Three Incredible Ideas From Jiu Jitsu Philosophy That Will Change Your Life

Baltimore Jiu Jitsu Classes at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu
The Jiu Jitsu philosophy we use at our Baltimore gym is passed-down from hundreds of years ago. These teachings of yesterday are timeless.

Timeless Jiu Jitsu Philosophy

Jiu Jitsu is much more than fighting skills. Jiu Jitsu is life skills. There is a philosophy to Jiu Jitsu.

Teaching the tools of Jiu Jitsu, without the philosophy, is both dangerous and irresponsible. Martial arts can build discipline, control, respect, restraint and patience when that is the focus. Otherwise, the tools are just violence. The philosophy of martial arts—gentleness, mutual welfare and benefit, the best use of physical and mental energy—is indispensable to its training.

At Zenyo Jiu Jitsu, we know that martial arts can create a better world. We fight with each other on the mats, so that we can fight for each other off the mats. We are all one. This is the philosophy of Jiu Jitsu. This is its beauty.

Three Amazing Ideas

The ideas behind our philosophy is descended from Jigoro Kano. Kano was a black belt in three forms of Jiu Jitsu. He used his knowledge to modify his Jiu Jitsu into what he called Judo— “the gentle way.” 

The way to greatness is laid out in these three incredible ideas. Understanding these three incredible ideas of Jiu Jitsu philosophy will help you reach for your full potential. 

“The purpose … is to perfect yourself and contribute something to society.” – Jigoro Kano


The first principle is Ju-No-Ri – or “gentleness.” This can also mean flowing with things. With gentleness as the mindset to guide you, you can practice in a safe way.

“The pine fought the storm and broke. The willow yielded to the wind and snow and did not break. Practice Jiu Jitsu in just this way,” Kano writes. 

Mutual Benefit

The second principle is Jita Kyoei – or “mutual welfare and benefit.” This means that all students must be safe and benefit from training. This is the true spirit of training, all students working together for the greater good.

“If everyone acts with the spirit of mutual cooperation, each person’s work benefits not only himself, but also others, and attaining this together will bring mutual happiness,” Kano writes. 

Maximum Efficiency

The third principle is called Seiryoku Zenyo – or “maximum efficiency and minimal effort.” Zenyo is the path of ease, of searching for a better and smarter way to use our energy effectively.

“If directed at improving the body, Seiryoku Zenyo becomes a form of physical education; if applied to gaining knowledge, it will become a method of self-improvement; and if applied to many things in society, it becomes a way of life,” Kano writes. 

A Deeper Look At Jiu Jitsu Philosphy

In our classes, we use Jiu Jitsu to develop both our physical and mental skills. Our goal is to be strong on the outside, strong on the inside, and gentle in spirit. Our goal is to create the “best use” of our training. That is Zenyo. 

We use the Jiu Jitsu philosophy in our school to develop great people through martial arts. 

Zenyo means best use. Best use of our physical and mental energy. The ultimate goal of training in Jiu Jitsu is efficient use of strength. When you focus on being efficient, there is no limit to improvement. 

Zenyo Is Efficiency

Zenyo comes to us through Judo founder Jigoro Kano. Kano might be the most influential martial artist of all time. He believed in the principle of Zenyo above all others. 

Zenyo (pronounced zen-u) means “best use” in thinking, learning and doing — the way of maximum efficiency and minimal effort. Zenyo is the ultimate goal of martial arts. 

“Whatever it is that you do,” Kano said of Zenyo, “envision the best purpose for it, and use the energy of your body and mind in the most efficient way to achieve that purpose.”

You can read more about the philosophy we use in Kano’s book, Mind Over Muscle.

Jigoro Kano Judo

Zenyo Is Awareness

Moshe Feldenkrais was one of the first Judo black belts in Europe. He was a student of Kano who created a unique way to teach Zenyo. He called his teachings the “method to improve ability.”

Elements of Kano’s Judo, Feldenkrais’ method and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are all part of the curriculum at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu Baltimore. 

“To understand movement we must feel, not strain,” Feldenkrais wrote in his book Awareness Through Movement. “To learn we need time, attention and discrimination; to discriminate we must sense. This means that in order to learn we must sharpen our powers of sensing, and if we try to do most things by sheer force we shall achieve precisely the opposite of what we need.”

Zenyo Is Ease

Feldenkrais believed the path to greater learning, efficiency and performance begins in the nervous system. Change happens there first, which helps us to improve our habits of thinking and moving. 

“The more an individual advances his development the greater will be his ease of action,” Feldenkrais wrote. 

“When activity is freed of tension and superfluous effort the resulting ease makes for greater sensitivity and better discrimination, which make for still greater ease in action. We will now be able to identify unnecessary effort even in actions that formerly seemed easy to us.”

Zenyo Is Play

Play is an important method in how the brain learns.  Research suggests that play might be the brain’s favorite way to learn. 

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct,” writes renowned psychologist Carl Jung. 

Training should not always be serious. Too much stress and effort — always striving for perfection — can lead to frustration and stagnation. It is paradoxical, but students who stop trying so hard to improve actually improve the fastest. 

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.”

“We have no muscles which, when contracted, render our thought processes more productive,” writes German philosopher and educator Heinrich Jacoby. 

“If you are . . . entirely given over to something, more can happen in a shorter time — and what happens can be very productive — than many hours of brooding over and exerting oneself may yield.”

Zenyo Is Change

The way of Zenyo is change through letting go. To create the best use of physical and mental energy, we need to learn how to change our usual habits and methods to seek efficiency as the ultimate aim. 

Effort, strain, and force interfere with the brain’s way of learning new skills. Students who focus on relaxation in learning are able to change their normal pattern of reaction and see things in a new way. 

This is the essence of our Jiu Jitsu philosophy, the ability to change for the better. Improvement then becomes true change, a change that will build a lasting foundation on and off the mats.

Zenyo Jiu Jitsu Baltimore

“There is no limit to improvement. Make the impossible possible, the possible easy and the easy elegant.”

– Moshe Feldenkrais

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