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Masters Athlete v. the IJF

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I'm going to start out by warning you, you might not to read this. THis is going to be a political diatribe covering for my whining about getting excluded by the IJF. So, advance at your own peril. For pictures and whatnot from the recent World Master Athlete Judo Championships in Montreal, check back later. That will probably be my next blog entry.

I participated in my first World Master Athlete Judo Championship. Why? because I thought it was important to support the people who made masters judo a real deal. And, it is a real deal; that's what attracted the IJF to us fringe payers to begin with. It's just not the deal the IJF is used to.

It was interesting being there; everybody was talking like this is the end of masters judo. It's not, but it is the begining of the sportifiction of masters judo. Masters judo, at least on the local level, is those of us old folks who feel frisky enough to want to do a shiai, but not stupid enough to want to experience the next day, if we shiai with people less than half our age. It is a spotty, occassional thing in the US. We'd whine, well, I'd play more if there were more masters level athletes playing. It's hard to get up for a tournament when you're the only one there. Blah, blah, blah - the same excuses I've used before. So, it took somebody like Liz to try to coordinate a good shiai for masters - one that targets just masters, so we're not running around coaching, or inconveniencing tournament directors by trying to both compete and ref. One where as many masters as possible could meet, do a bit of shiai, and spend some quality time trading war stories and tall tales (which are usually one and the same). Every year for the last 12 years, we'd meet in one country or another, and made it a wonderful thing.

And it was a wonderful thing that grew and grew and grew and suddenly the IJF took notice; here were a group of people from all over the world getting together to play judo and have a good time. They began counting the gray heads and doing the math. Then, they started using their monopoly power to bully masters into submission. We can't have our tournament; only they can give us a tournament. And that tournament has to meet all the IJF regulations. Whoopee.

Let me tell you what that means to me. It means that I couldn't have attended this week. It was a last minute thing, and I emailed and asked if it was ok for me to come. They said, sure, you're more than welcome to come and play, and have a grand old time. The IJF tournament will probably make that impossible. On a purely practical level, I don't want to buy a whole seried of new gi just to meet the IJF rules. I don't want a blue gi. I've never checked my sleeves, and they've never been questioned. I don't want to find out that I need new gi simply because the IJF says my sleeves are wrong, at least for this year. I don't want to have to get new gi just because the IJF is only endorsing certain gi manufacturers, and not others, no mater what the quality of gi, or whether it meets all the other qualifications except the little IJF endorsement patch that costs the gi mfg thousands of dollars. I don't want to have to order a back patch. I don't want to have to keep up with regulations for myself to make sure my gi meet whatever requirements they put into effect this year, next year, next month, and whenever they get wild hairs up their.... well, you get it.

So, I wouldn't be able to go because I don't have the gi. I might be able to borrow one, both white and blue meeting the ever changing and costly requirements, but it would have the wrong back patch on it. But, let's assume I'm able to borrow one that actually works. Still wouldn't bother. Olympic type athletes, athletes in their prime, they have to deal with WADA. I'm a middle aged woman. I don't want to have WADA in my mind every time the doctor gives me a script for something, especially now that I'm looking down the inevitable barrel of a major hormonal change. I'm not trying to "cheat", I'm just not interested in having the IJF and WADA determine the course of my healthcare and treatment. I mean, do I really need or want WADA in my hormones? telling me that I can't do replacement therapy and still do masters judo? Give me a flipping break.

OK, assume I'm a very healthy individual, and when that hormonal change happens, I'm totally abnormal and it doesn't effect me substantively. And, I'm able to borrow gi that are complying with current IJF regulations. And, USA Judo and USJA decide that I don't need to get an extra membership so I can compete in one tournament each year. And, the IJF doesn't make me "qualify" for participation. The look and the feel of the tournament is going to be totally different. I want to play judo. I want to watch judo. I want to support my judo friends, even the brand new ones. I don't want to walk out, totally alone, meet my opponent and play. To me, half the fun is meeting up with the people I've known for a while and being there, on the sideline, cheering each other on. To me, it's really cool to have Deb Fergus sitting in the coaching chair yelling at me to quit thinking and just grab and go, knowing she's in her gi, and competing in just a few minutes. It's meeting Terri from Texas and yelling encouragement, clapping and having judoka offer me coaching credentials so I can sit in the coaching chair and me laughing because I've got just as good a seat on the sidelines, and besides, Terri from Texas is my competition later in the bracket. I mean, IJF sport judo doesn't get the concept that you can be competing directly against each other one minute and yelling your head off in encouragement the next. That, to me, is part of the difference between judo and sport judo. Most of us masters just want to do judo. We're well past the time in our careers where we just want the sport.

