Monday, December 1, 2008

Judo Interview

My uncle is a Judo instructor. He runs the Abbotsford Judo Club in Abbotsford, where he is head instructor and sets the curriculum, trains other instructors to help him and oversees the running of the club with his staff. Both his children: Ian and Kimi have grown up doing Judo. Ian no longer participates, but Kimi spent most of her life practicing and traveling the world doing competitions. While no longer within the competitive field she does work at her dad’s dojo helping to instruct.

In class, Dr. Ogden has talked a lot about the Japanese Aesthetic, and through reading Robert Twigger’s Angry White Pyjamas we can understand the mentality behind it. We also visited the Burnaby dojo where Robert Mustard, a crucial character in the novel, teaches and had a chance to talk to him. So I wanted to explore what Judo was all about and see if any similarities came up. What I plan to do is present some of the questions and the answers I received. At the end I will do a little interpretation connecting where I can or highlighting differences if there are any.

I asked my Uncle Touke what attracted him to Judo:
Touke: I like that it keeps you in shape, and lets you practice different techniques safely. It is a sport you can do when you are very young or very old, and is a very good way to meet people and have fun while exercising.

I asked them all what the “mentality” behind Judo was:
Touke: Judo is” the gentle way” it is about being respectful, polite, and knowing how to handle life without getting angry or being violent. It teaches you to be flexible in life to help you deal with problems, and help make society a better place for everyone.
Ian: Self defense. The definition of Judo in Japanese is “the way of gentleness”
Kimi: It helped me learn respect. You must respect your coaches and opponents. It is not about anger; it’s about technique and art. Everyone has their role, and this plays into life and to respect others. It also teaches one to work hard, to have discipline. Sometimes so hard that it can hinder your own health, it’s a fine line. But overall I think it has benefited me. It’s helped with my self-confidence and I’ve gotten to travel. It’s and overall sport, well rounded you have to be prepared both mentally and physically.

This lead me to ask Kimi to elaborate on what she meant by “art”, as well as ask my Uncle if Judo was an aesthetic form:
Kimi: There is a big focus on form. The moves are like dancing, graceful and spiritual.
Touke: Judo is a very aesthetic martial art. The beauty I think lies in the simplicity of the moves, and the idea of yielding to force, rather then opposing it. We practice Kata, prearranged movement to help us keep our Judo precise and accurate.

Kimi, in a much earlier interview, had said that her father had adapted his teaching style for here in Canada. I asked my Uncle if this were true and how so:
Touke: Judo instruction in Japan can be very tough. The idea is to train hard to make you a better competitor and a stronger person. Students are expected to do what they are told, and not ask many questions. This differs from Canadian teaching styles in that questions are encouraged. So I have come to accept that Canadian students ate different than Japanese students, and have changed my teaching style over the years.

Not surprisingly there are many similarities between what we have learned in class and these answers. We see that the aesthetic is important, and that emphasis is put on precise movements. There are many ties between what I learned though reading Angry White Pyjamas and talking to Mustard. One thing that sticks out for me is the fact that the process is supposed to help you run your own life while benefiting society. Mustard said the same thing while talking to us in his dojo. Also, when my Uncle talks about Judo training in Japan being tough, my mind immediately goes to the novel and how harsh their training was. It also jumps to our talk with Mustard and how he himself admits to the training being tougher in Japan then here. In Kimi’s answer she talks about everyone having their role and respect; I think these concepts are also apparent within Angry White Pyjamas, as lesser students were assigned teachers for help. All levels have their place, but each place is respected for what it is. Even talking to Mustard we got that feeling of him inspiring respect, and I believe he made a comment about knowing when a student didn’t really understand, commit or respect him or the art, and then kicking them out. In the end, there seems to be many more similarities then differences, which I am not surprised by. I think that most martial arts probably have similarities in the values of work ethic, respect and roles, as those are values held by the entire Japanese culture as a whole.


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