Trevor Leggett

Literature & Zen Site


Cutting off the bull's horns

In judo, when the teacher tells us (and he says this only to people who are determined to improve), 'You've mastered that technique. Now give it up for six months,' we think, 'What? I'm not allowed to do that? I go on the mat and I'm not allowed to do my big throw? I've got to try and do other things that I can't do? I'll get countered, I'll look an absolute fool!'

Now many of us fail this test. We think, 'Oh no! I'm not going to do this.' And we go back to what we can do, and we get some success.

But those who have faith in the teacher and who realise the teacher has got faith in them, follow his advice and give up their favourite technique for a while. They begin to develop a free movement, not fixed on one point. They can move freely. If the opportunity is there they can take it because their minds are not fixed on one throw or one situation.

We go round looking for opportunities, trying to create opportunities, so we can bring out the big gun. But actually people somehow get an instinct for not getting in front of a big gun, even though it may be hidden in the bushes.

These methods fail in the end, so we give them up. In judo it's called 'cutting off the bull's horns.' After eight years' intense practice, you develop something very strong and that's the bull's horns - that's what you fight with. It's not only in Judo: it may be a technique of domineering, or pathet�ic helplessness.

Suddenly, you are asked to cut them off. And that means one becomes a beginner again.

This is a very important side of the spiritual as well as the technical side of judo training. The teachers also tell us, and they've put it into practice too, that when we're becoming strong and well-known, and we�ve mastered something, then we should take up something else where we are going to be no good at all. If you're a violinist, and you've mastered the violin, then take up the piano and you'll be stumbling over five-finger exercises. They say that when you've become a great big frog in your own pond and you're puffing your self up, go to the neighbouring pond and become a tadpole, a tiny little tadpole.

This is again 'cutting off the bull's horns' and being able to go freely into other forms.