Idealism vs commercialism

Training without competition doesn't make sense.

If you're a former competitor, and especially if you've competed at a very high level, when you form a judo club it's very natural that you'd want it to be a competitive club -- as opposed to one that is purely recreational.

By competitive club I mean one that trains players to compete in tournaments. It doesn't mean that everyone in the club has to compete and even for those who do choose to do so, not all of them would want to compete at a very high level. Some may want to compete in small tournaments just for fun.

But the training is geared towards preparing players for competition. That means the technical portions are focused on practical techniques. That means teaching them about gripping. That also means talking about rules and strategy.

This is what I call judo idealism. Such endeavors don't make money. More often that not they cost you money. But you do it anyway because you love judo.

Then, there is judo commercialization. There's nothing wrong with commercializing judo and trying to make money from it. But it would mean focusing on other areas rather than judo competition per se. 

For example, if you were to build a club that offers "Judo for BJJ" or "Judo for MMA" classes, you'd probably get pretty good enrollment. Similarly, a "Judo for Self Defence" class would also probably get you more members than a judo-for-competition class.

There are other ways to make money in judo. For example there is some demand for personal instruction in judo. Some people prefer to be taught one-on-one. You could also aim to build up a big children's class or go to schools and try to introduce judo there.

All these are fine and they can help to generate the income that the competition-training component doesn't make. But I think it's important never to lose sight of the competition aspect. Making money  at the expense of competition training would be quite meaningless to me.

People often say judo is more than just a physical activity. It's supposed to teach you important values and life lessons too. Well, that's true only if you embrace and experience the whole of judo, of which competition is a crucial component.

One of the most valuable lessons you learn from judo is overcoming your fears. Taking part in competitions helps you achieve that. Persistence? Learning to pick yourself up when you're down? Working hard towards a goal? All these things are spurred on by competition.

Anyone who thinks you can really achieve any of these things simply by doing uchikomi and sticking to the confines of the club randori are kidding themselves. You only truly experience judo and truly benefit from it if you commit yourself to taking part in competitions. It doesn't mean you have to go for the Nationals. You can take part in small club competitions. That's fine. But compete.

Do you notice there are lots of running events lately? Marathons, half marathons and other distance events. Lots of people take part in these. Do you think they are all top athletes aiming for the SEA Games? No, most of them are ordinary folks -- many of whom don't even consider themselves to be athletes. But they are taking part in a race. It might be a fun run not a serious one but it's still a competition.

Why do they do this? It's because they want to test themselves. Sure, you can enjoy jogging for jogging's sake but if you're doing all that running, and improving by the day, it's only natural to want to push yourself a bit further and test yourself. Signing up for a run will give you the motivation to push a bit harder, to run regularly and to be the best that you can be in running.

And so it is with judo. If you're doing all that training, and improving day by day, it makes all the sense in the world to compete. It will give you the motivation to train hard, instill the discipline to lose weight and force you to confront your fears.You might win, you might lose but even if it's the latter, there's great benefit to be gained from it. You'll learn to pick yourself up, train harder and improve so that you can win the next time around. These are all important life lessons. But you won't get them if you don't try competing.

So, competition is a very important part of the judo experience and it's something I would never want to lose sight of. It must be a crucial part of the overall mix if we try to make judo commercially viable. Without it, we might as well close shop.


The opening day of competition here in Tunis marked the return of Grand Prix judo after a break of eight years. It was a successful day for the Europeans who took a total of ten medals including three of the five gold medals up for grabs.

Daria BILODID (UKR) (blue)

First to top the podium was Daria BILODID (UKR) in the -48kg category who cruised to her second IJF Grand Prix gold. Of Bilodid’s four opponents only Oksana AGAZADE (RUS) managed to avoid being caught for ippon, and that only due to the Russian collecting three shidos as she offered up a subdued and overly defensive effort. The remaining three, Amber GERSJES (NED), Maryna CHERNIAK (UKR) and, in the final, Alexandra POP (ROU) all perished in newaza, as have so many others, rolled then trapped vice like with sangaku gatame by the legs of the 17 year-old Ukrainian. “I’m very pleased with the way things went today. I wanted to work on some things and I feel as though everything is on track,” said Bilodid.

