What’s Up With The USJA?

AnnMaria De Mars and Jim Pedro, respectively the president and vice-president of the USJA, resigned a few weeks ago. Pedro did so during a conference call meeting of the USJA Board of Directors, and De Mars resigned the following day.

Emotions are running high. Some USJA members are threatening to pull out of the USJA and join USA Judo.  Makes sense to me- NOT.  If there was ever a dysfunctional, worthless group to join, it would have to be USA Judo. So guys, knock yourselves out and join USA Judo if you think it’s going to care more about your opinions and welfare.

Fingers are also being pointed.  According to a few lost souls on the Judo Forum, I am to blame for some of what just happened. How? I have no idea, but it may have something to do with my blogs. Rest assured that my blogs held no sway over the board members. They have eyes and ears. They saw the De Mars misdeed at the January board meeting, and they acted accordingly in due time.

Prior to that fateful January meeting in Las Vegas, I had phone conversations with both De Mars and Gary Goltz. I had heard that Goltz, the USJA’s COO, had momentarily thrown around the idea that he should be president. Ultimately, for the good of the USJA, Goltz told me that he and De Mars had agreed that she would be the president and he would be the vice-president. She also told me that she would resign from the board if she wasn’t elected president. She had an agenda to fulfill and she needed to be president in order to carry out that agenda. Made sense to me.

In spite of the agreement, the die had been cast. De Mars could no longer trust Goltz, so she foolishly stabbed him in the back by masterminding Pedro’s election as vice-president. From that point on, it wasn’t too hard for the board to lose trust in De Mars and to force her resignation.

Lots of folk think the sky is falling, and irreparable damage has been done. I’m not one of them. I applaud the board’s quick actions to resolve the issue, which could have festered for years and divided the board in two factions like the previous board. We know how well that worked. While it is sad to see De Mars and Pedro go, the board should be able to run more smoothly…but honestly, I’m not holding my breath.

On the positive side of the resignations, we are finally about to move forward- I think!- with a real coach education program. Bill Montgomery is now in charge of the Coach Education Committee (CEC). I pray the board implements the majority of the CEC’s recommendations promptly. For starters, approve Successful Coaching as our manual for levels 1 and 2. Then, provide the CEC with the manpower and funds to develop an Internet-based educational system to facilitate the dissemination of technical information, continuing education units, and testing. Lastly, return the USJA’s coaching program to its rightful position as leader in the U.S. Let’s not seek parity with other programs, but rather have them seek parity with ours. If you know what’s out there- and it ain’t much- this is not that difficult to achieve.

In addition, I’d like the board to consider two other suggestions that go hand in hand. First, let’s define who and what we are. Are we a Judo organization as the name implies, or are we something else? Ever since the selling of high dan “service to Judo” promotions, and the inclusion of other martial arts in the USJA, in particular the jujitsu crowd, we have had quality, agenda, identity, and vision problems. Although it was Phil Porter who started all of this, thinking of the financial windfall but ignoring the eventual political and culture wars, successive boards have continued the practice. Many of the board problems we have had recently stem from the fact that we are no longer a unified Judo organization, but rather a Balkanized group with many purposes, goals, and visions.

Under the current administrative set-up, the jujitsu people are not happy. Many will abandon or are threatening to abandon the USJA and join USA Judo or some other jujitsu group. I say good riddance and good luck with that. While the USJA may want to be everything to everybody, it winds up not pleasing a whole bunch of people. I say return to our sport roots when we had 22,000 members, stood for something, and had quality programs and high standards.

Rather than try to retain members from different arts who no longer share our vision, let’s do a better job at improving our sport by developing better Judo coaches and more clubs, and providing them with the knowledge and wherewithal to compete in today’s crowded martial arts world. Without a doubt, this is a full-time job for someone. Thus, my second suggestion is to hire a person responsible for coach and club development.

One of my philosophies is to always seek to turn a negative into a positive regardless of how tragic a situation may appear at first. The USJA is now in a position to do just that. Yes, it’s going to lose some disenchanted members, but others will be inclined to come back now that De Mars and Pedro are gone. None of this is surprising or new in the Judo world. People come and go depending on which way the wind is blowing.

It’s time to check the emotions at the door, do some real soul searching, redefine what the USJA stands for, confirm whom it represents, and improve its root product, which is Judo. In the end, the USJA will become a better organization.

10 thoughts on “What’s Up With The USJA?

  1. Mr. Lafon,
    Great article. Great Article. I am somewhat reluctant to comment.
    First, USJA must be an American Judo Organization. We spend too much time trying to conform to others and it hasn’t resulted in more medals for this country?
    While I have no doubt that what has happened wasn’t without reason, but since I don’t involve myself in the politics of it all, I can not judge.

  2. A very interesting article, and very well written view into the politics of USJA that most of us don’t get to see.

  3. Gerald, thank you for providing this information. Of course, you are not an impartial reporter of events, but you have provided the gist of what occurred to concerned members who cannot find information anywhere else. Respectfully.

