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Judo & Buddhism Corner: Kesa Gatame

posted Jan 20, 2016, 5:03 PM by Robert Nolan
 Please be sure to visit the Token Corp website http://www.judo-ch.jp/english/ 

Judo and Buddhism ? Some of you may be asking what do the two have in common ? A few readers may even point out that both have a prominent place in Japanese culture. But did you know that Buddhism and martial arts have a much deeper and intricate connection then  simply being pan-asian cultural assets? One of my main fields of research is the intersection of Buddhism and martial arts (specifically Judo) and how one has effected the other. Today we will start with a singular concept dealing with Japanese linguistics, Buddhism, and one of the core Osaekomi waza (押込技) or Pinning techniques called Kesa Gatame (袈裟固) commonly referred to as the scarf hold. So the Interesting idea here is, the pin technique kesa-gatame (袈裟固) is most often translated as "scarf" hold. However in my study of linguistics, martial arts and Buddhism, I have found that the more accurate translation would be , "Buddha's robe hold". Kesa (袈裟) is the name for the honorific robe that Siddhartha Gautama introduced to his disciples. Siddhartha, The Buddha wore this simple cloth, much like a giant scarf across the entire body. When applying the Osaekomi Kesa Gatame it is very easy to see the how Dr. Kano (or perhaps an earlier Jujutsu sensei) could have made this distinction and named the technique thus. The figure to the left (belonging to Token corp) illustrates how in Judo the technique hangs at the neck, but envelopes the body in the hold. Comparing the previously mentioned image with how a traditional Kesa(there are actually MANY sorts of Kesa, each specific to a sect of type of Buddhism) you can make to correlation between the two for yourself. Interestingly enough, the way in which a Kesa hangs diagonally from body so too did Siddhartha's robe cover the body. Buddhist monks still where the kesa (okesa) as a representation of Siddhartha himself. This is just one more link between Judo and Buddhism/ 仏教 (Bukyo).

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