I had the pleasure of attending the first two days of the 2011 World Championships in Paris. Here are my comments.
I ran into Michel Brousse, the French Judo historian (among other things) in the hotel lobby. He was kind enough to acknowledge that my daughter Natalie was participating in the championships. He also informed me that there would be an International Association of Judo Researchers symposium the next morning, and invited me to attend. I did, and came away with lots of good information from the morning session, which was dedicated to Judo history. Unfortunately, I had to miss the afternoon session as I was meeting my 86-year old father, whom I hadn’t seen in some twenty years.
Olympic silver medalist Noriko Mizoguchi presented a paper on women’s Judo. She indicated that women’s Judo had started well before Jigoro Kano introduced Judo within the Kodokan. The Dai Nippon Butokukai, a Japanese martial arts organization established in 1895 in Kyoto, Japan, under the authority of the Ministry of Education and sanction of the Emperor Meiji, issued black belts to women before the Kodokan did, and didn’t make women wear the white stripe. She also suggested that there was a significant influence from free masons in the expansion of international Judo. She is working on her Ph.D. on the same subject, and making waves with her faculty. I encouraged her to publish a book in English once her research is finished.
Michel Brousse dealt with the development of European and international organizations prior to World War II. According to his research, Hitler stated in Mein Kampf that he considered boxing and jujitsu more important than shooting in the training of his Sturmabteilung (SA) storm troopers.
Dr. Mike Callan, President of the International Association of Judo Researchers (IAJR), gave us a presentation on Gunji Koizumi, the founding father of British Judo. I was fairly familiar with Koizumi, having read his books and accounts of him by others, but also because he was my father’s post-WWII Judo teacher. Dr. Callan indicated that Koizumi’s wish was, “To see people thinking for themselves and not being led like sheep.” Amen to that!
World and Olympic champion Yasuhiro Yamashita’s presentation was on Shigeyoshi Matsumae, the former IJF president. I only caught a short segment of it, since I had to rush out to buy additional tickets for the competition. For those who have wondered, Yamashita speaks good English.
In the near future, I will be interviewing Dr. Callan and Michel Brousse. I hope to help the IAJR become better known and more successful in disseminating its findings. Many of the researchers are working on sport-specific, performance research that may be of interest to local coaches.
As far as the competition was concerned, it was a mixed bag of good and bad. Over the first two days that I was in attendance, ne waza was given significantly more time to develop, although a few referees like Rashwan from Egypt still don’t get it. In spite of the additional time for ne waza, there were still too many shidos and not enough real Judo. A few early upsets of former champions, without the recourse of the older repechage system, also put a damper on the competition. Of course, none of this will change until the IJF changes the rules and the competition format.
I was extremely disappointed by the Opening Ceremony. Compared to that of the 2010 World Championships in Tokyo, the Paris ceremony was pathetic. I was truly surprised that the arena was not even close to being full. I was told that the last three days had been sold out, so I hope attendance did improve. The Frenchies though did a great job at getting the crowd involved thanks to two announcers who provided the cheer-leading exhortations.
When you think that the IJF can’t get any more petty and ridiculous, it outdoes itself. Several American players, and possibly players from other nations, found out that it’s not good enough to have a belt, jacket, and pants with the “IJF Approved” logo on it. No, all three pieces must be from the same manufacturer. So, our players were forced to borrow from others or buy yet another piece of the uniform. If any of you readers have any clue why this makes sense, please let me know. For the life of me, I can’t figure it out, other than to chalk it up to more senseless, bureaucratic heavy-handedness.
USA Judo also had me scratching my head wondering how incompetent the organization can be. Several of our players who hadn’t been on World teams before, my daughter among them, had no USA Judo warm-ups. Apparently, the warm-ups arrived late in Colorado Springs with no time to give them to the athletes before they left for Europe!
Lastly, Paris, where my Judo career started, is ripe with thieves. My $1,500 Nikon was stolen as I sat accessing my email on the hotel lobby computer. Two American athletes had several hundreds of dollars stolen from their hotel rooms. I’m sure other tourists have similar stories to tell. This would not have happened in Japan.