Mind Over Muscle: Writings From The Founder Of Judo

Title: Mind Over Muscle: Writings From The Founder Of Judo
Author: Jigoro Kano
Publisher: Kodansha International
Genre: Philosophy
Year of Publication: 7 February 2006

Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, was not only a martial arts master but also a visionary philosopher.

In his book, “Mind Over Muscle: Writings From The Founder Of Judo” Kano delves into the profound connection between the mind and the body, revealing valuable insights that extend beyond the realm of martial arts.


This book serves as a guiding light for personal development and self-improvement. In this review of ‘Mind Over Muscle’ we look at three essential lessons from the book that can be applied to various aspects of life.

Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) was a Japanese educator and martial artist who revolutionized the concept of physical combat through the creation of Judo.

Born during a transformative period in Japan’s history, Kano sought to modernize traditional martial arts, infusing them with philosophical principles that went beyond mere physical techniques.

Kano’s journey into the world of martial arts began at a young age, studying Jujutsu, a traditional form of self-defence. He recognized the limitations of the combative styles prevalent at the time, which often relied on brute strength and raw aggression.

Driven by a vision of a more refined and principled martial art, Kano embarked on a mission to develop a system that emphasized skilful technique, mental discipline, and mutual benefit.

In 1882, Kano founded Judo, a term he coined to mean “the gentle way”. This new martial art emphasized the concept of maximum efficiency and minimum effort, using an opponent’s energy against themselves. Judo’s emphasis on respect, discipline, and personal development made it more than just a martial art—it became a way of life.

Published posthumously, ‘Mind Over Muscle’ is a collection of Kano’s teachings and reflections on the principles that underpin Judo. The book dives deep into the relationship between the mind and the body, highlighting the importance of mental strength, efficient movement, and the spirit of mutual prosperity in both martial arts and life.

Now let’s explore three of the most profound lessons from ‘Mind Over Muscle’ and how they can be applied to various aspects of life beyond the dojo.

Lesson 1: Cultivating Mental Strength

In ‘Mind Over Muscle,’ Kano emphasizes the importance of cultivating mental strength over physical prowess.

While physical abilities are crucial in martial arts, Kano asserts that without a strong mind, one cannot fully harness their potential. The same holds in everyday life – challenges arise, obstacles appear, and it is our mental fortitude that determines how we navigate through them.

Kano’s lesson teaches us to embrace a growth mindset, focusing on continuous self-improvement and resilience.

By cultivating mental strength, we become better equipped to face adversity, overcome self-doubt, and persist in our positive pursuits. This valuable lesson extends beyond the realm of mere martial arts, helping us tackle life’s challenges with unwavering determination.

Lesson 2: The Principle of Seiryoku Zenyo

Central to Kano’s teachings is the principle of “Seiryoku Zenyo,” which translates to “maximum efficiency, minimum effort.” In ‘Mind Over Muscle,’ Kano explains that this principle is about using our energy and resources effectively. In Judo, it involves leveraging an opponent’s force to gain an advantage rather than relying solely on brute strength.

This principle resonates profoundly in the various aspects of life. Whether in our professional endeavours or personal relationships, the ability to identify the most efficient path forward and utilize available resources optimally can lead to greater success and fulfilment.

By applying Seiryoku Zenyo, we learn to work smarter, not harder, making the best use of our skills and energy.

Lesson 3: Embracing the Spirit of Mutual Prosperity

Another key lesson from ‘Mind Over Muscle’ is Kano’s emphasis on the spirit of “Jita Kyoei” – mutual prosperity or mutual benefit.

In Judo, it is about striving for the well-being of both oneself and one’s training partners. Kano believed that practising this spirit would not only benefit individuals but also contribute to the betterment of society as a whole.

The concept of Jita Kyoei encourages cooperation, empathy, and compassion. By applying this lesson to our lives, we foster a spirit of collaboration and support, seeking win-win situations in all our interactions. This intention and approach when properly communicated inevitably leads to stronger relationships, productive teamwork, and a more harmonious community.

Jigoro Kano’s ‘Mind Over Muscle’ offers profound wisdom that transcends just the world of martial arts.

By internalizing the lessons of mental strength, maximum efficiency, and mutual prosperity, we can embark on a journey of personal growth and self-discovery.

The principles outlined in this book provide timeless guidance for achieving success, both on and off the mats. So, let us embrace the teachings of this visionary martial artist and cultivate mind over muscle in our lives.

In the video below, we see Yukimitsu Kano, the Grandson of Jigoro Kano, talk about this and the effect Judo has had on the world.

‘Mind Over Muscle’ by Jigoro Kano is an indispensable gem for all students of Judo and a must-have addition to the library of any martial artist.

With its profound insights into the mind-body connection, efficient techniques, and the spirit of mutual gain, Kano’s teachings transcend the realm of combat and offer invaluable lessons for personal growth and self-improvement.

Even Jocko Willink seems to think it has a lot to offer, here is a video of him reading from the book itself and giving his opinion on it.

As someone who practices Judo, I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of martial arts and embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery.

Favorite Quotes

  • “Do nothing which is of no use.”
  • “There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”
  • “Be aware of your opponent but not fixated on them.”
  • “You must study the basic techniques until they become part of your subconscious.”
  • “The purpose of learning techniques is to forget them.”
Mind Over Muscle Writings From The Founder Of Judo book review KFK

Mind Over Muscle – Writings From The Founder Of Judo – book review

Book Rating: 10/10

Want to ground your martial skills on a real foundation of character and honour? Then get your copy of “Mind Over Muscle: Writings From The Founder Of Judo” from Amazon and message us your best insights in the website comments section or on social media!

Which of Jigaro Kano’s views and teachings has made the biggest impression on you? Do you have an interest in the philosophical side of martial arts training? Let us know in the comments below; Like, share and join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter & Instagram!

WANT MORE MENTAL STRENGTH? Then LEARN to work your TIME and ENERGY smarter, not harder, DO JUDO, in fact DO ANY MARTIAL ART you find in the FU-NIVERSE, and these Top 10’s, Top 5’s, deep-dive interviews, build character and honor in KFK wear, and subscribe for more FU-SPIRATION on YouTube!

Andrew Laoudas

Andrew is a passionate martial arts enthusiast with knowledge on a wide range of disciplines including Nunchaku, Kali, Muay Thai, Wing Chun, and Judo. Driven by a deep love for the arts and a genuine appreciation for action movies, Andrew's focus on Wing Chun and Judo has given him significant experience and expertise. With a unique perspective that blends the excitement of action cinema with the technicality and beauty of martial arts, Andrew seamlessly integrates his passion for martial arts combat, cinema, and MMA. This fusion fuels his evolving journey of self-discovery and he hopes it will serve as inspiration for others to unlock their true potential.

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