The More Things Change.......

Good point Sothy.

"How do we find those few individuals that will spend a lifetime in judo?"

The answer is the same for judo as it is for wrestling. France got judo into the school system. France wins a lot of medals in judo.

Wrestling is in the American school system. America wins a lot of medals in wrestling.

Judo in high school is needed for Americans to win more than just the occasional medal in judo.

Hi Quincy,

Regarding the formality issue, the other side of that argument is that many parents put their kids in judo and other martial arts because of that formality. They think its like a form of discipline.

Which brings me back to the reason I posted those excerpts.

The arguments about why judo isn't popular have been going on for years. Those articles could have been written last month and still been equally relevant.

Anyone who has spent a good part of their life involved in the sport has thought about how to increase the popularity of the sport, different ideas get implemented, yet the sport doesn't grow any faster than the general population.

I started thinking really hard about this the last few years. I guess part of it was the realization that I wasn't gonna be competing much, didn't have an interest in teaching (or the time), but wanted to help the sport grow.

After putting alot of time into thinking about it, hearing other ideas, observing successful programs, I've come up with this conclusion,

Judo is doomed to be a niche activity. Any hopes or aspirations to develop judo into a sport for the masses will end in disappointment.

It is a harsh reality and most won't accept it. NGB's, yudanshakais, etc. will come up with plans and long term goals to grow the sport exponentially and they will fail.

The question should no longer be "How do we encourage judo participation among the masses?" The question we should ask is "How do we find those few individuals that will spend a lifetime in judo?"

When we start asking the right questions, we will come up with the right answers for American judo.


Getting judo into the school system nationwide? Hmmm. I wonder why nobody ever thought of that. Actually, I've got a better idea. Why not make it a federal crime to not enroll your kids in judo by the age of 7? Punishable by 20 years in prison and 100,000 dollar fine. I bet that would increase the enrollment!

And it would be just as realistic as judo becoming part of the educational curriculum across this country. Sure, there will be some programs out there. Hawaii even has some intramural high school programs, but it isn't prevalent throughout the system and it won't ever be.

A comparison between the USA and France doesn't make very much sense. Totally different cultures--as the French will be more than glad to tell you.

But lets examine how wildly popular judo really is in France. France has a total population of 60 million. They have between 100,000 and 200,000 registered judokas (low and high estimates I've seen). So at the low end 1/6th of 1 percent of the population practices and at the high end 1/3 of 1 percent are judoka. Also remember despite its inclusion in the school curriculum, The level of registered judokas in France hasn't really changed in nearly 30 years (despite a huge increase in population)

This in a country where:

1) Judo is a part of the school curriculum according to you.

2) Not as many professional sports or pastimes as in the United States.

3) The Olympics and amatuer sports are a much bigger deal.

So if in a country like France, where the conditions for success are significantly greater than we have over here, the best they can do is get 1/3rd of 1 percent of their population to do judo--and this percentage has been going down over the last 30 years.

Sounds like nichedom to me.

hi goldenrude,

Thanks for the clarification on the school curriculum thing. I had a feeling Sothy wasn't right about that.

Yeah, France has a great judo program in comparison to most of the world. Amatuer sports in France are a much bigger deal than they are here. Easier to breed success in that type of environment.

But my concern is the development of judo in the USA. I don't think France's model has much to offer for that.

PS, I thought cycling was the 2nd most popular sport in France, with soccer being the most popular.

Judo in the school system ?

At this minute i'm still living in France, and we don't have Judo in school (well not in the curriculum)...

We have all kind of sport in university, but never before (college and all).

We got good results in Judo (well last time was bad, only 2 gold medals, the press was going wild against us because of this, it was considering as shameful), maybe because black belt are harder to get (take longer), because we are a Judo nation, Judo is like Wrestling for the US. Kawaishi was the main man in french Judo and he had an approch like Kosen Judo. But now we are mostly olympic style, but with more ground work (it seem) than in the US.

We also have a lot of clubs, i'm living in 5000 peoples town and we still have a very good Judo club.
The small town near us, with 1500 peoples has a Judo club too !

Judo comp are aired live here, as it is the third sport beside Soccer and Rugby.

BTW Demonfautcon has the best Tomo Nage right now :)

So wrestling does good because they are in the school system, but judo CAN'T grow within the school system?

What did I miss?

Across the US there are different programs in different school districts. Hmmm, I guess making judo a part of that is out of the question?

I think the same problem exists for judo as it does for MANY other things in life. People are quick to dismiss others' ideas without offering solutions of their own.
In the private sector (and in many others) this is called being part of the problem.

If no one has been able to come up with the "right" solution in all these years, could it be because we are not willing to try some things? Some perfectly sane and reasonable ideas?

judo guy, could you explain why it seems to be out of the question for judo to grow within the school system?


Forgot to address the wrestling issue.

