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Judo as Drug Therapy

 Copyright c. 2000 Paul Turse.  All rights reserved.  (Adapted from A Comprehensive View of the Martial Arts, Copyright c. 1980 Paul Turse.  All rights reserved.)  

        For many years the popular adage “experience is the best teacher” has, unfortunately, guided the instructional principles prevalent in the American educational circles.  Many teachers believe that–from the most basic physical tasks to the most complex mental endeavor—students will more readily grasp a concept only after directly experiencing that concept and the environment in which it may be applied.  In most cases, this philosophy may be true, but there are certain concepts, however, which cannot or should not be learned through direct experience.  An amateur astronomer who attempts to observe directly a total eclipse of the sun may discover eternal darkness because of the rays of the sun that, although not seen, filter through the darkness created by the eclipse.  Thus, professional astronomers recommend various indirect ways to observe a solar eclipse.  Not only do these methods appease the scientific curiosity of the student, but they also protect him or her from the harmful side effects, which could have occurred had the experience been observed directly.  Therefore, experience is not always the best teacher, for there are certain phenomena that can be better understood only through indirect or vicarious means.  

        The world of drugs dramatically demonstrates the harmful effects of direct experience.  Indeed, the attempt to experience immediately and directly the effects of heroin or LSD, for example, could bring about a total eclipse of the psyche, for an individual who experiments may become blinded to the reality of life.  Unfortunately, there is no indirect or vicarious means by which one can safely experience drugs.  There is, however, a way in which the effects of drugs—the release, the euphoria, or the high—can be achieved vicariously.  This effect is through the cultivation of analogous experiences based upon an analysis of the needs that are fulfilled by the drug experience. 

        Drug addiction appears to be a symptomatic behavior arising from unfulfilled needs; thus the substitute behavior pattern or experience must fulfill these basic needs:  belonging, security, identity, and a religious experience.  This essay will discuss drug-susceptible individuals in regard to these basic needs and how they may become drawn to the drug scene; it will also demonstrate how the martial art of judo may be one constructive and positive means of fulfilling the above needs and, perhaps, keep drug-susceptible young people straight.  An examination of the therapeutic aspects of judo may enable both drug susceptible individuals and stable individuals to understand not only the nature of the martial arts but also the essence of human motivation.  

        For the purpose of this discussion, the drug-susceptible individual is defined as follows:  1) one who has not yet found a meaningful way of life and thus may at any moment turn to drugs for fulfillment; 2) one who is now experimenting with drugs in an attempt to find his or her way but is not yet physically nor psychologically addicted; 3) one who has been detoxified and has or is undergoing rehabilitation in a recognized therapeutic community and could at any moment succumb to the drug world.  

        Insight into the martial arts as a means of therapy may be best understood by contrasting the Oriental and American approaches to the acquiring of experience.  Individuals in our country ascribe to this popular maxim: “Seek and ye shall find.”  The American heritage finds its origin in the pioneer spirit that guided the explorers from tyranny to the new land of freedom and later took them across this vast continent.  Unfortunately, this attitude is not always sound because it places too much emphasis on success and thus becomes oriented toward immediate goals.  For most of us who have been searching all of our lives and have not yet found anything substantial, the truth of the above maxim becomes questionable.  However, many of us realize that the real truth of this maxim may be the realization that it is the search and not the finding that sustains and satisfies throughout life.  And perhaps one may find that he or she does not really need what has been originally sought after.

        Young people, unfortunately, may become disillusioned or frustrated when they cannot attain what they have been searching for.  They may not know what satisfaction or true pleasure is.  And they may not have the talent or the necessary capacity for the type of success that has been defined by others.  In a world where there is no place for a loser, failure is a difficult concept to live with.  If young people do not seek, they will never attain.  Thus, it is easy for young people to become guilt-ridden and depressed because they have not lived up to what has been expected of them.  The problem is that young people have been taught to aim directly for success, happiness, and pleasure, without contemplating the process that will bring these necessary needs about.  Perhaps the ability to seek long-range goals is what distinguishes the mature, adjusted individual from the immature and maladjusted one. 

