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Presentation (and life) lessons from the dojo

Judo_sm Kyuzo Mifune (1883–1965) is considered one of the great Judo masters of the modern era. Though Mifune was not large physically, even in his old age he could defeat much larger and younger men. According to John Stevens in Budo Secrets, Mifune often used a technique called kuki-nage (air throw) which is based on the principle of a perfect sphere. "A sphere never loses its center, it moves swiftly without strain, and it does not resist force." The meaning of the term Judo (柔道) is gentle+way or "The way of gentleness." A key tenet of Judo is that the soft controls the hard, that one can be successful by adapting to constantly changing circumstances and using the opponent's force against himself.

Kyuzo Mifune's seven rules of judo practice.
These seven rules are written for those who practice the martial art of Judo, yet you can use your imagination to see how these simple rules are invaluable guides that you can apply to your own life and work outside the dojo. You can certainly see the applications to public speaking and leadership. For example, a sure way to lose credibility in front of most audiences is to make light of your competition (in the case of business) by saying disparaging things about them. True humility is a sign of strength, over confidence or arrogance is a sign of weakness. Take some time to think about these seven rules as they relate to your own life and work.
  1. Do not make light of an opponent.
  2. Do not lose self-confidence.
  3. Maintain a good posture.
  4. Develop speed.
  5. Project power in all directions.
  6. Develop self-control.
  7. Never stop training.

There are no quick fixes or secret techniques
Whether we are talking about business, or presentation, or of life in general, there are no panaceas to the challenges we face. There is no substitute for study and steady practice and a commitment to continuous improvement. For this point, too, Judo has a lesson for all of us. "Do not place hope in finding a secret technique," said Kyuzo Mifune. "Polish the mind through ceaseless training; that is the key to effective techniques."



Reinhardt Botha

I've been following the blog for many years and found immense wisdom in it. Thank you!

Of course, this post is no exception. I could immediately see some clear application to research presentations, the kind of presentation I most often encounter, and blog about my ideas at

My conclusion: There is only three things one can do to become a better presenter: practice, practice, practice. (reflectively of course)

B.t.w. I can wait for "The Naked Presenter" to appear on the shelves, I enjoyed the other two books tremendously.

Carlo Pecchia

Nice post, thanks!
Having practiced Judo many years ago I still find very valuable all its teachings in life...


Great post. Is there some way I can re-publish it on my blog? Naturally it would all be fully credited as your post.



Jonathan Thomas

Awesome Garr. I have written about the similarities between the art of jiu jitsu, which I study, and the art of effective presenting, which I blog about. Judo is a relative of jiu jitsu and they share many techniques.

I love the way you connect Judo and presenting in this post. They certainly both involve much mental strength and preparation.

Jon Thomas
Presentation Advisors

TJ Walker

Great reminder that people who want to excel at presentation can look at masters from all spheres of life for inspiration.

Bård Nesbø Skreien

Hi Sensei Reynolds!

It is with much enthusiasm I am reading your many blog-entries. This blog-entry about Judo was long awaited. I am myself a Judoka(柔道家) with 16 years of Judo-experience. Next year I`m going to Tokai University for 2 years as a research-student(研究生), studying Judo and its implications for modern leadership and I would love to work with you when undertaking my studies.

If any of this sounds interesting drop me an email:
[email protected]


Excellent post. I have only recently crossed paths with this blog and am so pleased to have encountered such an intelligent and well thought out approach. Thank you.

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