Alberto Manzi: The Maestro of Italy

In the 1990s, during one of the many cultural events organised in Milan by the Judo Master Cesare Barioli (1935 – 2012), I had the good fortune to be able to assist in a conference on Education and all that encompasses learning, teaching, pedagogy, and so on. Among the many guests, I remember  Prof. Marcello Bernardi (Paediatric doctor, Pedagogical writer, his most famous book is “Il nuovo bambino” [lit: the new child –ed.]), and other authoritative figures in the world of education.

Alberto Manzi - Non è mai troppo tardi

Marcello Bernardi was also a Judoka and achieved his black belt with Judo Master C. Barioli at the Bu sen dojo in Via Arese in Milan.

But the man who really fascinated me, perhaps because of his status, was Alberto Manzi.

The Maestro took my attention immediately, particularly in the way he asked questions. His way of interacting and speaking were extremely attractive; they added value and weight to his words. His voice, his calmness, his peacefulness in communicating, with apparent simplicity, concepts that certainly weren’t simple to explain and discuss. Among the audience were parents, school teachers and Judo Master and students.

Manzi, on this occasion, spoke of his personal experience through anecdotes and stories of his time in South America where, for a period, he devoted himself to teaching the Indians of the Andes to read and write.

With this short piece, I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to Maestro Alberto Manzi for his openness and his kindness. We had only managed to exchange a few words but I promised myself to invite him to a cultural initiative alongside the TRE TORRI International Judo Tournament.

My curiosity spurred me to try to understand the “why” of things. I was particularly interested to learn and understand the issues and problems of teaching.  Maestro A. Manzi being, without doubt, a person of high authority, was an extraordinary opportunity for me..

I had realised for some time that it wasn’t going to be enough simply to know the art of Judo, by which I mean “Bu jutsu”.

The choice to be a teacher in general, and in particular of Judo, helped me realise the enormous responsibility a teacher has in carrying out his/her vocation. Being able to establish a direct link with students, to inspire them, to win and hold their attention are fundamental aspects for whoever takes on this role.

Judo, in this case, and in many respects, is an ideal tool to educate and help young people grow.

It is now a scientific fact that the psychometer, learning technical skills, knowing how to do something are essential experiences, not just for the child, but also for the adolescent, then the young adult and finally the adult himself. We all need to know how to manage our energy. Then there are the moments for reflection, concentration, processing, memory and finally the collaborative spirit – all important cognitive qualities – which together complement the work of education and the acquisition of autonomy which is fundamental to human growth.

In Judo we can develop all these skills. The sporting adventure, even up to the Olympics, represents an effective means to achieve its purpose, but this is only one aspect. Judo’s founder, J. Kano (1860 – 1938), created a discipline that can serve to educate and deliver society a “model” citizen.

During a video interview with us, Maestro Alberto Manzi says, “Moving your body, doing an intense physical activity, isn’t meant to simply strengthen the skeletal-muscular component. It also represents an important opportunity and experience for learning.” adding, “Judo, from all the sporting disciplines, is perfect in being able to stimulate the intellect. In addition, movement is thought. Doing this type of activity is crucial, not only to improve coordination skills, but also – and perhaps, above all – to develop intelligence”.

Judo also teaches how to get along well with others; it stimulates the collective spirit of collaboration, you can enjoy friendships and make new friends (surely the purest of all human feelings). The child who does Judo will learn how to socialise, how to enjoy being with others, how to cooperate, and will achieve a certain wellness without which this process of learning can become tiring and challenging.

The joy of being in a “Dojo” (the name of the place in which people do Judo) is an important reference for the continuous improvement of the students who come for Judo.

I am indebted to and wholeheartedly thank Maestro Manzi for what he has taught, for granting me this interview and for leaving such important thoughts and messages. Words which, even today – and it has been some time since he left us – help  give even greater value to the educational aspects of Judo. This great, great man has gone but he has left, from his extraordinary life, a priceless wealth of knowledge.

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