The Judoka is an unusual book, part fiction, part philosophy, part a treatise on martial technique with the addition of thought provoking ideas on judo as a ‘poetic way’ and even as an act of love. This last one is a hard concept to grasp, yet Norwood maintains that love of an adversary is essential to good judo. By learning to love one’s opponent, he says, one can pay close and sympathetic attention to him and only one who contests for love of the game, rather than on winning, who can get his ego out of the way, can be a successful judoman he claims. Here’s where philosophy comes up against the hard edge of the mind -a challenge for any martial artist. It soon becomes evident that judo infused every aspect of Norwood’s life and was the lodestone by which he lived.
The Judoka tells the tale of a young man who embodies Judo, not merely as a martial art, but as ‘a way’ in the Eastern tradition of that phrase. He lives ' the Way of Judo' and his life embodies a philosophy of peace grown out of the precepts of this classic martial art.
The book is interesting in that it can be read as a fictional story of a young man who lives a simple life devoid of modern conveniences and close to nature but also as a clear pronouncement of the timeless philosophical values that can benefit all our lives and lead to a life lived more harmoniously and in balance. That said a large portion of the book involves fighting. Despite the philosophical bent there is nothing wishy-washy about the story line. Violence is, and always has been, a fact of life and the judoka struggles to meet his opponents not in the same red mist of anger that he is confronted with, but with understanding, good technique and detachment and not mere brute force. He accepts the fear present in such situations, recognising that it is fear that readies the body for sudden movement and focuses attention on the likely strengths of his opponent.
Norwood spent time in Japan and the traditions he encountered there obviously impacted him greatly. A chance encounter with an American police sergeant years later, who taught Judo in his spare time, introduced Norwood to the fighting art and his subsequent knowledge and experience of judo are evident in the writing.
The book is enriched by an introduction by Norwood’s son who was obviously hugely influenced by his father’s take on life and his love and respect for his father is evident. It is obvious that here is a man who walked his talk. It also includes a short essay by Norwood on writing as a martial art.