WHEN I left the British Judo Council, as a 3rd Dan, I was concerned that I was cutting myself off from a wealth of Judo knowledge. I left because, in my eyes, the organisation had lost its way in terms of being an independent organisation based on traditional Kodokan Judo. Instead it was moving toward closer ties with the British Judo Association in terms of wanting to concentrate on the sporting aspects of Judo. I had and have nothing against the combat sport of Judo, I think it is an essential element of Kodokan Judo: it is, however, just one element.
I joined a new organisation, established by a former BJC Rokudan. Judo For All (UK) made a statement merely in it’s name and I knew it’s technical director, Sampson Sampson as being one of the most innovative coaches I had seen: a kata exponent and a real technician who also had a competitive history not to be sniffed at.
My concerns about a lack of judo knowledge to drink in was quickly addressed. Within Sampson’s own dojo in North London there was a number of seriously good judoka who knew how to put across their point. Sampson’s coaching assistant Ferid Namouchi has a devastating uchimata that has been the source of national and pan-continental medals, but equally important JFA quickly found kindred spirits across the globe. One of the first people to visit us in the UK was Alfredo Vismara. Vismara sensei has written a masterclass book for Ippon Books on newaza, has competed internationally and is highly graded with Dai Nippon Butokukai. Like Sampson, Vismara despairs at the way that mainstream judo bodies concentrate solely on contest judo in both practice and teaching.
What has happened since I left the BJC is that my knowledge of Judo as a budo, a self-defence system, an educational tool and a philosophy for life has grown exponentially. I had originally got involved in Judo because I was aware of its efficacy as a fighting system, now I was finding out even more about its all-round benefits.
But the growth was not merely one based around ideas. I was also learning more about the skills and techniques of Judo. Vismara has a means of pulling off strangles from anywhere and he is quite happy to explain it all (it should also be said that Vismara is an excellent exponent of tachiwaza). More recently I received a visit from Bruce Bethers of International Traditional Kodokan Judo. Bruce, even more than the others looks at the non-contest, fighting aspects of Judo and on his visit he presented me with a book entitled Kodokan Judo Atemi Waza, written by Jose Caracena.
Now I have long been aware that atemi was part of Dr Kano’s original Kodokan system, as was the wrist locks of the renkoho (more of that in another blog). But what Caracena has done is very specifically identified Kano’s references to atemi and the significance that the founder of Judo place on striking techniques. This is no mean accomplishment. There are many people studying judo and competing at the highest level that have never heard of Kano; there are dan grades that do not understand basic etiquette and there are still thousands that are even unaware that Judo contains kata.
When I was in the BJC I understood that part of its remit was to keep the traditional aspects of Judo alive: certainly they educated me greatly about the kata as they have some very dedicated exponents within their organisation, but regarding such aspects as the renkoho and atemi they are silent. That silence is increasing regarding all manner of important aspects of Judo: the Chairman even suggested that the role of sensei no longer exists, rather it being replaced by coaches.
The BJC have given up their role as flag holder for traditional Kodokan Judo, instead opting to operate in close collaboration with the BJA, the governing body for the Olympic sport of Judo. For myself, I wish to have cordial relations with them and continue to learn sport judo, but it is far more important that I am part of an organisation dedicated to traditional Kodokan Judo as envisaged by it’s founder.