This might sound abrupt - irrelevant even - but I learnt in my Development Economics lecture today that "knowledge, given its non-exclusive, non-diminishing nature, is a prime example of a public good". When I heard my professor utter these words, I remarked silently to myself that this is indeed a meaningful yet often neglected observation. Little did I know then that I would be seeing the real-life weight of those words later in the day, when 野瀬師範 graced us with his indomitable presence and keen eye for technique.
A whir of motion as sparring ensues.
Areas for improvement were swiftly pointed out and promptly rectified as we worked through our usual routine. Having observed our sparring rounds and pinpointed the problem, namely that the frequency and speed at which we attempted our techniques still had much room for improvement, 野瀬師範 then proceeded to impart to us a drill designed to help us overcome these particular weaknesses. Making reference to the iai (sword-drawing) technique in which a swordsman's weapon is kept sheathed till the split-second before he attacks, at which point he unsheathes his sword, completes his slash, then resheathes his sword in rapid succession, 野瀬師範 communicated to us most vividly the paramount importance of being able to speedily attempt an attack the very moment one moves into position. This is especially key keeping in mind how when you bring your opponent into your range of attack, you are yourself entering his or her range of attack at the same time: the deciding factor, therefore, is speed and accuracy not just in initiating the first contact, but to keep up the offense and transit into a slew of linked attacks.
田沢君 getting ready to pounce as part of a drill to up our speed and accuracy.
松本先輩, who took time off his busy schedule to participate in today’s training alongside us, also indulged us with much meaningful and inspiring advice before we closed the session for today. Indeed, I have come to realize that knowledge might very well even transcend being ‘just another public good’: the classic example of a public good, street lighting, boasts huge positive externalities and fits the typical non-exclusive and non-diminishing profile characteristic of public goods (save for perhaps, the occasional maintenance and servicing); knowledge, on the other hand, does not only not diminish, it is continually added to and enriched greatly by the wealth of experience that one accumulates and passes on selflessly to the next generation, much like what our coach and OBs have been doing for many years now. There are many years ahead before we even come close to becoming veterans, of course, but I believe I speak for everyone in our club when I say, that it will indeed be a great honor to someday contribute back to nurturing the future pillars of our longstanding Judo tradition here in Hitotsubashi University.
Instead of dwelling on the nitty gritty details of the training exercises conquered today as a team as is the usual procedure, please allow me to shift the focus of today’s entry to someplace more general and encompassing. Judo is a sport not just about physical excellence or rugged determination; it is also an art form, a lifestyle that is founded on deep philosophical concerns. The timeless mantra, 「精力善用」is perhaps the most often quoted example of this. Most people avoid philosophy like the plague because it is fundamentally elusive and hard to concretely elucidate. An easy way out of this though, is perhaps to just take things simply, and aim, not to distill an all-encompassing observation about life and destiny, but instead, take baby steps to integrate one’s beliefs into one’s everyday life.
As students, not only in our respective home faculties, but also as disciples of Judo, the most direct way of bringing「精力善用」into our lives, I believe, lies in the following keyword: APPLICATION. Like sponges soaking into the sea of knowledge that is added to everyday by our university professors as well as OBs who take the time to come down and instruct us in the finer details of particular techniques and styles, it is praiseworthy, of course, to absorb all that we can, but over and above that, what is of paramount importance here is to not only temporarily take in, but to mull over, deconstruct, and finally resynthesize what is being taught to us as our own knowledge. After all, there is no point in being a super absorbent sponge, only to soak in, squeeze out, then soak in again, because nothing winds up retained in the longer-term, and capacities stagnate with no real work being done (the sad truth is that this is an inevitable part of our lives, what with tests requiring us to cram ourselves to our brims with knowledge, only to empty everything out and start anew at the coming of the next semester).
Easy as one, two, three:
Like the 反復 that we so often utilize in Judo training, tossing and turning newly learnt ideas in your head is an important process that lets you not only take stock of what you have achieved thus far – it also allows you invaluable insights into what to focus on, going ahead!
It is impossible to eternally retain all that you learn of course – it is, however, not only possible, but quintessential that we all be active consumers of knowledge, stripping down what is dispensed, and taking in what we feel will enrich and strengthen us. This applies not only to our studies, but also to the art of Judo that we so adore and dedicate ourselves to. We will definitely continue to strive hard, and discover for ourselves, the sort of Judoka that we are destined to become.
Today marked the opening day of this year’s freshmen induction camp for our Judo club: to think that just one year ago, we were all just freshmen ourselves! Granted, there were some beginners in our midst, the others, experienced trainees who had dedicated themselves to Judo back in high school, but we all had much to learn about the particular customs and traditions that serve still as the pillars holding up the club.
It was, therefore, with this in mind that we gathered outside in a circle today at 7am to commence our stretching exercises in preparation for the customary morning run that was to follow. The first order of the day was to impart to the incoming freshmen the cheer that we take turns to chant while running towards the Tenmangu Shrine at Yaho. Not unlike how Darwin theorized about the ‘survival of the fittest’ being the law of Nature, the process of natural selection is perhaps applicable also to traditions and practices that survive through the ages to continue to be passed down in the world of today.
This tradition of having a morning run is no exception: while not strenuous an activity in itself (and therefore often misunderstood as having little value at first glance in terms of its validity as a form of training), the fact that this practice is shared also by not only civilian groups but military organizations as well is itself a testament to its importance. Chanting a particular slogan while running may seem like a simple task when attempted by an individual, but running in step while keeping the rhythm through group cheering is no mean feat, for it calls upon the unity and team spirit of the group as a whole. The run today saw not only the seniors chanting at the top of their voices; the freshmen, who were learning the chant for the first time today, gave it their all when it came to their turn to lead the cheer as well. With this inspiring start, I dare say that we will all grow to be a strongly bonded team in the near future! Having practiced our floor techniques in the morning, the training session that followed in the afternoon saw us pouring our heart and soul into refining our standing techniques via a series of drills and sparring rounds.
Our members, hard at work during a sparring session.
The wizened veteran and feisty beginner collide: 山岸さん vs 高橋君!
山岸さん, an alumnus now doing his Masters, graced us with his presence and imparted much priceless advice regarding the proper form and posture for particular techniques. It is really a huge blessing to always be indulged by the sheer kindness and generosity of our ever supportive alumni members in dedicating what precious time they have away from work, school and family to nurture and guide us every way they can. Here’s to a fulfilling and exciting week ahead!