<H1>The Good China Syndrome in Judo</H1>

The Good China Syndrome in Judo

© 2010 Linda Yiannakis All Rights Reserved

In many American households one finds two sets of dishes: the everyday dishes and the good china. The good china is reserved for company, holidays and other momentous occasions. Itís too fancy for everyday use.

Judo is in many ways a feast for its practitioners, and its provisions are served to us in various vessels. Unfortunately, over the years this "two dishes" way of thinking has been applied to aspects of judo so that we now often see a division between the "real" judo that we practice regularly in the dojo and those other, fancier parts that we save for special occasions.

Tai Sabaki

Shisei, shintai, and tai sabaki in general are sometimes practiced as individual exercises or as part of a warm-up but then not applied in actual technique applications. They are taken out, polished up and put away when it comes time to get to real judo. Randori then often degenerates into bouts of bent-over jacket wrestling. This is kind of like always eating dinner off of paper plates while your Noritake china sits grandly in the cabinet week after week, briefly touched on but not serving any real function.


Kata is like the dishes we use on Thanksgiving, Christmas or other special occasions. Instead of supplementing everyday practice, it is periodically dusted off and trotted out for special events such as an upcoming promotion examination or for competition. Afterwards, itís put safely back on the shelf to await its next required appearance. It has no place in the weekly practice of real judo. Something more heavy-duty and practical is called for there. The good china should be saved. Even if we never use it, we can pass it on to our children, so they can continue the tradition of never really using it.

Goshin Waza

The goshin waza are also preserved in the china cabinet, but they are frequently seen as not exactly fitting with other dishes that stay in there. They usually are relegated to their own separate china cabinet, only brought out as complete sets that are never broken up or mixed with the everyday dishes or the other good china.

Context and Principles

Cultural context and philosophical principles sometimes are brought in, but more often simply passed over beyond a superficial mention. They are the really fancy china! We feel that we donít need them in order to chow down on some real food or to practice hard judo in the press of a weekly schedule or the drive toward current goals.

Aims and Education

Seiryoku zenyo, Jita kyoei, Jiko no kansei: Of the three maxims of judo, Jita kyoei is easiest to see in everyday use. It is hard to miss that lesson in a judo dojo, since uke and tori rely on each other in reciprocal fashion. Jita kyoei does not often attain good china status.

Seiryoku zenyo may be referred to in judo classes but is not universally applied in either technique execution or as a philosophical principle. Jiko no kansei is touched on even less than Seiryoku zenyo. It is very much the dustiest platter in the good china cabinet, often hidden way in back of everything else, and sometimes completely forgotten. These precepts of judo are often relegated to the status of decorative plates on the dojo wall.

But unlike Grandmaís prized platter, the good china of judo is not in danger of chipping or shattering when we take it out. Instead, it becomes stronger with use. It complements and fills out what we already use every day, making all parts of the feast more readily accessible.

Judo was developed as an integrated whole, with each part supporting every other. Saving whole areas of knowledge for display on special occasions lessens the integrity, power and potential of the complete system. If your dojo reserves kata and other parts of judo for only occasional practice, consider bringing everything to the table on a more regular basis. You might be surprised at the strength of that china and how well it fits with your everyday dishes.