Traditional Vs Sport Judo


Blue Belt
Oct 26, 2001
Reaction score
Central Florida
After being inactive in Judo for many years I read Internet stuff to keep up with the latest happenings and trends. It occurred to me that Judo has lost popularity since the time I was active and I asked a few old Judo buddies if it was true and why would this be. Well, it isnt clear why or even if my impression is right. However, I have seen a renewed interest in jujitsu over the past two decades or so and have known several of my Judo friends who are now practicing some form or the other of jujitsu. I ask them if they had lost interest in Judo. Not so much of a loss of interest, but wanted to get back to more basic Judo they had started off with.

When I first started in Judo we practiced a more traditional style of Judo and more closely associated with jujitsu because we practiced atemi waza as well as many of the so-called dangerous techniques that is left out of sport Judo. I started in 1952 and during those times Judo was a rare as Snipe catches. So, we had no tournaments and consequently no sport Judo. Then some Air Force people when to Japan to train at the Kodokan and some even came back as black belts in Judo. They began to teach us young whiper-snappers. :cool:

When I joined the Air Force in 1959 one of my drill instructors was a nidan Judo and one of the victims in boot camp with me was a Nisei by the name of Mas Yama****a. He was a spitting image of Hayward Nishiyoka and I always thought that Mas was indeed Hayward! Anyway, since I was already playing Judo then I fell in with them and began a long career in the military side of Judo. What I had experienced was no longer the jujitsu type Judo, but more of the sport variety. I continued to practice for over twenty years after that and just got tired of all the politics and BS that goes along with being old sensei, so I drifted away from it. :eek:

I think now that many of the old gang did the same thing because their names slowly dropped out of sight and I then began to see them connected with more traditional forms of the Art. I wonder if we all should have broken away from the major organizations back then and just gone off doing more jujitsu and recreational Judo before quitting altogether. :confused:
I tried out a Jujitsu place in town and Judo place. I went with the Judo. Maybe they didn't teach the full locks etc the Jujitsu place taught but they came damn close and on top of that the randori was at full speed and time rather than "pretend" and I dig that.

The teacher will respect Judo Ontario/Canada/America whatever and give rank based on their tournament system but he prefers to give it himself for mat time and skill. Which means it takes you about 10 to 12 years with him before you get to black. But after looking at other clubs and such i have asertained that his style is more "traditional" as well.

Sport is where the money is I guess. Until that changes people will go to Jujitsu hoping to get the self defence aspects for those that like it. As I said, this guy prefers the fighting aspect and when I compared the traditional JJ to his Judo I was certain that his traditional Judo was better for me.

That and the Judo guy's white belts would basically be able to slap a dress on the JJ guy's student's and call them sally and there wouldn't be a damn thing that they could do about it.
10 or 12 years seems like a long time. In the bad old days we would fight opponents in batsugan to earn a rank. I think we had to defeat at least six equal or better ranks in a certain time limit. However, a demonstration of knowledge was also required at times. In other words, one just didnt walk into a place and beat up six guys and get promoted, it was a set procedure. I won over five guys at the Kodokan the first attempt in batasugan then returned to defeat some more and did a kata demonstration. That was for shodan. By the time I had nidan and so on they had done away with batsugan, so it was partially political demonstration, er, oops, testing by some higher dans an that is where the BS was. It took me 9 years for nidan and two for sandan. I putzed around for 10 years before yodan, but by then I could have cared less about ranks and that. The only reason I even accepted the rank was that you have to be yodan in Japan/Okinawa to be a teaching assistant. I had three large Judo clubs in several states when I was shodan but heck, not many Judoka were higher in rank back then anyway. It became a big political game during the 1960s and never quite ended.
I just show up because I like to roll.

I have been showing up from everywhere from 2-3 times a week to 1 time a month for 2 years. I think I'm wearing him down. The other day I mentioned to him when he was telling another student how long I had been doing this, "Has it been that long? Wow! Maybe this year I'll hit yellow belt...I feel pretty lucky tonight!"

He then proceeded to lump me up.

For such a happy guy he really can be humourless at times...
Is there anyway to minimize healing time? Really, this is just silly, I was caught all over the place in armbars last night because I couldn't bend my elbow right. It's been a few weeks at least since the injury occured. I know that my continued use of it isn't making it better faster but this is %$#@ing me off.

Any old Judo tricks you picked up in your travels?
A certain amount of competition has always been a part of Judo. In Japan, Okinawa and the like, there were plenty of dojos around so they would have enter-club contests we called kohaku shiai (red-white contest). It was really one dojo against the other and each side would line up according to rank. The lowest rank on each team would begin to contest and the winner would stay up and fight until defeated. Sooner or later there would be only one Judoka left standing. It was at times a bloody affair. Oh yeah, there was a full workout with randori before the shiai, so everyone would be sweating plenty.