        Indeed, Freud maintained that the growth of humankind was partially dependent upon the necessary forgoing of immediate satisfaction and the acceptance of long-range satisfaction.  In order to derive pleasure, the individual must give up pleasure.  If individuals can learn to derive pleasure from the denial of pleasure, they will ultimately contribute to the society of which they are a part.  This near masochistic philosophy was necessary for the growth of the individual and civilization in general.1  Because the drug-susceptible individual has been trained to seek immediate satisfaction, the drug experience becomes the ultimate means of attainment.  

        The Oriental approach to gaining experience can be summarized by this proverb:  “Seek and you cannot find it; no longer look for it, and it will find you.”2  The problem is that ambition (like a preconceived response to an attack) creates a kind of tunnel vision:  while searching for one specific goal, individuals are liable to miss many other relevant and significant opportunities in life.  And, ironically enough, they may not see what they have been looking for when they come face to face with it. You might recall a time when you had to search for a small object on a carpet and, no matter how many different ways you focused your eyes, you could not find the lost item.  But, suddenly, when you had given up all hope and turned away, a “flash of light” hit your eyes and there, so unexpectedly, you found the object.  To seek immediate pleasure through the direct experience of drugs eliminates the potential for discoveries that can only be attained by indirect means and the hard work and pain that accompanies the search.  The idea of not searching need not imply a negative or pessimistic philosophy.  Rather, it demonstrates that one must live each individual action in life to the fullest—only then will things that are worthwhile come about. 

        In this Oriental philosophy, one works, as does an artist on his art, upon himself, rather than upon the attainment of a goal.  By developing the capability for attainment, the individual will almost by necessity achieve what has been desired.  Man has longed to conquer the highest mountain peak in the horizon.  But this cannot be done by a trial and error process.  Besides constructing the proper equipment, the would-be climber must develop the stamina, strength, and skill necessary for such a feat—only then can success be achieved.  To climb a mountain, one must first be a mountain climber.  Should the climber fail in the endeavor to scale the mountain, pride and satisfaction in the health and serenity acquired by the training and discipline attained might be more satisfying than the satisfaction of success and fame received by any conquest of the mountain.  

        Based upon the above discussion, judo would be an ideal form of therapy because it is a vicarious activity and it is process oriented.  First, judo enables the individual to experience life vicariously by constructing and fulfilling a fantasy but does so in a constructive and positive way by ultimately bringing the participant to terms with reality.  Since, as it has been explained in “What Makes a Martial Activity an Art,” judo can be an art form, the artistic endeavors created in practice are removed from the actuality of a real combat experience.  Real defeat, destruction, or death has been replaced by the conventional forms of throwing, holding, arm locking, and choking.  Yet, the entire judo situation simulates a real situation in the same way that the drama depicts real life.  And just like actors, judo practitioners must not get into their parts too much or else injury could occur even if, for example, the knife they are defending against is not a real one.  This is one level, or step, where the participants must come back to the reality of the situation and thus learn to be in control of themselves at all times.  

        Another level of reality and the most important one for addicts and drug-usceptible individuals is coping with pain.  In order to master judo, the practitioners must increase tolerance to pain.  When they miss a chance to throw and are countered and slammed to the mat, they are quickly jarred back to reality, not only by the blow to their bodies but also to their egos.  To be thrown, strangled, and crushed to the mat are experiences that must be tolerated in order to perfect judo.  Pain is a necessary part of reality and something that addicts have tried to avoid.  It is difficult enough to master judo with a healthy and coordinated body, let alone one that has been weakened and stultified by drugs. 

        To turn on to judo, the addicts and drug-susceptible individuals must turn off to drugs and remain drug free.  It is possible that many drug addicts, especially heroin users, are punishing their own bodies in a sadomasochistic way.  After they have indulged their pleasure through a drug induced euphoric escape, their bodies and minds will suffer physically from the toxic reaction in their systems and mentally from the guilt that they might feel.  To ease this pain, they shoot again, knowing full well that the pain will return more intensely.  This behavior of confronting pain, unfortunately, is negative and destructive.  Addicts can build up a tolerance to drugs, which does not immunize nor strengthen them but which only increases their need to shoot again or to take that final and, perhaps, lethal dosage.  

