Controversy has erupted over compulsory school judo which bans throws and other formerly essential elements of the sport, after schools became concerned about the number of children the sport was killing and maiming.
Shizuoka prefecture middle schools have been ordered to ban “osotogari” and other of judo’s more energetic throws, as well as not to allow students to participate in matches involving any throwing, resulting in some of the nation’s harshest judo restrictions.
Without throws, the only matches permitted will be those in which the students remain sitting, the restrictions having in large part been prompted by a pupil being killed in the prefecture’s schools by an osotogari throw some years ago.
Recent efforts to make martial arts (by which they mean judo, kendo, karate and archery) compulsory in Japanese schools have usually resulted in judo being adopted, with 75% of public schools in Shizuoka opting to foist judo onto their students.
Perhaps not coincidentally, with the most instructors and almost no special equipment required, judo is probably also the cheapest option.
However, many parents and educators are less than pleased about their children being forced to participate in sports which carry a significantly higher risk of death or injury than traditional PE staples – over the last 28 years 114 children have died in school judo accidents.
One academic has calculated the rate of death from judo participation as being 2.376 for every 100,000 pupils, compared to the next most dangerous school sport of basketball with only 0.371 per 100,000 – making judo over 6 times more deadly than the next option.
With schools feeling judo needs to be totally emasculated in the name of safety to stop it killing their charges, judo advocates have in turn criticised their version of judo as not being judo at all, although the authorities claim “it is quite possible to learn the judo’s spirit of respect without allowing any matches at all.”
The pros and cons of compulsory school judo are the subject of much debate online as well:
“That isn’t even judo any more…”
“What’s the point of picking judo if you have to completely change it like this?”
“There’s no need to go that far.”
“Just do kendo instead.”
“Swimming is dangerous too, how about making them do it without water?”
“Make some protective gear for them or something.”
“So it’s just pinning? I’d like to join in with them…”
“Can’t they only teach ukemi and stuff?”
“If you must do martial arts, then kyudo is the safest.”
“How about thumb wrestling?”
“They should try air judo.”
“Japanese boys are just being made weaker and weaker!”
“I think it would be quite popular if they had boys and girls practice newaza together.”
“With aikido girls would also get a basic form of self-defense. But it seems the schools are just desperate to force judo on everyone…”
“They could just teach them a karate kata.”
“If rei [manners] are the most important part of learning judo and you can do it all seated, you might as well teach them the tea ceremony…”
“So many deaths have resulted from judo in schools, they might as well stop it. There’s no need to get hung up on learning the spirit of martial arts through judo.”
“This was bound to happen when they made it compulsory. There are always going to be people it is totally ill-suited for.”
“Why did they force judo through like this in spite of all the problems? Is there some special interest group pushing it behind the scenes?”
“If it’s really about health, just make them run marathons.”
“Tai Chi Chuan.”
“If it’s this much trouble, how about just teaching them shogi instead?”
“The tea ceremony sounds like quite a good option…”