Mind Over Muscle, Judo & Jigoro Kano - School Of Grappling

I talk to Andy From School Of Grappling about the book “Mind Over Muscle: Writings From The Founder Of Judo” By Jigoro Kano. We explore the philosophy of Judo as written and explained by Kano while also discussing his views on physical education and the principles of Judo including mutual benefit and maximum efficiency in energy use. We also discuss the concept of embodied grappling and the critical role rough and tumble play can have on a child’s morality and social awareness development.

Listen to mind over muscle






[00:20] – Introduction to Episode 51
[02:47] – Background on Andy’s Judo practice, career and what he does in the space
[06:11] – An overview of the Jigoro Kano book, Mind Over Muscle
[09:37] –The level of appreciation of judo as a martial art
[12:08] –The Historical context of Judo and traditional Japanese jujitsu
[17:13] – Kano’s study of jujitsu based on the technical and practical aspect
[21:11] – Key principles of judo in physical and mental education
[22:04] – Aspects and levels of Judo
[27:01] – How systems theory fits in judo principle of mutual benefits
[31:08] – The principles of Judo in physical education and development of mental capabilities
[38:56] – Kano perspective on winning competitions versus getting people training consistently
[40:36] – JIu-Jitsu and wrestling and why Judo is different from both
[42:49] – The aspects of being either a judoka and a grappler or both
[45:21] – Good physical education practice will deliver a decent amount of technique
[48:46] – Viewing Judo in the lens of competition and personal goals in sports
[50:19] – The idea of kata and randori in Judo practice
[52:58] – The concepts of rough and tumble play or wrestling play in Judo
[58:43] – Judo play wrestling techniques, teaching plan and embody skills in children
[1:05:15] – Kano places emphasis on learning with a purpose and a meaning behind movements
[1:10:26] – The idea of judo in building and an embodied practice
[1:19:01] – Getting in touch with Andy


An overview of the Jigoro Kano book, Mind Over Muscle.

The book is a collection of different writing of kano essays and talks that have been edited together. In 1882 Jigoro Kano founded Kodokan Judo at Eishoji Temple in the Ishikawa area of Tokyo. Kodokan judo was a product of Kano’s lifelong devotion to the jujutsu of the past, which he reorganised along educational lines while taking great care to maintain its classical traditions. Since then, Judo has spread to 187 countries and regions throughout the world.

Kano firmly believed that compared to the sports of the time, the practice of jujitsu offered a superior method of mental and physical training. Kano also discerns that with the additions of philosophies suited to modern society, judo would be an excellent medium of instruction. He declared the goals of the practice of judo to be perfecting oneself physically, mentally, morally and using those strengths for the good of society.


The reason why Andy shifted from competition to teaching judo

Andy says, “I started judo at five years old, and I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t do judo. I have a black belt for ten years now. Judo was the first grappling style that I started practising. I still practice it, but I focus more on teaching than competing nowadays.

I had an extensive competitive career at the national level and international tournament, but at some point, the rules changed, and things with school and college came up. I had to make a decision whether to concentrate on judo or some other things in my life. So I started teaching judo first to children, and nowadays, I teach teenagers and adults alike.

My interest shifted to philosophy on the less competitive side, and that was where my journey in the history and philosophy of judo started.”

The Historical context of judo and traditional Japanese jujitsu

The whole idea of judo as self-defence or sport is in a way correct and wrong because it’s not actually what judo is. To get a sense of what judo is, we should contrast it to the traditional Japanese jujitsu. In Kano’s book, there’s a whole section where Kano speaks about Jujitsu and how judo developed out of it to something completely different.

The development of judo took place during the Meiji restoration, a period when Japan opened up to the world. The influence from global superpowers increased, and japan modernised so fast that there was a huge conflict between traditions, restoration, and globalisation. During that period, Kano was trying to preserve the traditional Jujitsu, and at the same time to reform it for a modern society and a global society.

 Kano was travelling a lot, speaking many languages, and he was open-minded in the sense that he wanted to earn exchange between nations. He saw that judo would be a valuable way to keep the Japanese martial arts alive and at the same time modernise and adapt them for the whole world. Judo was a reformation of many different previous styles of jujitsu that were being practised in Japan at the time.

Aspects and levels of judo

On page 94, Kano says there are three aspects of judo. The first one is training for defence. The second one is the cultivation of the mind and body. Kano emphasises that the idea of judo is not only physical education but it’s also mental education. In practising self-defence techniques, you not only aid in developing a very functional well-rounded body, but you also learn to make swift technical decisions.

The third aspect is integrating the aspects of self-perfection, which are used to give back to society. This is the ultimate goal of judo. The idea of judo is that practising jujitsu self-defence is a means to develop a healthy body and mind, which can then play its role in the bigger picture of society.

The idea of kata and randori in judo practice

Kano’s book is not just about philosophies. There are some insights into technical training such as kata and randori. This is something that everybody knows, but there is a great misconception about it. Some people think that kata is a form of pre-planned movement, almost like a dance or choreography, and they think randori is playing rando.

Kata means form, while randori means free practice. So, every time you try to practice a fixed form like creating a move that kata, but when you do something chaotic, with a lot of movement and without a fluent formless, then it’s randori. The whole spectrum between fixed and completely free practice is still randori. So, in a way, every game you play, if it’s free practice, it’s a form of random.

The concepts of rough and tumble play in judo

Rough and tumbles play or play wrestling is incredibly important for children’s brain and physical development. It’s also surprisingly shocking that parents and even institutions like schools and kindergartens prohibit it. To understand it, you’ve to relocate it from a scientific perspective. Children of any species learn by engaging in play fighting with an embodied first-person experience.

Research reveals that children who have partaken in play wrestling will experience fewer behaviour disorders and emotional development problems, which Kano emphasises as one of the core elements of teaching judo. The purpose of judo in martial arts is to place a set of constraints within rough and tumble play to refine it into some form of developmental sport or practice.

Mind over muscle Resources

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