        Hopefully, martial artists, by contrast, will  pursue a behavior pattern that is constructive and positive, because it builds up a capacity to endure pain—a tolerance that increases the artists’ ability to function under all adverse conditions and strengthens them so that minor pain will not keep them from the goal of self-realization.  Of course, it must be admitted that judo practitioners or martial arts practitioners could very easily allow their training to be carried to extremes.  If Freud was correct in his assumption that all artists stand at the periphery of neurosis, then a martial artist’s behavior could very well be a manifestation of the practitioner’s “neurosis,” a form of compulsive behavior necessary for the release of guilt and the tension that it produces.3  Some practitioners, then, could conceivably drive themselves continuously to the point of exhaustion so that they tear their bodies down rather than build them up, and thus do themselves harm.  These practitioners could then be susceptible to injury or illness, since their resistance may be torn down.  It is not likely, however, that practitioners of the martial arts could in fact karate or judo themselves to death since the body has built in mechanisms such as sleep to protect itself from such abuse.  

        The second reason why judo and also karate would be good therapy is that, because they are process oriented, practitioners must learn to derive satisfaction from the completion of the form, and not the end itself in order to attain mastery.  In karate, for example, practitioners must work on all the basic forms of block and attack before they may be allowed to free fight.  Only the disciplined person will be able to last long enough to become a true expert.  When the individual components or steps (means) to an end become goals in themselves and provide the concomitant satisfaction associated with goal attainment, practitioners are on their way toward mastery not only of the whole behavior pattern but of themselves. 

        A martial art, such as judo, forces the individual to give up immediate pleasure- producing goals in order to achieve a more satisfying longer-range goal.  Strong individuals may gain immediate satisfaction by using their size and strength to win initially, but eventually they will be subdued by a master with proper technique.  Not to win by using strength requires patience.  It may also mean accepting defeat.  In order to do so, pain must be endured.  The pain of knowing that one is on the right path to mastery is replaced by pleasure and satisfaction.  The ability to derive pleasure and satisfaction from pain does not mean that the individual is a masochist in the negative sense of the term.  Since some masochism may have positive aspects in terms of relieving guilt and tension, at least momentarily, and since Freud may be correct in assuming that we all have masochistic tendencies to some degree, there may be some positive aspects of masochism.4   The ability to derive satisfaction and pleasure from pain means that individuals have disciplined their minds and bodies into one organic whole designed to attain the highest mental and physical virtues.  In so doing, the individuals have denied themselves some immediate pleasure.  The denial of pleasure produces pain; this self-denial is by definition masochism.  

        Implicit in the above discussion is the idea that some martial artists are, in a sense, addicts.  They are addicted to martial behavior very much in the same way that drug addicts are dependent upon drug behavior.  Some martial artists suffer from the same feelings and tensions as the average human, and they have the same needs.  But they go off to the dojo, work off these frustrations, and feel relieved.  Little by little, the tensions build up again and return.  At the same time, the martial artists’ bodies are stiff and sore from the last workout.  They experience physical and mental tension that can be released only through rigorous and demanding practice.  The next day they are stiff and sore once more, and the cycle is repeated.  They may become so absorbed in their art that each day is centered on training.  Except for their jobs and other necessary personal and family obligations, they may have little desire, inclination, or energy for any other pursuit.  While their colleagues are obsessed with partying every night to relieve this tension, the judo artists make their patient way to the dojo.  Unlike their alcohol or drug addicted counterparts, the judo artists are addicted to a behavior pattern which will fulfill the basic need to belong, to be secure, to gain self-knowledge, and to achieve a union with the infinite.  Let us now turn our attention to the clarification of these needs in terms of addiction and drug susceptible individuals. 

        Need to belong.   If young people sense rejection from their families or from socially acceptable groups, they may be forced to turn elsewhere to satisfy the need to belong.  A teenager might “turn on” to drugs in order to become part of a peer group because the group chosen is involved in drug taking.  When the pressure exerted by the drug culture becomes more powerful than that imposed by the “straight” society, the individual becomes drug susceptible and ready, perhaps, to enter the addict’s way of life.  

