The thought of going to another competition oriented club where over the course of an hour and a half 20 minutes may be spent on actual Judo makes me nauseous. I’m sorry but I’m not interested in doing speed uchikomi or duck walks across the mats or pushups and situps for 45 minutes. In my view they are time wasters to actually doing Judo. Maybe you all think that’s awesome. I don’t. As I’m approaching middle age I’m two steps slower today than I was in my 20’s. There is no speed. My knees aren’t quite what they used to be either. My fitness level is fine as I lift weights in the gym and keep my fitness level high outside of the dojo. Actually, I’ve never been stronger or looked better in my life than I do today.
I don’t know about other areas in my State or around the Country (or around the World for that matter) but I think Judo is in a sorry state of affairs and I’ve only been a part of it for eight years. I know I’m in the minority of that opinion. Judo focuses on the kids and competition. Everything done in Judo revolves around the kids, the next competition, and when competition season is over the off-season is dedicated to competition preparation for next year. Honestly I don’t know how other shodan my age stick with it especially when physical skills are diminishing but Judo skill and real Judo learning isn’t really increasing. I think shiai is important but I don’t think shiai has to happen by traveling hours on end to a place and spending a lot of money on hotels, fuel, food, ect….yet that is how it’s set up. Admittedly my finances have been rocked by a divorce so these are things I think of. Someone who is in their 20’s or happily married may not understand.
Most Judoka around my age have been doing it for years already and have achieved sandan or yodan rank. I started Judo at 32. I would love to be there one day as such a rank implies (or at least should) a level of Judo knowledge I would like to have. My expectations of a yodan is that such a person should be able to teach and demonstrate all 67 throws of Kodokan Judo and should know 3 – 4 kata. That’s where I’d like to be. However, how can I get there if all that is practiced are the throws that work best for competitions? How can I get there if kata is never practiced in my local clubs? As I am a family man traveling 2 -3 years abroad to find such quality instruction is simply not possible.
I never thought I would be the guy who earns his black belt and a few years down the road is out of Judo. I never understood why people were that way. I always thought they were just the kind of people who wanted a “black belt” and then quit because they reached some perceived milestone. Perhaps the real reason many of those quit is because they are faced with the same things I am faced with. Now that I have written all this I’ve come to the realization (yes, at this moment) that this all isn’t just some lament for my Judo life. I know people who are “up there” in Judo circles in the United States are aware of this forum. I hope some of you see this and I hope this serves as a wake-up call to the people in leadership. Judo has so much to offer and it is a wonderful activity that should be something people of all ages find value in. Judo should be uniform in its instruction and inclusive for people of all ages. It is not that in most places. As a matter of fact BJJ is far more inclusive to adults than Judo is. I have known a number of adults who have switched from Judo to BJJ for a variety of reasons yet I know no one (well, no one except for me) who switched from BJJ to Judo and stayed there. Granted I was only a beginner in BJJ when I switched but I saw something in Judo that I thought was beautiful and special. I still think that can still be found in Judo but I also think it’s bastardized by its incessant focus on competition.
So, I hope some of the leaders out there see this. It’ll likely fall on deaf ears but if I truly am done at least I’ll go out letting everyone know Judo has a serious attrition problem. The last tournament I was a part of took place in a banquet hall at a hotel. Years prior the tournament required the expo center because of all the mat space needed for all the competitors. The number of Judo practitioners is clearly dwindling in my area for sure and I would venture to guess in other areas as well.
I really hope no one is offended by anything I have to say here. I think I’m done with Judo for now. I hope it’s not permanent but if it is I’m a better man for spending my time in Judo.