The second kind of pupil

When I began to train at Judo under Yukio Tani, I was in my late teens. I was very ambitious, and at first thought only of getting more skilful and winning contests. The other teacher at the London Budokwai, Gunji Koizumi, was an artist and a man of great culture. From listening to him, I learnt that Judo should mean much more than showing off on the tatami. He said that the principles of Judo must be applied in every situation in life. This seemed almost meaningless to me at first. After graduating in Law I worked in an office in a big company; how could Judo be applied to my job there? Koizumi showed me that even sitting in a chair can be done properly. Most people sit in an unbalanced position. So they must keep re-adjusting themselves. I practised his method, and found that sitting in a balanced position made the job far less tiring. Tani gave examples from the Budo techniques. He told a few of us about the traditional samurai. In his own family, the father and grandfather had been teachers of Jujutsu. He said that such a samurai was always in a balanced position, so that he could meet any sudden attack. He told the story of Tsukahara Bokuden, who put a little cushion on top of a half-opened door. Then he called in one of his sons. The boy pushed the door to come in, and the cushion fell on him. When the second son was called in (at another time), he too did not see the cushion, though he managed to get his sword out and cut it as it fell. Bokuden replaced the cushion and called in the third son. (We all tried to guess ; what would happen.) He saw it, took it down, came in, and then carefully replaced it. He was the one who was praised.

After hearing this story, I always glanced through the crack of the door before coming into a room, to see if anyone was hiding there. This habit – which still occasionally shows itself – caused some comments among my friends, but no one ventured to criticize it to my face.

He told us once that a samurai would not sit in the centre of a restaurant, but in a corner where he could see everyone. But he would look at the walls carefully. Koizumi also told us that in all occupations, even playing the koto or writing with a brush, the balance must be kept so that if an attack came, it could be met. (Many years later, I watched the annual demonstration of cha-no-yu at Daitokuji temple in Kyoto. I was then living in the monastery, and I got a seat right at the front. As a Judo man, I watched the ceremony carefully. ‘ The tea master was not of course a Judo man, but I did see that he kept a good Judo balance all the time.) I heard also a traditional story about a fencing master who went to see a master dancer performing a dance with a fan. It was a principle of the fan dance that, besides being beautiful, the dancer would give no opening for a fencer to make an attack. The fan would always be able to meet the sword, though it would have to be an iron fan to make an actual defence. But the point was, that it should be ready. This fencing master had gone to see the dance, with the faint hope of seeing a gap in the dancer’s movement. The dance continued (so the story went) until the dancer suddenly seemed to hesitate. At the same time, from a front seat came a shout: ’Got him!’ The dancer continued till the end, but then apologized to the audience for his lapse. He said he had suddenly noticed that one of the boards of the floor was dirty. This had upset his concentration. He offered to commit seppuku then and there. It is pleasant to record that the Shogun, who was present, excused him.

This sort of story excited the minds of some of the younger ones at the Judo dojo. I practised mental alertness. When one day I was walking along an empty street near Buckingham Palace, I saw a well- dressed gentleman come into the street well ahead of me. He walked towards me, and we were clearly going to pass each other. He was carrying a rollled-up umbrella, as most gentlemen did in those days.

It was a long street, and as we came nearer I was thinking: ’That ^ umbrella might have a rapier in it. (Sword-sticks were then still legal; my father had one.) I should be ready, if he attacks me.’ These thoughts made me look at him carefully, and he began to look at me.

I was then a student at London University. We all wore shirts and ties, and generally a sports coat and grey trousers. So I was reasonably dressed, But I was then already tall and strong, and I suppose he felt a bit uneasy. As we were about to pass, he nervously twirled his umbrella in the air. I suppose it was just to try to show

some confidence. He must have been startled by the effect. I jumped round to face him with my hands up, prepared to catch his wrist and disarm him. We stood for a frozen moment. Then we both felt very embarrassed, and hastened on, without looking at each other. It must have been a good story for him to tell at a meal, ending up with: ’The young people these days … ;I just can’t understand them.’