        Celestine lives alone with her mother, except for the many “uncles” who come to live with them from time to time and share her mother’s bedroom.5  When these men begin to pay too much attention to Celestine, and she begins to bond with them, her mother gives them an abrupt send off and blames her daughter.  Celestine speculates that it must have been her fault that her father left.  Finally, when one of the “uncles” attempts to molest Celestine, her mother once again blames her daughter.  Since her mother appears to be a rival for the affections of all the men in their lives, Celestine cannot bond with her mother and thus belongs to no one.

        Celestine now turns to the street, where she finds a gang to which she can belong.  She also finds in the gang a leader to whom she can belong and with whom she can bond.  Unfortunately, this man is into the drug scene and belongs to a gang, a fact that means that she will soon belong to the drug culture.  Celestine becomes dependent upon this leader and on drugs.  He soon forces her to procure drugs for her anyway she can.  And when their stash runs out or when she cannot produce a sufficient supply, he blames her and then verbally and physically abuses her.  

        Let us now assume that Celestine runs from a conflict at home and stumbles upon a local judo dojo.  The judo school is, in a sense, a kind of gang.  In order to belong and to be fully accepted, Celestine must embark upon a life style that, although generically related to the old way, lies at the opposite end of the spectrum.  She is forced into a pattern of behavior that is based upon respect for the human body and that teaches the individual to eventually think, stand, and fall on his or her own.  At the judo school, Celestine finds a role model of a positive nature whose favor and attention she can work for.  She peers through the window and is immediately attracted to one of the male instructors.  This man takes her under his wing and begins to develop in her a sense of discipline and self-reliance.  He will be tough with her when she does not conform to the flow of judo.  He will praise her good actions when she displays the proper judo spirit; when she is not truthful to the dynamics of judo, he will let her know as dramatically as possible by throwing her to the ground--not to hurt her or abuse her--but so that she will learn to rise with dignity and to strive harder. 

        And when the time comes for Celestine to enter competition, she will be out there on the mats on her own—not rejected, but self-reliant.  Unlike in team competition, she will not be able to receive coaching, call for help, or make substitutions.  In that short time, she must put it all together.  She can be dependent only on her skill, which is a force inside herself, and not outside.  When she leaves the dojo, she will hopefully be a more independent person and less reliant upon outside forces. Proper physical activity will not only relieve emotional tension but will enhance emotional stability by producing a stronger and healthier body.  An important benefit of judo is that it is a force that is always with the practitioner.  When friends and loved ones reject martial artists and leave them isolated, they need only turn inward to draw upon the forces that dwell within.  Besides creating security and a spiritual feeling, judo remains faithful. 

        Celestine now belongs to a force inside herself. While it would be naïve to pretend that all judo leaders are paragons of virtue, there is an infinitesimally greater chance that a better role model will be found in the dojo rather than in the street.

        Need for security.  It is human nature to fear the unknown; therefore, individuals will normally try to place themselves in situations where they know what to expect.  They also need to know what actions are right and wrong, and what values are acceptable and which are not.  If the values taught in the home are so ill defined and inconsistent that young people have no viable frame of reference, they become insecure and thus drug susceptible.  Since they are never sure what is expected of them by their parents, they are never sure that they are really loved.  Their parents often appear hypocritical since they often do what they preach not to do and do not always support their children when they should.   

        Fred lives with his parents, who adamantly oppose drug taking, yet both are heavy smokers and functional alcoholics.  When Fred turns in some classmates for doing drugs on school property, his mother says that he should not have gotten involved, even though the ones he reported have been turning on the junior high kids at the school where his younger brother attends.  When one of Fred’s teachers manhandles him, his father is ready to take care of that teacher.  But when his father finds out that the teacher in question is his former football coach and that Fred told him to “shove it,” it becomes a different story.  Fred’s father sides with the coach, without getting any details, and, in a flood of profanity, asks where did his son get such a filthy mouth.   

