I came across The Judo Podcast a few months back and finally got a chance to listen to an episode. This one was an interview with Mike Swain. He is a great judoka and has evolved into a successful entrepreneur.
Guys that make a career from judo (or anything else) often tend to oversell judo, putting the sport in the best possible light and sweeping some of the issues under the rug. Mike Swain surprised me with a candor and modest pragmatism in his discussion of judo in the United States. Some of the things mentioned were:
- There are only 50,000 active judoka in America (which is very little).
- The three American judo organizations need to merge. They all have good ideas, but building a judo “brand” is essential especially given such a small base of participants.
- Running a judo tournament needs to become easier. Two suggestions he quickly mentioned were:
- Make the mat requirements looser (allow for smaller mat spaces, thereby being able to fit more mats in)
- Make the ref requirements looser (allow for just one ref)
- Consider using a point system (4 for ippon, 2 for wazari, 1 for yuko) and a set of rules that are easier for spectators new to the sport to understand. Just to grasp the scoring you need to know three japanese words: ippon, wazari, yuko. That shouldn’t be necessary.
- Briefly mentioned was an interesting suggestion of removing wazari. There are a lot of controversial calls made about ippon / wazari. It might seem absurd but I could see a system where a big throw on the back is 3 points and a throw on the side is 1 point. It’s much simpler to watch and to ref.
- Longer newaza time with penalties for stalling in turtle. He mentioned a 3 second rule for turtling kind of like you have for gripping on the feet.
They also talked about bringing judo to TV and Swain’s attempt to do so with something called “Pro Judo” which was something that ran for a single episode a while ago on ESPN2. I can’t find any footage of it online, but some people claim to have it on VHS. The point system for Pro Judo is similar to Freestyle Judo.
Swain mentioned that given such a small judo participant base in America, everyone should promote large judo training centers as opposed to creating many small dojos. There are just not enough high level players training together. Or really, there are just not enough bodies on the mat when the judo community is fractured amongst many dojos.
Here’s a video of another interview with him: