This is the Judo blog of Lance Wicks. In this blog I cover mainly Judo and related topics. My Personal blog is over at where I cover more geeky topics. Please do leave comments on what you read or use the Contact Me form to send me an email with your thoughts and ideas.

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Thoughts on the Karo Parisyan podcast and "Elite" Judo. 

This morning I listened to Mike and Gene's podcast with Karo “The Heat” Parisyan, a MMA fighter in the USA.
It was a terrific interview and was very enlightening to me, you should go take a listen over at if you have not heard it already. (theer are a bunch of great podcasts up there for you to listen to).

Anyway... Karo made a really interesting comment; that the quality of Judo competition is way too high! Not too low, too high. He refered to himself as an example, that he is in teh top 3 in MMA, but in Judo he’d only be maybe top 50 or top 75!
Now we can slap ourselves on the back and say how much better Judo is compared to MMA, but then Karyo made the other point I’d like to comment on. Karyo said that in the 16 years he’d been in Judo all he had done was “pay pay pay”, in the few years he’s been in MMA he has gained some fame and a living, as in money to live off.

So there are two issues here that I have discussed with people on many occasions, one is the “elite” element of Judo being so important and also the lack of a viable economy in Judo for athletes.
So lets start with the second point, Karo was apparently at the level of Judo athlete, that was ready to hit the Olympic level. Much like New Zealand All Black rugby player Steve McDowell was at one point apparently invited onto a NZ Olympic squad in Judo. However, both Karo and Steve decided to take the other path and this is for us in the Judo world a bad thing! That is people walking out of our sport, and for every Karo or Steve, I would put money on their being 20-100 lower level athletes who step out of Judo to pursue other sports because there is no future in Judo for them in terms of fame and or fortune.
I know I have thought about it, but we all (and specifically the governing bodies) need to, in my opinion, need to put time, thought, effort and action into! Especially if we consider the first point that Karo made about the extremely high level that the Elite Judoka needs to reach.

Karo, rightly said that the level of the elite Judo athlete is amazingly high, too high.
You can extrapolate from what he said and say that he is a successful MMA fighter but (ARGUEABLY) would never had made the elite level in Judo, let alone top 3 in the world. I know how he feels, I was never good enough to make the Olympic level. And gto be frank, in Judo if you are not of that elite level, you are nothing.
Look at our sports funding and approach, what is dedicated to those amazing few who are that good, how much is dedicated to us the majority who are not ‘that’ good. There is so few of “them” and so many of “us”, so where is my reward, my support to participate in Judo?

Worse, what about the people I meet on a regular basis in Judo who are not necessarily even at my own modest level, the brown belts or the adult novice? The 18 year old dan grade who is good, but not “that” good?
What keeps them in the sport? Where is their, and I steal this term directly from a international level athlete Steve Withers, come successful Judo Coach, where is “My Olympics”? Where are the big events for the rest of us?
Why is there no governing body built series of events for the rest of us?
Why do governing body websites have news stories about the elite players and not about Joe Bloggs winning the area kyu grade championships?
Why do we in Judo focus on the elite so much?
Why are the non-”elite” so looked down on?
Why is the elite so improtant? Maybe the “elite” should be a lower level?

I recently argued this witha World Champion and a European champion, and it got heated. I argued the case that the Olympics are dead for many of us, especially for us from smaller nations. The whole qualification system sucks for Judo, so maybe we should get out of it!
You no longer need to be the best in your country, you have to be better than that!
Small nations that are not good at Judo no longer have the opportunity to attend the Olympic games, they can’t even go, let alone hope for a “lucky throw”. They don’t get to even march into the stadium and enjoy the Olympic experience. That is tragic!
Recently i have been discussing why adult beginners participate and continue to participate in our sport. It is a hard subject as so few of “us” know as a vast majority of adult Judo participants are people who started as kids.
So, we discussed it and recalled why we liked it as kids. For most people it was the competing I think. We love fighting, and we love winning. We hate losing, so the high level of Judo competition is a negative for beginners.

So.... what I have suggested is this, that governing bodies need to develop tournament schedules that cater to the non-elite. A successful example is the Masters circuit which is flourishing! The masters scene is great as it caters to quite a high level but not the elite level (although that seems to be changing and getting higher).
So we need to discover new ways to allow the non-elite player gets to compete at a high level for THEM. Maybe we need to look at lowering the technical/competitive level of competition in Judo.
I have heard the idea suggested of creating “Top 16” events, so that the top 16 ranked players fight in events solely for them. The obvious other to this would be 17-30 events and so forth. This has some big issues as it may actually raise the level even higher, so would need to be carefully managed.
So, what are your thoughts?
Brad Richards 

Hi Lance,

You're probably right - if I could compete against other adult newcomers, I probably would. But there aren't many of us - in our judo club, exactly 2.

As for the money - no easy answers. I can imagine, if one has the potential to be a professional or semi-professional, it is frustrating to see the money thrown at other sports.

Certainly related to money, I am always frustrated that there is zero television coverage of competitions. Even online you can't find much worthwhile - JudoVision is pretty limited. Given the potential of Internet TV, one can hope that eventually every sporting event will be available - there's really no reason not...


Administrator (Lance Wicks) 

Hi Brad,
it is hard in ways for those of us who started as kids to understand what people like yourself want or will enjoy in Judo. To people like me who grew up competing, the competing was/is the love.

The masters scene is as you rightly describe, for people like me, who want to compete again, emphasis on the again.

That said, my opinion is that if there was a good selection of competitions for you to enter at your level, then you too might develop the passion for competing many of us have from our youth.


Your points about the economy of Judo are valid.
I too share the concerns about money ruining Judo.

The hard thing is that when I look at those people who have committed themselves to the hardships required to make it to the elite level and get nothing tangible for it. I have have great sympathy for those who work so hard to be the best Judoka they can be and sacrifice financial security.

Thanks for the comments, much appreciated.

Brad Richards 

I am a relative newcomer to judo, having started at the age of 43 - that's four years ago. Being new to the scene, I can't judge other countries, but here in Switzerland there is a whole array of tournaments for children of all levels. For adults, zilch. Ok, the masters tournaments, but really - they're essentially all black belts, too old for the big tournaments, but I would just make a nice hole in the mat.

On the other hand, coming in as an adult, I don't necessarily feel any need to compete. Randori is fine - I spice it up a bit by visiting other clubs from time to time, so that I go up against different players.

The lack of a judo economy - that is perhaps both a blessing and a curse. If I look at sports such as football, where there is an "economy", the feeding frenzy even at kids levels is just fierce. When referees are getting punched out by irate parents, you know: it's not a sport anymore, it's all about winning. Judo, as a low-money sport, is spared that sort of idiocy.

At the level of the potential professional athlete, I see the problem. But would the solution be worth the price?



Hi Alex,

I strongly believe that we need more competition for all levels of the game.
So people like you can find (easily) events that match your ability, and so that I can find my level. And so that the Elite find their level. :)

Thanks for the comment.


The point about competition for the lower grades is so true.

I am a 35 year old heavyweight novice (I got a yellow belt some years back, then quit, now trying to restart). I don't expect ever to acheive a dan grade, just to do it and enjoy it, and maybe acheive a little bit. But where to compete?

The idea of attending masters events is too inhibiting (too many good players with years of experience under their belt), other competitions seem full of the young 18 year old maniacs, and the temptation is to drift into something that is less brutal on the body.

The heart of judo exists in the sports centres and church hall clubs in the country, and the


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