By: Rick Mertens


Up until a few years ago we had a strong bond of friendship among all Judoka.


Where is it now? Perhaps it is lost in personal gain, or recognition, desires, or complacency, or attempts to prove we are better than others in Judo. But, enough of that - let's get down to facts. We are in a tunnel.

We need more dedicated instructors and a return to Judo as a recreational enjoyable sport or art. I will try to address each of these needs in the following paragraphs. I will try to be brief but the problems are very complex therefore, the solutions must be equally as complex.

Where have our instructors come from in the past? Almost every one of them entered Judo as adults and continued in it because they felt duty bound to pass their knowledge onto others. Very few people who started as children have remained long enough to become instructors. The solution to our need for instructors, therefore, must be in organizing and teaching adult classes.

At this point I suppose I should try to establish some reasons justification for the statement I made regarding instructors. Let me first say I highly respect and encourage those who did enter Judo as children and have become instructors. Now, for the reasons and justification.

        1. Reason: Most juniors are taught only one aspect of Judo; competition. This tends to limit their desire and ability to pass their knowledge onto others.

        2. Reason: Years of continuous Judo (or any other activity) can become boring and a small percentage of participants remain longer than ten years. If a person enters Judo before the age of ten, the normal attrition can remove the student before the needed maturity in age to become an instructor has been reached.

Now, let's delve into what can be done to return Judo to being enjoyable for more people. In the past we were all proud of our wide range of knowledge in Judo. Every instructor was familiar with officiating, scoring, first aid, self-defense, kata, the history and theory of Judo. Many of us spent a great deal of time on the philosophy of Judo. We were willing to listen to others opinions but we were not willing to blindly accept their views as the final word or fact

It is my opinion we must give up our present method of tunnel Judo. Most of us are in a one way tunnel - teach students to compete, go to tournaments, come back and teach more about competition. We need other activities to broaden our vision and Judo. Not many years ago we respected a fellow Judoka for being good at instructing, coaching, kata, a particular throw, a certain mat technique, a method of self defense, or any one of many other aspects of Judo. Today only the competitive champion and/or the champion's coach is respected and even that is a limited respect.

How much longer will we continue in our narrow tunnel before we return to the broad scope of Judo? The choice is ours; do you have enough interest to broaden your scope? Can you spend the time and energy to write me an answer or a comment on this article?

I would be glad to read your views on how to revitalize Judo. Perhaps you would like to go one step further; train an instructor that will start another club.

Oh, yes, how many of you know or have even heard "The Oath of Judo"? It forces you out of the tunnel.

The Oath of Kodokan Judo:

     1. I will not discontinue the study of Judo without sufficient reason.

     2. I will never do anything to disgrace the Kodokan's honor.


     3. I will always comply with all regulations of the Kodokan in studying and in teaching Judo.


Why Judo is Not Popular in America
By: Rick Mertens

Much study, work and worry has been spent trying to find out why judo is not accepted by the American public as a spectator sport. In solving this problem one must use a common sense approach. I have listed below many of our problems and some common sense solutions along with some humorous thoughts on each.

THE SPECTATORS DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON: We have at least 4 different sets of rules for judo competition and these are modified by local tournament directors to suit the players or themselves. We must get one uniform set of rules and make sure every tournament is run by these rules. Imagine, if you can, two boxers meeting in the center of the ring and the referee telling them that in this contest kicking, biting, and jumping out of the ring is acceptable; or how about a swimming meet where the chief Judge notifies all the swimmers that if they kick their feet, they are disqualified. We have the IJF rules so why not use them with the few changes needed to utilize the following ideas.

TOO MUCH TIME IS SPENT ON ARRANGING THE JUDO-GI: No other sport makes such a big issue of neatness during competition. Imagine, the gun has sounded, the runners are off for a 100-yard dash and suddenly someone yells MATTE.' Everyone stops and straightens their uniform; or how about the gymnast who is in the middle of doing a full hand stand on the horizontal bar, and (2) suddenly comes the great cry, MATTE: Or the golfer about to try a 30 yard putt for a par 3 and there it comes again, MATTE: straighten you're your uniform. I have designed a new type of jacket, pants, and belt that will stop this foolishness.

YOU CAN'T TELL THE COMPETITORS APART BECAUSE OF THEIR UNIFORMS: We have tried using ribbons or belts to identify one or both competitors but this is not satisfactory. We must have a satisfactory method to clearly identify each competitor. Why not require each competitor to have a white gi and a black gi? Imagine; two football teams all dressed in identical uniforms. Almost every sport has recognized the need for different colored uniforms; we in judo should be willing to give up the purity of white for the spectator' 5 interest.

THE TYPE MAT BEING USED IS UNFAIR TO ONE OF THE COMPETITORS: I believe we should standardize the playing surface for all judo competition. This should include the size, shape, thickness, density and covering. Imagine: swimming meet held in a back yard plastic pool or in oil instead of water, or a baseball game with the bases only 20 feet apart, or a football game on a sawdust field that is only 50 yards long.

TOO MANY BOUTS AT THE SAME TIME: Many large tournaments have 3 or more contest areas and all of them are running at the same time. It is nearly impossible to see the best competition because you are watching another contest. Imagine the world Heavyweight, Middleweight, and Lightweight boxing championships all being decided at the same time in 3 separate rings, or all of the golfers in the US open putting for the same holes at the same time.

