Home > Judo and Rei > Reigi - Dignity of the Judoka


By Kano Jigoro

Reigi is a formal system of etiquette that externally represents one's heartfelt thoughts and respect for others. Such systems exist in every society, and provide the conventions for interaction so that relationships can proceed smoothly. Social order is thereby maintained, and society can function peacefully and amicably.

Given this function, how should we approach Reigi? The primary intention of Reigi is to physically convey feelings such as respect, love, friendship, and so on. In cases where the pattern of etiquette is performed without sincerity, it simply becomes an empty formality rather than authentic courtesy. The value of such insincere formalities is negligible. Nevertheless, that is not to say that incorrect form is acceptable so long as feeling of sincerity underlies it. In the same fashion that outward form without sincerity is not good, protocols of Reigi that are not precise in delivery, even if done with a feeling of earnestness, are not suitable either...

Courtesy exists in various forms within different relationships. One should show respect to superiors, but in a way that it is not seen as flattery. Regarding peers, it is easy to become overly familiar, so it is best to maintain a certain degree of formality. There is also a tendency to alienate one's juniors, so it is prudent to interact with them in a way to engender an anticipation of friendship...

Closely related to the concept of Reigi is "posture" and "demeanour". These are integral to civility, and warrant comment. Posture and demeanour are external matters, and are not subject to so much scrutiny. If the man's spirit is admirable, then many would consider him to be beyond remonstrance. It may seem like quibbling, but careful reflection on this matter makes it abundantly clear that this notion is grossly mistaken.

The relationship between mind and body is inseparable. The body affects the mind, and the body is also subject to the influences of the mind. It is akin to a shadow following the movements of the object that casts it. Thus, if the spirit is modest, peaceable and correct, this will manifest in one's physical carriage with a posture that demonstrates a certain presence of tranquil solemnity. If the body is unkempt and irregular, the mind will naturally follow to carelessness and self-indulgence. When pondered according to this reasoning, it becomes clear that a man's disposition can be ascertained by examining his posture and manner. The personalities of young men are recognisable by their posture and behaviour, so it behoves us to instil decorum from the start.

Upon further inquiry, broadly speaking there are two important reasons for maintaining good posture: one relates to health and dignity, and the other concerns maintaining respect... Beauty in form is certainly preferable, but requires an overall balance between the head, the arms and legs, and torso... There can be no excess or deficiency as symmetry must be present for beauty in physical form. The ancient Greeks idealised this notion of beauty in the physical body. In order to obtain such symmetry, one must endeavour to hold correct posture at all times, and perform daily exercises to facilitate poise.

Next, why is it important to have good posture when showing courtesy to others? For example, when meeting a gentleman of high social standing, if you were to slouch, put your hands in your pockets, or crook your head to the side, even though it may be habitual with no bad intent, it will be viewed as showing a complete lack of courtesy and respect. Such deportment will most likely be frowned upon by a dignified man of status. And so it goes, one will precipitate an unpleasant situation or rudeness, not just one time, but forever after. To have poor manners or etiquette in the company of those with seniority is redolent of questionable character, and the purpose of the interview will not be achieved. Such being the case, young people must take great care to carry themselves with a fine posture and proper deportment, and to continue developing a sense of decorum...

With regards to one's demeanour, not only does this hold the same gravity as posture when interacting with others, it also exposes the quality of the person within... Considerate young men and women are fastidious in all aspects of their behaviour. Even if wearing Western-styles clothes, to refrain from sitting on the floor with crossed legs is indicative of an unselfish young man who shows esteem for the customs of etiquette of our country... Posture and demeanour soon becomes habitual, and one who incorporates excellence in both who will enjoy happiness. Conversely, one who develops bad habits will have to endure misery.

Young men must be mindful of this at all times, reflect on their own deportment, and embrace the advice imparted by their seniors. They must nurture fineness in posture and demeanour, and make haste to expunge themselves of any flaw in attitude or behaviour that they may have adopted over time. It is far from inconsequential to exemplify an attitude that is solemn, and a bearing that is elegant. This is, after all, a stairway to succeed in life.

From Seinen Shuyo-Kun (Youth Training Precepts)

Dignity of the Judo Practitioner

By Kano Jigoro

What exactly is it that constitutes a man's dignity? There are various facets that make up a man's dignity, but in simple terms it may be said to be comprised of the five components of etiquette, lifestyle, civility, work ethic, and ideals.

Etiquette denotes one's appearance and manners. Correct posture is requisite for good manners, but so is one's personal appearance and dress... People are apt to think that it requires considerable expense to acquire quality items to enhance their appearance, and that it is beyond their means. However, quality and extravagance are entirely different things. Irrespective of social class, all people should avoid wasteful extravagance. Those of meagre resources must keep their limitations in mind. Whatever your station is in life, it is important to be cognisant of what is respectable and what is not for somebody in your position.