        Fred seeks seek solace in a street gang, where, although negative, there are consistent, clearly defined behavior and laws.  At least the leader of the gang loves his homeboys enough to stick by his people to the very end.  When the students that Fred turned in at school attack him on his way home, they find that they just happened to be on the turf that belongs to Fred’s gang.  Before they can seriously hurt Fred, his gang comes to his aid.  The leader makes it clear that Fred is under his protection.  Rest assured, Fred will be bothered no more. 

        Fred knows that he has the security he has been searching for.  The problem, of course, is that drug taking—with its unpredictable effects on the mind and body—is an ill-defined and inconsistent means of seeking security.  Moreover, the need for drugs may make the leader and gang eventually as hypocritical as his own parents; eventually the need for drugs may supersede the need to support Fred in his time of need. 

        Let us assume that Fred enters a judo school.  There he discovers that the security of knowing how to handle a situation is not really based on foreknowledge but rather on an ability to make proper reactions not only in judo but also in all life’s situations.  Before learning the martial arts, Fred could only respond to situations in a stereotypical manner.  He is constantly worried that he will not do the right thing in a life situation or in a fight.  As Fred advances through the ranks of judo development, he is still fearful, but worries more that he might forget what to do in a fight.  As he gains proficiency in judo, he understands that it is better not to know what he will do and better to forget his techniques.  In this way, his movement will emerge naturally in reaction to the situation produced in the combat situation.  In his early matches, he is defeated because he is not knowledgeable and is too inexperienced. 

        Later, after learning most of the necessary techniques and after knowing precisely what to do, he is still defeated because he thinks too much about what he is going to do.  He is still too insecure to simply wait and react.  His moves are too premeditated and therefore detected by his opponents.  Fred only begins to win when he has the security to fight without a game plan.  When his techniques emerge as a natural product of his unconscious and as a natural response to his opponents’ attacks, he discovers an inner force always with him and which never lets him down. 

        Perhaps the most basic unknown fear is that of death.  Since, as it has been pointed out in “What Makes a Martial Activity an Art,” the martial situation is mimetic of a real life and death situation, it is, in a sense, a rehearsal of the most fear producing and insecure situation.  Some young people have been forced into taking drugs by threats of violence or even by actual beatings.  It is a lot easier to say “no” to drugs when one has the ability to slam a potential 200-pound plus attacker “through the pavement.”  Before, Fred could be intimidated to act, even coerced into taking drugs.  But his judo training begins to give him a new sense of security in all situations.  The common denominator in all conflict situations is the fear of a physical threat, even if such a resolution could never be carried out.  Insecurity is imminent because the body reacts to all minor conflicts in the same way that it reacts to all major ones:  increased heartbeat, respiration, and adrenalin secretion.  This is one theory behind speech fright.  The body reacts as if it were preparing for battle and not merely a debate.  The situation may also be reminiscent of an earlier “defeat” or rejection6.  Thus, deep-seated feelings of insecurity are aroused.  Since Fred has been practicing for the ultimate conflict and confrontation, minor conflicts begin to appear less insignificant and easily become subject to control, and thus he feels less insecurity.  Assuming that the refereeing is of a proficient level, Fred can be confident that the rules governing his behavior in a judo match will be consistent and defined.  The physical boundaries, the conduct, and attitude will be judiciously scrutinized.  The match is a self-contained world.  It has its own laws of force and momentum. 

        Although the situations that may be encountered in a match are not as numerous and manifold as those in life, the principles necessary to survive in these situations are basically the same.  One basic principle is ju, gentleness or flexibility.  In order to succeed, Fred need not be as strong as his opponent or exert his body always to the point of strain.  And he need not always be at his highest energy level to succeed.  In fact, he need not do anything save allow his body to become one in accord with the natural laws of force and momentum.  Almost invariably, his body will react unconsciously to create the movement necessary for success.  If he does not work in unison with these forces, he will fail.  If he abuses his body through the overuse of alcohol or the use of drugs or through poor living habits, his body will be unable to react properly. 

        Since the laws of judo are not man-made or subject to human whim for enforcement, they are well-defined and consistent—true and universal for all.  There is no double standard in the martial arts.  Thus, as proficiency and success increase so does the security of the practitioner.  