Nora GJAKOVA (KOS) (blue)

Former European champion Walide KHYAR (FRA) put on a fine performance in taking gold in the -60kg category. In particular, the 22-year-old Frenchman demonstrated his exciting throwing skills in defeating in the quarter final MIYANOHARA Seiya (JPN) and in the final Matijaz TRBOVC (SLO) both with thumping ura nage for ippon.

Distria KRASNIQI (KOS) (white)

In the -57kg category Nora GJAKOVA (KOS) made it three Grand Prix gold medals in a row when in the final she defeated number one seed KWON Youjeong (KOR). Gjakova had lost to Kwon in their two previous encounters. But here Gjakova looked confident, strong and focused. It could have had something to do with the fact that Gjakova enjoys competing in Tunis. After all, the Kosovar has won two African Open events here and she certainly looked relaxed in taking the gold medal. “It will be the Paris Grand Slam for me next. After that I will begin preparing for the European Championships with the rest of the Kosovar team,” said Gjakova.


Brown belt success

Congratulations to Kiavash Sotoudeh and Adam Jacomb for achieving Brown belt standard in a recent grading at The Rainbow Judo Club.

Player of the week 17.1.18

Congratulations to Mikey Gallilee for being awarded Player of the Week this Wednesday. Keep up the great work Mikey!

The importance of video for club promotion

Recently a friend who runs a judo club asked me if the videos that I make for the KL Judo Club Facebook Page works. Meaning, does it actually help with recruitment?

I can't say that we've had a flood of new members because of it but we do have a fairly constant stream of people coming in for trial sessions. And they mainly learn about us from our videos, which have proven to be quite popular. Some of these people end up becoming very keen members. These are people we wouldn't have attracted had we not done the videos.

When we first started, we mainly posted pictures. But pictures are literally snapshots and don't tell the full story. To better highlight key things that we do during our training sessions, videos are far more effective.

In recent months, we livestreamed aspects of our training sessions. At first we were uncertain whether a livestream would be of interest to anyone. After all, livestreams are typically quite grainy and the sound really isn't great at all. But to our surprise, our livestreams have been pretty popular. A typical livestream will get around 200 views, which we consider to be a lot.

My sense is that people like to peer in and have a glimpse of how other judo clubs conduct their sessions. Our club is unique in many ways. For one thing our sessions are three hours long (sometimes a little bit more). We also do a lot of groundwork (at least 50% of our time is devoted to groundwork, which is not so common among judo clubs). We play music when we train. We make extensive use of crash pads. We do gripping drills. We have lots of international players. Most of our members are adults. And we do lots of randori.

Some people have asked me, "Aren't you giving away secrets when you show your training methods?" Well, Sunday is a general class where I teach very standard or common techniques. For example, when I demonstrate sankaku, it's the standard version of the technique. Sure, I might add some best practices here and there based on what I've picked up over the years. But the fundamental movement is no secret at all.

It's the same for all the other techniques -- groundwork and standing -- that I teach on Sundays. There's nothing being shown that can't be easily found on YouTube. I guess what people find interesting is seeing other players in the process of learning new techniques.

We also have training on Wednesdays but we typically don't show the technical sessions for those because that is when I work with the players on their individual techniques. It's also on Wednesday that I teach some specialized competition techniques (not the standard versions) like unique turnovers or unusual strangles for groundwork; and gripping tactics and unorthodox throws for standing. These we don't show. There must be some privileges to membership!

Although we don't show everything, if you watch our videos you'll get a very good sense of the type of training we do at KL Judo Club, and of the fun we have during training. We train hard and long and our sessions are always very intense but there's always a lot of laughter, which is important.

Many of my friends who are coaches at judo clubs around the world face the same challenge we face in recruiting members. Whether we like to admit it or not, judo is a niche sport so recruitment will always be difficult. Videos make a difference especially if you have an interesting program to showcase. There is really nothing like video to convey that to prospective members.

Technical Training Week 3 (Jan 21, 2018)

1. Newaza: Since our players have learned how to do a hold-down, a strangle and an armlock from a sankaku position, we will spend some time drilling it, with partners giving full resistance. (This will be the last week we work on sankaku. After this week, we will move on to a new newaza technique).

2. Tachi-Waza: We will work on a pair of inner reaping techniques: Ouchi-Gari and Kouchi-Gari. The former is a more forceful technique while the latter requires more finesse. There are many variations for each of these techniques. We will work on the basics this week. It's important to get the fundamentals right.

