Judo

Martial Arts in the Olympics: Has Inclusion in the Games Helped or Hurt Judo?

In case you live in a cave, here’s a news flash: 2016 is an Olympic year. The 31st Summer Games are scheduled to take place August 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro. Whenever the world’s premier sporting event rolls around, we find ourselves reflecting on how the Olympics have affected the martial arts.

Part 1 of this article examines whether the Games have been good for judo. For input, we interrogated Gary Goltz and Hayward Nishioka, prompting them with questions and hoping they’d offer opinions on other topics that are of concern to them and practitioners of their martial art.

— Editors

Gary Goltz (Photo by Peter Lueders)

ART: JUDO
ADDED TO THE OLYMPICS: 1964
EXPERT: Gary Goltz, former president of the U.S. Judo Association, current board member of the Hal Sharp Judo Teachers Foundation

QUESTION: Is pre-1964 judo different from post-1964 judo?

GARY GOLTZ: Actually, a lot has changed since then. This started after World War II, when judo’s focus became much more on the sport aspect rather than the martial arts aspect. It had a lot to do with the occupation of Japan and Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s ban on the practice of all martial arts. The Kodokan set out to impress the American officers by showing that judo was a sport and a peaceful activity. When the Olympics came to Japan in 1964, they introduced it as an exhibition event. Back then, there were no weight divisions and no females. The only scores were the wazari (half point) and the ippon (full point). Matches lasted up to 20 minutes.

QUESTION: Did the imposition of rules for the Olympics change judo from a martial art to a martial sport?

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GARY GOLTZ: Olympic judo today is more driven by rules than ever before. Wrestling-type moves such as kata guruma (shoulder wheel) and morote gari (two-hand leg reap) are now illegal. This was to force players to use more standing techniques such as uchimata (inner-thigh throw), harai gosh (hip sweep), seionage (shoulder throw) and ashi waza (foot techniques). The goal was to look good on TV and differentiate judo from wrestling.

QUESTION: Has Olympic inclusion boosted the popularity of judo overall?

GARY GOLTZ: Judo’s popularity soared in most countries with the exception of the U.S. This was due to the national judo organizations’ insistence on maintaining their members’ amateur status to meet Olympic requirements at the time. Here, other martial arts — karate in the 1960s, kung fu in the ’70s, and then Brazilian jiu-jitsu and krav maga now — flourished in part because of the entertainment industry and successful commercialization methods.

QUESTION: Does being an Olympic sport help judo create stars?

GARY GOLTZ: Absolutely. There are many such examples in Japan, Korea, France, Brazil, Holland, England and even Cuba. The best example in the U.S. is Ronda Rousey, who took a bronze medal in Beijing and then left the sport to become the biggest female star of the UFC.

Kayla Harrison (left), on the other hand, is the only American Olympic judo athlete to take a gold but is far less well-known because she’s chosen to stay focused on judo and enter the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. This illustrates the dilemma faced by those who devote themselves to becoming Olympic champions. They may find that they have limited career options upon retirement.

QUESTION: Did judo lose anything of value when one portion of the martial art — competition — was added to the Olympic Games while other parts of it — such as kata and self-defense — were not?

GARY GOLTZ: When judo became an official Olympic event, competition became the priority. Kata have been made much more consistent over the last five years by the International Judo Federation, perhaps in an effort to eventually make it part of judo in the Olympics, too.

***

Hayward Nishioka (Photo by Rick Hustead)

EXPERT: Hayward Nishioka, 1967 Pan-American Games gold medalist, Black Belt’s 1968 Judo Player of the Year and 1977 Judo Instructor of the Year

QUESTION: How has judo changed since it was added to the Games?