The idea was to exhaust everyone until they only had pure technique to use. When those concepts were lost on this country is a mystery. Before 1964, the first Olympic Judo, the USA was second in the world. A good many of the good competitors were Air Force people because Gen. LeMay made sure many of his airmen were training I at the Kodokan and when we would get together we would always be next below the Japanese on many of the shiai.

Another thing, we were required to learn kata back then. It is a mystery how many of my colleagues ever made it to shodan simply because IMO they couldnt do the first two kata with any skill what so ever. They are not hard to learn and perform and are great learning tools. It would be hard for me to accept that karate people would practice their art without doing a lot of kata and that should be the same with Judo people. But, that may be why he USA does so poorly in international competition. After watching the 2001 Olympics Judo I saw more standing techniques than before and some few real good techniques, but it was still slop Judo no matter how you cut it. I do not believe what some have said, that even our old gang back in the 1950s could not have done better. That is pure bovine excrement. Some of he Judoka I knew back then could tear off the head of most anyone around in Judo in those days. They were some very rough people and didnt take kindly to loosing.

Anyway, just some musing and thoughts from an old fart Judo guy.

:asian: :)
Also, back in the 1950s and 60s some of us that learned and practiced in the Far East would return home and start up Judo clubs, build them to a decent number of members, and turn them over to an assistant. After I returned form Okinawa to Westover AFB, Mass. I joined in with some great SAC Judo players and worked out a lot with them. Since I was gone a lot, TDY, I would seek out Judo clubs at the AF bases and continued to work out. That way I had a lot of exposure to many Judo instructors and made a lot of friends along the way. Every base I went to had a fairly large Judo club, but that changed after I left the Air Force a few years later. No support from the brass.

I would guess I worked out in about 100 Judo clubs both in the Far East and USA, then a couple in Germany. Many a friend along the way. Judo brings together people and helps make friends. It changed sometime in the late 1970s, so now people probably dont remember us. Not many friends still alive either.

:asian: :shrug:
It's nice to have someone from the old old school tell us what it was like back in the day.
If anyone has questions please ask becasue it may bring back memories, maybe interesting memories of Judo I have thought about in years.
I posted the yellow curriculum. Is that similar to what you guys used to do?
It's been too long for me to remember what that was. I will look it up in some old material. Funny, I was there when we first setup the requirements and helped engineer the books and testing, but can't remember much about it now.

Many of my clubs was made up of kids and it was routine for them to get yellow belt after a few months. I let the assistant(s) take care of the rank stuff. As long as you cold demonstrate ukemi, several throws from the go kyo, and some mental masturbation stuff you would get a yellow belt. Memory stuff like who founded Judo, when and where, etc., how to say in Japanese stickem up sensei! :D
Hi guys. Just followed Gou over from RMA. Jeff, didn't you put up some posts there a while ago? Some good war stories...

Gou, where do you train in London? I get out there some weekends, and I wouldn't mind finding a decent club to drop by the occasional Saturday.

Yeah, in he past I have -- old war stories. That is all I can write about these days. Actually, while raking up pine needles this afternoon I did do part of Hinon shodan :) That may not be the right title, it was the one where we had to do for shodan. Anyway, my wife though I had gone mad!
Officially the only school I train at is the Bujutsu Judo club but mostly I get together with my techer at his house or at my place in THE DOG POUND :hammer:
Sometimes I might make it out to Olympic Karate Kenpo Arnis studios.
I get to Toronto once or twice a month too to see Vlad the systema guy. Where are you training Graham?
Actually, I'll be in Toronto next tuesday at a Leaf game! Wooo-hoo!:boing1:
Welcome to the board, Graham674! Like you, I came over from the dark side that was RMA. I had been avoiding RMA for several years, due to the lack of any posts of any real substance. I saw Kaith's post on RMA advertising this board and have been a loyal convert ever since. I think you'll find the quality of information shared here to be far better then what passes for posts on RMA these days!


Hey gents...

Gou, sorry to pick your brains here (when a phone call would probably get the info), but does the Bujutsu club have Saturday classes? I need a place to get away from my in-laws, erm, get some extra training done when I'm in London...

So do you actually have tatami at your place!? Lucky (ahem) dog!

I'm at the U of T club myself. It's good one. Lots of good, experienced instructors. And not too many cement-heads with chips on their shoulders, either.

Jeff, don't tell me that your wife isn't used to it by now! :D Mine at least went so far as to get her yellow belt, so she doesn't get too weirded out. I was pretty interested in what you had to say about testing by batsugan (sp.?). I'd never even heard of it until you mentioned it. These days I think it's pretty much a given that you have to have competition wins to get black belt, but nothing like what you describe. I'm ikkyu myself, but I don't know when I'm going to get the time to train for promotion. Real life does get in the way, unfortunately. First task is to get nage no kata down, because my sloppy technique would sure benefit from it!