        Self-discovery.  The person who has a drug problem or is drug susceptible may be in the midst of an identity crisis.  In fact, most cases of drug abuse occur during adolescence, when young people are trying to find out just who and what they are.7   If the family or straight society cannot provide any worthwhile models, the youngsters will most likely identify with the biggest hotshot in the street scene.  There is a good chance, however, that this role model will be into drugs.  Unfortunately, the drug scene is filled with people who do not know themselves, for drugs diminish the users’ perception of themselves.  Even mind drugs, which appear to expand consciousness, such as marijuana, ultimately protract or even destroy cognitive processes and problem solving ability.8   The need for young people to identify may be intimately tied up with their other needs for security and belonging.  If they sense that their parents do not love them, they may try to become what they think their parents will love.  Even if they choose a positive model to emulate and even if they gain their parents attention and affection, they run the risk of losing their true identity.  In other words, they may not be true to themselves.

        Janov believes that this early rejection or sense of rejection and later character or personality building will eventually lead to split personalities or multiple personalities.9  In other words, these individuals create artificial personalities in order to be accepted.  These false personalities will eventually come into conflict with each other or with the real personality that may eventually strive for realization.  Or these individuals may fail in their attempts to be the false personality with tragic results.  

        Robbie lives with his parents and his older brother.  His mother is an avid patron of the arts and his father is an officer in the Army.  Robbie lives in the shadow of his brother, who is successful in every endeavor he undertakes.  And somehow he manages to surpass every effort Robbie makes at achievement.  Robbie recalls his fifth birthday party.  At the highlight of the event, as he is preparing to blow out his candles, his brother, who is late because of a Cub Scout jamboree, arrives.  Instead of watching Robbie, all eyes, especially those of his parents, turn to admire his brother in his Cub Scout suit.  Later when Robbie finally gets to be a Cub, his brother is already a Boy Scout; and when Robbie finally works his way to Eagle Scout, his parents seem more pleased with his brother’s enlistment into the Army.  His father, of course, is ecstatic that his first-born will follow in his footsteps.  His father is not pleased with Robbie’s choice to enter art school; thus his one last effort to surpass his brother and to prove himself worthy to his parents comes when he applies for an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. 

        If Robbie succeeds, he may tragically find himself in a field he does not really desire.  Robbie, however, does not have the ability or the discipline to make it at the Academy; thus, he fails in this futile attempt to realize himself and his parents’ expectations.  He has identified with his parents’ conception of manliness and success.  His mother is a patron of the arts and believes that they are solely for women; his father is an officer in the U.S. Army—an organization dedicated the protection of human liberties—yet he cannot accept Robbie’s free choice in a career field that does not conform to his idea of manliness.  Robbie’s parents are superficial, and thus he cannot identify with them.  Unconsciously, he wishes to identify with them; thus, his failure to meet the ideal they have selected does not coincide with his own self-image, and he feels guilt and depression.  

        Robbie now turns to the street gang.  The jackets and emblems that signify the identity of the group unconsciously attract him because they are reminiscent of the uniform that he could never have—the one way to win his parents’ approval and to prove himself.  Robbie is attracted to the gang leader, who unconsciously reminds him of his older brother.  He has the same qualities as his brother but on a negative and anti-social level.  Since his major claim to fame is dropping acid, he is not difficult to emulate.  The destructive course of Robbie’s personality has gone full circle because the new model is not any closer to his real self.  For Robbie, the drug experience will become a search for himself--undefined, incoherent, and undisciplined. 

        Luckily for Robbie, his brother returns on leave from Ranger school and is able to drag Robbie out of the gang and get him into a judo school.   At the judo school, Robbie learns to recognize both his limitations and his potential.  In addition to preparing him for attack situations, judo fosters a knowledge of the self that eliminates the need to prove oneself by taking drugs or to be part of the crowd.  Many young people, like Robbie, have taken drugs in order to convince both themselves and their peers that they were neither afraid nor square.  Robbie begins his judo training with an affected air; he finds it difficult to relax and maintain a natural posture.  He attempts to master one throw after another, but cannot seem to find the ideal technique to suit his temperament and physique.  He sees his judo teacher as a role model and seeks to emulate his every move, including his favorite throw, uchi-mata.  The teacher is much taller than Robbie and is able to flow forward and slash with his long legs.  Robbie’s tactics are too methodical and his short legs do not always give him the elevation he requires for success. 

