The Ideal Judo ‘Career’…


I’ve always had this concept of what a Judo ‘career’ should consist of.  You start Judo sometime before you reach your teen years (or certainly early in your teens, as I did).  Begin to win a tournament or two here and there… get your brown belt while still in High School.  Earn your Shodan in competition by your freshman year in college.  Begin competing at the national level…

And peak at whatever level your natural talent and drive will allow for in your late 20’s to early 30’s.

Now that competition is over - you begin to train others as you yourself were trained - bringing back to Judo for others what you yourself learned from it.  (Now is the time to go back and pick up the kata you missed out on while competing.)  Time to begin learning to referee at tournaments.

Yet now as the years go by - virtually everything I’ve imagined is wrong.  I’m teaching adults who first stepped into a dojo at the age of 50.  I’m learning from referees who never did serious competition.  I’m learning, for the first time - that not everyone fits into a neat mold.

Yes, it was wonderful to do Judo at an age when my physical attributes allowed me to do anything my mind could imagine… but not everyone has that opportunity.  Are they any less Judoka for it?  I wouldn’t say so.

Although Judo is practiced against others - the real battle is always with yourself.  And this is just as true with a 50 year old stepping into the dojo for the first time as it was for me earning my shodan at the All Marine Corps Judo tournament so long ago.

So there is no ‘ideal’ Judo career.  For every Yasuhiro Yamashita, there’s a ‘Joe Schmo’ in smalltown, USA - who loves Judo just as much as anyone.  And as much as envy competitors such as Jimmy Pedro, I’m just as proud of my achievements, such as they are.

Speaking of achievements - one of our Encino Judo Club’s Ikkyu’s just beat a Sandan in a recent tournament by ippon.  Okurierijime, to be precise.  An achievement to remember for the rest of his life!!  I must admit to never having as great a victory over such a disparity in rank… (again, someone else to envy!!)