Even though Judo can be many things to many people – a martial art, self defense, sport, or just recreation – it is still a codified activity steeped in tradition. These traditions include standards of behavior, dojo and mat etiquette, a uniform, and the use of Japanese terminology for training, techniques, and in competition. However, there are some disturbing trends emerging in Judo clubs across the country:

1. The sensei turns up late for class, with students standing at the door to the gym when the class is scheduled to start. Mats are not laid in time for class.
2. The sensei rolls into the dojo five minutes after the class was scheduled to start; then spends another five minutes talking to his buddies before starting the class. This is disrespectful to the students.
3. The head instructor is on the mat teaching in shorts and a t-shirt when all the students are in judogi. This is a poor example.
4. Students are not required to bow on or off the mat, and classes do not bow in correctly.
5. No effort is made to ensure the students’ belts are tied correctly.
6. Students arrive at training bare-foot; while others leave the mat and go to the bathroom without putting their shoes on. Others walk across the mats with their shoes on prior to class.
7. The sensei wears a dirty gi, or an odd combination of colored gi. Or the Judo instructor is teaching a Judo class but wearing a ju jitsu gi
8. Japanese terminology is not used for the names of the techniques or in club-level match referring.
9. At tournaments, Judo sensei and coaches demonstrate no knowledge of the current rules for mat-side coaching, including, yelling at the ref, putting their shoes on the mat, drinking and eating in the coach’s chair, yelling at their students, berating their students mat-side causing them to cry if they did not win.
10. Much of this can be attributed to Judo instructors, completely lacking in formal Judo training, being given high dan-grades by associations just to get their clubs into the organization. The result is an instructor or coach with little to no knowledge of Judo techniques, terminology, mat etiquette, competition rules, or even Professor Kano’s teachings or philosophies.

While some of the above will be seen at competition training camps, they should not be evident at the dojo level. Judo is much more than just wrestling or grappling with a gi on. The sensei and instructors should be setting the example and standards for the students, and these include staying true to the traditions and etiquette of good Judo.

One way to correct the above deviations from good Judo would be national and regional training camps, taught by national technical directors and senior Kodansha (high grades), for the sole purpose of national quality control and quality assurance within the greater Judo community. These are common in Europe and Japan but virtually unheard of in the US in that past 20 years. So maybe it is time to return to the practice of national high-grade training camps and seminars.


About Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator
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  1. VPH says:

    Love this post! I told my child’s high school judo coach/sensei they need to teach the students some judo etiquette before judo season starts. It is annoying, embarrassing and frustrating to see the uncoordinated white belts who have no understanding of basic judo etiquette like how to step on the mat, bow in, bow out, etc. I’ve always viewed judo as a disciplined sport but lately, these judoka and coaches/senseis are so far removed from Kano’s teaching….

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