Quebec still going strong on closing day of Elite Nationals 2018

Montreal, January 14, 2018—Today was the second and last day at the Elite Nationals 2018, where it was time for the senior athletes to perform. Like the junior athletes yesterday, the Quebecois’ dominated the competition. They ended with an impressive 28 medals (11 gold, 6 silver and 11 bronze), with Alberta placing in second place (1 gold, 3 silver and 4 bronze) and Ontario in third (1 gold, 3 silver and 3 bronze).

One of the tournament’s favourites, Antoine Valois-Fortier, won all his fights today. The first two were won by ippon pretty quickly. “My back was injured for a while and I hadn’t competed since August. I was a little worried, because I was still in pain in the last few months, but I knew that I was coming here to win,” he said. “The fight for the gold medal against Arthur Margelidon was very tight—we know each other very well and he’s a strong opponent. I’m very happy with this victory.”

Athletes from the national team were able to see where they were regarding their preparation and perform one last time at home before leaving for a series of tournaments. For most of them, it was their last chance to fight in front of their friend and family in a while. “We’re leaving in February for a few competitions and training camps in Europe. The selection process for the Olympic Games in Tokyo starts in May. My main goal is to stay healthy until then. If I can manage that, I’m fairly confident that I’ll be able to make the team in 2020,” said Valois-Fortier.

The weekend was a success for everyone. Patrick Esparbès, from Judo Canada, have high praises for the event. “The venue was perfect and many volunteers gave us a hand to make the event a success. Many spectators came to watch the exploits of our athletes, who lived up to our expectations. Organizing the event was a big challenge, but the final result was spectacular. We wouldn’t have been able to make it without the incredible support from our partners, especially the city of Montreal, and La TOHU.”


Written by Sarah Mailhot for Judo Canada

Patrick Esparbès
Chief Operation Officer
(514) 668-6279

Week 2: Sankaku-Jime & Ippon-Osoto

We had slightly fewer players on the mat this past Sunday as two of our members were sick and a few had to miss training due to work obligations. Still, we had a great session.

We started off with a new game of "Cat & Mouse" followed by "Hunger Games Cats".  Then I showed them some clips of Ilias Iliadis's amazing career. It's important for judo players to know who the legends of our sport are.

For newaza, we worked on sankaku again, this time for the strangle. This session went quite fast as most of the players are already familiar with the basic sankaku movement. Next week, we'll review sankaku one more time and then after that we'll move on to something new, probably juji-gatame.

Next up was ippon-osoto, or osoto-gari done from an ippon-seoi-nage grip. This was a move made famous by Cheng (CHN). Most of the players could get this one quite easily because they already knew ippon-seoi-nage. Next week we will do a drill that gets them to switch between ippon-seoi and ippon-osoto.

We had our usual randori towards the end of training, starting with newaza randori followed by tachi-waza randori. Then, we had shiai, something we haven't done in a while. It went over quite well. We must do more of these to get the players used to competition.

Overall, a really good session.

The International Judo Federation in co-operation with the Austrian Judo Federation hosted this year’s IJF Coach & Referee seminar in Mittersill. Unlike previous years, this year, a seminar will be held at each continent. The event carried out across two-day and involved different discussions applying both, theory and practical method before finalising the rules towards Tokyo 2020. Over 200 participants attended at the seminar.

The President of the International Judo Federation, Mr. Marius Vizer was also at present greeting all participants and supported the seminar;

“Dear Colleagues. 

First of all, Happy New Year, I wish you good health, lots of achievements for 2018. Congratulations for all your results and achievements for 2017. I think the most important for all, especially athletes, coaches and referees is good health. I think we start the year off on the right foot. It is great to see lot of participants here and I hope that at the other continents it will be the same interest for the seminar and for the interpretation, obligation of new rules. 

Marius Vizer and Juan Carlos Barcos

We continue to go on with the rules established last year, but, there can be unexpected situations on the way, because you cannot predict and expect to cover all unexpected effects of the rules. So, the refereeing team with the educational team and in cooperation with you, we will see how to solve difficulties, in case one would appear. We have a beautiful sport but I think the most difficult one in the world amongst all sports. We must have a standard for the rules and deal with the consequences, rather than assume.  

Thank you again for your cooperation and support, I wish you a successful seminar.”

