“Ssal Shin Jo” translates from Korean as “Rice Principle”.
The idea for “Rice Principle” judo was inspired by a story my Father told me once after practice one day, when I was young and felt particularly proud of myself. It was for something I no longer recall, although I remember that I was boasting a bit, and my father said, “Do you know how rice grows?”
“No,” I said, “I don’t. Why?”
“When it’s young and green, it grows like this,” he said, holding one hand in the other, and pushing his fingers slowly upwards, “the head is up and straight.
“But when it gets ripe, and the rice is ready, the head is heavy and bows down.” As he said this, the fingers and hand of the growing rice bent until they were completely bowed forward.
“Remember this, ok?”
And I have.
While thinking about a name for this dojo, I knew that I wanted to avoid the cliche of tigers, or dragons, or warriors of one kind or another, and this story kept echoing in my mind. The focus of this dojo, I knew, would be to emphasize the study and acquisition of basic principles and skills that would nourish long term development of judo knowledge. It’s great fun to go out and win tournaments, but what I really want is for the eight year old child who begins lessons today, to learn judo in way that he can practice with his grandchildren fifty years from now.
Then I realized why, of all the things my father taught me, I was hearing the echo of this story so clearly and persistently.
The judo we are practicing is like rice: basic, nourishing, and plain. There is no food more common or humble than this simple grain, but it is the most widely cultivated grain in the world. It is enjoyed by the rich and the poor on every continent. It can be prepared in any number of ways, eaten at every meal, and yet retains its distinct character. Rice can sustain you throughout your entire life, from before you have teeth, and on after all your teeth are gone.
This is how I would like to practice judo.