The three jewels of Judo: Empowerment of the Mind, Body, and Spirit

Post date: Sep 27, 2016 4:51:12 AM - Robert Dale Nolan

August 26'th 2016 -

In Phoenix, the morning and evening air is finally starting to cool off and children are back in school. With the return of the cool autumn air and children to schools, I often find myself in contact with parents attempting to utilize this delicate window to better their child. This means an uptick in attendance by families wishing to participate in the sport and art that is Judo. One fascinating secret of martial arts training can be seen in how it benefits the mind, body and spiritual and development of children implicitly while they have fun and most importantly - learn. I myself was not always a paragon of discipline. In my youth, I was angry, depressed, unrefined and unchallenged. These problems very well could have persisted into adulthood had it not been for the intervention of Judo into my life. Through Judo I found a physical outlet for the frustrations of the day, a destresser if you will. Judo also provided a difficult task and discipline that required and taught concentration and fortitude. Children can also gain their first experiences interacting with a foreign language and navigating a foreign culture, which in our emerging global community is more important than ever. In fact, martial arts training has been observed to have a counter effect to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

The conventional wisdom behind martial arts training has always been that martial arts training also helps curb childhood aggression, and while that still holds true to some extent particularly in Judo and Karate training in young boys -- there is a caveat. As articulated in by Reynes and Lorant in their research titled 'COMPETITIVE MARTIAL ARTS AND AGGRESSIVENESS: A 2-YR. LONGITUDINAL STUDY AMONG YOUNG BOYS', martial arts practice does show minor decreases in verbal and physical aggression but with an important distinction in certain conditions. Reynes and Lorant's findings indicate that "the idea that the practice of competitive martial arts in which kata and meditation are absent or downplayed could deter acquisition of self-control", that is to say, non-traditional martial arts may actually not help curb childhood aggression or may even encourage it. Traditional martial arts that utilize meditation seem to play an important role in which martial arts programs are helping curb aggressive action. This is an important distinction in a time period in which non-traditional martial arts institutions run rampant in the "industry". With (Mixed martial arts) MMA or (Brazilian Jiujitsu) BJJ very popular at, time of writing, this should be cause for concern and pause for parents choosing a martial arts program. But Judo and traditional martial arts training do much more than just affecting the mental components of developing children.

In addition to the psychological and mental benefits of Judo, the martial art and sport has historically espoused beneficial growth physiological development.The founder of Judo gave equal credence to the benefits of Judo as a form of physical fitness, separate from the benefits of a self-defense system that empowered the mind and spirit. As minister of education, Dr.Jigoro Kano helped establish Judo as a fundamental part of the Japanese education system. In 2012 this was made official in educational reforms which designated Judo, as compulsory physical education. In the title of the 2010 study 'Judo training is more effective in fitness development than recreational sports', conducted by the University of split in Croatia. Kinesiology analysts found that Judo was showed "significantly better results in the shuttle run task used to test agility, the sit-up test for abdominal muscle endurance, the sit-and-reach test for flexibility, and flexed arm hang for muscular endurance" in children (Krstulović, 2010). In short, Judo is a better alternative to achieving physical fitness goals and fostering fitness development in children in comparison to basketball, handball, or volleyball.

The third and arguably most important benefit of Judo training is of spiritual benefit. It must be prefaced that 'spirit' or spirituality in the paradigm of implicit Zen Buddhism is not to be confused with overt concepts of religion and spirituality prevalent in the west. As I will discuss 'spirit' of this nature permeates the many facets of philosophy and culture throughout Japanese (and other) societies in the same way western society could be viewed as Platonic, Socratic or Aristotelian. Judo, as a Japanese martial art, is imbued implicitly with many of the core concepts of Taoist and Zen Buddhist Philosophy. In fact, the very notion of implicit education (or enlightenment) and the storied origin of martial arts is descended from one of the enigmatic figures of early Buddhism; Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma is the legendary and historically argued founder of the Shaolin monastery and creator of what we recognize today as gung-fu. Upon arrival to China from India, Bodhidharma was dismayed at the physical condition of the Chinese Buddhists and introduced a set of physical exercises that would form the basis of gung-fu and a form of meditation sometimes translated as "wall-gazing" akin to zazen meditation in modern zen meditation, but the method of this instruction is what was important. Bodhidharma simply sat, meditated for hours and left to perform his exercises all in total silence. Eventually chan or zen would leave a lasting impression on Japanese society on a fundamental level. Exercise and meditation form the basis of implicit instruction in the philosophical concepts of Zen Buddhism. This distinction of implicit transmission drives individual growth, education through doing, and benefit through a process of self-discovery. In short, the spiritual benefits of Judo: mindfullness, respect, mental fortitude, selflessness, awareness of thought and actions, arise organically simply from the practice of doing judo, doing meditation, embracing the mundane and eschewing esoteric religious practices. This notion has become popularized among American Buddhists like Brad Warner who penned the title "Sit Down and Shut Up". The following is an excerpt of "Ch'an, Taoism, andWittgenstien" from the Journal of Chinese Philosophy by Thomas T. Tominaga:

The iconoclastic attitude [ of silence ] stems from the conviction that written and spoken words, because they are an integral part of the rules and conventions of language, tend to reify and obscure the immediate quality of the enlightenment experience. The catalytic use of silence is not so much to communicate non-verbally as it is to overcome or transcend spontaneously and unconditionally the conceptual constraints imposed by language, knowledge, and thinking in the conventional sense, whether or not we are made aware of the limitations and inadequacies of our language, knowledge, and thinking.

These two pragmatic strategies give rise to the third and fourth factors characteristic of the practice of Ch'an and Taoism. Both regard the quest for enlightenment as not requiring the performance of any special or super-mundane activities in addition to the daily activities or tasks that people perform naturally and spontaneously. This means that the Ch'an and Taoist aspirants do not opt for enlightenment as if it were a state external to, or separate from all other activities of everyday life or the mundane world including the world of Nature. Rather they try to attain enlightenment through a tactical, undistracted, and alert performance of diversified but harmonized activities of everyday life familiar to everybody, This also means that the Ch'an and Taoist aspirants are able to perform their usual taskswith strategic advantage because they are conceptually liberated from external constraints and the yoke of conventions.

In summary, Judo, in a myriad of way benefits the mind, body, and spirit. Although the methodology of instruction has changed, Judo remains a cultural fruit born from Buddhism. When instructed in a thoughtful and traditional way incorporating meditation Judo outshines other modern martial arts as a therapeutic art form that can channel aggression if not lessen it to an extent. As a pedagogy, the physical fitness derived from judo yields better results than most conventional recreational sports. The implicit spiritual benefits of Judo enrich student's moral and ethical life cannot be understated. all while learning the art form and self-defense system that is Judo.

Krstulović, S., Kvesić, M., & Nurkić, M. [2010]. Judo training is more effective in fitness development than recreational sports in 7 year old girls. Facta universitatis - series: Physical Education and Sport, 8(1), 71-79.

Reynes, E., & Lorant, J. (2004). Competitive martial arts and aggressiveness: a 2-yr. longitudinal study among young boys. Perceptual and motor skills, 98(1), 103-115.

Tominaga, T. T. (1983). Ch'an, Taoism, and Wittgenstein. Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 10(2), 127-145.