Traditional Versus Non-Traditional Judo
Over the last several weeks this topic has been ruminating in the back of my brain, partially because of a comment on judoforum after someone had accessed our brand new website. This person who was a black belt in judo reacted in a somewhat negative way to our site: he stated that instead of showing judo going to MMA, it should be the other way around, i.e. MMA going to judo. This, of course, is not practical, or reasonable: mixed martial artists are by definition combining skills from multiple martial arts. They would not go from many to one, unless that one (in this case, judo) were the martial art they started from.
Our club has always had an amalgam of other martial arts: Our previous sempai and sensei had interests ranging from wrestling to aikido. Chris Miller, whom you can see in a number of our videos, practiced kendo for several years. A few years ago, Chris’s wife, Hyekyong, was a member of our class. Her background is in hapkido. Dave practiced the jo for many years and is picking it up again. We had a Korean fellow in our class for a few months who taught us the basics of taekwondo. We’ve all been to jiu jitsu clubs. Perhaps because of our exposure to these other disciplines, we are more apt to discard the judogi and apply our skills to mixed martial arts.
That does not mean that we have abandoned traditional judo. In fact, to advance in our club, no matter the judoka’s previous experience, he or she must follow the curriculum. If people are keen to learn judo and obtain the higher belts, then they must come to the requisite number of classes and be tested for each belt in succession.
If the class members are not interested in traditional judo on a particular day, we are fine with that as well. We teach and re-teach some traditional judo always, though. Breakfalls are crucial. Many people have come into our dojo saying they know breakfalls and that is definitely not the case. Throws and other techniques are taught the traditional way; however, non-traditional methods are also taught.
If a judo club teaches mostly sport judo, then the traditional judo is essential. The judoka who participate in tournaments must all have the same backgrounds in order to compete in the matches. Other than one person in our wee club, we do not compete. We get together to have fun, learn new techniques and practice old ones.
We rarely bow before the dojo or call Dave, “Sensei”, although we used to do both in our old club at Dalewood. I suspect this comes from two years in the Mouse Room. We have no set rules about judogi. If someone wants to come to class and has no gi or a white jiu jitsu top and black pants or any other variation, we’re OK with that. I’m sure that comment will grate on all those in judo-land who are fanatics about white gis (you know who you are). The point of our club is not to wear a certain garment, but to learn and participate. Eventually people serious about working on judo obtain judogi because they are hardy clothes and appropriate for judo techniques. We can show respect to Dave without bowing and calling him, “Sensei”. We can show respect to the dojo without bowing in and out. We do bow before randori or ne waza matches, though.
I’m not certain why North Americans and Europeans feel a need to be so Japanese and so traditional in their attitude in judo. Judo really has not been around very long – 127 years – and yet we treat it and Jigoro Kano with a reverence that’s stifling. If judo is to continue, we must broaden our approach, let other ideas in, basically evolve the martial art. We can take the best of judo and use it in other areas, other disciplines. Traditional boxing is going the way of the dinosaur, being incorporated into mixed martial arts. I think that judo is far more complex than boxing and has far more to offer mixed martial artists; however, judo clubs must loosen the rules a bit. Even the English language adds new words continually; although some are stupid (e.g. “meh”), others embrace changing technologies and workplace situations (e.g. “upskill” – to learn new skills).
You know the old definition of tradition without change? It’s constipation. Change without tradition is not any better. It’s diarrhea. We are proposing to meld traditional judo into a non-traditional sport, that of mixed martial arts, using the best of both.
January 6, 2008