I just finished my cardio workout, which as usual consisted of riding my mountain bike around my neighborhood, and in particular through one of our community sports parks with baseball fields. Observing baseball kids in inactivity for 95% of the time they’re on the field has encouraged me to say that we in Judo are missing the boat on the powers of our sport, especially when it comes to physical education benefits.
For the life of me, I can’t understand why so many kids play such a useless sport. I’m speaking of baseball, of course. Do parents think their child will be the next millionaire to play the professional game? Does the notion of a college scholarship enter the picture? Do parents believe that the game provides short-term or long-term fitness or health benefits? Or is it simply that parents know the game and can relate to it even though the benefits are next to zilch for 99.99% of the tens of millions of kids who play the game?
Now before I get accused of not understanding baseball or not having played the game myself, let me stop you dead in your tracks. I grew up on baseball in the streets, empty lots and parks of Secaucus, New Jersey before moving to France where I discovered soccer and Judo. I’ve been a New York Yankees fan for as long I can remember. I played baseball, and stickball, because that’s what every kid did. And I was good at it too. Looking back now, I realize that baseball did absolutely nothing for me other than keep me out of trouble.
Jigoro Kano’s creation of Judo as a method of physical education gets little traction in the U.S., unlike in Europe where the educational benefits of the sport are touted. That’s sad considering the alarming and rising number of obese, diabetic, unfit-for-military-service kids in our nation. Not only will this burden our healthcare system, but we are looking at a growing problem when it comes to national defense. Yes, national defense. Apparently, some 25% of Americans of military age are physically not qualified to serve.
Kano developed Kodokan Judo with three objectives: physical education, combat training, and moral training. Thanks to the IJF, we’re doing a piss-poor job with combat training. On the other hand, I believe that most coaches are doing a good job at providing moral training. The sport itself, heavy on Japanese culture and etiquette, facilitates the development of good citizens. This etiquette, a moral code of honor if you will, is what makes Judo unique among all the grappling arts.
In regards to physical education, the sport is doing its job, but we are doing a terrible job at advertising that fact. That needs to change. Michel Brousse, my colleague from France who knows American Judo quite well, told me that America needs to sell the educational benefits of Judo to make it more appealing to families. He’s absolutely right. We know that we are more than just a sport. We understand the transformative power of Judo. Now, we must share our little secret with the public. Judo is combat training, moral training, and above all, good physical education. We are developing better citizens and a stronger nation. Scream it out loud!