Friday, July 30, 2010

Triumph and Disaster - The Same Two Imposters

Some people have complimented me in expressing their admiration for my dedication and discipline in researching and writing this book. I've spent nearly every day, often twelve hours a day or more, for more than two years researching and writing this book. Career, socialising, fitness, health, paying bills (phone gets cut off on a regular basis), day-to-day living, have all been subjugated to this book. There has been no more demanding a mistress in my life then this book. Dedication and discipline - no; obsession - yes. And this obsession is even greater than that demonstrated, and also mistakenly admired, in my training and advancement in jujutsu.

This obsession is sometimes fed by finding insightful articles which unfortunately are hidden away in academic journals which the general populous would never normally get to see. The 'Wax On, Wax Off' article which formed the basis for my Wax On, Wax Off blog is one such article. Another is 'Sumo: the recent history of an ethical model of Japanese society' published in the International Journal of the History of Sport by Ian Reader from the Centre of Japanese Studies at Stirling University. Within the article, Reader writes about the attitude adopted by Sumo wrestlers:
Anyone watching Sumo for the first time would certainly note the lack of apparent emotion that follows a fight. From the faces of the wrestlers it is rarely possible to tell who has one and who has lost. Neither should show their feelings; rather, after the fight has finished, both men return to their side of the ring and bow respectfully to each other. There are none of the ritual displays of triumph and defeat found in most other sports, nor should there be any overt hint of animosity between wrestlers. ... It is essential to show respect to a defeated foe as much as to a victor. Humility in victory is vital ...
Too true. Ritual displays of triumph and defeat are de rigueur in the modern sporting arena. Reader's observations echo Jigoro Kano's advice concerning judo outside the dojo in Kodokan Judo which he suggests evokes the very essence of judo:
Walk a single path, becoming neither cocky with victory nor broken with defeat, without forgetting caution when all is quiet or becoming frightened when danger threatens. Implicit here is the admonition that if we let ourselves be carried away by success, defeat will inevitably follow victory. It also means that one should always be prepared for a contest - even the moment after scoring a victory.
Reader suggests that the contemporary strengths of Sumo lie in its 'nature as a sport welded to the traditions that mark it out in antithesis to modern society.' He suggests that as Japan becomes more modern and Westernised, Sumo becomes more markedly representative of a cultural past that stands in stark contrast to the present. While the West is often vilified when societal moral strength is considered, I'd refer the vilifiers to Rudyard Kipling's poem If which echoes the sentiments of Reader's Sumo and Kano:
If you can meet Triumph and Disaster
And treat these two impostors just the same; ...
Yours is the earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Jan de Jong, being 'old school,' expressed the same views concerning success and failure, triumph and defeat, winning and losing. He once told me of his disappointment when one of his grandchildren was caught up with soccer, aka football, celebrating the success of his team and the disappointment with their failures. De Jong was old school where success and failure are the same two impostors. West or East, this is a lesson which has been learnt by some and not by others. It is a lesson which De Jong taught me and which has had a positive influence on my life. It is a lesson which I share with you.

Until next time.

John Coles
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