What Kyuzo Mifune Taught Me About the Spirit of Judo

My favorite part of the Olympics is the sport judo. I’m a goju ryu black belt with an intense admiration for the martial arts, so this should not come as a surprise. However, for as much as I like Olympic judo, I can’t help but sigh at seeing how far it has come from its roots as an internal martial art more akin to aikido. Indeed, it has become, in some regards, a wrestling match pitting strength against strength and endurance against endurance. Fun to watch and do, but not traditional judo.

Kyuzo Mifune, the “god of judo,” is instructive in this regard. Here is a video of Mifune sensei in action:

Mifune Accepts Challenges From High-Ranking Students

You will notice that not one of the challengers is able to throw Mifune sensei. They try, but he seems to defy the laws of physics. He goes with each attacker, not resisting, and then ultimately ends each match by easily counter-throwing the student. In essence, Mifune sensei is demonstrating judo at its highest level.

Karate was heavily influenced by Judo and Jiu Jutsu, and as a result many of the kata are filled with throws, joint-locks and take downs. Therefore, the teachings of Mifune sensei are applicable to those practicing karate, like myself. When an opponent goes to throw me, I relax, and go with his momentum, and thus counteract his technique. Even though he was throwing me, he often ends up losing his balance and falling himself! That is the spirit of Judo: minimal movement for maximum effect.

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