The Sissification of Judo

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.

12 thoughts on “The Sissification of Judo

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s not the judo I was taught many years ago.

    I will continue to pass down the the techniques that my Kodokan Sensei has passed down to me. To all my student’s juniors and seniors. If we don’t as club coaches then I can see where judo will lose all it’s meaning in the near future.

    I can tell you one thing I am not very happy about this new rule of grabbing the leg. Come on people it just doesn’t make sense to me. I really don’t care what kind of player you are or wherever style you might have. I really enjoy it when some of these JJ & MMA want to be’s come into my dojo and find out our judo really works.

    Not this new watered down judo.

    Just my thoughts.


  2. I wholeheartedly agree with your article. IMHO we started down the slope with the introduction of koka and yuko but things really took off when ippon was redefined allowing the “soft” ippon into the game. As far as newaza is concerned it will be a shame that in a few years when judoka will have to go to BJJ schools to learn all of the ground work that was once part of judo and has now been virtually eliminated from competition. The rules being what they are the clubs will stop teaching ground work because the low probability off using it in tournament and winning with it.

  3. I agree with you. It gets very frustrating when rules are so strict. It really limits the value of the art, in the eyes of newcomers to the sport.

  4. I am a brown belt in BJJ and a newly promoted yellow (gokkyu) in judo. I competed and won judo tournaments in the early 2000’s using just BJJ and wrestling. Then, rules changed and ground work became limited. But, stand up wise, I was still competitive. The new rule change, which eliminates techniques like kata-garuma (a favorite of Kano, BTW) and simple single leg takedowns, is prohibitive.

    Judo should adapt and overcome whatever techniques/strategies are being used against it rather than eliminating the techniques or strategies. The elimination of “techniques against the legs that begin with the hands” is a direct slap against wrestlers, as were those limitations against newaza meant to eliminate BJJ individuals. If the techniques are inferior, then people will stop using them when they start losing when they are used. Eliminating them is, as claimed above, really sissification.

    I started learning judo recently for the purpose of recreating, in my mind at least, what Dr. Kano had in mind with tachiwaza and newaza (current sport judo + current sport BJJ). Removing things to limit cross-over is weak and, contrary to what the IJF would want to say, not in the spirit of judo.

  5. they really need to change ground work rules for Judo, I totally agree with Mike. Some Judo guys I have trained with actually have almost never done ground work and are helpless when they reach the mat even though they are very good from standing.

    The problem is I think that they try to make Judo more exciting but really what they are doing is taking away important elements of Judo. Judo should be a complete martial art but it cannot position to be one if they eliminate newaza and impose a bunch of rules that don’t make any sense

  6. GREAT BLOG! I totally agree. I am a brown belt in BJJ and Sankyu in Judo. These new rules, however, make me want to stop practicing Judo. It’s far too restrictive now; you can’t do ANYTHING. One of my instructors even told me that Judo is not a martial art and was never meant to be; instead it is only a contact sport. If that’s the case, then I won’t be practicing it anymore.

  7. Pingback: Valhalla Academy » Blog Archive » Daki Age or the Guard Slam

  8. 1) Hi Gerald… I had the privilege to train at your dojo a couple of times back in 1988 in San Diego.

    2) wrt to the topic… i got back from Tokyo last September with a silver medal from the Japan Veterans International judo Championships 2014. i got disqualified in the final after grabbing the leg as a defensive move to a rather taller guy who was attacking me with a big leg throw. i countered by grabbing his raised leg and just as I was going to complete my counter with the Ouchi-gari, it got stopped… the corner judges consulted with the ref… with their resulting hansokumake. i counted 8 other guys who got the same treatment on the day… and probably there were others also. It’s ridiculous…

    My stand on judo has more or less been the same for years now:
    1) We stop referring to Judo as a sport… but first and foremost as a martial art. if you lose you roots… the tree will eventually fall over.
    2) Terminology: in judo we fight… like boxers. we do not ‘play’ (or ‘roll’… sorry bjj’ers).
    using the word ‘play’ infers a game… and added sissification…
    3) the object of shiai is self improvement and as a testing ground for the ‘real’ thing… which might be defending against a mugging attempt… or protecting others if need be. Shiai is great if you like it… but even if you don’t, you should do it… to sharpen ones abilities.
    4) as well as randori techniques… self defense techniques should always be taught at some point in the session… i do not need to describe them in detail… although perhaps there are nowadays many people who are unaware of these… more’s the pity. 15-20 mins at the end perhaps when people are tired out, is enough. controlled leg locks and other prohibited randori/shiai techniques can be covered also.

    my son recently returned from Kyoto where he did quite a bit of Kosen at Kyoto University… you’ll be pleased to know that Kosen is alive and well and practised in several major universities in Japan… which compete regularly. after seeing them i can assure everyone that those guys have really nothing to learn from bjj. i am not a bjj hater… (i occasionally ‘roll’ with them… and they are always eager to learn tachi/nage- waza.. and they are a very friendly bunch)… but it’s sad that they only really got 1/2 the story… and split away from judo. these new rules have gone much, much too far and will result in more breakaways… very, very sad. This stuff happened before, see Kenshiro Abbe’s experience in the UK when he formed the BJCouncil which he set up becos he disagreed with the BJAssociation emphasis on comp judo.
    Oh well i guess there ain’t much new under the sun.

    Cheers (from Australia)

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