HAYWARD NISHIOKA: Judo today is stronger, faster and tactically different due to the influence of the Olympics. The Olympic motto of Altius, Citius, Fortius (Higher, Faster, Stronger) seems to hold true for Olympic sport judo. One need only look at YouTube submissions to compare the old with the new. Where once weight, height, strength, cardio fitness, nutrition and specialized tactics took a back seat to waza, or techniques, they are now integral pieces of a total package. If you’re missing any one part of the equation, you’re at a distinct disadvantage. Now, …

Winning Girl: Inspirational Documentary Profiles Up-and-Coming Star of Judo, Jiu-Jitsu and Wrestling!

When I attended the 16th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival, which showcased more than 130 entries from 15 countries, I was pleased to learn that the organizers had included three must-see martial arts-themed movies:

The Assassin — From Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien, this highly anticipated movie could redefine the wu xia genre.

Deadman Inferno — This Japanese flick pits Yakuza members against zombies.

Winning Girl — This is a wonderful dynamic documentary, one that’s perfectly timed considering last year’s defeat of UFC champ Ronda Rousey.

Directed by Kimberlee Bassford, Winning Girl documents four years in the life of a 16-year-old, 125-pound wrestling and judo champion from Hawaii named Teshya Alo. As such, it includes plenty of training, trials and tribulations.

The film opens with a mention that since she was 6, Teshya has won 21 national championships in wrestling and garnered 30 titles in judo and jiu-jitsu. That’s impressive — but not as impressive as the maturity the teenager shows.

“When I went to my first national wrestling tournament and lost, I was very sad,” Teshya said. “I remember watching the girl who won. She was like a celebrity. I used my loss as motivation, went home to Hawaii, trained really hard, and two years later, I beat the same girl to win the nationals.

“I realized that by working hard and beating that girl who was older and stronger than me, that if I keep working hard, one day I could make it to the Olympics. My dream is to win the Olympics in judo and wrestling.”

Teshya knows it won’t be easy. “To get to the Olympics, I have to win the world championships in both sports and beat adults who are much older and more experienced than me,” she said. “So right now, my goal is to represent Hawaii and the United States at the world championships and win.”

Throughout her childhood and early teens, Teshya built a solid reputation as a force to be reckoned with — by defeating boys, girls and women twice her age. Part of the film is the coming-of-age story that takes place from age 12 to 16, which is when we get to witness the challenges and struggles she had to face to advance in two combat sports that people her size and gender rarely participate in, much less excel in.

As Teshya moved up the judo ranks, her signature technique — which she still uses at tournaments — was tomoe nage, the circle throw. But after she won the judo nationals at 16 and represented America at the World Judo Championships, she faced an opponent who constantly countered her tomoe nage attempts. Teshya ended up losing. “I was confused and became paralyzed — [I] didn’t understand the concept of strategy,” she said. “But I’ll learn from the loss.”

It reminded me of the UFC 193, which saw Black Belt Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey lose to Holly Holm. Rousey attempted to use her trademark armbar but was repeatedly foiled by Holm, who was trained by Black Belt Hall of Famer Greg Jackson. When the armbar failed, Rousey either forgot or abandoned her strategy. In its place, she seemed to fight with anger. Meanwhile, Holm appeared to remain calm.

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When Teshya, then 15, represented America at the World Wrestling Cadet Championships, she lost her opening match against the former world champion, but she battled on. After a quick succession of follow-up matches, she won the bronze.

A year later, she bagged the gold and became the world champion.

Ultimately, Winning Girl is about empowering young women. It shines a spotlight on the specific challenges associated with Teshya’s quest to become a champion wrestler and judoka while living in Hawaii, while learning about her heritage and while being forced to raise funds to attend the big tournaments.

The refreshing part is that throughout the film, we see that for Teshya Alo, the keys to success in competition are belief in oneself and the support of one’s parents, who ideally use positive reinforcement to power the athlete’s drive to win.

(Photos Courtesy of Making Waves Films LLC)

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Words of Wisdom From Jigoro Kano, Founder of Judo

As reported in the February 1971 issue of Black Belt, these words of wisdom come from judo founder Jigoro Kano.

