SSJ = Rice Principle

“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.



6 thoughts on “SSJ = Rice Principle

  1. I too, heard the Rice Principle from my Mom growing up. Only, she didn’t leave it to my interpretation. So to me, it meant- “you know a little, but you think you know everything… when you’re older & wiser, realize you don’t, & will be humble.


  2. Sensei Shin, I am very happy to hear from someone who has the same philosophy that I do. I spent 23 yrs. in the military and have combat tours in Viet Nam and other far away places. I have 53 yrs. in Judo, I started in Japan with Sensei Watanabe in Yokosuka Japan and progressed from there. I hold Rokudan in Judo and Godan in Jujitsu and I am part of the USJA /USMAA/ Kodokan Organizations. I teach on base at NAS Pensacola Florida both children and adults. Take care and keep training. Keep us in mind when you have tournaments or special training. Sensei Baldwin


    • Baldwin Sensei, Thank you for writing, and for your kind thoughts. Please let me know if you are ever in the Charlottesville area and would like to visit.


  3. Gene,
    I am glad that you also obelive in the same philosophies as your father. As a student of his from the late 60’s until I moved from Chicago in 1974, I learned and belived in this type of philosophy. I have enrolled my children in martial arts as well but only after finding the “right ” sensi who belived in the same philosophy of teaching and training. I hope to make it down to charlottsville soon. I hope all is well with your parents and family.
    Dave Roberts


  4. Sensei Shin,

    My name is Mike Muender (san-dan). I teach Judo at the YMCA in Onley VA – on the Eastern Shore. I have two female students who may attending UVA in the next two years. I told them of your club and they are interested in coming to a practice this summer. When would be a good time for them to be introduced to you and your club?

    cell (757) 710-0143



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