Kano, brought up in an Anglophile world, no doubt saw the same things. At the same time, as he became an educated member of the Meiji elite, he reveled in studies of British economics, politics, and philosophy. When he spoke of "maximum efficiency, minimum effort," he was not preserving oriental philosophy; he was injecting John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism into oriental philosophy.

This was a revolution because the Japanese had no concept of sport.(6) At the same time that Kano brought British sport concepts to Japan, he sought to combine these concepts with distinctly Japanese elements.

Although Kano sought to preserve, in a sense, the old codes of honor of the warriors of Medieval Japan, he also felt compelled to abandon those aspects which he viewed as anachronistic. The concept, for instance, of "sudden death," the old Samurai ideal of death by one skillful cut of the perfection of the sword, did not survive in the sport context of Judo. Kano saw this as defeating the purpose of sport, of risk to obtain advantage, of development of strategy and skill. Instead, he favored Judo competitions, Shiai, rather than the old-style, sudden death, contests, or Shobu.

"Sudden death" inhibited risk taking; but if no risks were taken, sound judgment regarding risk was not developed. Sport, as a theory, was the natural experience of developing quick judgment in the taking of risks, under a set of rules, to obtain a goal. Nothing in life was much different. Kano understood this. Judo rules, under Kano, were three point contests, not sudden death or "ippon".

Japanese militarism, during the 1930's, however, attempted to revive for nationalistic purposes, the Samurai ideal of complete sacrifice of the individual, in one glorious moment, for the good of the nation. The military imposed upon the Kodokan the rule of one point wins.(7) As Kano feared, such a perspective created Shobu, rather than Shiai. "Sudden death" rules punished, and still punish, experimentation, creativity, and use of competition as a means of forging techniques. However, Judo has evolved Randori into a stronger practice than was reflected by Kano's wishes. So perhaps the sport element of practice and risk-taking has merely mutated into a different part of Judo practice.

Shobu has created a caution in Judo matches which degrades their educational purpose. On the other hand, of all sports, Judo does truly reflect the old Samurai ethic that one mistake meant death; that success was a commitment to total victory. In this aspect, it remains unique among the competitive martial arts, which otherwise universally follow a point scoring system, and among non-competitive martial arts, which do not experience the sense of sudden death even though many purport to train with the so-called deadly techniques. It is the experience, not the knowledge, that leads to the Zen state, and so, again, Judo seems to invariably move toward an ideal that many other martial ways can only talk about.

Judo is experience, and although Judo was not founded upon Zen precepts, Judo remains a fundamental expression of Zen concepts. Compared to the other martial arts, even the aerobically furious Kendo, Judo is the supreme test of budo, the martial ideal. As one anthropologist student of martial ways defined it, Judo was "Budo as Ordeal." It is the retention of a "combat vigor" which distinguishes Judo from other martial arts. Judo is not only the comprehension of movement techniques, the but "swift demonstration of the living laws of movement."

... [T]he judoka I practiced with seemed to absorb a tremendous amount of damage during practice. ... I was injured more in three months of judo practice than I had been during the three years that I had studied karate while an undergraduate at college.(8)

Kano’s perception of Budo required the development of ran in a marital setting. Ran, in its most fundamental, simple meaning is freedom. In martial arts, it is "free practice" or free sparring. Some writers have observed that randori is Judo’s "most distinguishing feature."(9)

Kano had seen that many of the ju jitsu ryu had developed an appreciation for perfect form; for the aesthetic component of their movement art. This was a poison handed down from the most admired of the bujitsu, the swordsmen; the Kenjitsu who could not practice fully, because they could not make mistakes without crippling or fatal results. Because they could not make mistakes, and survive, they could not fully learn. Because they could not fully learn, they created a false world of form, which substituted for experience. Eventually it became Kendo, which, to restore vigor, nearly eliminated form (kata) entirely.

Disdaining "competition" as too dangerous, or even vulgar, many arts, during the waning twilight of the Tokugawa shogunate, had abandoned their martial spirit in favor of idealized movement forms. They convinced themselves that such perfection of movement reflected mastery of martial skills. Kano was not the first to see the fallacy of such an approach, which was simply rationalizing a way that eliminated, rather than preserved, the martial sweat, and agony, and ordeal that had characterized the training of men in the olden times; men who understood that perfection of movement held no advantages to the defeated, who were dead. Instead, they knew, above all, that martial spirit was strength, skill, conditioning, and above all, martial timing and ardor in the face of a determined adversary who gave no quarter and expected none. It was the development of "fudoshin" the immovable mind, that met all challenges and surprises with a state of composure but instant and devastating response.