“There are two types of judo.

“Small judo is concerned with only techniques and the building of the body.

“Large judo is mindful of the pursuit of the purpose of life: the soul and the body used in the most effective manner for a good result.”…

2 Tough Female Judo Techniques Masters: Ronda Rousey and Dr. AnnMaria De Mars

Tough guys, we have plenty. In fact, on any given day you can’t swing a nunchaku around the Black Belt office without hitting a self-defense expert, an MMA champ or a street-hardened master who has dropped by for an interview or photo shoot.

Tough girls are a different matter.

First off, we don’t have as many women cycling through.

Second, not all the female martial artists we deal with are into fighting; some practice the arts for other, less physical reasons.

These two female martial artists, however, bring some special accolades and history to the table. Both were featured on Black Belt magazine’s recent two-part article series “Tough Girls: 10 Female Fighters Who Scare Us.”

Dr. AnnMaria De Mars

Background of This Judo Techniques Master: She’s been a judoka since she was 12 and coached since she was 14. She’s also the co-author of Winning On the Ground: Training and Techniques for Judo and MMA Fighters (featuring Ronda Rousey and Kayla Harrison), among other books, and — oh, yeah — the mother of MMA sensation and definitely-a-judo-techniques-expert-in-her-own-right, the aforementioned Ronda Rousey.


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Ronda Rousey: An Exclusive Interview With the Gene LeBell Protégé,
Olympic Judo Medalist and MMA Fighter


Qualifications of This Judo Techniques Master: In 1984, Dr. AnnMaria De Mars became the first American judoka to win the World Judo Championships. That means her judo techniques were first-rate back then — and the fact that she’s remained actively involved in the sport means she’s kept herself up to date on technical developments in the judo world.

Comments Regarding This Judo Techniques Master: “She’s tough,” says Lito Angeles, author of Fight Night! The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Mixed Martial Arts. “I saw her on Inside MMA, and she threw around Bas Rutten pretty well.

“They say judo is the combat art that has the most female competitors. That means it has the biggest base of elite female fighters, and that, of course, means the level of competition is higher. So any martial artist who was a world champion in judo has to have great skills.”

Having great skills entails knowing plenty of throws among one’s judo techniques and being able to do them flawlessly. That translates into having the ability to function on the feet as well as on the mat — which, it could be argued, is better than just knowing mat fighting from having practiced BJJ.

“When a competent judo exponent like De Mars blasts you to the ground — and it’s concrete instead of a mat — a lot of damage can be done,” Lito Angeles says. “That’s a great skill to have.”

Making matters worse for the assailant, with judoka at this level of mastery in their judo techniques, it’s next to impossible to even lay hands on them. “As soon as you reach out, you give them something to grab,” Lito Angeles says. “That’s all they need to off-balance you and slam you into the ground.

Street self-defense should technically be about stun and run. You don’t approach it like a street MMA fight. You want to do enough to be able to safely get out of there. Judo throws are like stun and run because you’re not attaching to the attacker. The common reflex is for the other person to hold onto you when you try to throw him, but a really hard slam will stun him badly enough to make him let go.”

* * *

One Black Belt editor grappled with the person who made No. 1 on the aforementioned “Tough Girls” list — and based on such experience, he’ll readily attest that the list was full of women who can handily kick male butt. (“Isn’t it reassuring to learn that the promises of the martial arts — you know, all those claims about being the great equalizer — are legit?” he says about the incident.)

That No. 1 tough girl? None other than …

Ronda Rousey

Background of This Judo Techniques Master: A judoka since the age of 10, Ronda Rousey has medaled in international competition numerous times. In 2008, Ronda Rousey bagged a bronze in Beijing, becoming the first American woman to win any Olympic medal in judo. For that victory, she was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame. In 2010 she dipped her toe in MMA and continued her winning ways. As of this post, her record stands at 7-0.