Cthluhu, I agree the signal-to-noise ratio on RMA is pretty bad. I enjoy it for the insights you get into how some other MA's think. But most of the time, well, see under cement-heads above...


JG, Is that U of T for Texas or Tennessee?

My wife after 37 years still thinks Im nutty :D She was in one of our Judo clubs back in the 1960s and was sankyu. However, she hates camping and Judo :eek:

Batsugun is a term I think means grade contesting that is done for promotions. In the 1950s and into the early 1960s the Kodokan and the JBBF (now USJF) required for shodan that you defeat six ikkyu consecutively within six months, or other contest point arrangements with longer time constraints and so on. Also, batsugun is used in conjunction with testing, in which a demonstration of the gokyo-no-waza is required and to perform uki and tori in nage-no-kata and katame-no-kata. It is probably not used anywhere now days.

Many years later I was no longer required to shiai, but had a lot of service points (teaching and organizing stuff, refereeing, etc.) and testing for yodan. I was obligated to perform those techniques as before with a higher skill level, plus skills in kappo and greater skill in the two kata mentioned before.

Real life does get in the way, unfortunately is most certainly true. That caused me to slow up my activities for years. My family did accompany me to Judo classes. I would have at least three clubs going all the time and my son trained at each one. Daddys boy :) He's 6'2" now and I look up to him!

Unless things have chaged drastically, there is not requirement for ju-no-kata for shodan. It is a great kata to learn and is mostly performed by women. I learned it from Marie Wick, a national champion and later on a big shot in the USJI kata section. She was very good and taught well.
In the 1960s American Judo was probably at its highest skill level since the early 1950s when Gen. LeMay pushed SAC into sending people to Japan for competition and training. We ended the 1960s in dismal failure in international competition and have never quite returned to the level we were once at. :confused: There are many reason for this, but IMO we were among the highest levels in Judo techniques in the world just could not supply the competitors that was necessary for that kind of stuff.

In 1965 or 1966 Sumiyuki Kotani (kudan 9th dan) came to visit our Judo club at Bergstrom AFB, Texas and was pleased with our progress. He was the Chief of the Foreign Section for the Kodokan and traveled to many countries checking on his flock. Many of us trained under him at the Kodokan from the early 1950s onward. Kotani was the last 10th dan at the Kodokan and they never seemed to promote anyone after him when he passed away in 1984.:(

Kotani was there for a special event, the retirement of our local sensei, Roy Moore, who we called Pop. Pop Moore was a student of Jigoro Kano himself and the stepfather of Mel Bruno, the founder of Air Force Judo. Mel was the first American to attain godan and was the first Air Force combative measures units manager. I think Hal sharp was also a godan then, and maybe Don Dreager, who made godan soon afterward. My memory is foggy in all this so dont hold me to it.

When I first met Kotani it was in 1960 and during that year I went to Japan from Okinawa to train at the Kodokan and at times to Yakoda AFB for 5th. Air Force tournaments. Some friends pushed me to go over there to do batsugun and I did. After the shiai I did the required test under Kotani and he signed my paper. Anyway, he remembered me while visiting us at Bergstrom. He just had a great memory -- I was not all that special. Kotani was bestowed the rank of judan or 10th dan by the Kodokan in the early 1980s and then passed away in 1984. He was a true friend to American Judo and was universally liked.

While my training has always been to reject pride it was never the less a source of personal pride that Kotani was my sensei and master over my shodan promotion. :asian:
Hi Jeff.

Toronto, Canada. Y'know, where the annoying tourists come from. ;) My wife would actually like to keep studying judo, but right now she's too busy being a mom. Maybe in a year or so...

When you first described batsugun, I thought you meant you had to defeat 6 opponents of your level during the test! Was I wrong? On top of everything else, that would be exhausting!

I'm a little unclear about the current requirements for shodan. A couple of guys I know are going to test for it this year, so I hope to benefit from their experience. I do know you have to have a basic number of points from shiai, service, time as a member of the governing body, etc. before you can test. Other than that, you have to know the Gokyo, Shimmeisho no Waza, Katame Waza and all of Nage no Kata. (I should have said Nage no Kata before - slip of the keybard there). Of course you have to be able to use these in randori, not just demonstrate them. So it doesn't sound too different from what you're describing. I don't know about politics, but I hope that's not too much of a factor.

I've never seen Ju no Kata outside of books. It looks like it teaches useful principles. However, I think that these days most students concentrate very much on randori, and only want training that gives an immediate return for that. Kata is not much in fashion these days. The view is that only fighting teaches fighting!