Growing Judo the USA Judo Way

Last month, many of us received this announcement from USA Judo. “As you may have already heard, the International Judo Federation, due to the respect United States has earned in developing and promoting Judo has been awarded the hosting of one of the IJF World Cup which is an Olympic Qualifier for the 2012 London Olympic Games.” I nearly choked on my raspberry-filled doughnut when I read that. The only thing the IJF respects is how much money it can make off national Judo federations, and how many of their votes can be bought off though minor gifts like hosting one of a plethora of World Cup events.

Then, a few days ago, we received the following double whammy from USA Judo. “To help us grow Judo in the U.S., gi and no-gi jujitsu divisions will be included in all national events, and USA Judo will now be know as USA Judo/Ju-Jitsu.” Say what?

If you are like me, you should take these announcements with a sense of despair about Judo in the U.S. for they officially suggest that the ship is sinking while the captain claims all is well in la-la-land.

It’s hard to visualize the IJF respecting the United States because we are doing such a great job at developing and promoting Judo. Frank Fullerton, former USA Judo president, promoted Judo, and paid for it out of his own pocket. What has the current USA Judo done to suggest that it is developing and promoting Judo? Sure, USA Judo started a few small projects here and there, like the Boys Scouts of America program that didn’t quite reach puberty, let alone maturity. But other than those embryonic efforts, what else is there to show besides its continued attempts to thwart and bury the U.S. Judo Association? How’s that for developing and promoting Judo in the U.S.? Whatever USA Judo is doing to promote and grow Judo, it simply isn’t filtering down to the grassroots level.

The number of competitors participating in our national/international events has diminished over time. The U.S. Open, which is almost entirely a domestic event now, should be euthanized. Its Canadian counterpart, the Montreal Rendez-Vous, has been discontinued. If we have developed Judo so much, why are we adding ju-jitsu to the fray?

USA Judo CEO Jose Rodriguez says that, “Judo and ju-jitsu are sister sports and many of the techniques are very similar.” True: similar like team handball and basketball, both of which are played with a ball that needs to go into a net to score a point, but different sports nonetheless. For obvious reasons, USA Team Handball doesn’t seek to run basketball divisions at its national events.

So what are these announcements all about? Well, I think they are merely about fundraising, not developing or promoting Judo. The latest fundraising effort will add members to USA Judo’s rolls, increase income derived from rank promotions, and probably make more money off national events. What it won’t do is create more or better judoplayers, because in spite of Judo and jujitsu being sister sports, they are not the same sport. The crossover will be negligible, especially at the elite level.

Decades ago, the USJA under Phil Porter initiated the same fundraising scheme now being launched by USA Judo. USJA brought in new members, created jujitsukas out of judokas, sold rank to them like crazy, and tried to treat them as equals. Ultimately, many of the jujitsu people realized that although there were some common grounds between the two sports, the two were in fact different. Disenchantment set in, political battles raged, and members departed.

USA Judo is diversifying because it doesn’t know how to make its main product- Judo- more palatable to the American public. By adding jujitsu to the fold, it may solve the financial crisis it’s facing, caused in part by the USOC’s cutting back on funding of NBGs that don’t produce international medals. What it won’t achieve is get more people to do Judo. Our competitive ranks will remain just as shallow as they are today, and our international medal count won’t change much.

What I find the most irritating about the latest USA Judo announcements is that it is openly admitting- at least for those who wish to read between the lines- that to survive as a sport we must embrace other sports in our midst. Contrary to that, I believe USA Judo must find ways to provide its clubs and players services that are needed and valued. It must recognize that to survive we must make our own product better by developing better coaches, better facilities, and most importantly by refusing to allow IJF rules to marginalize our sport within the grappling world. What we need is a Judo version of the Manhattan project that would include the USJA and USJF.

I am not totally against incorporating jujitsu into our programs, but it should be done for development purposes, not financial gain. If we are going to incorporate jujitsu why not make it of the Kosen Judo type? We are missing the boat by not having Kosen Judo classes and tournaments. By adopting Kosen, rather than some jujitsu mishmash, we stay truer to our Judo culture and technical base, while still being able to attract more people to our sport.

And for heaven’s sake, if we do but one thing to better Judo, let’s change the damn rules of Judo! Quickly.

