The Judoka by W.D. Norwood is a very special book in my life. I first read it many years ago, and find myself returning to it often. As a teen, I trained in Judo for a short while, but with the focus on "Judo" as sport. The practices were physical and focused on technique and competition. So I never considered that Judo was a "Way," in the Eastern sense. Reading The Judoka taught me different.

In The Judoka, author W.D. Norwood, an English professor and brown belt in Judo, creates a fable of a young man living the Way of Judo, where the martial art of Judo informs a way of life...and vice versa.

Weaved within the story are Norwood's extended annotations describing the philosophy behind the story's action. Those sections read like a journal entry, sometimes personal, sometimes obscure. They reflect the Way of Judo, in that they are refreshingly unstructured yet utterly relevant to the story. The fable may have lived fine on its own, but with Norwood's annotations, the whole becomes much richer and infused with deeper questions and meanings that I would have missed. Yet Norwood's style does not assign meaning. He largely leaves that task to the reader, as he should. He offers a point of view without declaring it exclusive or absolute.

The Judoka contains five chapters:

Fighting 3
Hunting 43
Making 87
Knowing 163
Loving 211

Life Is Conflict

Early in the book, Norwood writes that "life IS conflict." Not that life has conflict. Life, in the largest sense, IS conflict. I didn't want to believe it, but as I thought about it, the idea began to develop some merit, at least philosophically.

Life is a struggle, a give and take, a dance. There's always motion that has an effect. Imagine life without conflict. Does that make any sense? Though I suppose first we need to define conflict.

Conflict involves opposition. Opposing forces. Duality. Or we often see duality. Eastern philosophies might feel that is a false view. All is one. That's why I like the analogy of a dance, which is one Norwood used in The Judoka quite often. Indeed Leeda, the only real supporting character in the book, is a dancer. How judo and dance's a nice, illustrative juxataposition.

But is life conflict? What is life without conflict, opposing forces? How does cooperation fit into this?

Maybe a better perspective is, Life IS Relationships

Life is Relationships

This perspective (is it more abstract?) is a larger container than "conflict." Relationships. Isn't that what conflict is? How we relate. How we deal with a conflicting relationship...that's the essense of what Norwood is writing about in The Judoka. How we deal with conflict, which is a PART of life, a PART of the many relationships we are a part of in life.

Instead of "Everything is relative," we might declare "Everything is related." Subtle difference? Maybe not.

But I think the Judoka's view that life is conflict IS a bit extreme and narrow. Life is relationships works better, where conflict is a part of relationships.

Really, this is a battle of semantics. Depending on how we define "conflict" and "relationships." Conflict, in it's broadest sense could work. What is common to relationships or conflict? Some connection between two or more...objects? Connection. What constitutes a connection? Affect. Impact. Of any kind...

Life is Poetry

I loved this quote by Norwood:

Whenever a master Judoman has options, he will select that one which is most pleasing aesthetically...the more truly poetic and especially ironic a person's responses are, the better he will perform Judo.

As an English prof., Norwood spoke a bit about poetry and life. How poetry joins what was separete. It's opposite of the Western reductionism where we take everything apart. Poetry unites images. It's about the whole, not the parts...sort of.

Anyway, it's about Gestalt. Wholeness. Judoka.

Life as Work or Craft

Finding work...or an attitude. I've had such a difficult time in this area. The Judoka (he never is given a odd?) lives an ideal I may have held many years ago. His work is more direct to his need. When he's hungry, he hunts. When he needs money, he hand crafts fishing nets to sell.

Norwood's annotations here describe how work or craft can't help but reflect the total wisdom of the artists/craftsman. I think my wife embodies this. Whatever she does is a clear reflection of her and her wisdom. The Judoka makes his nets by hand, shunning mass production for obvious reasons. By-hand products reflect his wisdom. But can the mass production also reflect wisdom? The product of work is not just a "product" or even principally a product. These days, work is often very far removed from product. There has to be something else we work for, something else our reflects our total wisdom. I suppose it's in how we work together, how we contribute to the relationships of the people we work with. That's at least part of our contribution. Relationships.

I think of the troops. The brotherhood. Black Hawk Down. Those guys lived and died in their dedication to the relationships...especially those two that demanded that they be dropped in the middle of the crash zone to certain death, just so they could support their brothers in arms. Heroes.

Time's a wasting.

See also: NormanOBrown

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