        Sensing Robbie’s dilemma, the teacher introduces him to ippon- seoinage, a throw more suited to his personality and structure.  Robbie discovers that the key to this throw is to control his opponent’s arm.  This control aids Robbie in the ultimate control of his destiny.  Because he clings to his opponents’ and practice partners’ arms with such tenacity that he nearly refuses to let go, even after the throw has been completed, his dojo mates nickname him the “Baby Pit Bull.”  Robbie’s search for ippon-seoinage becomes a search for identity.  And the perfection of the technique becomes tantamount to the perfection of himself.

        Religious experience.  It is natural to seek inner serenity and peace of mind.  The religious experience has at least two important ways of achieving serenity:  the release of tension and the feeling of rebirth.  If orthodox religion cannot provide these experiences in a meaningful way, the drug susceptible individual is likely to turn elsewhere. 

        Kim has been raised in a relatively secure Catholic family in a wealthy suburban community.  Her father is an extremely affluent and busy NYC executive, and her mother is equally involved in volunteer community affairs and projects.  At an early age, Kim has had a fascination with religion and even contemplated becoming a nun.  Kim goes to confession every Saturday and receives communion every Sunday.  These were satisfying experiences as a little girl, especially when there were so many fantasies to feel guilty over. 

        Kim is the stereotypical spoiled brat.  Whatever Kim wants, Kim gets:  summer vacations in Europe, her own horse, and her own Mercedes.  As Kim becomes involved with the “jet set,” it does not take her long to give up confession and communion to discover the release that drugs can provide.  Kim has never learned to experience a real release based upon hard work and sacrifice.  Kim is drug susceptible because the drug experience will provide her with the tension producing and release syndrome she is seeking. 

        While psychedelic drugs have been used by religious cults to achieve spirituality, this quasi-religious experience should not be overlooked on the part of the opiate users.  The formal aspects of the fix are closely related to religious ritual and the essence of the drug taking act entails the basic rhythm which is akin to all religion:  suffering, death, resurrection, and transcendence.  When the drug is no longer attainable, addicts suffer extreme withdrawal symptoms until they can shoot-up once more.  The end of the drug ritual is in many cases a sensation so powerful that it is reminiscent of the archetypal death pattern.  This “dying” occurs because the injection of an alien material into the bloodstream can lower the blood pressure and create a state of near shock.10  But this “death” is, after the drug assumes control, soon turned into a feeling of relief—a kind of rebirth or resurrection.  And as the users are ultimately lulled off into the narcotized state by the drug, they transcend the pain and tensions of their troubled existence and enter into a euphoric  “Nirvana.”  It is no accident that the nodding state of the heroin addict resembles the meditative state of the Buddha—self containment at its highest. 

        Freud believed that the human’s prime psychical purpose is the procurement of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, two functions not unrelated to each other.  Indeed, the epitome of pleasure is derived primarily through the lessening of pain or tension—that is, a catharsis.11  This Freudian release on the part of mankind is not restricted to the physical; it also forms an integral part of a search for spiritual peace.  The profound feeling of oneness with God and the total loss of anxiety and guilt produced by the therapeutic act of confession, for example, are release- oriented. The drug tends to afford spiritual catharsis for the addict; thus, the drug experience can be called “religious.”  In most religions, however, the final state of “tensionless” occurs only through death, the ultimate peace.  In other words, the highest degrees of release and pleasure are those associated with death.  Man’s attempt to achieve this pleasure is termed “death instincts” by Freud because the pleasure principle works to seek its end at any cost to the individual ego.12  And so it is with many addicts:  their fascination with the drug is suicidal. 

        Orthodox religions, however, unlike drugs, work to help the individual endure the pressure and pain of living.  If, indeed, religion has sprung, as Freud suggests, from the super-ego’s attempt to control the id in the preservation of the ego, then religion in its own way works to help the organism face reality.13  In order to preserve itself, the ego must learn to forego immediate pleasure and accept pain in the pursuit of long-term satisfaction.  Even though the ego still seeks pleasure, it has come to terms with reality by accepting pain.  This concept is the reality principle.14   Indeed, religion works to help humanity to accept the pain of the here and now in order to achieve the satisfaction of eternal happiness in the hereafter. 

