Saturday, January 20, 2018

Idealism vs commercialism

Training without competition doesn't make sense.

If you're a former competitor, and especially if you've competed at a very high level, when you form a judo club it's very natural that you'd want it to be a competitive club -- as opposed to one that is purely recreational.

By competitive club I mean one that trains players to compete in tournaments. It doesn't mean that everyone in the club has to compete and even for those who do choose to do so, not all of them would want to compete at a very high level. Some may want to compete in small tournaments just for fun.

But the training is geared towards preparing players for competition. That means the technical portions are focused on practical techniques. That means teaching them about gripping. That also means talking about rules and strategy.

This is what I call judo idealism. Such endeavors don't make money. More often that not they cost you money. But you do it anyway because you love judo.

Then, there is judo commercialization. There's nothing wrong with commercializing judo and trying to make money from it. But it would mean focusing on other areas rather than judo competition per se. 

For example, if you were to build a club that offers "Judo for BJJ" or "Judo for MMA" classes, you'd probably get pretty good enrollment. Similarly, a "Judo for Self Defence" class would also probably get you more members than a judo-for-competition class.

There are other ways to make money in judo. For example there is some demand for personal instruction in judo. Some people prefer to be taught one-on-one. You could also aim to build up a big children's class or go to schools and try to introduce judo there.

All these are fine and they can help to generate the income that the competition-training component doesn't make. But I think it's important never to lose sight of the competition aspect. Making money  at the expense of competition training would be quite meaningless to me.

People often say judo is more than just a physical activity. It's supposed to teach you important values and life lessons too. Well, that's true only if you embrace and experience the whole of judo, of which competition is a crucial component.

One of the most valuable lessons you learn from judo is overcoming your fears. Taking part in competitions helps you achieve that. Persistence? Learning to pick yourself up when you're down? Working hard towards a goal? All these things are spurred on by competition.

Anyone who thinks you can really achieve any of these things simply by doing uchikomi and sticking to the confines of the club randori are kidding themselves. You only truly experience judo and truly benefit from it if you commit yourself to taking part in competitions. It doesn't mean you have to go for the Nationals. You can take part in small club competitions. That's fine. But compete.

Do you notice there are lots of running events lately? Marathons, half marathons and other distance events. Lots of people take part in these. Do you think they are all top athletes aiming for the SEA Games? No, most of them are ordinary folks -- many of whom don't even consider themselves to be athletes. But they are taking part in a race. It might be a fun run not a serious one but it's still a competition.

Why do they do this? It's because they want to test themselves. Sure, you can enjoy jogging for jogging's sake but if you're doing all that running, and improving by the day, it's only natural to want to push yourself a bit further and test yourself. Signing up for a run will give you the motivation to push a bit harder, to run regularly and to be the best that you can be in running.

And so it is with judo. If you're doing all that training, and improving day by day, it makes all the sense in the world to compete. It will give you the motivation to train hard, instill the discipline to lose weight and force you to confront your fears.You might win, you might lose but even if it's the latter, there's great benefit to be gained from it. You'll learn to pick yourself up, train harder and improve so that you can win the next time around. These are all important life lessons. But you won't get them if you don't try competing.

So, competition is a very important part of the judo experience and it's something I would never want to lose sight of. It must be a crucial part of the overall mix if we try to make judo commercially viable. Without it, we might as well close shop.

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