EJU Vice-President and President of the Austrian Judo Federation, Mr. Hans-Paul Kutschera also welcomed the crowd;

Dr. Hans Paul Kutscher - President of the Austrian Judo Federation

“Dear Delegates, Coaches and Referees,

I am very happy that you are here in Mittersill to attend this meeting and most of all I am happy that we have the IJF President, Mr Marius Vizer here with us today, which gives this meeting a great value. I hope all facilities are working well and I hope you are well and happy. Once again, welcome and I wish you a very good seminar.”

Following statistics from 2016 and 2017, there is a clear progression in regards to implementation of the new rules. Although, the recent changes are quiet slight, it is still for the benefit of our sport, judo. Utilization of over hundreds of different video clips allowed to support analysing and clarifying all arising questions. What exactly happened over the weekend? Throughout the first day, different topics were conversed, such as, clarifying the difference between Ippon and Waza-ari for which, a clearly arrowed explanation is in place.

Requests in regards to landing on both hands, both elbows, or in combination of the two was also clarified; together with landing on one elbow or one hand only. Explanation of counter attacks and whether there should be a score awarded or not, and if so, to whom, was also part of the morning block. Different scenarios of false attacks, bridges and head defences were all discovered too. By the afternoon, topics such as, mate vs score, shime-waza with stretching uke’s leg, inactive judo and certain kumikata situations have been under consultation. 

EJU Head Referee Commissioner, Mr. Franky De Moor, expressed his thoughts after the first day;

Franky de Moor - EJU Head Referee Commissioner

“It is clear that there are areas which yet to be clarified. There is some misunderstanding about certain topics and I am sure that by tomorrow all the grey areas will be solved. That is why we are here for. There are not so many changes in the rules, we stepped back to issues which we have handled previous years, so I am curious how those questions will be answered but surely, or I hope, by end of tomorrow we will have all the answers.”

Still recapping day one, we asked 2016 Rio Olympic Referee, Friedrich Annamaria (HUN) to share her view so far;

“I think the seminar is really well organised. Despite the fact that the OTC itself is extremely busy, the Austrian Judo Federation did a great job, so for that, I would like to congratulate them. In regards to the seminar, it is very interesting because, although, we are here to finalise small details and smooth over areas which are unclear, these topics, or areas if you like, are very important. Especially, the implementation of them, whilst making sure that every single one of us are in balance. We have to make sure we are keeping up the same routine week in and week out, to make sure for example every single waza-ari be awarded as waza-ari on every mat of every tournament. I think this is the hardest part in judo hence the reason it is a complex sport. A small difference in decision can cost a lot and can win or lose a fight for the athletes. Therefore, this seminar is very important and useful to support our work. Regardless of the years of experience I have, there is always space to improve. There is always something new, a new style of grip or can be a new throw, anyhow, it is important that us referees are always up to date. To do so, I think it is important that we go on the mat on the regular basis for practice.”

The second day spent more with different scenarios studying transitions as well as continuation of movements. Waki-gatame conditions were also discussed. After a short theory session, all participants continued the seminar with a practical part. During which was all discussed in the past day or so, have been put in action to clarify all grey extents.

EJU Head Refereeing Director, Mr. Alexandr Jatskevitch also shared his view in regards to the seminar;

Alexandr Jatskevitch - EJU Head Refereeing

“First of all, thank you very much to the IJF bringing this seminar to Mittersill. It is a right place because it allowed more coaches to take part and gain new knowledge. Secondly, the Austrian Judo Federation also did a great job to host the seminar, it is really well organised. The place is comfortable and it is organised with a dojo, which will allow us to practice as well as analysing videos. Now we have clear guideline for refereeing and I also believe that coaches learned how to prepare their judo players to escape negative judo. To me, this weekend was very positive.” 

IJF Head Referee Director, Mr. Juan Carlos Barcos led the team throughout the weekend. Let’s hear his overview about the past two days.

Moving forward, the last minor changes, only if must, can be made after the 2018 World Championships. From that moments onwards, it will be a clear direction for all heading to Tokyo 2020.


The legendary Mr YAMASHITA Yasuhiro travelled to Mittersill for the first time ever. Since he learned to ski in Austria, the country will always remind him of fun memories. The Japanese Judo legend travelled particularly to take part in the IJF refereeing and coaching seminar. Enjoy the interview with Mr Yamashita below.