        Judo may help drug-susceptible individuals release the tension that they experience and may help full a spiritual void.  The tension created by daily life is transferred to the tension of the judo match.  Although creating tension, the judo practice and match, however, provide a therapeutic outlet for the tension produced by the judo situation and by the unconscious forces that antedate the practice session. 

        When Kim works out, her body produces adrenalin, which pumps throughout her system and creates a kind of natural high.  She flows across the mats and can be successful only when becoming one with an opponent and with the cosmos as a whole.  Because judo is a symbolic representation of a life and death situation, losing a match becomes therapeutic because it is, in a sense, a rehearsal of death:  ifcause if Kim loses, she can “come back to life,” or be reborn in a symbolic sense.  If she is choked out, this experience becomes a dramatic and vicarious way of experiencing death, for, according to Zen, to truly live, one must “die” once, at least to ordinary consciousness.15 

        Kim becomes addicted to judo and the release it affords, but she is not dependent upon any individual or substance outside herself for completion and perfection.  At the end of each practice, Kim feels like a new person because she has rejuvenated herself both physically and spiritually.

        As naïvely pretentious as this essay may seem, the writer realizes that there is no best or infallible method of keeping drug susceptible individuals straight and that the martial arts are not the answer to all of life’s problems.  Indeed, the motivational forces that combine to free some individuals from the drug world are as complex and as varied as those forces that initially trapped them.  However, it seems that young people need to cultivate indirect means of gaining experience and deriving pleasure and that the substitute behavior must guide these individuals to a constructive search for belonging, security, identity, and the religious experience.  Of course, there are many other viable activities that could work to obviate the need for drugs in young people’s lives.  But judo appears to be one activity that may meet the necessary need of the drug susceptible individual and may thus provide a viable form of therapy, not just for the drug susceptible but also for all those needing a release.


 1Sigmund Freud, A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, trans. Joan Riviere (New York:  Washington Square Press, 1935), pp. 356-366. 

2This is my own interpretation of the standard proverbs that epitomize the Zen attitude toward seeking knowledge.  

3Freud, pp. 384-384.  Freud discusses the artist’s tendency toward neurosis and his ability to transfer his feelings to his artistic creation.  The application of Freud’s theory to the martial arts is my own “inspiration.”  

4Freud makes this inference in a discussion of perversion, pp. 315-316.  The theory regarding the positive aspects of masochism in relation to the martial arts is my own “inspiration.”  

5Celestine and the other characters used to dramatize the drug experience are my own fictitious creations, but the models for these characters come from real life individuals I have encountered during my work with addicts and drug susceptible young people during the early 1970’s. 

6Alma Johnson Sarett, Lew Sarett, and William Trufant Foster, Basic Principles of Speech (New York:  Houghton Mifflin Co., 1966), pp. 67-68.  

7Donald B. Louria, The Drug Scene (New York:  Bantam books, 1968), pp. 163.  The author indicates that a large number of heroin addicts “outgrow” their habits by the time they reach age thirty. 

 8J. Martin Myers and Kenneth E. Appel, “Drugs and Dependency:  Who and Why,” in Mind Drugs, ed. Margaret O. Hyde (New York:  Pocket Books, 1968, pp. 105-106.  

9Sam Keen, “Field Report:  Janov and Primal therapy,” Psychology Today, 5 (February 1972), p. 46.  

10Richard R. Lingeman, Drugs from A to Z:  A Dictionary (New York:  McGraw Hill,    1969), p. 102.

11Freud, p. 365.  

12Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, trans. James Strachey (New York:  W.W. Norton Co., 1961), pp. 32-33.  

13This interpretation of the religious function is implied in Freud’s theories regarding the secondary function.  

14Freud, Introduction to Psychoanalysis, p. 365. 

15D.T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture (New York:  Pantheon Books, Inc., 1959) pp. 195-197.

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