Wednesday, September 05, 2012

What is "classical judo" anyway?

I frequently refer to the judo that I teach as "Classical Judo," and some of my students and budies have picked up on that and started hyping the Classical Judo label.
But a while back, another sensei asked one of my students, "What does the 'Classical' thing mean anyway?"  To which we didn't have a really good answer.  But like lots of things that I don't have a good answer for, this has eaten at me for a while, until my understanding and feelings have resolved a bit.  So when we say "Classical judo," do we mean...
  • We try to do judo like the old-dead guys - sort of an anything-new-is-inferior view?
  • We are deliberately out-of-date or anachronistic?
  • We are anti-competitive judo?
  • We don't like the recent IJF rules changes?
  • We are just trying to create a competitive (in the business sense) name brand?
Well, there might be some of that in our understanding of Classical Judo, but having thought about it for a while, I think most of the differentiation that we draw has to do with...
  • Classical Judo must abide by Kano's two axioms - Mutual benefit and welfare, and Maximally efficient use of power.
  • Classical judo is not a sport - it is broad in scope and sport judo is just a subset.
  • Classical judo was not specialized for any one context (like self-defense or combatives or shiai or fitness...) but was generally applicable to all these contexts.
  • Classical judo randori and shiai took place under a small, broad ruleset - more like a set of guiding principles than an enumeration of every allowed or disallowed action.
  • Judoka classically de-emphasized weight classes in competition.
  • Classical judoka had a wide technical range - far greater than their 2-3 personal tokuiwaza.
  • In classical judo there seems to have been an emphasis on application of ashiwaza and tewaza in highly-mobile upright postures.
  • Classical judo seems to have emphasized teaching generalities and allowing the student to develop an understanding of the specific details in randori - as opposed to teaching many, many techniques and variations.
You should know, just because we think Classical Judo as defined above is the greatest thing, that doesn't make us right or this the only opinion.  There are plenty of very good judoka who would be proud to wear the Non-Classical-as-defined -by-Pat-Parker label.  But perhaps this at least begins to put some meaning to the words we use to describe what we are trying to do.
And before you start protesting that I'm just being elitest, trying to place myself above some group of non-classical vermin, I am far from finally decided on the above points.  I'd love to discuss any of the above with y'all and I'd love for y'all to add points that you think separate Classical from non-Classical.  I'm even open to being told that I'm full of manure, but if you think so, I would prefer for you to expand on that so I can better understand your dissent.
Patrick Parker
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