Recently competitive sports have become popular in Japan, and often the question comes up as to the relation between competitive sports and Judo. The question is put in various forms, but I will present the two extremes.
1 There are those who attack competitive sports and say that since in Japan we have our martial arts (bujutsu) which are excellent for either spiritual education or physical education, or both, so what necessity is there for all the problems which will be involved in becoming enthusiastic to import sports? If we practise our own indigenous bujutsu arts, then we shall be encouraging the spirit of the Japanese people in a natural way, and it will also be a training in virtue. But the import of foreign sports will naturally affect the spirit too, and perhaps we should end up as foreigners.
2 Then again there are others who point to the good aspects of sports and say that Judo itself should be popularized as a form of competitive sports, and that it must be completely reduced in its practice to a form of contest, like sports of other kinds.
Neither of these ideas is correct, and one can suspect that each of the two sides has set out with some definite assumptions of what the relation between Judo and other sports ought to be.
As I have often explained, Judo is a Way which has a great universality. In the variety of its application, there are many different aspects from the point of view of martial arts, or physical education, or cultivation of intelligence and virtue, and also methods of application in daily life. Competitive sport is a kind of sport where it is a struggle for victory, and by that alone there is a natural training of the physical body. It is also a system of moral culture. If competitive sport is pursued correctly along these lines, it does have a great effect in physical and psychological training, and there is no quarrel about that.
But that object of competitive sport is a simple and narrow one, whereas the objective of Judo is complex and wide. Competitive sport pursues only one part of the objective of Judo. Of course, Judo can be treated simply as a competitive sport, and it may be all right to do so. But the ultimate objective of Judo cannot be attained in that way. So while we recognize that there is a demand these days to treat Judo on the lines of a competitive sport, on the other hand we must not forget what the real essence of Judo is and where it lies.
In these books of Dr. Kano, the same point comes up again and again. A competitive sport is something apart from our lives. We become experts, say, at tennis and then we are simply expert tennis players. It does improve the physical health, but that is where it stops. It has no application in our lives. But Dr. Kano based his principles of Judo on the idea of a method of learning something for life. It has been said that there are no rehearsals for life: You are on the stage now\ But Dr. Kano thought of Judo as a sort of rehearsal, a way of learning things for our lives.