Judo: The Art of Winning by Yielding

By Robert Gouthro & Dr. Lisa Capriotti   •   Aspire Athletic Center

Judo is a word that many people have heard, but that few people know much about. Isn’t it a martial art or something like that? Didn’t Rhonda Rousy use judo to become a UFC champion? You might have heard the phrase “verbal judo” in your business or leadership classes. What is judo – and how do these different things relate? Judo is a martial art based on an approach to problem solving that anyone can use to be more effective and to improve their life.

Judo started with a young man in Japan named Jigoro Kano who was weak and frail as a child. He began to train in martial arts to strengthen his body. However, even when he had improved his health, he was still much smaller and weaker than most of his peers and it was hard for him to compete. He set out to create a system that anyone could use – in or out of the gym. The key idea in his new martial art of judo was the principal of “ju”.

In Japanese, “ju” means gentleness and yielding, so the word “judo” literally means “the gentle way.” This idea does not mean that you need to be passive, unassertive, or weak. 

Rather, it is the idea that you never attack a stronger opponent where they are strong. You also don’t attack a problem where it is the most intractable. You especially never meet anger with anger. Rather, you yield.

This sounds interesting, but how does it work in action? In the sport of judo, this translates into using techniques that redirect momentum in often spectacular ways, allowing smaller people with more skill to throw much larger people through the air. In this image, the smaller player has yielded in the face of superior energy and momentum. In the gym, the result will be his partner taking a fun tumble to a safe fall.  In a self-defense situation, the result is an effective defense followed by the opportunity to escape.

This principle works equally well in an argument or even bullying situation. Ju in this case means verbally de-escalating and taking the energy out of an aggressor’s stance. Author and speaker Brooks Gibbs uses this principle in his wonderful YouTube video “How to Stop a Bully”. Even if it is the only thing you take away from this article, every parent and child should watch this video. As you can see, de-escalation is highly effective because you get out of the way of negative energy, denying it a target.

Consider that most conflicts in your life will be about people you care about or members of your own community. How will you respond? The next time you are faced with a problem or conflict, think about judo and how you might win by yielding.

Robert Gouthro & Dr. Lisa Capriotti are the owners of Aspire Athletic Center


This article was featured in the January 2022 issue of Carolina Bay Neighbors magazine.


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