Bearing is also of consequence to the way a man's character is perceived. We admire a person who is deft at his work, who walks expeditiously down the road, who stands up and sits down unassumingly, and who opens and closes doors or removes items with composure... In short, manners should be abided by as conventions of society, and to avoid making trouble for others and incurring animosity. Judo training facilitates the cultivation of such qualities. Correct posture is emphasised in the practise of Kata and Randori, and all movements are executed expeditiously, and with composure. Practice always commences and finishes with a Rei, and the dojo is a venue in which manners are refined.

Nevertheless, it cannot be said that all Judo practitioners are striving for such self-improvement. If the intention is to practise Judo solely as an athletic exercise without comprehending its spirit, such training will accordingly be left wanting in the important aspects of self-improvement. All Judo practitioners must give heed to training both the body and the mind. It is my hope that they will perfect their manners and etiquette concomitantly with technical improvement. When sitting in the formal upright position in the dojo, if one feels only discomfort thinking it necessary to endure simply because of dojo protocol, such a man will slink back into slovenliness upon returning home... Sitting properly in the dojo is not just a matter of protocol, but is the required posture for refining one's manners as a human being.

The next theme concerns the way one lives his life. Soundness is of the essence... The most important point is to live a frugal lifestyle. If you increase your means, use it to engage only in things that will be of use. A student should use what he has available in strengthening his body and acquiring knowledge. The adult should use his resources to develop his business further, for looking after his progenies, for helping friends, or improving society and the state. Increasing the amount of money and resources spent for ameliorating one's outward appearance should be one's lowest priority. If you maintain this policy, you will have sufficient means without risking your reputation, and you will be able to uphold your dignity.

If one possesses little wealth, it would be disgraceful to spend a large sum of money on living expenses. Choose to live in a small house and wear inexpensive clothes. Even when living so humbly, your manners and Rei need not ever be lacking, and you can hold your head high if you do not burden others. Thus, through maintaining a sound lifestyle, you can amplify your capabilities and will eventually be able lead a prosperous life.

The next theme concerns the matter of sociability. This is also inextricably linked with a man's dignity. Language is the medium through which a man can present his ideas. Thus, the manner of one's speech is of great magnitude. Sometimes there are people who chatter thoughtlessly and incessantly without allowing the other to speak. Such a man is immediately despised by others, and it is most undignified. The act of criticising and abusing others is harmful, and benefits no one. Engaging in meaningless discourse ungrounded by any rationale, or using obscene words, makes one the object of contempt. Thus, one must be conscientious from the very first word uttered when conversing with others. Also, it is prudent to avoid a mismatch of words and deeds, selfishness, and being unconcerned with the welfare of others, for all of these foibles are damaging to one's dignity.

Work Ethic
The next theme concerns one's work ethic... Using one's position for personal benefit, and flattering superiors to receive special favours, will most certainly result in a blemish on one's dignity. A Judo teacher who has cultivated a strength that exceeds others, so long as this strength is not abused, will be viewed as a dignified man if he unfalteringly utilises it to uphold justice or to rectify an encroachment of his rights. On the contrary, a man's dignity will be severely harmed if he finds himself lured into an argument or fight, is deceived, is allured by profit or gain, or is manipulated as a tool in the machinations of politicians.

Thus and so, aspects such as one's lifestyle, civility, and work ethic, are all matters that are addressed in the study of Judo; and as such, it serves as a legitimate vehicle for developing one's dignity. As the question of dignity is stressed in accordance with the traditions of bushido, through sustaining the virtues of simplicity and frugality, faithfulness and a sense of honour, as well as the ideal of using one's physical and mental power with maximum efficiency while holding others in esteem as one strives to achieve one's aims, Judo surely cultivates dignity in the individual in the process of striving for self-perfection.

It must be said that without admonishment some may focus solely on technique, and forget the spirit of Judo. A Judo trainee must be vigilant and pay close attention lest he fall into bad habits, while also being ready to assist upon discovering shortcomings in others.

Finally, allow me to make mention of dignity and its relationship to ideals. All human activities are premised on an ideal of some description. Irrespective of what that ideal may be, it is always a matter of great consequence. If the ideal is low, the resulting action will be of a low level; but if premised on a high ideal, then the action itself will also be lofty. In either case, one's dignity is effected by the level of the ideal. A man who seeks prestige will act in a way that is calculated to gain distinction. A man who pursues profit will behave in a way that is dictated by that objective. A man who desires power and influence will show deportment that reflects that aim. Any man controlled by such yearnings will be self-centred, and descend into the depths of vulgarity as a matter of course.

It is desirable to embrace higher ideals that surpass prestige, profit and power, and to act accordingly. The ultimate goal of Judo is to seek self-perfection in order to make a contribution to society, not to satisfy one's own selfish desires. Hence, to grasp Judo's true meaning, and act correspondingly to its spirit is to comprehend that all action should be based on the noblest ideal. It is then that a man's dignity is heightened. In short, aspiring to learn only one aspect of Judo means that one may not be successful in fostering a higher degree of dignity. The true study of Judo naturally leads to the cultivation of dignity.

Judo, Volume 3, Issue 11, November 1917