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Seiryoku Saizen Katsuyo Jita Kyoei: Efficiency & Welfare

Yoshi was a student of mine. He is a native Japanese and an exchange school teacher. This is one of the conversations we had about Seiryoku Saizen Katsuyo Jita Kyoei, over several emails that I think is worthy of recording.

“Maximum Efficiency For Minimum Effort And Mutual Welfare And Benefit.”

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Seiryoku Zenyo Jita Kyoei

I'm probably telling you something you already know, but there is one thing I want to explain.

I have had a look at heaps of judo web sites and read judo books written in English and have noticed that when the two motto's of Kodokan judo were introduced, "Seiryoku Zenyo" is always translated as "maximum efficiency" or "maximum efficiency of power/force".

These are correct but only a half of it is translated:


The philosophy of judo is "to perfect oneself and contribute to the society". The former can be achieved with "Seiryoku Zenyo" and the latter with "Jita Kyoei (mutual prosperity)". In other words, whatever ability one has, he must use it for good purposes and contribute to the society in which he lives. If everyone does so, it's a win/win situation.

If one uses his Seiryoku for evil purposes such as crimes, how could we possibly prosper mutually?

Therefore, "for good purposes" must always be included in translation.

Seiryoku Saizen Katsuyo Ji-ta Kyō-ei, when explained should give us all pause

"Maximum Efficiency with Minimum Effort"
(精力善用 Sei-ryoku Zen-yō)
"Mutual Welfare and Benefit"
(自他共栄 Ji-ta Kyō-ei)

Seiryoku Saizen Katsuyo also translates as:

"Best practical use of one's energies"

This latter translation, however, makes it easier to understand why professor Kano included the second part of his maxim:

"Mutual Welfare and Benefit"
To Quote from Shihan himself:
"The difficulties of maintaining social harmony among people do not arise for the hermit. Social interaction for most people, however, exposes them to the possibility that their actions and the views that they express will at times clash with those of others. This can lead to disagreements and to mistrust which often results in disadvantages to both parties. Therefore, in order for one to live peaceably with one's fellows, a relationship fostering mutual help and co-operation is preferable. This means that we should be willing to give consideration to the opinions of others and to show an inclination to compromise. That is to say, we should adopt the practice of bringing benefits not only to ourselves but also to others."
(Form: Judo Memories of Jigoro Kano Translated by Brian N. Watson I)

When we look at Judo as a competitive sport, students are taught to use their power "efficiently", using their opponents' force against them.

When we put the motto into practice in our lives, "energy" is replaced with "ability".

Everybody is good at something and we all should use our skills for good purposes to build a better society.


Over the years since these emails I have done further study and as can be seen from the above, there is much to learn from this one phrase.

Brian N. Watson puts it more or less this way, the variety of nuances that Seiryoku Zenyo Jita Kyoei carries, means that it is not a simple matter to translate it into one pithy English expression. He goes on to say that another accurate translation is:

“Maximum efficient use of one's energy for worthy causes”

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Kano believed that we should never waste our time or energy, but use them wisely by directing all efforts towards the successful outcome of some worthwhile cause.

For example: when he was a student he used his lunchtimes to study.

Kano sought to combine judo with education in an attempt to nurture a Judoka mentally balanced and with a well-rounded character.

One of the reasons for his creating judo seems to have been the belief that some things of importance in life are difficult or perhaps impossible to teach merely by the written word in book learning.

How do you as a teacher or sports instructor, inspire your students to be courageous, respectful, disciplined, self-confident or to bolster their willpower? Not always easy objectives to achieve for most of those engaged in the teaching profession.

Kano was of the opinion that one of the best ways to try to achieve such objectives, was to have his students imbued with such traits of character, by means of their judo training experiences:

On A Personal Level

The Professor Said:

“My research on judo resulted in my deeper understanding of martial arts in general. I mean by this statement, for instance, that in order to achieve any worthwhile goal in life, no matter what it is, there are no half measures, we must be fully prepared to strive body and soul to attain our objectives. This is one of the most important lessons that can be gained from martial arts training.

If we neglect to care for our health, for example, in a sickly and physically weakened state, we cannot hope to effectively use our powers of body and soul to benefit ourselves or others in tackling the problems of life.

Since our judo training teaches us that hard work reaps the reward of improvement in skills, we should therefore be encouraged by this in daily life and be industrious outside the dojo, too. On the other hand, however, by going to extremes, our health will suffer if we over strain ourselves by not using our mental and physical powers efficiently.

Today, we need to advocate efficient progression. If the basic principles of judo are well understood and if they are applied in all activities, both inside and outside the dojo, one will derive robust health together with mental vigilance and a good moral outlook, qualities which should help one to preserve one's well-being.”:Kano

Including Overcoming Disabilities

From the early days Judo has been practiced by a large number of those who are disabled. The principals of overcoming that are integral to Judo have been of benefit to all who apply them.

On A Community-Level And In Our Relationships

Professor Kano said when he was in London given a lecture in English:
"In an argument, you may silence your opponent by pressing an advantage of strength, or of wealth, or of education. cation. But you do not really convince him. Though he is no longer saying anything, in his heart he still keeps to his opinion, the only way to make him change that opinion is to speak quietly and reasonably. When he understands that you are not trying to defeat him, but only to find the truth, he will listen to you and perhaps accept what you tell him." (Quoted by Trevor Pryce Leggett and retold in Judo Memoirs of Jigoro Kano Early History Of Judo Brian N. Watson)

On A Global Level

“If nations fail to reconcile their differences, it will become difficult for them to maintain their independence.”: Kano.
For The Judoka This Is To Be Achieved In Three Level Of Judo:
“The three levels of judo are - training for defense against attack, cultivation of both mind and body, and putting one's energy to good use”: Kano.


“No matter how great a person you are, how superior your intelligence, or how strong your body, if you die without achieving anything, as the proverb says: 'Unused treasure is wasted treasure.' ”:Kano.

The Unique resolve of Judo

"Some would no doubt argue that other sports can produce a similar spirit of resolve. This assertion may be true, but whereas Kano's judo is meant to be focused on the pursuit of physical, mental and moral self-perfection, few if any western sports are similarly directed to such high ideals. In the West, many sporting activities are almost totally focused on only the physical development of the athlete.":Brian N. Watson.

'Worthy Use of Human Efforts' and 'Mutual Prosperity' are the basic principles of social activity: Kodokan

Reference (unless otherwise stated): Judo Memoirs of Jigoro Kano Early History Of Judo Brian N. Watson

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