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Judo Library: Judo Heart and Soul by Hayward Nishioka

A very intense book.

A very intense book.

There are many ways to study judo. The primary way is of course on the mat. Put on your judogi, show up to practice, and work hard. This will always the number one way to learn judo.

With the advent of easy video sharing on the internet, you can easily spend your day watching hundreds or even thousands of judo videos for free – detailed technique videos from masters and world champions, or slick high definition highlight reels of all the ippons from last week’s Grand Prix made by the IJF. Back when I was a lad if you wanted to watch a judo video you had to call a 1-800 number and pay $40-$50 for a VHS tape and then wait 4-6 weeks. Or if you were lucky enough to have a friend in Japan they could tape the judo competitions off television – but then Japan used a different standard of videotape, so you had to have a special VCR… suffice to say we’re currently living in a golden age of judo video.

Books are another way you can deepen your study of judo. There are many classic judo technique books made before it was cheap and easy to make a video, and we’ll occasionally feature one on this blog. Today I’d like to recommend Judo: Heart and Soul by Hayward Nishioka.

Rather than a step-by-step manual of techniques, this book takes the form of a series of short first-person chapters on Nishioka’s personal judo philosophy, his overall approach to training, and his mindset.

In a true workout, thoughts of strategy, ill will or good will take a back seat to the effort of being pure and honest in your movement. In a word, this is a quest for self, which in Japanese is isho kemei. Isho kemei means “for life” or “for one’s dear life.” It means to practice as if your life depended not on the outcome, but on your wholehearted effort to transform your judo.

This book can be highly inspirational to anyone, but I recommend this book to a mid-level judoka, someone who has been training for a year or more. You’ve learned some techniques, you can throw some people sometimes, but something is missing. You’ve plateaued. You feel like you’re doing everything the sensei is telling you to do, but you’re just not getting better. Read this book. It will light a fire underneath you and put you back on track.

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