In the British Judo Association Magazine MatSide April edition an article appeared called “Technical Renaissance Q & A” this was one of the best articles I have read on Judo in years, some one had at long last actually questioned where Judo was going and trying to stop its decline. Although I enjoyed the article I did not agree with a lot of things that were written, the author states that the true spirit of Judo had become overshadowed by the fact it was considered an Olympic sport hence a competitive sport as opposed to a Martial Way this may be true. For over 20 years people would refer to Olympic Judo and Traditional Judo as if they were two different things instead of being two parts of the same coin, Competitive Judo without the theory & Kata is not Judo in the true meaning but the same must be said of Judo Kata and Theory without a competitive aspect. The BJA and the Olympics must accept the blame for drive to promote competitive Judo at the expense of all other aspects of the Way at one point their grading syllabus was based on competition only! Yet can you blame them for moving in the direction of the Olympics as the only way they will get Government Funding is to produce Olympic Champions, I have always said Government Funding should be based on public participation not on champions, get more people to do Judo and you will have a much larger catchments to get champions, concentrating on Elite Athletes is normally to the detriment of the grass roots.
Although I did not go to the Olympics I was member of the Moscow Olympic Judo Squad and considered myself a reasonable player, yet I had to study Kata, Theory and other aspects of Judo, I believe this enhanced my Judo skills, my club Dan Grades are graded on the same criteria (read “Martin for Moscow”). I can not agree with the idea of a totally non competitive grading syllabus which calls itself Judo, many years ago I had a discussion with the late, great Geoff Gleeson who was very much a radical thinker. He said give gradings for Kata, Ukemi, and Theory even putting on a Judogi as long as people get involved in Judo, I retorted that you could not no longer call it Judo, he then said well give it another name i.e. Kata Judo, Technical Skill Judo, Tia Chi Judo, Judo Yoga what ever as they still connected in some way to the Judo Fraternity, I am still not sure he was right but it something to consider
Why do I think that competition in Judo is particularly good for youngsters, apart from what the articles says about “Non Competitive Grade will demonstrate techniques in a realistic situation” the only realist way to prove a techniques is effective is by being putting it to the test in competitive situation whether that be in a competition or in the end of session bash in the club, by definition a Demonstration is not REAL. Yet the most important point which I feel is being missed is the philosophy of Judo in that it is not just about competition and the perfection of technique it is about producing better Human Beings. Controlled Competition for youngsters is as much about them overcoming their fears and dealing with failure, something very important they need to know for life in general. This modern day Politically Correct society continual tries to wrap kids in cotton wool and softens them that a lot can not cope with Adulthood; surely the time has come to stop that.
Yet after all I have written the reason why the BJA wants to introduce Non competitive grades is to get more people doing Judo or what ever you want to call it and Bravo to them. Yet I feel that there is little wrong with Judo,what it is not doing is getting people through the door, so what attracts kids something that is VISUAL and COOL lets get multi coloured Judo Gi’s , change the design of the Gi, introduce Judo boots, make competitions glamorous with compares, bright lights music. Make Judo a spectacular. I bet that has made some of you cringe!
Martin Clarke 8th Dan