Yeah, Americans do pretty damn good in wrestling. And wrestling is in our school systems. And you know what? Wrestling is a niche sport over here too. It's just a bigger niche than judo (bigger niche is that an oxymoron?).

How many people do you know that continue training in wrestling after high school? 99% of the guys that train after high school are training because they are now in a college program or some other elite program. I don't have any figures, but I imagine there are more recreational judo players over the age of 30 than there are recreational wrestlers over that age. Ancedotal, but I've run into more practicing judoka over 30 than practicing wrestlers over 30 during social gatherings outside of training. Because wrestling practice is tougher than judo practice, I imagine that is why the numbers dwindle dramatically as you get older.

In the average high school, a very small percentage of the kids go out for the wrestling team in most places. Even the big schools out here, usually forfeit 1-2 matches. Some of the kids who go out for wrestling are just football players trying to stay in shape off season.

If you've ever been part of a booster club at a High School because of a wrestling team (I had been for 5 years), you'll find out very quickly that wrestling is at the bottom of the heap when it comes to doling out the money. Football, basketball, baseball, and soccer are a much bigger priority.

hi felipe123,

I think you're having a hard time comprehending or I'm having a hard time explaining.

Either way, you are going to have to get the stars out of your eyes to read this post :)

My first post dealt with National goals for U.S. judo. The American Judoman was a publication of the USJA, and part of of the second article I quote, dealt with NATIONAL GOALS FOR JUDO.

As a national goal, getting judo into the school curriculums is ridiculous. Yet, everybody talks about it. Sure there might be pockets of success (and I did point out judo programs in some of the Hawaiian schools) but they will be few and far between. School systems are run from the local level for the most part. There isn't going to be federal legislation ever passed that will get judo into the school systems.

So, I hope that answers your question about growing judo through the school systems. It just ain't gonna happen.

Secondly, as I pointed out with wrestling, even when all the stars are aligned right, grappling sports are a niche activity. Can we significantly increase the number of judokas? Sure, but there seems to be an illusion that judoka hold, that judo can become as popular as TKD or karate. How many times have you heard the question asked (in frustration usually), "how come there is a karate studio on every block, but you can't find a judo school?" As if there was a market for a judo school on every corner.

The sad thing is, most judoka think judo has the potential to be as popular as other martial arts.

No amount of effort will make judo as popular as TKD or karate. If that's being part of the problem, well call me Trouble! If you believe that isn't true, then you have a complete misunderstanding of the market for judo. To quote one of my favorite actors, Al Pacino, "Stop deluding yourself!"

Hi all; new to the forum, been lurking, but felt I needed throw something in here:

1. Never underestimate the power of "not invented here" attitude: Judo was not invented here, but wrestling has was (sort of/ so to speak; you see my point I hope); Judo has cultural differences, etc.

2. Having lived in Europe, I can say that Europeans are much more "individual sport" oriented, whereas Americans are more "team sport" oreinted (in general).

An example, other than Judo, is windsurfing: extremely popular in Europe, niche sport in USA. Americans even invented windsurfing, and it's still not that popular!

My 2 cents.

Perhaps the idea of choking and armlocking your opponent in competition and the threat of injuries, and hence lawsuits, is what prevents judo from becoming a varsity sport in American high schools? People hear judo and automatically think "martial art" and immediately characterize it with Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee movies and violent actions. If they only knew what real judo was about....

I don't know where he was going to class but i can assure you that's it's not the case in 99.9 % of the schools there.

Hi Dallas Judoka,

Welcome to the forum. Hope you feel like participating more going forward. Some good thoughts.

Definitely some truth there, but I don't think they are deciding factors why judo lacks popularity. Though, certainly the "not invented here" attitude is a huge hurdle for scholastic sports, TKD has penetrated the American psyche, though it was introduced here only 30 or so years ago. In fact TKD has taken the entire world by storm, so its appeal seems to be universal.

Here is the simple truth. We, as judoka, have lied to ourselves for too long. Until we accept the limitations on its appeal to the masses, we are doomed to spend too much time trying to attract the wrong students.

That's a hard thing for me to say. You see, in my gut I feel that judo has so much to offer everyone. I honestly believe that it is the best martial sport in the world.

From the Kodokan all the way down to the local yudanshakai everyone says that judo is a sport to be enjoyed by all. It should appeal to the 5 year old as well as the 55 year old. Judo has something for everyone. Because we believe that, we give them the gi, put them on the mat, start teaching them and over 90 percent of the time, they are gone in less than a year. So what happened? Is it the instructor or the schools fault? Sometimes it is, but most of the time it couldn't be avoided.

You see judo, despite what they tell you, IS NOT made for everyone. In fact, I think it is MADE FOR HARDLY ANYONE. Not many people, are ready for the mental and physical commitment it takes to become good at judo.

Time for a cursory look at it.

Lets examine the mental reasons first. The reason most people enjoy team sports more than individual sports is because they don't have to face the fear of being out there all on their own to fail or succeed. They find comfort in sharing the blame or credit for victory or defeat with others.

