The Judoka lives ' the Way of Judo'. His life embodies a philosophy of peace grown out of the precepts of a classic martial art.
Norwood tells the story of this man and explains the simple yet ennobling philosophy that nourishes his life. We are shown moments in the days of the Judoka - fighting - hunting - making - knowing - loving - and we begin to understand the spirit that moves him and how he uses it to bring balance and harmony to his life,.
First published in America in 1973, and long out of print, it is now available again worldwide.
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The Judoka walks along the beach almost wholly absorbed in the saltsea-and-ﬁsh smell and the water-glass clarity of the waves over the white sand. It is late afternoon. He is wearing only a pair of Levis and would get rid of those were there no other people in sight. But there are other people in sight: a young woman in a yellow bathing suit walking a hundred yards ahead of him, and beyond her four men approaching.
When the four men reach the young woman, they stop her. One of them takes her arm and starts to pull her, but she resists and frees herself. Another reaches out and toys with her long black hair. It becomes apparent that the teasing is not friendly and that the woman is in trouble. The Judoka notes irritably the impending disturbance of his walk, but the mood passes quickly. The woman looks around, sees the Judoka, and runs toward him, calling for help. The men—hardly more than boys, really, but strong and cocky—walk after her, not rushing at all.
As the men get closer, the Judoka imagines the whole scene as if he were a spectator. Inwardly, he laughs at himself: he doesn't really like adventure, at least not in the moments before a crisis.
He feels fear even as he nods acceptance of the woman’s appeal, feels it despite his opinion that the four-headed, eight- armed monster playing dragon to his St. George is unlikely to ﬁght at all and that, even if it does, some of the heads and arms will be inactive or ineffectual or even in the way. The men keep coming, more slowly now, two of them grinning cruelly. The fear grows. The Judoka makes no attempt to block it. Now he trembles and feels a sinking of the stomach, a touch of nausea, but also a surge of strength. The beach, enchanted a few minutes before, now seems sordid.
One of the men, the redheaded one, tells him that he had better get out of the way. He would like to, but across his mind's eye ﬂickers a picture of himself running and the young woman with long black hair watching him, and the image triggers a counterfear and stabilizes him. He stands still. The men too are now standing still, a few feet from him. Deliberately he wipes from his mind the image of himself and the woman in the yellow bathing suit. He focuses all his attention on his opponents, seeing in their faces fear much like his own but mixed with anger. He feels with their anger and in so doing grows an anger of his own. These men are going to hurt him, and he them; they are going to plunge into and destroy him, and he is going to penetrate and destroy them. So be it. He feels almost a lust for union in combat.
The redhaired man bends and picks up a heavy piece of driftwood. The Judoka wonders idly if he will actually attack. Suddenly he does.
He slashes with the stick at the Judoka's head, but the Judoka has stepped inside the arc of the stick and twisted away from it. The other three men cannot yet ﬁgure out how to get into the ﬁght; they are motionless. The young woman wants to help her defender, but, like most people to whom combative contact is unfamiliar, she is unable to move in the moment of crisis. The Judoka throws his hip into the redhead's midsection and clamps an arm around his neck. In a second movement so swift and smooth it seems a continuation of the ﬁrst, the Judoka swings his leg hard against the redhead’s legs. The stick is still following its original path, but now the redhead is following it, his feet high in the air. In turn, the Judoka is following him.
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W.D. (Bill) Norwood, Jr., was born in Paris, Texas in 1929 at the beginning of the Great Depression, and raised in the small Southeast Texas town of Beaumont during the peak of the Texas oil boom which started just a few miles away at the Spindletop Ranch. His father was the proprietor of a small but successful office supply store, the Beaumont Typewriter and Supply Company, and his mother was a schoolteacher. Raised in the Southern Baptist Church, Norwood entered Baylor University at age 16 to study English literature and theology with the intention of preparing for the ministry. After graduation, with the U.S. engaged in military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, he delayed entering seminary in order to enlist in the United States Navy. While in route to fight in that conflict as a Communications Officer aboard the Naval Destroyer U.S.S. Brinkley Bass, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, effectively ending active hostilities, and the Brinkley Bass was diverted to Tokyo, Japan. His time in Japan was to greatly alter the course of his life, providing as it did his first sustained exposure to the cultural traditions of the Far East. He later attended naval flight school in San Diego, California, prior to honorable discharge at the rank of Lieutenant.
Following his discharge from the Navy, Norwood entered seminary in Berkeley, California, but soon discovered that his theological beliefs were evolving and, being unwilling to tie his livelihood to a particular set of beliefs, he dropped out of seminary and returned to Beaumont, Texas. While working for his father as a typewriter repairman, he married and began study for a Master’s Degree in English literature at Lamar University with the financial aid of the GI Bill. After completing a Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Texas at Austin, he would go on to teach and pursue scholarly research at Southwest Texas State University, Angelo State University, and the University of Southern Mississippi as he advanced through the academic ranks.
In the early 1970s, while Chair of English at the University of Southern Mississippi, Dr. Norwood emerged as an outspoken opponent of the university’s effort to resist racial integration, and his stance on this issue led to his separation from the university (for a book-length account of this dark period in the history of the university, and Norwood’s role in the controversies that ensued, see Exit 13: Oppression and Racism in Academia (1982), by Monte Piliawsky). During an extended legal battle with the University of Southern Mississippi that centered on the issue of academic freedom, Dr. Norwood was briefly Dean of Humanities at New College of California, in San Francisco, but soon after left academia, moved to Houston, Texas, and opened a small business. For the next nine years, Dr. Norwood was the proprietor of Norwood Stationers, later the Norwood Office Products Company, before gradually returning to the activity he enjoyed the most, teaching. At the time of his death, in 1998, Dr. Norwood taught English literature at Tomball College, outside of Houston, Texas. Prior to joining the Tomball faculty, he had taught as an adjunct there, as well as at the University of Houston, Prairie View A & M, and Houston Baptist University.
Early in his career, while teaching at San Angelo State University, a routine traffic stop would lead to a life-long friendship with then San Angelo Police Sargent John Daring, a judoka who taught the fighting art in his spare time. This chance encounter began his study of Judo, an interest that would continue to occupy him throughout his life. At the time of his death he was revising a work entitled Laffite’s Ghostexploring the idea of moral piracy, with courage, love, and a certain degree of justifiable rapaciousness as central to his image of a full life.
Lafitte's Ghost will be published by Masterworks Media in Summer 2022
Resources and Reviews
Below are 2 articles, the first one is specifically referenced in the text of the Judoka, the second one in the list relates to a book by Hans Vaihinger that Norwood also refers to in the text. The last file is a new review of the Judoka from a recent issue of Irish Fighter magazine.
Links to the pdf files