Cichorei Kano wrote:
Well, with the All Japan Championships coming up I wanted to make a thread on the current and future state(?) of the Japanese heavyweights.
Japan are desperately looking for a someone to take the lead of the +100 category. They have many judo players with potential (Ojitani, Shichinohe, Momose) but none that really stands out. It's been a long time since Japan has produced a +100 heavyweight in the calibre of there past champions. The last guy decided to switch to another discipline.
I've heard some new names being thrown most of which I've never heard of. http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20130428-00000030-dal-spo
(use google translator)
This will also be Takamasa Anai's last tournament, a great -100 judo player and in my opinion one of the biggest underachievers in Judo (competitions).
My personal opinion is that ... it isn't so much Japan's concern to find a good +100 kg player, nor to find a successor for Anai. Japan's real concern is to have a +100 kg player who can solidly and decisively defeat Riner and establish Japan's dominance again at the world level.
When you have someone like Riner or Geesink you don't just have a good athlete who is winner, and who has obtained that leadership merely through hard training. What you are dealing with is --apologies for the disrespectful-sounding expression-- a true "freak of nature". In other words, other people who belong to the same category and can train as much as they want, it will not matter unless they too are 'blessed' with similar does of "freak of nature"-ship. You have similar things with someone like Usain Bolt.
When one 'trains', chiefly important improvements are made to someone's physiology (performance ability), and to someone's biomechanics (technical ability). However, when someone is a ... "freak of nature" there are other medical factors where the effect of training is more limited, such as anatomy and anthropometry. Anthropometrically and anatomically, Riner is of a quite extreme nature. To compensate for that merely by physiology and biomechanics will be very difficult.
In reality, there are three ways that such issues are finally settled. That is, the "freak of nature":
1. ... ages (Yamashita, Fujii), which means that people excelling by physiological and biomechanical parameters now increasingly can compensate for the person's extreme anthropmetrical/anatomical properties.
2. ... quits the sport (e.g. Ruska, Okano) or gets a debilitating injury (e.g., Geesink's knee), or gets sidelined through application of sports rules (e.g. Lance Armstrong/doping, Yamashita/political boycott Moscow 1980)
3. ... political lobbying is uses to change the rules of the sport (e.g., Geesink, Yamashita, etc.)
Japan itself hasn't been as honorable in judo as popular sources tend to depict. After the 1961 world championships it knew very well what was waiting for the 1964 Olympics. Only through creating 3 weight classes in addition to the Open were they able to secure titles. If they hadn't, we all know what the result would have been.
Politics in judo are never far away, and all kinds of politics can be applied to change the rules and thus the outcome of the contests. Riner weighs like 130 kg and stands 6'8" or something. All the judo rocket scientists would need to do is, let's say, limit the heavy weight category to 120 kg max, or the height to 6'6", and the deal would be done. Riduculous ? Of course, but it's a useful thinking exercise. The situation now is thoroughly different for Japan than it was in the early 1960s. Japan has lost a large part of its influence in the IJF, France is strongly present in the EJU and IJF and well linked with Vizer and would obviously block any veiled attempts to limit Riner's success by messing around with the rules.
Japan has been quite displeased with several things that are going on in international judo. One example is the kata competitions and how the IJF deals with them. Years ago (but after Uemura took over) I was told by senior Kôdôkan and AJJF officials that Japan's take on all this was that it distanced itself from the IJF and basically would act as if the IJF did not exist. The reality shows, however, that this is wishful thinking. Japan is no more that a barking pet dog without teeth when it comes to international judo. They are selling out when it comes to judo and even the All Japan Judo Championships have adopted several IJF rules. Japanese athletes aren't boycotting IJF kata or shiai contests either. They are eagerly participating hoping each time in vain that a miracle will occur and that suddenly Japanese technical magic and woowoo will mesmerize Riner. The reality is different. Japan needs to use its moral weight, which it still have. Many people are displeased with current IJF rules, people who love real, technical judo. Japan needs to take the lead in breaking away from the IJF and starting a new world judo federation that adheres to traditional judo style and values. No country would be more successful in leading such initiative than Japan. But politically, Japan would need to defend to its people why it may not be participating in the next judo Olympics, while the laborious process is started to replace the IJF as recognized international federation for judo by the IOC. This in the end will give Japan the best way for scoring better again in judo, when that judo is kept closer to what it was meant to be. Call it application of political 'jû'.
Japan still has some of the best, most insightful and experienced judo contest experts. Satô Nobuyuki and Okano Isao are just two of them. Satô lately has been more prominently featured in AJJF dealings, Okano still is notoriously absent, a painful reminder to one of the greatest judo athletes of all time, sidelined for a picture with a different color of gi, while today top judoka run around in all colors of gi, sometimes different color jacket and pants, and while AJJF officials may have morally done far more to harm Japan's judo reputation than anyone might accuse Okano off. Satô and Okano could be the architects of a new world federation of jûdô. They have the brains, experience, knowledge, insight, instructor and coaching skills.
I must apologize for approaching the argument presented by the original poster in this way, because I do not directly talk about who will be the next +100 kg Japanese representative. I chose to answer in this way, because who ever that person is, I think the problem is more of a virtual nature than of a true nature. Whoever it may be, it won't change a thing. Who represents Japan where today is more a question of romantic thoughts of the past in a time and day when a country such a Georgia is becoming a more significant world player than Japan.(I