public display, which was mainly Judo. I remember the exhibition of ju no kata (basic forms of Judo) by the two Japanese instructors—Gunji Koizumi, an art expert, and Yukio Tani, a full-time teacher. Tani had been very famous at the beginning of the century, as one of the few Japanese experts who introduced Judo and jujutsu to Europe, defeating wrestlers and boxers easily. They are mentioned in a Sherlock Holmes story and |n Bernard Shaw’s play Major Barbara.

I noticed that after one of the longest ju no kata movements, Tani gave what seemed to be a deep sigh. I watched him carefully and discovered that he held his breath for the whole duration of each of the movements. For a long time I felt too awed to ask him about it. Finally I did so, and he answered briefly, The bujin must keep fullness during the waza. He never explained it further. His father and grandfather had been jujutsu masters, and he was evidently keeping to a tradition. I was suitably impressed. I felt—as most of us did—that everything Japanese had behind it a mysterious secret of great value.