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A Judo Family

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Editor’s Note: One of the great
things about doing Judo the way we do it at EBJI is that
all people of all ages can practice together. As
described in this article, when a dojo takes on another
focus – such as solely on competition – this focus
changes the basic and fundamental nature of the Judo that
is practiced. These changes bring about with them changes
in the requirements necessary to keep up and the
character and personality that is fostered by these
changes. At EBJI, we do Judo in the classic tradition of
Judo, which allows for all people of all ages to work
together, helping each other but as they individually
strive for their own personal goals. This is one of the
beauties of Judo, when done in this fashion, and we are
so fortunate to have many families as members who
contribute to this atmosphere of mutual benefit.

Our family does judo. My wife, Lily and
I are both in our 40s. We started doing judo about 6
years ago. Lonnie, our son who is 16, started at the same
time. Besides us there are five other families that
practice judo at our dojo. While I don’t think that
families like ours are unusual they are perhaps a little
different. Lots of children are involved in sports and
lots of parents spend a lot of time and energy supporting
their children’s activity. This is also true in judo.
However, judo (at least at our dojo) is different in one
respect. Children over the age of 10 or 11 practice in
the "adult" class. This means families actually
workout together.

Training like this, as a family, is not
exactly easy. It means we rush around a lot. We’re often
tardy. We eat a lot of late dinners and we go to bed
tired – sometimes very tired! I know the other families
who are involved in learning judo together go through the
same things. So why do we do it? Why judo and why our
dojo in particular?

Judo as an activity contains some
contradictions, at least at from the usual western
perspective on sport. One of the basic philosophies of
judo is "mutual welfare and benefit". Applied
to training this means that when you train you strive to
improve yourself and help your partners improve, too. The
workouts are a group event. All the individuals work
together and do everything together. On the other hand,
contests are totally an individual event. The competitor
is on his own. Period. I think this contradiction teaches
two things: self-reliance and self-sacrifice. And I think
these two values are the "glue" in a family.
This doesn’t mean judo is a panacea for dysfunctional
families. But I have seen changes in our family and heard
it from other parents. Doing judo together as a family is
a positive experience.

But this isn’t the only thing about
judo that has brought our family closer together. A lot
of what has brought us together is just having shared the
experience. We accomplished it together and some nights
making isn’t easy. Sometimes the workouts seem beyond our
ability. Endless rounds of randori. Gasping for air.
Hands, arms, shoulders and legs nearly useless from
fatigue. "Go for the burn" doesn’t even begin
to describe the feeling. But somehow we all made it. We
get through it and as we drive home, we all share our
little victories; the pin we escaped or the throw we made.
Even though we each had to do it by ourselves and here
again is that contradiction, somehow there is a feeling
we did it together.

Judo is not always like this. When
practiced in the form it was originally conceived, judo
consisted of 3 elements: physical training, contests and
personal growth. In recent years, at some dojos, the
importance of excelling in contests has taken precedence
over the other two elements. This kind of training
produces superior athletes. However, the original goal of
judo is to produce superior citizens. There is another
problem with the "sport approach" to judo, it
tends to exclude the non-athletic judoka.

Which means there is no way my wife and
I could start judo at our old age and keep up with our
son. But at our dojo we are first taught to stand
straight and take the basic grip in the classic manner.
Many of our members have gone on to learn all the
techniques necessary to win contests and some have done
very well. But I’m thankful that our family has had the
opportunity to learn in the traditional way. It has given
each of us something more than just a hobby. It has given
me a good look at my shortcomings. It has made me very
proud of my wife and stepson. It has, despite frequent
frustration with my own lack of progress, made me happy.
I’m sure the other families at our dojo feel the same way.