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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Judo Takes On The UFC and MMA

Judo - (柔道, meaning the "gentle way") is a modern martial art, combat and Olympic sport created in Japan in 1882 by Kano Jigoro (嘉納治五郎), surname first.

(Fantastic image above shows France judoka Loïc Piétri - taken from HERE.)

I did judo for a number of years as a kid, and was taught that judo was essentially a defensive sport… a way to protect oneself… and if you happen to take out your attacker in the process, so be it.

It was a great sport, and one I enjoyed immensely, but with duties to accordion/piano lessons as well as soccer (games and practices), there was little room left in my school week to pursue scholarly activities… so I didn't… and that's why I'm a writer.

That's my excuse, and I'm sticking with it.

Anyhow, something had to give, and that was judo. Unfortunately, I didn't utilize the free time for school work. Not that I wasn't smart, rather I was lazy. Which is weird considering I was doing judo, soccer and music (I'm your Renaissance man. Animals and kids also like me).

I still hold a fondness for judo… having last participated in the sport when I was in Japan, when I took a 15-year-old blackbelt out with an explosive stomach throw, taking his lackadaisical approach with the gaijin and using him as a projectile weapon that I could flip with my strong legs across the dojo and into a wall.

I spent the rest of the Club activity being tossed repeatedly by the judo sensei - let the punishment fit the crime, I suppose, but it was the judoka's (judo fighter) fault for not respecting his opponent, me, a mid-level fighter.

Speaking of fights, there is a continuous one in Europe, as martial arts there battle to keep the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) out.

While MMA's ventures such as the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) have seen much success in North America, it's not finding the way as easy-going in Europe.

Part of that success had been because the UFC was making friends within local judo communities… and as a judoka gains stature in a club, the UFC gains stature, too… with judoka fighters proving the legitimization of the MMA sport.

The MMA organizations have been trying to do this to grab a hold in Europe. Only it's not working very well for the MMA community.

Although the UFC ran major events in Manchester, England (UFC 70), Belfast, Northern Ireland (UFC 72), and London (UFC 75), the crowds were enthusiastic, but it wasn't enough to warrant further ventures across the pond.

Toss in the fact that MMA is illegal in countries like France and Norway, plus isn't officially sanctioned in other countries, you can see it has issues as a fringe product.

Personally, I used to enjoy watching MMA back when it first came on the scene, watching all the pay-per-views from 1-10, watching talented fighters like Tank or Horst Gracie… but then… perhaps because of the 'reality programming', it became akin to the WWE wrestling. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the vicious scripted ballet that is the WWE (though I no longer am a regular viewer), but if I want to watch over-the-top personalities, I'll watch the WWE over the UFC's MMA.

I did watch the recent women's MMA championship bout a month ago - over in, what, 10 seconds? At least I can be better entertained watching sumo, WWE and boxing if I want my dose of violence.

On the plus side, Ronda Jean Rousey, whom I saw win that 'fight' is a absolutely gorgeous.  I know that has nothing to do with the sport, but, to be honest, there's a reason why a casual male sports fan will tune in to women's tennis.

Rousey, of course, isn't just a pretty face, she's the first and current UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion. She's also a judoka.

Look… I used to love heavyweight and middleweight boxing… guys with personality like Ali, Leonard, Jones Jr., even Tyson.. but now… there isn't anyone I can really get behind. Boxing is, like it or not, make or break depending on its heavyweight division.

So… judo… it's popular in Asia and Europe, especially in France and other eastern European countries.

While Rousey is a very decent judoka regardless of sex, she's still not the big draw, being a woman.

Spectators love to see big male fighters beat the living tar out of each other way more than winning by submission.

The MMA has had many judoka competitors, but again, the European and North American appeal was diminished because they are Japanese. Like it or not, people tend to back a competitor or team if it's 'local'. You Japanese know what I mean. I never saw anyone cheer for former sumo Yokozuna Akebono over a Japanese competitor simply because he wasn't Japanese.

In fact, the MMA competitors did not have the Japanese fighters fight much in Europe simply because it wouldn't help grow the European market…. which was why they were trying to influence European judo communities in the first place.

But… the purists in the judo community are fighting back against MMA promotions.

For example, earlier in 2015, the UFC was about to sign on to sponsor the European Judo Championships by trying to broker a deal with the British Judo Association.

Immediately, there was an uproar. While there was pressure to not allow the British Judo Association to make the deal, the UFC saw the negative feedback, and pulled out… only the European Judo Union—they are in charge of the European Judo Championships—said screw it all, and removed the series—unanimously—from its intended site in Glasgow, Scotland.

European Judo Union president Sergei Soloveychick says: "Sport should have some human values and sports should help society develop human values. With MMA, it is not so.

"It’s not good if your opponent is on his stomach and you sit on him and beat his head. It’s not good for the education of the young generation, so we don’t like to promote this kind of organization during our competition. The spirit is to destroy your opponents by different ways and this is not good."

Think about the children! Ha! That's how much judo purists hate the MMA.

Okay, I can see the point… judo is a sport learned through hours and hours of repetition. I would assume the same could be said about MMA fighters. I don't know… I've not participated, but since it's based on a martial arts discipline or two per fighter, I would assume they would know all about the Japanese art of repetition.

Still… for now… if the UFC and its MMA partners are looking for a fight, they have one with the European judo associations that are keen on defending the so-called purity of their sport.

Andrew Joseph

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