The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of Miguel Castro Caldas of Portugal.
Kisshomaru Sensei’s words
It is natural for a man to thrist after strength. The other day I had some business at the Hombu Dojo and went there taking several of my students. There we listened to a talk given by Koetsu (Kisshomaru Ueshiba) Sensei. He made the following remark during his speech: “Nowadays, the streets are well protected by the police and I have almost never seen any violence. Therefore, we should disregard such notions as who is stronger or who are losers.” I thought that what he said was quite reasonable. However, on the way home my students asked me: “Sensei, did he really mean that? He may not be reading the news.” Actually, many incidents appear on the third page of the newspaper. In the old days there was a saying that, “Three years spent developing an army is all for the purpose of using it for a single day.” Although there are many soldiers, they are to be used only for emergency situations and are not usually needed. In other ways, this saying signifies that “bu” or martial arts serve as a precaution. We must of course go beyond fighting. But if young people overemphasize this idea and believe that armed forces are no longer needed because there is no need to attack anyone, this attitude presents a problem. Most of the time youngsters come to the dojo wanting to become strong.
I came to study under Ueshiba Sensei for the same reason. If Ueshiba Sensei were a weak-looking man who appeared as if he would fall if I swept his leg from underneath him I wouldn’t have followed him. I was very vigorous then because at the time I used to appear in championship judo tournaments. But he grabbed hold of me and flung me around as if I were insignificant. Ueshiba Sensei was great and I was surprised. After all, I thirsted after strength in those days. So I don’t think we should deny the existence of this type of desire. We should take a hard look at reality. Budo are not sports. They are traditional martial arts and an instrument of war. We must be prepared for emergencies, in a spiritual sense, I mean. Budo cultivates this spirit.
Are Budo sports?
The Ministry of Education issues various decrees on the subject of budo becoming sports. The other day I attended a study meeting held at the Budokan. There was a representative of the Ministry of Education who declared the following: “You have earnestly practiced budo for many years but the times have changed. I would like you to consider budo as sports from now on.” Everyone at the meeting listened to him patiently. But about 15 minutes before he finished his lecture he said he would consent to a question-and-answer period and would like us to raise our hands if we had any questions. I immediately raised my hand. The person sitting in front of me raised his hand at the same time too. When the Ministry of Education representative pointed at me the man sitting in front of me thought that he had been called and immediately stood up and asked the following question:
“You were saying that budo and sports are the same. Since I am rather ignorant I wonder if the word ‘sport’ is translated into Japanese as ‘budo’.
The government representative had difficulty in answering and stammered:
“Well, uh, sports are sports…”
The man continued: “Well, budo does not mean sports then.” “If you take the meaning of budo in a modern sense it can mean ‘sport’.”
“You mean the result of the modernization of budo is their conversion into sports? What then does modernization mean?”
It is my belief that modernization refers to westernization, Europeanization or Americanization, mightn’t one think so? Anyway, the man continued:
“If things we create in Japan are Europeanized or Americanized it is tantamount to saying that they are not created in Japan at all”.
The ministry man kept repeating something to the effect that sports are sports.
Then the questioner said: “If sports are sports as you say, then there is no reason we should call budo ‘sports’, is there?”
The functionary was verbally defeated in this manner. Soon the time was up and the spokesman ended the question-and-answer period saying it was regretable that there was no more time. Then the questioner suddenly turned around and said, “Served him right!” The man was already over 50 years old. I too was thinking of asking the ministry man about the difference between sports and budo.
Along similar lines, I have also been criticized in a judo newspaper. The article read: “Although Mochizuki Sensei is a budo man, his way of thinking about the martial arts is old-fashioned. If we change our way of thinking, judo will become a sport, not a budo.” The author of the piece was a spokesman for the Kodokan.
Kano and Cubertin
In 1924 when the Olympics were held in Los Angeles, Jigoro Kano Sensei who participated in the organization of the event was asked directly by Coubertin (Pierre de (l863-l937), French educator largely responsible for reviving the Olympic Games) to permit judo to become an Olympic event since Kano’s creation had become world-famous. Kano Sensei responded as follows: “Although we have adopted the form of a sport and have competitions, that is not our real purpose. The sport aspect of judo is nothing but a means and our real purpose is daily practice itself.”
We must use the power of the body in the most reasonable way and through judo you and your partner build fine bodies through practice. This was the gist of Kano Sensei’s explanation and it was also around the time when the live-and-let-live philosophy which was similiar to his way of thinking began to draw attention.
By contrast, even Darwin, the author of the theory of evolution or the “survival of the fittest,” when he went to Brazil and witnessed the so-called practice of “native hunting” was appalled at seeing this application of his theory. It was a time when navies would seek out any native man or woman, force them on to their ships and take them to the United States. After seeing this, he sent a letter to a friend deploring the situation: “What an ugly practice! Europeans and Americans are allowing this to continue. God never forgives those who attempt to prosper by tormenting the weak. What a shameful thing this is! I will never again set foot on this land.” This letter has actually been preserved. Although the theory of evolution is understood as the law of the survival of the fittest, the truth is otherwise. The intent of his theory is to justify acts of invasion. However, in the world of animals, the number of fierce animals like tigers and lions is decreasing while the numbers of their prey are increasing. ln present-day Africa, fierce animals cannot live without protection. Therefore, Darwin’s theory of the law of the survival of the fittest should be modified. I think this is already starting to be the case.
(The full article is available for subscribers.)