Qualifications of This Judo Techniques Master: To complement the world-class catalog of judo techniques and skills she acquired from the likes of Jimmy Pedro, Ronda Rousey is being schooled in grapping and MMA by Gokor Chivichyan and Gene LeBell. “She’s a girl, but she has guy skills,” Gokor Chivichyan says. “I think she …

Hayward Nishioka Reveals How Judo Changed His Life — and How It Can Change Yours!

Hayward Nishioka started training in judo when he was 13. He moved into the competitive arena fairly quickly, he says, because as soon as a judo student learns to take a fall and execute a few techniques, he starts to compete. Hayward Nishioka won the National Championships in 1965, and the same year he was ranked fifth in the world. He won the Nationals again in 1966 and 1970, and in 1967, he earned a gold medal at the Pan-American Games. He was ranked fifth in the world once again the same year. From 1968 to 1970, he ran a judo school in California, and in 1972, he started a judo course at Los Angeles City College.

— Editor

Like so many martial artists out there, Hayward Nishioka started training primarily so he could learn self-defense. “I lived in East Los Angeles, and there were a lot of gangs,” he says. “You never knew who was a gang member and who wasn’t. Once in a while, you would get into a scuffle with one, then you would have to confront all his friends.”

Looking back on his youth, Hayward Nishioka, a two-time Black Belt Hall of Fame inductee, admits that his own actions caused many of the problems he had to deal with. “I grew up in a Japanese family where we had certain rules that had to be followed,” he says. “Perhaps those rules conflicted with the rules other kids grew up with, and I got into conflicts with other people, thinking, Well, this is the way it should be, so I’ll tell the other kid he shouldn’t do the things he’s doing.”

Often, that other kid had a different view of the way life should be lived and was prepared to defend it, Hayward Nishioka says. “We would get into a fight, and then all of a sudden I was fighting a number of people.”


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Judo to the Rescue

Hayward Nishioka’s stepfather, Dan Oka, got him to start judo lessons. He took the boy to a Buddhist temple — back then, they used to hold tournaments in temples — where he got a chance to watch his first judo event. “More than the competition itself, the trappings were of interest to me,” Hayward Nishioka says. “It was exciting to see these black belts march down the aisle, stand in a row and bow in. Then the competition would start. They would just sit around the edge of the mat and wouldn’t move until their time came.”

Hayward Nishioka fell in love with the orderliness of the event and the idea of belonging to a community. “I felt safe within the context of this martial arts atmosphere,” he says. “I didn’t feel that in my ‘other’ world of going to school, where there were a lot of cultural and religious groups, each protecting its own existence. At that time, judo was more a cultural event than a sporting event.”

Because it was a cultural event, most of the students were Japanese, Hayward Nishioka says. Were students from other races and cultural groups intentionally left out, or did they simply have no interest in judo?

“At that time — during the 1950s — groups of people just stuck together in their own communities,” Hayward Nishioka says. “They weren’t intermingling. In the ’60s, people started to open their eyes and associate with other cultures.”

Art of Mystery

Outsiders showed some interest in judo, but it was a mysterious art for most people, Hayward Nishioka says. “In a match, there were two people standing, then all of a sudden one person was up in the air and down on the ground. Many people weren’t used to the idea because they had always associated falling with injury. But in judo, you learn how to fall before you learn how to throw. I think a lot of people were afraid to come into judo because of that [fear].”

While Hayward Nishioka was training in the art that allowed him to fit in with the culture from which he came, he found that his street-fight problems were disappearing. “The funniest thing was that, as I was learning judo, I used it on maybe half a dozen occasions,” he says. “After I started using judo to defend myself, I found that some people were afraid of me. As I got better, my aura [of confidence] defended me, and I didn’t have to fight as much.”

Other Benefits

Although half a century has passed since those days, judo training still offers the same confidence-building and character-developing benefits to modern-day students, Hayward Nishioka claims. “The …

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