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Judo Etiquette

On Sunday, I watched a highlight DVD of Judo championships. I won't mention the location.

Of course, the skill level of the competitors was extremely high. There were many amazing throws, pins, chokes, and submissions. But here is what really got me: many of the competitors would jump up and throw their arms up in victory as soon as they scored an ippon, and several of them stepped over their downed opponent. You have to remember that this is Judo, not football.

I was literally shocked. When I practiced Judo in Japan we would never think of doing such things. Our composure upon winning or losing would be the same. We did not show emotion and we would never step over our opponent (partner) -- we would step back and walk around them, never over them.

The competitors in the DVD had great techniques. I believe that some were world class Judoka. But how much harder would it have been for them to be composed and to show respect? It would have taken no effort at all.

If I was the judge, if a competitor scored one point for a clean throw and then threw up his arms in victory, I would take away two points. If he stepped over his opponent, I would expel him from the competition. That is just how I think. But then, I do not practice Judo.

In Karate, we would be extremely careful about stepping over a downed attacker. Throwing someone does not necessarily end the engagement. We would remain alert and vigilant until the threat was completely removed.

And if we showed happiness or cockiness upon scoring a point (delivering a technique), that might be the moment when the attacker's friend hits us in the back of the head with a brick!

Some people call this zanshin (lingering awareness). I only heard this term in Iaido. In Karate, we would simply remain aware. The fight is on until it is completely over.

Please make sure that you do not get me wrong. I think that world class Judoka have great techniques. They could throw me around like a rag doll. But composure and respect should be as much a part of any martial art as techniques. Otherwise it is just a sport... hmmmm.


Charles C. Goodin