Several months ago, I had a heated discussion with my assistant coach who happens to be an international referee. As usual, the conversation revolved around the silly IJF rules, and how he could not support my transition away from IJF rules Judo to my own version of Judo competition, which is similar to AAU Freestyle Judo. Upon telling him that I needed to move on in order to keep Judo relevant, and that lots of people had similar concerns and had made the same decision as I had, he demanded that I show him the evidence. Furthermore, he stated that he wasn’t interested in Judo that can’t be done outside the dojo. Small mind.
Well, the evidence is all around us if we are willing to take off the blinders. Mr. Referee has a problem understanding the demise of Judo in the U.S. because he doesn’t step outside his comfort zone, which is his little world of sanctioned tournaments and referee colleagues. He can’t hear the disgruntled voices on the martial arts discussion lists. He doesn’t field the phone calls from prospective members who inquire whether my dojo’s curriculum is IJF rules-based.
He is not aware of the clubs that have switched over to Freestyle or AAU rules, or left Judo for submission grappling or BJJ because he doesn’t interact on Facebook. Since he’s not the person responsible for the financial welfare of the club, he hasn’t bothered to look around to see that for every Judo club in a community, there are 4-6 BJJ and MMA clubs, not to mention the still large number of taekwondo studios. No, all he cares about is the next sanctioned event he can referee.
What about the evidence of disenchantment within the international community? Even if you search casually on the Internet, you’ll find that there are many international organizations that are dedicated to a Judo that is other than IJF Judo. If you are a reader of my blog you know that the World Judo Federation was founded in August 2011.
Many of us were rooting for the WJF to adopt different competition rules, but so far we have been disappointed. That may be changing though. WJF is a member of The Association For International Sport for All (TAFISA), which is going to hold the TAFISA Games in July 2012. WJF has queried its national organizations to see if there’s support for participating in these Games. I don’t know whether Judo will participate, but one thing is certain: according to Dr. Hoglund, the WJF Vice-President, “the demonstration/competition should be for a “different Judo” than the “Olympic Judo” administrated by the IJF.”
Steve Scott from the AAU and I have been lobbying the WJF to discard the IJF rules and adopt AAU Freestyle rules or something similar. I’ve received support from Dr. Ivica Zdravkovic from Serbia who writes:
My full support to this suggestion- freestyle judo or any similar form of FREE Judo, with more groundfight, which will attract BJJ people. I am afraid that leaders of WJF have forgotten that the initial Kodokan rules were actually “free style” rules. I run “maybe-soon-to-become” a member organization of WJF on behalf of Serbia, but we still hesitate in here, because if WJF insists on using the same rules like IJF, then it makes no sense founding new organization. I also run International Shinbudo Association (ISA) where we have large international championships and we already use rules that we call “JUDO GRAPPLING” – which is similar to freestyle judo and is a mixture of judo and BJJ.
Still not enough evidence? Here’s another distressing clue. Since 1970, the population of the U.S. has grown by 100 million- a 50% increase!- yet the number of registered members in our three national organizations has not budged. In fact, the numbers are so low that these organizations are enrolling members who do other arts.
How do you explain the lack of Judo’s growth? Either Judo is no longer appealing to Americans, or Americans are doing Judo in clubs that no longer belong to the establishment. My vote is for both. Judo is becoming unappealing and irrelevant mainly because it has been sissified, and many of us operate “underground.”
The cure to our irrelevance and slow death is to put back the Judo that was taken out, and do Judo the way it was intended to be played. Have the courage to make the change within your club, and to unite with us on the national and international scene. Let’s show Mr. Referee the evidence!