STRENGTH OF SPIRIT
“Losing is merely a stepping stone on the path to success”
By Mark Lonsdale, Judo Training Development
While some will call it strength of spirit, others may call it dogged determination, but either way, developing this inner strength is critical to success in judo and in life. Fortunately, one does not have to have this strength when beginning judo since a significant part of the judo process is developing the tenacity, perseverance, and strength of character that builds spirit.
Kyuzo Mifune, 10th dan, and author of the Canon of Judo put it well when he said, “Seven times down, eight times up.” From this we learn that it is not how many times we throw someone that marks us as good judoka, but how many times we are willing to get up after being thrown. And be assured, you will get thrown hundreds, if not thousands of times each year.
This brings us back to one of the first rules of judo training – you have to keep turning up. It is only through regular attendance at training that a judoka can advance in skill and grade. You will often hear people ask, “How long does it take to get a black belt?” Well, that depends on how often you attend training and how much effort you put into that training. The individual who attends training three times per week can be expected to advance three times faster than someone who only turns up once a week. Similarly, standing on the side of the mat with your thumbs in your belt will not bring about advancement in judo. You have to put in the effort, and anything less than 100% is unacceptable.
It is said that there are two types of people in the world: those that find excuses and those that find a way. Judo is all about finding the way, but this requires that we use not only our bodies but also our minds and spirits. While the body is sweating and toiling on the mat, the mind is analyzing our opponents and seeking solutions, and our spirit keeps us going, even when the body and mind become fatigued.
It is this spirit that keeps us coming back to the dojo, even when we are tired, our muscles ache, and we would rather be relaxing in front of the television. It is this spirit that gives us the courage and confidence to take on stronger opponents in randori and shiai. It is spirit that keeps us attacking even when we know we will ultimately lose. But we also know that losing is different to being a loser. A loser is someone who lacks the spirit and courage to try, while losing is merely a stepping stone on the path to success.
Professor Kano said that the lessons learned from judo must be carried outside the dojo, and we see this in the spirit and determination we apply to our everyday lives. Society respects the individual who has spirit more than the person who is merely strong. While the obviously strong man is expected to be able to move heavy objects, it is the smaller man who shows grit and determination that we admire more. We see this in judo every evening when the smaller child or judoka invites the bigger and stronger player to do randori; or in the novice who is willing to enter a shiai knowing that they will probably be beaten. When this level of spirit and determination is applied to their education, job training, or careers they are virtually assured of success. Initially they may not be the most talented person on the team but, in time, they will out work and out last their team mates. As they say, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”
The lesson to be learned here is that the spirit that you develop through judo is equally valued and respected outside of the dojo.