Judo’s Popularity in America.


A recent post on the Judo Forum was discussing the popularity of Judo in America:

Mmm, let me see…Do I sign up to that Judo class where I’m going to get thrown all over the place, strangled nearly to death, my arms locked into painful holds and I am actually going to sweat like a horse every class and then drag myself home in all sorts of pain…?

Or do I sign up with that TKD place down the road, where all they do is learn some fancy kicks and some fancy hand blocks and every couple of months everybody gets a new belt promotion (about fifteen of them) with minimal effort and hardly any sweat at all, and I can get my black belt in about two to three years, as compared to that Judo place where it will take at least seven to ten years…? Wow, what a choice!  (Posted by: ‘Kodokanjudo‘, Sandan)

A brilliant synopsis of the problem facing American Judoka! We aren’t state sponsored like other countries (France comes to mind), nor do we have any cultural aspects that would encourage martial arts - we are, after all, the country that favors the cowboy mentality; knives, pistols, rifles, and all.

Judo in America will always be a word of mouth sort of thing - you need to drag your friends into the class - there’s simply no other way. Giving demonstrations at schools and organizations is another way. Let’s face it, Judo demonstrations can be entertaining, and events are always looking for free entertainment!

There are, however, corresponding advantages that Judoka don’t think about… considering that we are, for the most part, non-profit, we have no particularly great incentive to retain students to pay the rent. So we don’t have to ‘water down‘ the class, we can go as ‘hard & sweaty’ as we want to. We don’t have to ‘coddle’ anyone, you’re there to learn Judo, and the Sensei is there to teach you - not babysit. If we were in the same boat as the strip mall McDojo’s, we’d have to drastically water down Judo in order to pay the bills.

That’s not to say that Judo clubs are all military academies, gruff and uncaring… just that we don’t have any impediments to actually teaching Judo. I’d hate to have to consider the money flow as important as the training - and in Judo, that’s usually not a consideration. So we do have compensating advantages in Judo. But popular, we’ll never be.