6/25/2008 4:01pm, #1
My old judo instructor muses that judo should be more like TKD
My old judo instructor recently wrote a blog entry musing that judo should be more like TKD in order to attain greater public exposure and accessibility. I was quite surprised by this. He is a very skilled and dedicated judo player who loves to teach others, so I think that he probably doesn't understand how TKD tends to have extremely low standards.
Here's his blog entry:
What does it take to become a black belt? Well, that depends on many things, including where you are. Hereís one example of the expected duration:
The course is divided into two, general course for novices, and special courses for those who have completed the general course or its equivalent. In Adult Division, it is planned so as to make one attain the First Dan after finishing three months in the general course and nine months in a special course.
Thatís right, in one place, you can, and are expected to earn a First Dan (1st degree black belt) in one year of training. It doesnít say how frequently you must train, but practices there are five or six days per week. Can you guess where this is? If you said, the Kodokan (the main dojo of judo for the world in Tokyo), youíre correct.
Hereís another example from the British Judo Association:
The difference is quite stark. Here in the US, we have similar requirements to the BJA. In other words it takes years to earn a black belt. So, what are the implications of this, you may ask. It is what it is. You must have brought it up with a purpose in mind, didnít you?
Of course, I did. Here it is: I believe that American Judo is shooting itself in the foot with way we go about teaching and promoting in Judo. I also believe that American attitudes about other aspects of promoting the spread of Judo are off target.
Letís examine Judo as compared to Tae Kwon Do. In the U.S, there are an estimated 30 to 40 thousand Judo players. Although I cannot find a statistic for TKD, I have no doubt that the answer is that there are more, many more. How did they do it? Here are a few of my thoughts.
TKD is easier to learn than Judo.
TKD made it easier to earn a black belt.
There is no shame in making money from teaching TKD.
TKD teachers love to talk about how good TKD is and how good they are at it.
By contrast, Judo loses on every front, but letís go into a little detail about how Judo can compete. Judo can be made easier to learn, but we must change how we teach it. In Judo, we teach a hundred things a few times. In TKD, they teach a few things a hundred times. Given that you practice what is taught, youíll get better at a few things if you practice them more and concentrate your training. However, given that you need to know more than a hundred things to earn your black belt in Judo, we tend to teach them all, all the time.
In the U.S., the black belt is seen as the label of expertise. Oooohhhh, heís a black belt! Those of us who have done any martial art for a while know, however, that Shodan is just a starting point. The TKD folks actually made it both. You can earn a black belt in a reasonable period of time, know a smaller amount of things very well, and feel like an expert in them. When youíre done with your year or two of training, you have a sense of accomplishment. Furthermore, you also feel qualified to open up your own school. On top of that, since thereís nothing wrong with making money from teaching TKD, you may even decide that youíd like to earn a living teaching it. How many people feel any of these things in Judo after only a couple of years.
As for the loudness of some TKD folks (not everybodyís like this, of course), I could do without it in Judo. However, thereís a big difference between being a loud braggart and being a confident exponent of your martial art.
Itís hard to counter Chuck Norris, but Iíve said for years that Judo needs a movie. Any movie that features a Judo player as a main character will do. Iíd prefer that it not be too cheesy, but if it helped grow Judo, I guess I couldnít complain much.
What I have set forth here will require major changes to U.S. Judo. I canít do it alone and if I did, I would likely be ostracized for handing out black belts to people who donít know everything there is to know about Judo. Additionally, traveling to another dojo would be awkward. For example, we have had several people come to Cornell after earning a black belt in Japan. Their judo was pretty bad by our standards, and these students felt a bit embarrassed about wearing a black belt. If we simply changed the expectations and training that we did here in the U.S., we could change this and improve our membership rolls. As in Japan, promotion to higher Dan ranks would increase in difficulty. However, in the process, maybe weíd have more dojos, more players, and more visibility for the sport and martial art we all know and love. In turn, this would give us the power to spread the word to still more people and give Judo the prominence it deserves here in the U.S.
Whatís your opinion?
Here's an email I sent back to him:
I don't really feel like judo would be better off imitating taekwondo in certain respects, because I feel that taekwondo has become overly commercialized and ceased to be a rigorous combative sport. Look at the American Taekwondo Association (ATA). The skill level, athleticism, and professionalism of so many of their black belt instructors has become abysmal because the organization over-prioritized growth and franchise-style money making.
It became so easy to get a TKD black belt after a year of non-difficult lessons and open your own school that while ATA TKD did have proliferation and visibility often the quality of the material being taught by the out-of-shape non-expert black belts is highly questionable, to say the least. If the black belt instructor is not athletic, how can he demonstrate athletic techniques which students are expected to learn through direct imitation? If the black belt instructor has only himself had a year or two of training he is not an expert and would be unable to provide expert opinions when students ask him what techniques to use in certain situations, about self defense, or even for detailed reasoning behind why certain specific techniques are done the way they are. Indeed, a lot of the ATA advertising now emphasizes a daycare-type aspect to the art, often showing a picture of a child in a TKD uniform with an A+ report card or something similar, which demonstrates a fairly explicit thrust of the ATA away from anything remotely combative and into explicit marketing to soccer moms who are basically looking for daycare. I recently watched several taekwondo classes that were held at a municipal community center here in Las Vegas and none of the students could fight their way out of a wet paper bag. Lots of them were little kids, but of the ones who were teenagers or adults most of them were out of shape and getting tired from very moderate athletic activity, and their training activities were not very sophisticated. They spent about half the time memorizing or working on poomse (kata), they spent a few minutes warming up, they spent a few minutes kicking a pad, and they spent a few minutes on imaginary non-contact "sparring". None of that really translates directly into anything that could be applied either to combative sports or self-defense.
