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On Judo clubs and Judo societies. 

Judo Societies or Judo clubs?

Today I want to try and articulate a series of recurring thoughts I have been having lately. These thoughts have consumed quite a few cycles in my brain and I wanted to put them "out there" for your consideration, contemplation and recommendations. This is really a case of me trying to crystalize my thinking in words, so do comment on them, but be gentle.

So, here we go…

Judo is a sport, it is more than sport. In fact "More than sport" is the slogan of the European Judo Union. And they are right, Judo so fantastic, it is an exciting sport. It is a sport that tests the body, mind and spirit of all that play it. Be they great olympic champions or novices in their first match.

Judo gives those who do it all the great things that sport offers. Areas like personal enjoyment, personal growth, social integration, and social change (M. Csikszentmihalyi. 1982). That is not to exclude the physical benefits of sport.

Judo offers, as the EJU slogan says, "More than sport". Judo's culture promotes self-discipline, respect, honor and much much more.


Is Judo a sport everywhere? I would argue no; not everywhere. I compare Judo to other sports and notice some oddities. Lets start with the British Judo Association.

The BJA offers no inter-club competition structure. It does encourage individual participation in events, but there is no effort put into encouraging clubs form competing against one another.

Equally, if I look at my local area Hampshire, it offers only 4 competitions per year usually. And not all of those happen or are suitable for all Judoka in Hampshire.

Part of the reason for this I guess is because many clubs don't participate in the events on offer. This is partly because the events are too far away or not appropriate for the players in the clubs.

The lack of events is I suspect a symptom rather than anything else.

However, part of it is also that the clubs are not offering the sport of Judo. Many are solely there for the training. Clubs teach Judo techniques, but how many compete against other ?

This for me is where the real problems/concerns start.

In Judo we use terms like "Club" and "Coach" and "Player". Club is a pretty generic term which covers sports clubs and of course poetry clubs, etc. Universities have had this issue of definition for some time and they have done quite well at deciding that clubs and societies are different things. CLubs being sports related, having matches, competition, etc. Societies being groups of people who do an activity that does not include competition.

So for me, many "Judo Clubs" are by this point of view "Judo Societies". Which is fine, but they don't call themselves societies, or I suspect think of themselves as such. Equally, there are Judo Coaches who do nothing but teach techniques. And Judo players who do not play the game of Judo… i.e. do not compete.

So why does this matter?

Returning to the EJU slogan, Judo is "More than sport". However, if Judo is not done for sport, then it becomes less than sport.

It remains beneficial and positive, but it goes from being more than sport to being less.Of course there is an argument that we are better off without sport in Judo… it's a point of view that some have, but I don't want to argue about it as I don't agree with it and I think it lessens Judo. It also ignores the reality that Judo is a sport. It may not have started that way, but it is one now. Perhaps that is not right, but that is the reality of the situation.

For me sport is a hugely powerful force for good and for the development of people. Competition and the need to prepare creates better people. Winning and losing teaches people about… well winning and losing and how to cope with both situations. Competition brings different things out of people and tests us in different ways than practicing or randori. You learn different things.

If you attend a Judo club, or run one. Take a close look at yourself and your club. And decide if you are a coach of a sports club or the instructor at a Judo Society. Do you train people and give them opportunities to compete? Or do you teach throws and other techniques that are not tested in competition?

And consider the percentage of participants in your club/society that compete. If it's not a majority then you are not a sports club. Having one player who competes and 20 who don't means that you are not a sports club. You are a society with a member who participates in sport.

Consider the local gym. A vast majority of members in most gyms are there or recreation and physical fitness. There may be one or two who play sport. Just because they play sport the gym does not get to call itself a sports club, its a gym. Equally, if only a minority of members of a Judo club compete, the club does not get to call itself a sports club either.

These are just my random thoughts on the matter, but I wanted to push them out there to see what people thought.

For me Judo is more than sport, it is a way of life and a life to live. But for me at least, if you take the sport out of Judo it devolves into something less than it is today. Just another hobby, just another "martial art". No more and no less than going to the gym. It's still good for you and a great way to spend your time, but it's not Judo for me.

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