Aug 232011

Kata Ashi Hishigi from the The Textbook of Ju-Jutsu by Professor S.K. Uyenishi

The funny thing about any traditional martial art is that justification for anything that is not immediately clear is normally cleared up using the word “traditionally”.
Student, “Why do we wear flower pots on our heads?”
Sensei, “Well traditionally all students of the style wear flower pots on their heads.”
And far be it from any of us to question tradition. I’m still wondering why we wear singlets in wrestling. I totally get why we wore them back in the day, but we have grown as a culture since then…
But I digress.
To be totally honest, I love tradition in martial arts, the question is, at what point does something become traditional? Lets be honest, the Gi, the traditional martial arts uniform for most martial arts isn’t all that old. In fact most martial arts are even younger than the gi is. All this long preamble is to address a bone of contention a lot of us cross training martial artists have with the competition rules of Judo.

Regardless of what anyone says, Judo always has been, and hopefully always will specialize in nage-waza, or throwing. However, when Judo first started competing, it was against other styles of ju jitsu who didn’t really like the new kid on the block. Kano (founder of Judo) said this about the constant challenges to the style, “It seemed that the Kodokan had to take on the whole of Japan, and had to have a spirit of being ready for anything.” In 1886 the first high profile tournament, (in which they were challenged by Totsuka-ha Yoshin-ryu jujutsu) several of their matches lasted more than an hour! At the time, any throw and any lock was legal. Things went until they were finished.

Naturally these kind of matches were not what Kano was working towards, nor the rules used within the Judo schools themselves. However it wasn’t until 1887 that Kano banned finger and toe locks in competition, which normally means they had been doing that before the ban. It wasn’t until 1899 that wrists and ankle locks were banned. Things progressed until 1916 when they banned twisting knee locks and submissions by squeezing the ribs (apparently they were having problems with that). They waited almost another ten years and in 1925 gave up and banned any lower body locks or submissions.

Things cooled down for a while, and up until the 1970s matches were still allowed to be 20 minutes long! As glad as most of us were to get smaller rounds, they made up for it by introducing a penalty for “passive judo” which in practice was a penalty for not attacking every 15 seconds, or as I like to call it, “Ready or not here I come!” They also banned the kani basami (flying scissor sweep), and although I love that throw, I really do see the danger in letting people use it. They also added and removed various small points and penalties.

Finally almost to the present, 2010 they removed using anything that involves grabbing, scooping or touching below the belt. (think Greco Roman wrestling) unless its part of combination, which in real life is really difficult to pull off.

So if we are going to say “We are doing this because of tradition.” it makes you wonder which tradition we are following.

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