Judo in the Age of ‘Nothing Works’

Judo was my sport in college. And today, 50 years later, I can’t imagine how those stern Japanese referees could have ever let judo turn into the parody of itself that it has become today. I realize I may be the only one who thinks like this; but it really bugs me.

So here’s how they demonstrate a basic judo throw.

In most of these videos, the guy who’s gonna do the throw launches into this enormous windup that telegraphs his intention from a mile away. In so doing, he puts himself way off balance–doubtless counting on his opponent to just stand there wondering about the meaning of life. I think, even after all this time away from judo, I could still dump someone onto his face before he finished his windup.

Here is a video from the Kodokan, the authoritative institute of judo, demonstrating the same throw without the goofy windup.

Even worse than the telegraphed throws is the fannying-about that takes place now at the start of many judo matches. I guess they call it “showmanship.” In 1970 the referees would have called it, “You are expelled from this tournament.”

I can’t imagine what my Kodokan-trained teacher would have done if I’d try to start a match by warm-up conniptions and slapping at the other guy’s hands. Whatever he did to correct me, it would have been severe.

But what else can you expect from an age in which cricket matches in England now have… oh, it pains me to say it!… cheerleaders?

4 comments on “Judo in the Age of ‘Nothing Works’

  1. Sadly, the same thing has happened with Taekwondo. They are more interested in making it exciting to watch for spectators, with crazy looking (but completely pointless in a real fight) kicks and spins. The worst part is, all those showy moves leave the athletes more prone to serious injury over time, twisting and stretching the body in ways it’s not meant to go. My daughter needed hip surgery when she was only 14. Though she had been one of the top competitors nationally in her age bracket and had even gotten onto the Olympic team, she decided not to go back after her recovery. She would have had to trash her body to stay in it, and decided that wasn’t worth it. Can’t say that I blame her. The amount of corruption and politics that go on behind the scenes is staggering, too. Kind of glad we’re out of that world.

    1. My sword sensei mourned the debauching of the martial arts: people coming into his dojo because they wanted to learn “them jumpin’, spinnin’ kicks like in the movies.”

      All of these arts used to be taken as serious business–acquiring skills that could save your life. And it all got turned to Show Biz.

      Learning fake kicks is not going to help you at all when the bad guy comes for you.

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