Judo is wonderful, in contrast, because it's difficult, and because there's real sparring. It requires enough athletic conditioning to lift and throw your partner all night. Since you actually have to throw your partner, by practicing throws or by doing randori, the muscle memory built during sparring is under extremely similar circumstances to those that would arise either in a tournament, or in a self-defense situation. Since in randori your opponent really tries to throw you, your judo skills are built in reference to a competent, fully-resisting opponent. To make the contrast with no-contact sparring a little bit more explicit, I'd rhetorically ask you how strong a judo player someone would become if he never did randori but only did the motions of a throw in the air while pretending to throw an opponent. The black belt takes longer to attain but also requires much more dedication and skill than a TKD black belt.
I could equally compare boxing to TKD. In general I'd expect a boxer to be a better fighter than a TKDist because the boxer spars a lot, he gets hit a lot so he's used to being hit and has got real practice throwing counter-punches even as he is being hit, and the boxer takes his conditioning very seriously. Because of better training methodologies, and better physical and mental toughness engendered by conditioning and hard contact sparring, nine times out of ten I would expect a typical boxer to defeat a typical ATA TKD black belt in a mixed martial arts contest.
I believe that the proof is in the pudding, really. If someone has a black belt in judo I know that the person has got certain formidable attributes including skill in throwing, skill in grappling, a certain level of physical strength, a certain level of mental toughness, and maybe bad knees or toes. If someone has a blue belt in brazilian jujitsu I know that the person has likely got a very high functional level of grappling knowledge, even though the blue belt is only the second rank from the bottom, because at this point in time brazilian jujitsu as an art still by and large has integrity in promotions. If someone has a black belt in taekwondo, though, it doesn't necessarily mean anything. Maybe the person just went to TKD class three times a week for a year, is still out of shape, can only marginally manage the various above-the-waist kicks, and there's no telling whether or not the TKD black belt knows how to take a punch, or even if he's ever been punched like any amateur boxer would have been in the course of training. In short, I think that TKD became overly commercialized and focused on franchise expansion to the point that at least the ATA has cheapened its black belts and made them nearly meaningless.
I am not the only person who feels this way. There are many people who have written articles on the internet about their disillusionment or disappointment with TKD. Here are a few:
Best Vietnam War music video I've ever seen put together by a vet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDY8raKsdfg
6/25/2008 4:29pm, #2
it'll be interesting to see his reply.FACT- Eddie Bravo invented the triangle choke when he used it to tap out helio gracie at an ac/dc concert.
6/25/2008 4:42pm, #3
6/25/2008 5:06pm, #4
Originally Posted by Hui_Xiu
- Join Date
- Mar 2006
In Japan, in almost every martial art, you can get your black belt in a fraction of the time than the US. The reasoning is that the Japanese see earning your black belt not as a sign of mastery but that of commitment. If you tell virtually anyone in America that you are a black belt they'll think you're a total badass. If you tell someone in Japan that you're a black belt they probably won't care because they'll probably have one too. Basically, you probably aren't very good until you are a third or fourth degree in Japan.
6/25/2008 5:13pm, #5Originally Posted by Hui_Xiu
From what i understand....Shodan doesn't mean your an expert, more so that you've learned HOW to learn. That you understand the principles/philosophies of the martial art, and can apply them.
Here in the US, blackbelts are expected to be able to stop bullets and time, and fly, and stuff like that.
Basically, look at it this way, as it was explained to me. Think of your house. Now, think of the walk down to the side walk. These steps are your kyu rank. You progress, but face it, your really not that far from where you were when you started out.
Your Shodan is you stepping onto the sidewalk.
Does that make any sense?
(i could go with a different analogy if yo'd like)
PROOF that I'm not a completely useless poster:
Originally Posted by Cy Q. Faunce
6/25/2008 5:19pm, #6
- Join Date
- Feb 2003
Ronin, is that Bill's? If so, could you pm me the link to his blog?
6/25/2008 5:21pm, #7
6/25/2008 5:28pm, #8
Originally Posted by Hui_Xiu
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- Mar 2006
6/25/2008 5:30pm, #9
Serious Japanese players oftentimes practice far more than the relatively serious American player. 400-600 hrs a year is fairly common, while 300 or so a year generally for many Americans.
Class 3x a week 2 hours a class 52 weeks a year = 312 hrs, I think that's fairly average for most clubs I've been to in the US.
There are exceptions however most notably Hawaii.
I don't know where this is going (if anywhere.)
6/25/2008 5:37pm, #10
Originally Posted by Mas
- Join Date
- Mar 2006
It's more of a difference of perception of the black belt than it is training time.