Let’s be honest. In an attempt to overprotect participants and redefine the aesthetics of Judo, we are witnessing as never before the sissification of Judo. We have removed and penalized so many things that we are left with a sanitized version, a shell, of what used to be one of the most comprehensive forms of grappling. For those of us in areas where Brazilian jiujitsu and mixed martial arts are popular, today’s sport Judo is not helping our cause one bit.
The more I teach Judo, the more I don’t like what is happening to my sport. And the more I am disillusioned with the direction the IJF is taking my sport, the more I find myself agreeing with the non-sport guys who say sport Judo has strayed too far from Kano Judo. Now that’s a scary thought! I don’t necessarily want what they espouse, but neither do I want what the IJF is mandating. Surely, there’s a middle ground out there somewhere.
So many Judo rules leave you scratching your head, wondering what caused the implementation of the rules in the first place. And knowing that you can lose a match for violating some of the more puzzling rules makes our blood boil…well, at least it makes my blood boil.
I know many of the rules are on the books for the “protection of the athletes.” Nanny state! There’s protection from truly egregious acts, and there’s overprotection from innocent acts like putting your fingers inside an opponent’s sleeve or pants bottom. If there’s a remote chance you’ll hurt your own fingers doing that, you should be responsible for deciding whether it’s worth the effort. You do have the ability to release your grip, you know. No player should win a match because his opponent put his fingers inside the wrong sleeve.
The misuse of matte is another one of those needless, overprotective measures that make you wonder why. Player A is standing and B is kneeling. Just before some great Judo is performed, the referee calls matte, I’ve been told, to protect the player on his knees. I don’t understand why we need to protect someone who is in such an innocuous position. How does that reflect the martial spirit of Judo? Well, it doesn’t, does it?
Daki age is a banned technique that would spice up ne waza, specifically pulling and being in the guard. It’s no more dangerous than a devastating O soto gari or O uchi gari after a leg pick-up. Since uke has the ability to disengage and counter the pick-up, I see no reason to ban it. It would certainly return some of the martial art to the sport.
Most of the gripping rules are overbearing. Why does it matter how you grip as long as you are attacking? Ah! The aesthetics of Judo must be the answer. Some of the grips might not look pretty, but it’s OK to stop matches constantly to award shidos for grip violation. So much for keeping the match flowing and interesting.
All the rules that define what you can’t do with your own gi or to your opponent’s gi are not very martial artsy. I can’t use my gi or belt to encircle my opponent. I’m not sure how practical this is, but if you can pull it off, why not? I can’t put my foot in my opponent’s belt or gi, but I can put my hand there. Hello! And why can’t I use my own gi to strangle my opponent? I’m at a loss as to why these rules exist. Were they implemented to weaken Kosen Judo? Why wear gis then if you can’t use them as weapons? Why not fight naked?
The ban on scissoring (dojime) the truck, head, or neck is another perplexing rule that sissifies Judo. Yes, I’ve heard that in the old days ribs were broken. We can break arms and triangle our opponents to our heart’s content, but extending legs to apply dojime is verboten. Isn’t that why tapping out exists? Would dojime change ne waza or not?
Finally, we come to armbars and chokes for children. It’s a touchy subject fraught with emotions and overprotective thoughts. My colleagues tell me that children are not mature enough. Their vertebrae are this and that. Then there are the growth plates, blah, blah, blah. I get the message. We don’t want injuries. But folks, why can Brazilian jiujitsu make this work for kids, and we can’t even broach the subject without getting hysterical? And how does wrestling get away with teaching some of the pretzel-like holds that apply pressure to joints in ways that would make most judoplayers cringe?
The gap between the two extremes- early vs late introduction of chokes and joint manipulations- is not logical considering how closely Judo, BJJ and wrestling are related. Culture and methodology certainly play a role in why a six-year old in BJJ can armbar and choke, but a judoplayer must wait until he is 13 or 17 before he can perform those same skills. With the right training, mentality and culture, most kids should handle chokes and armbars well before the arbitrary ages designated by national and international organizations.
I’m all for being prudent and safety-conscious. That’s why I pay close attention to how my players are paired off in training, and why I spent over $8,000 to provide them with a spring-loaded mat and Judo tatami, rather than throw down wrestling or fold-out mats on concrete. But when it comes to most of the rules on the books, enough is enough. We must stop crippling Judo.
Kano created for the masses a wonderful form of physical education for the modern era by eliminating dangerous jujitsu techniques. Thanks to him, Judo ascended, and jujitsu descended into near oblivion. Those paths have now been reversed. Judo has oversimplified, overprotected, and emasculated itself into near oblivion while jujitsu has reinvented itself. It’s obvious to me that we need to put back some of the martial art into the sport in order to survive. We can and should do that without sacrificing safety. We must do that to make Judo more effective, and thus, more respected in the grappling world.