Where has all the Judo gone?

11:39 PM Moo 0 Comments

I read an article today about a new decision the IJF has made prohibiting ranked Judo athletes from competing in BJJ and other similar grappling tournaments. I have long debated Black belt Judokas, competing at white belt levels in tournaments where they clearly have an unfair advantage, but never considered what would happen if restrictions were placed on ranked Judokas as a whole.

This week the IJF sent an official email to schools worldwide saying their ranked athletes may not compete in these other tournaments. My initial feeling, is that this is not a positive move and in the end will really damage IJF and Judo as a whole.

It sounds as if it is an attempt to revive Judo by encouraging and promoting Judo as a spectator sport on the same level as Jiu Jitsu. Martial arts forums are full of speculation that this is to eliminate the spectacle of defeat of high level Judo practitioners by Wrestlers and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes. Is it an attempt to save face?  It is an argument I hear often "Bjj is better than Judo because...." or "Judo is superior because...." These need not be thought of strictly as competition but rather as two sides of the same coin, two facets of martial arts. One only need look at the success of top performing athletes in other areas like MMA (ie Ronda Rousey) to see that cross discipline training is highly successful.

What are the possible outcomes?

1. Discouraging cross training and the study of judo under IJF at a high level. The most exciting matches I watch in BJJ are often those where the fighter is skilled in more than one discipline. I look forward to seeing a Judoka take on someone with an excellent ground game or a wrestling background etc.. Will this official rule lead to a shortage of developed, ranked Judo athletes?  This move is not likely to eliminate everyone with Judo background from competing but will it make an already sparse pool even thinner? Will the focus become Olympic Judo?

On the opposite end of the spectrum....

2. A mass migration of very high level Judo athletes into IBJJF tournaments. It's no secret that IJF certainly doesn't have the same popularity or pay ability that IBJJF currently has. A friend of mine and a Judo practitioner himself, suggested that we may be seeing more high level Judo coming into BJJ tournaments and honestly why not? The reward is greater as well as the base. Will this create new champions? Shift the rankings? Force high level BJJ competitors to focus more on their stand up? All of these prospects sound exciting, but it begs the question... what happens to Judo?

Does it become watered down? Will the changes to Judo Ne Waza tournaments make Judo a more popular, spectator friendly sport? You decide. What do you think of the new rules?