These were missing from most styles, and continue to be absent to this day. Indeed, Kano must have looked to the experience of Kendo, and its transformation from Kenjitsu. Kenjitsu had become stylized and idealized, using its lethality as an excuse not to practice in a spirited manner. It had become, in the words of one observer, a "vacant" system, devoid of martial spirt, martial style and martial ardor.

Kano saw this all around him. So-called martial styles avoided anything resembling combat. There was no ran, but instead highly prescribed movement sets of action, reaction, and counterattack. Forms, literally kata, were the substitute for sweat and fear of defeat. The thought of Budo and the form of Budo had replaced the experience of Budo.

Kano Jigoro was not a Zen master, and aside from an exposure that Kano had to Takuan through his study of Kito Ryu, there is no evidence he was otherwise particularly influenced by Zen Buddhism or any Buddhist ideology. This should not suggest that he did not understand the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, to the contrary, but he did not adopt it as his own. More accurately, Kano was culturally and philosophically a neo-Confucian thinker, and his reflections on Taoist philosophy merely coincided with Zen thought that reached back to similar roots. It was through a Taoist thinking that if a true experience in Budo existed, the martial experience had to exist and this had to include unexpected combat situations, provided by an aggressive opponent, in a situation of "testing" of both skill and spirit against the determined opponent.

But for Zen acolytes, this idea of uninhibited experience, building a natural reflex and response through the natural yielding philosophy of Judo, resonated with Zen thinking. Interestingly, only a "sport" approach seemed to provide the authentic Zen requirement of experience and reliance on the fundamental, rather than the derivative, aspects of the human nature. That is, upon the spirit, stamina, courage and will; as opposed to knowledge, training, education, and a "philosophical" attitude.

Experience, in the Zen sense, could only occur in a state of freedom, not in a prescribed hierarchy of movement forms. Contrary to the writings of some Judo commentators, ran, not kata, was the defining attribute of Judo as Kano Jigoro envisioned it, ran meaning literally "assimilating chaos," more conventionally translated as "free movement," being superior to the kata or vacant "form" of movement.

That is, freedom, not rigidity of form, was the essence of Judo. "Ju" was not "gentleness," it was "flexibility;" ability to change, to yield, to attack, to alter ones position with grace and control rather than in predetermined ideals. Judo is Judo. It is not "Kata"do.

Judo was, in its rough, combative form — randori — an idealized form of Zen. Although Kendo, in particular, as well as kyudo, aikido, and virtually all other forms of Japanese martial arts claim Zen as their philosophical foundations, only Judo personalized the Zen experience. To the frustration of proponents of other martial styles, Zen masters would, in interviews, constantly refer to Judo as a sort of worldly ideal of Zen. Taisen Deshimaru, a well-known modern master of Zen philosophy, constantly referred to Judo as his training ground for understanding Zen.(10) The true Zen masters, on the other hand, rarely considered Japanese Karate as a true Zen-based art, and rarely mention Aikido, which derives from a millenarian religious basis (Omote) rather than Zen, a philosophical approach.

As Deshimaru pointed out:

How can we direct our mind? The answer lies in Zen, not in the techniques of martial arts. Martial arts plus Zen equals Japanese Budo.

How can we education the mind and learn to direct it? Kodo Sawaki, as I said, spoke of kyu shin ryu, the approach or method transmitted by this school in a traditional text, one chapter of which deals with the "tranquil spirit." Here is an excerpt from it:

There is no enemy.

The mind has no form, but sometimes it can have form.

Sometimes our mind can be apprehended but sometimes it cannot.

When the mind's activity fills the cosmos, ... and when we know how to seize the opportunity that presents itself, then we can turn every shift to profit, avoid mishaps, and attack the whole infinity of things in one thing.

No comment. Not an easy text to understand. But those who have had a serious experience in Judo can understand this attitude.(11)

Kano, then, in his understanding of Tao, provided a profound expression of a Zen basis for Japanese martial arts, and, in his modernization of the old styles, appears to have created a much improved method of transmitting the philosophy as well as technical skills and spirit of Budo.

Kano, observing modern sport theory and modern social theory, found resonance with ancient concepts. These ancient concepts, resonating into the modern world through Judo, harmonized with the philosophical expression of Zen.