So, I'm in the hotel near the shiai checking out. I run into a couple from Louisiana. He's been training a couple of months, but used to do judo a long time ago, before he was married, before he had a son who's now eligible for masters judo. His wife has never seen what she calls "real judo" and when I met them a few days before, she looked nervous and apprehensive. He hoped that the tournament might refuel the fire for judo, prompting him to find a dojo and really get into training. When I met up with the wife a few days later, while checking out, she was happy as a clam. She was getting ice for her husband's knee. What she saw wasnt the violence so much as the camaradarie between men, all about the same size, all about the same age, and how he was welcomed back, even though he hadn't been training in ages. What she saw was judo, not the sport, and she's more than happy to send him to the dojo once they get home.

I met a younger guy from across the country. We talked briefly about Egypt. That's the IJF tournament meant to replace the World Masters. Both of us were disappointed with the IJF trying to bully masters judo into masters sport judo. We came up with an idea; the perfect protest would be to let the IJF have their little tournament, and nobody show up. We can voice our displeasure with our presence and our money. Maybe then they'll actually ask us what we want instead of forcing us into their model of sport. Maybe then, the IJF will grow and allow judoka to grow beyond sport, and promote all of judo.

Me? I'm too lazy to get all the detritus the IJF requires, so I probably won't ever play at this level again. Probably won't bother trying. And, even if I was selfish enough to but all the gi, and deal with WADA and US judo politics and all the other crap, I'm not sure I would even bother. I don't like getting shoved around. I'm not going to shove back. If judo has taught me one thing, it's this; when somebody starts trying to shove you around, don't resist. Just get out of the way. I really hope more of us just get out of their way and don't play their game. Then, maybe we can get back to actual judo.

8 Comments On This Entry

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23 August 2010 - 12:23 AM
You did a great job of putting my feelings into words. Back in the day when I was doing Shiai, and Kata, this is what most of the competitions were like. I remember most of us cheering each other on. There was no "coaches chair" your team mates stood on the side of the mat yelling the same kind of encouragement that Deb gave you. We were not allowed to yell out techniques to players. The idea was that it was their match, and we could encourage, and give direction, (when they push, turn in for your forward throw). Most of us only had one gi, and if it got too bloody, or ripped, (that happened to my husband. Brett Wood-Taylor ripped it off his back.) Someone on the sideline who had the same size, lent it to you. See who does that now at the bigger tournaments. :angry:
I am glad I got to participate in the last one before the IJF takes over, for the same reasons. I am not well off financially. Unemployment goes only so far. Certainly not for $300 gi. I think your feelings are close to what the others are thinking as well. We will never get to the Olympics. We do not have to jump through the IJF hoops if we want to compete. We proved that already.
We attended a successful event. One that didn't have the tantrums, and the egos that are at the other high level tournaments. I did not run into any people who thought I was not worth speaking to. I have definitely run into both at point tournaments. I have seen it at local ones as well. "It's a championship match. My player needs a 10 minute rest." Their player had 2 matches all day, and they are 11 yrs old. Kei Naramatsu has given several coaches grief on this one, and made the comment, that if their players can't make it through a small tournament without taking all these breaks, they need to train more. :big grin:

I wish I could have gone to the one in Atlanta. I didn't have the money. I am unable to fly, so any event that I attend, I have to be able to drive. I have an issue with the inner ear, so flying and boats are out. Keep healthy, and I hope to meet up with you sometime in the future. I regret that I didn't get the opportunity to do it at the Masters. My traveling companions had other plans, and finances didn't allow us to stay till the end.


31 August 2010 - 04:07 AM
Well said.

I went to the one in Missaussaga in 2005, it was great! I had three matches only but the feel was one that the IJF will never be able to pull off, even if they do ask us what we want. They are a business for profit while the World Masters was non-profit. The wording difference is small but the attitude difference is huge!

I hope that the IJF sees the validity of what you are saying and they make some allowances, then an IJF masters tournament could at least be a pleasant experience.

Thank you for clearly stating what I feel too.


29 September 2010 - 04:36 PM



Chu To Bu Judoka 

11 October 2010 - 01:06 AM
:manoyes: :big grin:


27 October 2010 - 10:12 PM
Since there are no geographical limits we could form a new Yusanshakai for those of us who are over???? and hold our own shihai!


07 January 2011 - 01:54 PM
Wow some heart felt and sympathies there. I also thought your points about the IJF only endorsing certainging gi's to be particularly poignant.


05 July 2011 - 06:18 AM
The IJF is like the bully in the playground, Just blank them and carry on with the Masters only. Great article!!!


05 July 2011 - 07:38 AM

neilm1990, on 07 January 2011 - 01:54 PM, said:

Wow some heart felt and sympathies there. I also thought your points about the IJF only endorsing certainging gi's to be particularly poignant.

The IJF are like the Bully in the playground. New Gi's = Raising funds for them and perform no useful addittion to the sport. Keep to the masters and blank the IJF.
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