5 thoughts on “Growing Judo the USA Judo Way

  1. While I agree with your take on the announcement I feel that they are grasping at straws if they think the BJJ world is going to give a rats about their ju jitsu program. It offers nothing to the BJJ world that they can’t obtain on their own. I sincerely doubt if USA judo can sell itself to the BJJ crowd, what have they got to offer? Standardized rank? Decided by whom and administered by whom…USA Judo for what purpose. As it is each school head decides what his rank criteria is an promotes accordingly. Most of them fairly stingily and most requiring competition to advance. Tournament performance is the deciding factor on the quality of the instructors and schools. Liability coverage. At what cost? Jacking their student up for an additional $50 a year for something that doesn’t significantly add to their bottom line and certainly has very little value to the students. Most BJJ schools already charge in the range from $50-$100 a month I doubt they are going to force their students to fork over additional money when none of it will be going to the schools. Additional tournaments? Their seem to be plenty of BJJ tournaments (many of which are larger than judo tournaments in the same regions. Plenty of NAGA tournaments and seems to be plenty of other tournaments around. Groups certainly don’t need USA Judo to put on tournaments. Porters/USJA’s ju jitsu program isn’t even in the same ball park as the BJJ material. As for Kosen judo, what do you think BJJ is. It is clear looking at the range of Kosen judo techniques that that is certainly where BJJ techniques were derived from.

  2. I am not sure which jujitsu people USA Judo is pursuing. Perhaps it’s the same group USJA is pursuing, basically guys who want to grapple and strike while wearing protective gear. Although bjj comes from Kosen Judo, it has developed its own culture, which no longer resembles Judo’s culture. That why Judo needs to revive and advance Kosen Judo.

  3. Sure it is a money making scheme. What is in it for Ju Jitsu? The United States does not fund a team and Ju Jitsu is not part of the Olympics. They will become disillusioned and head for the doors. How can they be equal when they have no members on the Board of Directors? That is Taxation without Representation!

    Ask yourself this question: Every 4 years you get to vote for President of the United States. If you have questions for the Government, you submit a Freedom of Information Act request.

    The USOC and USA Judo has no such animal. The only people that get to vote are the insiders of USA Judo (which insures their continued reign). State organizations have no rights to vote or shape the policies of USA Judo.

    Why is it that none of the Big 3 have publically disclosed what was discussed during Executive Sessions? Have you ever asked any of the Big 3 for a transcript? I’m sure they will tell you that it is confidencal. Why?

    I am a Life Member of all 3 organizations and if I thought they would, I’d ask for a REFUND!!!

  4. There are already two streams of thought within the BJJ community. Some people are happy with the possibility of USA judo administered tournaments. While it is true that IBJJF tournaments are well administered, most local and NAGA tournaments are not. When the IBJJF says the matches start at 10:15 am…they start. I’ve been to many a NAGA or local BJJ tourney where 3-4 hours after advertised start time…maybe. USA judo is generally administered well.

    Some people are also “angry” at the alleged money grabbing tendencies of Confederacao president Carlos Gracie, Jr and would rather go elsewhere than compete in tournaments under his aegis. They mention the new requirement (this year) that all black belt competitors must be registered with the Confederacao, along with the yearly fee, in order to even compete.

    As for me personally, I like the idea of competition within BJJ organizations, but I am very leery of USA judo’s involvement with “pure grappling” or “BJJ rules” tournaments. Why doesn’t judo look at its own backyard, incorporate the ground techniques and eliminated throws back into the competitions, and leave the sister art alone? Why should USA judo “branch out” into something else? This seems to be money grabbing by USA judo. Think about all of the “traditional martial arts” schools that added “grappling, MMA, BJJ” to their curriculum to get students in the door: adding divisions for “grappling/BJJ rules” competitions costs little and adds money to the bottom line.

  5. To me it just seems Judo growth is hindered by all their federations and organizations that set the rules and tournaments, trying to control everything. Judo needs to focus on realism rather then being visually exciting. Realism from judo is what almost everyone wants. BJJ is not visually exciting but it is real, it works and that is why it is growing so much.

    Judo is really effective but they need to make the rules more flexible, do much more groundwork etc we hardly ever see nowadays Judo guys competing elsewhere outside of their sport. Maybe they should open their minds and compete in BJJ and grappling too.

    I don’t believe Judo needs to go back to some strange Kosen Judo heritage. I believe Judo just needs to modernize. Judo guys have great gi takedowns and that is why I cross train in it and that is what they have to focus on. What they need to do though is to create flexible rules, allow single/double leg takedowns, allow leg locks on the ground and choking with no gi. Just need to make Judo more real. They can still get the fighters to stand up with there is stalling. This would make Judo much more of a complete martial art and would create guys that can then go on and compete in MMA, ADCC etc etc and also have a great gi game.

    BJJ is benefitting from being realistic and unconstrained by some many different federations like Judo has. There are so many competitions going on in BJJ these days that Judo guys can only dream of, just in the UK even though there are far more Judo people. When I go to a Judo competition, there is a ton of paperwork, I have to be a member of an association, I must have insurance, etc etc while in BJJ I don’t need to worry about this stuff, just have to sign up and compete.

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