THERE IS ONLY ONE CHAMPION SO WHY HAVE WEIGHT CLASSES: We carefully weigh each competitor and place him in a weight class. We carefully keep the competitors in the 6 divisions and then when the first place of each division is determined we let them fight and end up with one over-all champion. Why can't we be big enough and proud enough to honor 6 separate champions? Why must we make 5 of these individuals feel that they are second best? Let's do away with the overall championships. Imagine; the different boxing champions fighting each other to have one overall champion, or each of the winners of the national swimming contest all having one race to see who is the overall champion, or wrestling champions fighting for an overall championship. I know that many of you feel the best Judoka will win and once in a while the little guy wins, but generally the bigger competitor is victorious. But regardless of the outcome, the overall championship leaves 1 champion and 5 sub-champions. An additional problem is the heavy weight division and the open division; this is nothing more than 2 unlimited weight classes.


Villain Number 1: The Tournament Referee

This all-powerful master over all his subjects is beyond dispute or correction. He can call a full ippon a waza-ari or nothing and we cannot change or amend his call. He can be completely prejudice in his call or decision and we cannot correct his error. He can make a completely honest or dishonest decision and we are stuck with it. He can call a half-completed throw a full ippon and no one can change his call. Regardless of how honest or fair the referee may be, he can not see a technique from more than one angle or position at a time and this often prevents him from making the correct call or decision. The new IJF rules have helped but much more needs to be done.

Villain Number 2: The One Ippon Win


This little villain can cause a great national champion to lose to a very poor but lucky opponent. One competitor can throw his opponent for a full ippon but because of a mistake on the part of the referee, he may not get any credit or only part of the credit he should receive; he can also throw his opponent for a waza-ari and load him up twenty times, but if he should slip and the referee decides it is now time to say ippon all is lost for this valiant competitor. Our present system of a single ippon being the completion of a Judo contest often fails to determine the best competitor. A well-qualified competitor could make one mistake and be eliminated by a far inferior opponent. A well-qualified and unbiased referee could make a small mistake of course1 by calling an ippon when something less should have been awarded and the reverse of this is also true. It should be realized that under the present officiating system, an unqualified or biased official could create a great hardship on a competitor. The present system of a single ippon ending a contest leaves our spectators without the excitement that could be generated with an improved system of competing and awarding wins. If we had a pre-set time period for each match, a coach could train his competitors for a contest and the spectators would know how long each of their favorite players will be on the mat.


Villain Number 3: The Corner Judge

The use of one or two corner judges is often helpful but quite often this system is misunderstood and misused. As we all know, many judges will vote the same way his fellow judge does. Also the judges have no authority to make any form of call or award. Very often a judge will go to sleep because he has so little to do.

Villain Number 4: The Five Penalty Scoring System

The present system of scoring under the 5 penalty point system often leaves a tournament with no finals and no chance to announce to the spectators that the contest now going is for the first, second, or third places. We must be able to build each tournament to a climax if we want to

For all of the above reasons and for many others, I believe that we should implement a new judo competition system. I hereby propose the following system for this purpose.

     1. Scoring: Utilize the double elimination system.

      2. Competition: All contest or bouts will be for a pre-set time period, i.e. 3, 4, or 5 or more minutes.

     3. Referee: The referee will not award ippon or waza-ari for throwing techniques. He will call osae-komi and shine-waza, and kansetsu-waza. He will be responsible for the safety of the competitors. He will stop and award the contest to the winner if one contestant wishes to default or if in his opinion one competitor is far superior to the other, based on the demonstrated performance during that contest. The referee will collect judges score sheets at the end of the allotted contest time while competitors arrange judogi and based on the judges’ scores he will declare the winner of that contest.

      4. Judges: A total of 4 judges will be used, they will be located, one on each of the 4 sides of the contest area, (just outside of the safety area). Each judge will record points gained or lost by each competitor based on the following scale.

            a. An effective off balancing of an opponent 1 point

            b. Off balancing opponent to the point of making him put his hand or knee on the mat 2 points


            c. Loading opponent for a throw but being unsuccessful in completing the throw 3 points


            d. Throwing an opponent with any degree of completion less than a waza-ari 4 points


            e. Throwing an opponent for a waza-ari 6 points


            f. Throwing an opponent for an ippon 10


            g. Securing a hold-down to the point of osai-komi being called by the referee 1 point


            h. Holding opponent for:


                              5 seconds 2 points

                            10 seconds 3 points

                            15 seconds 4 points

                            20 seconds 5 points

                            25 seconds 6 points (wazi)

                           30 seconds 10 points ( ippon)


           i. Being awarded an ippon for shime waza 10 points

  Points will be deducted from a competitors total for violation of the rules.

      1. Stepping out of the contest area 2 points

       2. Forcing opponent out of contest area 2 points

      3. Putting hand or fingers inside of opponents sleeve or pants leg


      4. Striking opponent without malice 4 points


      5. Disarranging Judo uniform 2 points contest

It should be realized that the referee will be fully responsible for the safety of the contest and will have the authority to stop the contest and award the match for unsportmanship conduct, repeated violations or injuries.


The pants will be designed in such a way as to prevent them from falling or being pulled off during a contest.

The jacket will have belt loops starting on the side of the jacket and continuing to the other side around the back of the jacket. This would prevent jacket from coming out of the belt. The belt will be made with 3 pieces or sections of Velcro locking material. This would prevent the belt from coming untied.

I have given you my ideas, now--how about your ideas? Why not try this system, and then give me your opinion.

Rick Mertens
USJA Executive Secretary

The late Rick Mertens was Executive Director of the Armed Forces Judo Association (AFJA) and the United Stated Judo Association (USJA) for many years. Rick published many articles in the AFJA and USJA magazines and "The Coach" that was sent to Judo instructors regularly from the late 1960's until 1978. Rick passed away on March 1, 1999.