I heard Dr. Jigoro Kano speak on Judo when he came to London. He spoke of what he called the Principle of Maximum Efficiency (saidai noritsu genri), and of ’mutual aid and concession, leading to mutual welfare and benefit.’ These principles were to be practised in life, not just in the dojo. He came to the Budokwai, and I practised with Mr. Takasaki and Mr. Kotani, who accompanied him. I heard him make a remark in the dojo which I never forgot. He said: ’The principle of Judo is not a principle of force. You can silence opposition by using force, whether physical force, or Judo technique, or advantages of wealth, or political power. But though you may silence them you do not convince them. They can be convinced only by reason.’ He wrote for us a line of very big Kanji: JU SAI SAI GO WO SEI-SU, which Koizumi translated for us as: ‘Truly truly, the gentle controls the violent’. It was framed, and was put up in the Budokwai dojo, which it remained for many years.

These things broadened my understanding of Judo. But when I began to get strong at Judo, and had plans to go to Japan, Tani realized that probably in the future I should become a teacher. So he began to teach me to go deeper into Judo. At first, I had no idea what he meant. To me, Judo was something which I wanted to master; I did not care about other people. The first lesson in the new idea was typical. There were some grading contests taking place between first- year beginners. I and other Black Belts were sitting round the tatami, waiting till our own contests would come, much later. I was whispering together with the fellow Black Belt on my left. I had no interest in these beginners. Tani was the referee, moving about on the tatami. As he came in front of me, without turning, his foot came back and gave me a kick. No one noticed. (He did not kick the other whisperer.) I shut my mouth, and sat bolt upright. Afterwards he said to me: ’You think you have nothing to learn from these beginners. But I learn from them.’ I could not understand what he meant. But after that, he would sometimes say to me: These two men are going to have a contest. Which of them do you think will win?’ I had no clear idea, and used to guess. Then he would say: ‘The big one has only one trick. If he doesn’t win with that at once, the little one will know about it, and be able to control him. Then the little one will win.  He was nearly always right. I began to take an interest in the Judo of others. I began to see their weak points and strong points, and how they could develop. In this way I became able to teach. Many strong Judo men cannot teach Judo – or rather, they can teach only people just like themselves. They can teach only the waza in which they are skilful. But that is not enough, to make a teacher. To be a true teacher, one must be able to look at the build and movement of anyone, and see where are the weaknesses which can be minimized, and where are the strong points which can be developed. Then, a good teacher must be able to inspire pupils with a desire to extend ’the gentle controls the violent* into every field of life. Lastly, he must be able to bring out in them ’mutual aid andconcession, leading to mutual welfare and benefit’.

After I returned from Japan and began teaching at the London Budokwai in the evenings, Tani gave me a piece of advice. You are a teacher now. There are two kinds of pupil. One is weak, like a very young tree. If it is pushed hard, it will be broken. With these pupils, always encourage them. Say to them that they are doing very well. Very good, very good. But just a little more like this P like this, don’t you think?” Slowly the little tree will grow strong, and  then even a big wind will not be able to break it.

The other kind of pupil is like a bouncing ball. When it has a little success, it comes bouncing up. You must catch it and throw it down, otherwise it will bound away and it will be lost to you. Don’t ever praise them: hit them down.’

In my own training with him, if I had a big success, he always found something to criticize. When I came back from Japan shortly before he died, he came to see me in the dojo. To exhibit my skill, I threw everyone there with a variety of throws. I did not normally do this, but I wanted to show off. I had a good Fifth Dan technique, and it must have been quite impressive.

He sat there with no expression on his face. After about half an hour, I came across and sat down on the tatami near him. I really did expect to hear something of praise from him this time.

He just glanced at me, and said: ’Well, you have learned Haraigoshi’ and then looked away. Soon afterwards, he left.

I was the second kind of pupil.

© Trevor Leggett

Similar Posts