Patience and the ability to deal with frustration is very important for judo. Not many people can deal with the slow progress they achieve in judo. Maybe that's part of American culture and maybe its not. But most people leave the sport way before they had any chance to develop real skills.

Physically, we already know how tough it is and no reason to spend time on that. But overlooked, is the fact that most people hate any kind of physical contact with people. Judo requires us to have close contact with others. Many people won't enjoy judo simply because they are uncomfortable with that closeness.

I could go on, but I'm starting to bore myself. Anyway, I hope you get the idea.

re: judo in french high schools

we had a french guy at work for a while. he told me that the two main sports at his high school were judo & tennis, and that they were part of the curriculum. unfortunately, he was a tennis player.

Good points by dallas judoka. no realistic martial art will ever be wildly popular here. judo, bjj, boxing, thai boxing - they all hurt! you have to be a little bit nuts to enjoy them. To go to work with a black eye or a gi burn on your head, to spend a half hour with your head jammed in somebody's arm pit, or to spend your spare time having some fat guy sweat on you, you have to be a little bit out there. I was in court once (its OK, I'm a lawyer) and the judge called us to sidebar to ask me what the hell happened to my head.

Now, I think these sports can be more popular than they are, but I don't want to bring up the "hard randori" issue again. and of course, Coach Tripp has a good point about development. but its a niche activity and will always be that way. I think that if you changed it enough to make it popular, then it would not be judo. just my $.02.

It is really easier than all of that.

What if EVERY person who played tennis was
EXPECTED to play at a national level or people
would ignore them?

What if everyone interested in Golf was ignored
unless they made the PGA?

The answer is in there.....

Just a couple of things:

First, thanks for the welcome.

Second, I worked with a Frenchman when I lived in Europe, and he did Judo in school, but only when he was younger (similar to our grade school level)

Next, I would like to address the point brought up about TKD and the popularity it enjoys. If Judo must go the way of TKD to become popular, then it is not worth it. I have seen some excellent TKD blackbelts, but I have also seen a LOT of really mediocre ones. I think the average level ot TKD instruction is mediocre as well; that's the price you pay when you turn out as many BB's as possible and open a school on nearly every corner. I have my problems with the mindset of some TKDers too: I have seen more then one TKD BB come to our club with the attitude that we didn't really have anything we could teach them; and I have seen more than one never come back after a white belt chokes them out. Not bashing, just my perception, and not what I want Judo to become.

Also, let's face it: Judo is hard (i.e. difficult); it hurts at times, you are sore for a few days, you sweat a lot, it's aerobically challenging, it takes strength and agility. Judo will build these things if you stick with it, but it's easy to get discouraged. You don't punch or kick at air; Judo doesn't allow you to fool yourself into thinking your technique is good enough if it isn't. TKD is a lot easier to take up. It's definitely easier to find! I live in the Dallas area, and there are only a handful of Judo clubs.

Finally, I must disagree with Mr. Tripps point: I don't think people turn away from Judo because they think they will get ignored unless they compete at a high level.

My dad gave me some old American Judoman magazines from the 60's and 70's. I was glancing through them tonight and read some of the editorials.

From the Sept/Oct 1968 issue;

"Retention in the martial arts in America is practically non-existent. At least 10, perhaps 25 juodists or karateka start practice for every one who stays with it, even one year......Right now France, Belgium, Burma, and Indonesia have full teams training in Japan. We have none. Anyone can see that we are going to slip even lower on the international ladder unless we can retain some students long enough to train them"

"What is the answer? We'll start by saying it's no good taking a negative attitude and saying that Americans are just too damn lazy to do anything. The facts prove otherwise. In swimming, basketball, and track, to mention three of the best, America tops the world in the Olympics. If thousands of young Americans can practice daily in those sports, why not in judo? The truth is that when they are properly motivated, American kids are the most dedicated and energetic in the world. How can we motivate them?"

From the Nov/Dec 1971 issue;

National Goals for Judo

"We can state the seven major goals of U.S. Judo as follows:

1) Increase the knowledge and ability of our Judo referees and judges.

2) Increase the technical standard of all teachers and students by close adherance to our excellent junior and senior rank system requirements.

3) Train our U.S. International Judo Teams more adequately.

4) Get Judo into our schools.

5) Get Judo into our colleges.

6) Build the National Judo Institute (this actually did happen)

7) Increase women's judo many times over."

*This was the 5 year plan back in 1971

Any of this sound vaguely familiar?

Yea but in Judo we slam dunk people!

If Judo wasnt so formal,I think americans would like it more..</p>Personally,I think thats why bjj is so popular when it shows up everywhere....Its basicly judo with a kick ass attitude and americans love to kick ass....Even College basketball payers scream when they dunk the ball,I guess its the only way for a 7 footer to feel tough when he weighs a buck seventy....:)