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A Quick Guide to the Principles of Judo | Amakella Publishing
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A Quick Guide to the Principles of Judo

Since judo’s inception, a key principle of judo has been maximum efficiency with minimal effort (seiryoku zenyo). One practical application is that when facing stronger opponents, the recommended action is to temporarily give way instead of offering direct resistance, moving out of the line of attack and getting the opponent off-balance first, and then use that moment to apply a judo technique. That way, the resistance of the opponent will be greatly diminished, and the judo practitioner (judoka) will only need a smaller amount of energy to defeat an opponent.

If an opponent comes with a great impulse —with the intention of hitting you with a fist, for instance— as a judo practitioner you can take advantage of that inertial movement. You can move into a position favorable to block and grab the attacker’s arm, and place your body and hips in a position where they can act as a fulcrum, which together with a lifting movement of the legs facilitates the execution of a throw.

Action and reaction is another important principle. When we push a person, there is an instinctive tendency for that person to push back in the opposite direction. If we were to pull, the person would likely pull back to return to the original position. Judokas take advantage of those moments when people are moving back to their original position and add their own strength to those movements to apply a technique.

The principle of using maximum efficiency with minimal effort allows judo practitioners to throw opponents that are physically bigger and stronger. Instead of risking a frontal attack with uncertain outcomes, it encourages judokas to get their opponents off-balance first, and then apply judo techniques in a way that requires a smaller amount of energy than frontal confrontations, keeping some energy in reserve for other potential needs.

This general principle applies not only to judo. Seiryoku zenyo can also be applied to many everyday situations outside the dojo. As authors Thompson and Jenkins pointed out, judo principles can be used in areas like business negotiations, conflict resolution, management strategies, workplace relations, law enforcement, persuasive communications, etc.

Another important principle in judo, since its inception, is safety. Situational risk awareness helps identify potentially dangerous situations for ourselves and others, enabling us to take preventive measures to decrease the likelihood of such risks from happening and, when unavoidable, to reduce their level of impact. This attitude should be consistent inside and outside the dojo, to create and reproduce a training environment that is both safe and enjoyable.

Safety can be greatly enhanced by adopting a precautionary attitude. If we suspect that a risk is imminent, or identify risky situations in which it is probably just a matter of time until someone gets hurt, we can take measures to prevent, reduce, and mitigate their adverse impact. Examples include identifying risky behaviors in ourselves and others. Once we identify such areas of risk, we need to say or do something about it.

Another key principle in judo is mutual benefit (jita kyoei), intended to develop trust and provide mutual assistance to bring prosperity for the self and others. A direct application of this principle is in the relationship between the partners involved in the practice of judo, where the person performing a technique (tori) requires the presence of a partner (uke) in order to practice and improve his o her techniques.

Jita kyoei also provides guidance on the type of relationship we should establish with those we regularly interact with in places like home, school, the workplace, the venue where we practice judo, and even in judo competitions. As Olympic coach and psychology professor David Matsumoto pointed out, judo is much more than winning medals.


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