Judo in the United States continues to take a back burner to major sports like Football, Basketball, Baseball, Hockey, Tennis, Golf, Swimming, Track & Field and Soccer. It’s interesting that Soccer like Judo has a huge international following and was able to catch on in popularity in the US.
In terms of the martial arts in the United States; Boxing and Wrestling were always popular, but Karate, Taekwondo, and BJJ all have also become well know. Yet Judo still lags behind with rare exceptions such as Ronda Rousey and Kayla Harrison.
In the article The Established Order, by Pedro Lasuen; photos by Gabriela Sabau, Emanuele Di Feliciantonio, & Tamara Kulumbegashvili which appeared on the International Judo Federation’s (IJF) website recently, it focuses on 3 countries where judo has done extremely well. I wanted to share it this week in my Black Belt Judo Blog.
If constancy were a country, this would be Japan and if it had friends, they would be France and Georgia. The podium of medals by nations shows an encouraging balance for the traditionalists, with an overwhelming Japan and some princes faithful to their reputation. The favorites have not disappointed in this 2022 that is ending, but to think that the result is easy to obtain would be to make a mistake.
Japan has dominated the international scene for a decade. It has a lot of raw material and an abundance of talent but that is where the danger lies. You have to know how to manage a fortune so as not to go bankrupt and the secret of Japan is work and competition at the highest level before going abroad. It's a bit like the United States in swimming or Kenya and Ethiopia in distance running. There are so many candidates for everything that the most difficult thing is to reserve a place in the starting team and keep it. Then, once your national status is established, at least for a while, you have to go out and beat everyone with a different passport. No, being a Japanese judoka is not easy and it is not a guarantee of gold either.
With more than a hundred accumulated medals, more than fifty gold, Japan far exceeds any hint of adversity. Their athletes have been the best, especially at important moments, and the substitutes, the members of the second and third rows, have had notable roles. It can be said that, until Paris 2024, Japan is assured of a calm and non-turbulent trip, although it would be advisable not to be overconfident to avoid an emergency landing, as happened in London 2012.
France is the eternal contender, which means perseverance and frustration. It is the country with the most graduates in the world and has a solid tradition in our sport. In recent years, the competitive capacity of the French has been kept up thanks to a prodigious women's team, while the men were going through an evident stage of decline. Overreliance on Teddy Riner, injuries, bad luck and a few mistakes have relegated the men to supporting roles while the women shone in the hands of Clarisse Agbégnénou, Madeleine Malonga and Amandine Buchard.
However, France has managed to make a generational transition with the appearance of some youngsters hungry for glory. Their names are Dicko, Boukli, Djalo, Cysique and Fontaine, to name just a few. They are young, some already champions and with many years ahead of them. Being second in a row, like Raymond Poulidor in the Tour de France, can generate frustration but it is also a source of pride, especially when you have to say goodbye to the representatives of so many glorious afternoons and carefully polish the new diamonds.
France has added, more or less, half the medals of Japan, which indicates the gap between them but since everything is relative in life, you can have a glass half empty or half full. The difference is, for the moment, considerable, but less than a few years ago. Let everyone draw their own conclusions.
The small one closes the march, by extension and size of the budget. It is no longer a baby but an adult, a robust and fearsome country in judo matters and for that it has even more merit because its population does not reach six million. Georgia has signed off on an exceptional season with a dozen medals less than France. Georgians are that neighborhood that nobody wants to go through. Regardless of the results, the most resounding success of the federation has been to strengthen a women's team, which was the weak point of the Georgian school.
The figurehead is Eteri Liparteliani and her example has helped her teammates understand that it is possible to win. There is still a long way to go but the foundations have been laid and are solid. This trio is the image of judo. There is work, talent and hardness, there is a desire to excel, to do better, to take nothing for granted.
This trio should be a source of inspiration for those countries eager to upend the established order. They have travelled the path to the top and do not want to go down because things look better from above. It is the others who have to escalate, perform the same tasks and evict them from there. We know that there are ambitions and the desire to do it, which is why 2023 promises to be a very interesting year.
The Return of Teddy Riner at the WJC, Controversial Match & IJF Post Match Statement
My friend Leandro Lorenco of Milestone Martial Arts in Las Vegas is pursuing a PhD in Psychology. As such is researching and developing and validating a scale to access the degree of mental strength in combat sports practitioners. Here is the link to the simple and anonymous Google Form that should take less than 5 minutes to complete for those over 18 years old. Leandro appreciates your participation!
San Gabriel Judo Student Maddie Tamanaha featured on CHLA TV News Story
Our Visit to LA Judo Club
I’ve watched Justin Cho, 6th Dan and Henry Jeong, 5th Dan on their development of this dojo in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles for over a decade. My interest was sparked by having had two of the top Korean Judo competitors of all time; Kyu Ha Kim and later, Kiel Soon Park as my original Sensei.
It’s good to see the success LA Judo Club is having. They have become a powerhouse at Nanka tournaments and most recently the Golden State Open. My good friend Joon Chi the Referee Member of USA Judo’s Board of Directors and I had the opportunity to visit LA Judo Club recently followed by dinner at a terrific Korean restaurant.
Here are some photos from the visit…
May - 2023
27th Saturday – Olymp’s Tournament – North Hollywood, CA
27th Saturday - 7th Annual Nagase Cup Tournament, Piano, TX
June - 2023
4th Sunday - Nanka Spring Tournament, Westminster, CA
16th Friday to 18th Sunday - USA Judo Junior Olympics, Shreveport, LA
22nd Sunday - Fresno Invitational Tournament, Fresno, CA
5th Sunday - Nanka Team Tournament, Westminster, CA
19th Sunday - Presidents Cup National Championships, Irving, TX
December - 2023 8th Friday to 10th Sunday - Nanka Winter Nationals & Clinics, Azusa, CA
April - 2024 7th Sunday - Nanka Spring Tournament, Westminster, CA
May - 2024 5th Sunday - Nanka West Coast Invitational, Westminster, CA
June - 2024 28th Friday to 30th Sunday - USJF & USJA Summer Nationals, Tacoma. WA
September - 2024 29th Sunday - Nanka Fall Tournament, Westminster, CA
October - 2024 20th Sunday - Nanka Team Tournament, Westminster, CA
December - 2024 6th Friday to 8th Sunday - Nanka Winter Nationals & Clinics, Azusa, CA
I'm always looking for new subjects to write about regarding judo as well as contributions from my readers. Please send them to email@example.com, thanks.