  4. Why reinvent the wheel with regards to the manuals again? Why not go back to the Chris Dewey manuals and build upon them?

  5. Sensei Lafon,
    Sad but truth….and the saddest part of what you are describing, is that the “struggle for the political power” is not just here in the States, back in my country, Chile, is happening exactly the same…and as usual, the Judokas are the ones who lose…lack of support when you are in the incorrect side of the fight, just for mention one example.
    And after all of this, then everybody start to question why the Ju-Jutsu is growing so fast!!!….well, I guess we have to start to question our self, when we lost the Judo spirit allowing ours leaders to do this without say anything.
    Thanks for the article; it´s important keep the lights on.
    And also thanks for the Clinic, I really enjoy it!!!
    Saludos Sensei,
    Edgardo Acevedo

  6. I am not sure what will happen with the Dewey manuals, which I helped edit by the way. Worst case scenario is that they will be recommended reading for coaches. Successful Coaching is too comprehensive too overlook and not adopt as our coaching manual. Many sports organizations have been using this book for years. Years ago, Chris and I were on the verge of developing a business manual for coaches, which would have supplemented the three existing manuals. Perhaps that’s the approach we should take as it is doubtful that anyone will create such a Judo specific manual. Since I’m no longer on the coaching committee, I can only advise at this point.

  7. Very, very good stuff, not just this article but everything I’ve checked out on this site. As far as the coaching education issues, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. USA wrestling already has an online coaching certification system set up which allows you to get your copper level certification. While this won’t prepare you to be on the mat at the Olympics, it does give you a good basic knowledge of how to coach the sport and allows you to be matside coaching in local and regional tournaments. I went through the course so that I could help out the coaches at my son’s wrestling club during tournaments when they had multiple mats going at the same time. It has also helped me be a better judo coach, btw. Anyways, check it out, it might be a good place to start with an online judo coaching course.

  8. For what it is worth, on the coaching issue:

    A comprehensive set of courseware for any training program is essential for both consistency and quality assurance. This includes texts, workbooks, handouts, PowerPoints, online study materials, and instructor guides. But in the absence of these, we still have books.

    For general coaching, the USJA Coaching Committee recommends Rainer Marten’s significant work on the subject, titled SUCCESSFUL COACHING. This is a very comprehensive, 500-page volume covering almost every aspect of coaching. The only short-falls of this book are that it is not cheap and it does not cover topics specific to judo.
    To fill that gap, I have begun using Hayward Nishioka’s TRAINING FOR COMPETITION JUDO; COACHING, STRATEGY and the SCIENCE for SUCCESS, produced by Black Belt Publishing, which is quite affordable and readily available on amazon.com. Nishioka Sensei is not only a PhD in physical education, he is also a respected coach and former international judo competitor.

    But it is not sufficient to simply have these books on your bookshelf, you need to read them. The accumulate knowledge in these books will undoubtedly change the way you teach and coach judo. The eight hours of instruction that you receive in the average coaching certification clinic is simply not sufficient to cover all the information required to turn a motivated judoka into a competent coach.

    It is only through research, reading, diligent study, and hands-on training that the aspiring club coach will become a respected national or international coach. To grow judo, we need to be continually growing the next generation of progressive instructors and coaches; and it is through books that we establish a common language within the coaching community. Remember, if you do not continue to grow, you become irrelevant. Through clinics, reading, self improvement, and active coaching, you remain relevant and a valuable member of the judo world.


  9. It was good talking to you today. The only thing that I may bicker with you on is the notion that Successful Coaching is expensive (it is) and thus a small reason why it may not be as usable as Nishioka’s book, which frankly I found very superficial. Judo people are cheap by nature. Some of my students who are in the fitness industry have no qualms about spending $1,500 for a weekend certification course in kettlebells or Indian clubs because they see (business) value and increased knowledge in that cost. Sadly, we have no such culture in Judo, probably because most coaches see themselves as volunteers. Still, you’d think that additional knowledge could take a club from 10-15 to perhaps 50. Who wouldn’t want that? That would make it beneficial to spend $50 on a book.

  10. Good points. Purchase of the required text should be mandatory or included in the tuition fee.
    Hopefully, with the popularity of computers, books will never become obsolete. There is tangible value for a coach to be able to reference books by notable and respected authors. In reality, we never become masters, merely serious students for life.
    Any judo instructor who owns fewer than a dozen books related to judo, coaching, or athletic development is probably not serious about being a professional coach. And in using the term “professional” I don’t necessarily mean making a living at coaching, but in approaching one’s obligations as a coach in a professional manner.
    In addition to a library of reference books, a coach will invariably accumulate several hundred computer files and articles related to coaching. This is in addition to all the competitor profiles, video competition analysis, training programs, lectures, PowerPoints, and correspondence with like-minded professionals.


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