Learning Through Cooperation or Competition

Most of us are familiar with competition. Throughout our lives, at school, at work, or in sports, we have competed. For many people, the way that they perceive "getting ahead" in life is through successfully competing with their peers. One of the problems with competition, however, is that when you beat someone at something, they usually experience being beaten. That is, if you win, they lose. It is often the case that the experience of losing in competition is much more frequent than the experience of winning. This losing experience is often very unpleasant and can lead to a person becoming depressed or to completely withdrawing from the activity in question.

Here at the University Karate Center, we encourage students to learn cooperatively. In basics class, when a fellow student is awarded a stripe, we should be happy for his accomplishment. It is not necessary to compare ourselves competitively with our classmates. During partner practice, work with your partners to achieve the purpose of the practice and the best results for your training.

It is never appropriate to compete against your partners or to try to gratify your ego at their expense. In kata, always strive to be the best that you can be. Admire the form of those who are better than you are, and model your practice after theirs so that you can improve. At the same time, be of assistance to those whom you are able to help. Sparring is one of the most difficult areas to address cooperatively; yet, it is the best way to spar. Sparring cooperatively means staying, all of the time, within the meaning and intent of the sparring rules. It means never striking with excessive contact which might injure or intimidate a training partner.

Cooperative sparring is about being able to work within the limitations of a smaller, weaker, or less-experienced partner, for optimum mutual benefit. It also means having respect for the reserve and control exercised by a bigger, stronger, or more-experienced training partner. Sparring in this way allows your partners to give you their best fights. It allows you to work to deal with their most proficient techniques. It also allows them to test you with techniques they would consider too risky to try if you were going to nail them hard. Even the best students can be appropriately challenged by less skillful partners provided that this etiquette is observed. By training cooperatively, rather than competitively, everyone can leave the Dojo after class feeling like a winner. It is in this way that students can develop intrinsic motivation to train, rather than being dependant on external signals like stripes, belts, or trophies for rewards.

(c) 1999 Robert H. Mason


It is essential for Martial Artists to stay focused on whole self, the mind, body and spirit. People often take one or more of these elements for granted. Martial Artists visualize, stretch and practice their kata and techniques to fine tune their mental focus, to maintain their overall health and to set the tone for a positive day.

Developing this type of self-awareness requires, first and foremost, discipline. Whether you have five minutes or an hour, you must set aside some time each day to devote to improving the condition of your mind, body and spirit. The time you spend on the task is well worth the benefit. "Tuning in" to yourself will allow you to stay focused, to become more flexible, and to reach higher levels in your Martial Arts training and in your daily life.

Morning is a good time to work on self-awareness. Before you get dressed, spend five or ten minutes doing breathing exercises and clearing your head. You might want to sit cross-legged on the floor or just sit on the edge of your bed. You can close your eyes, breathe in and out slowly, filling your belly with each breathe (this is called abdominal breathing), and focus on being still and quiet. Pay attention to your abdomen filling with air, your muscles relaxing, and your spine extending upwards to maintain a state of poise. As you do this, you will achieve a sense of wholeness and your mind will clear. Taking this time will help you prepare for your entire day; you will become more focused and you will be able to concentrate better on your work throughout the day. Your body will feel relaxed, calm, and any tendency you may have towards anxiety will be replaced by a sense of confident presence.

All of these things can make for a great beginning to a new day!

Getting in tune with your body will not only help you feel better, but it will also help you recognize when something is not quite right. For instance, those who are more in tune with their bodies know right away when a cold is coming on. By being able to detect a slight discomfort early, one can take preventative measures, such as drinking more orange juice and taking vitamins before a cold is full-blown. Don’t underestimate the value of spending a little quiet time with yourself!

Being a Master of the Martial Arts takes more than just technical skills. Keeping your mind and body in great condition will help you become more creative and aware. As this happens, you will begin to express joy and confidence in every aspect of your life. This is truly a manifestation of the Martial Arts spirit.


A forerunner of Judo, JiuJutsu is a precise Martial Art which puts emphasis on using an opponent’s own power against him. The name means the "art of yielding." JiuJutsu’s history begins as far back as the 17th century, flourishing in a golden age up until the middle of the 19th century. It employs a wide range of techniques from holding and throwing, to sweeping and grappling.

Because Jujitsu’s main focus is on effective combat, when tournaments were held during its heyday, the results were often lethal. These tournaments would be public events, and many different schools would participate in them. This allowed each school to put its methods against the methods employed by other schools.

Consequently, the victorious warrior could gain prestige as a formidable opponent, and the means by which this warrior won were often educational for the schools. Based on the results of a tournament, old tactics and techniques could be improved upon.

JiuJutsu was commonly practiced by the Samurai warrior during its golden age. Its strategy of using the strength of the opponent against him made it ideal for the rigorous struggles of combat that the Samurai warrior was often faced with.

JiuJutsu focuses on the effective execution of techniques (waza). Although the techniques are learned individually by the student, it is of the greatest importance that the student be able to move from one technique to another as quickly as possible. There are usually only a very limited number of techniques to any given system of JiuJutsu, but each one carries with it principles for controlling the opponent. It is up to the student to know when each technique is best applied and to be able to make that decision quickly and precisely.

Since 1905, most of JiuJutsu has become integrated into Judo. Jigaro Kano, a Martial Arts visionary and the founder of Judo, set up a school known as the Kodokan in hopes of unifying the jutsu arts. Only the school known as Aiki-jutsu refused to integrate themselves. Nevertheless, each of the two schools continue to learn and build off the efforts to the other. Professor Hironori Ohtsuka, the Grandmaster of the Shindo Yoshin Ryu style of Aiki JiuJutsu, founded the Wado Ryu style of Karate in 1935. His student Meiji Suzuki, founded the Mugendo Martial Arts system in 1982. Sensei Robert Mason is the Chief Instructor in the American Mugendo Association (MuDoKai). Mugendo, "the unlimited way" is a complete Martial Art that includes JiuJutsu, Karate, Kobudo and Kickboxing.