Abuse in judo needs to be done away with

Picture via Focus Taiwan (courtesy of the boy's family)

The story made headlines around the world: 7-year-old judo student was slammed to the ground 27 times, was in a coma, and now, months later, has died.

The judo instructor, apparently unlicensed, is out on bail. He was charged with was charged with physical assault resulting in serious injury and using a minor to commit a crime. Authorities are now expected to file charges of injury causing death, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, Taiwan News reported.

This horrifying news of abuse is particularly surprising for those who grew up in a positive judo environment where judo is treated like a sport, and proper coaches teach students how to play the game safely.

You might be surprised to learn that abuse in judo is rife in Japan, the birthplace of judo. This article. Judo in Japan: Getting unwanted scrutiny for abuse, violence, contains many shockers. Here are some key points:

From 1983 to 2016, 121 deaths were reported in judo in Japan, according to the Japan Judo Accident Victims Association. That number covers schools, but not extracurricular dojos — schools for martial arts — for which there are no data.

Michel Brousse, an expert on judo in France and elsewhere, believes the problems are so serious that there is “no future for judo” in Japan unless they get addressed soon. “No other country in the world has so many injuries,” Brousse said in a telephone interview.

Keiko Kobayashi (AP)

Keiko Kobayashi, a representative of the judo victims’ association, stressed safe judo is possible, noting that not a single child has been reported to have died from judo in the last 20 years in the U.S., France, Australia, and Britain. Kobayashi’s son suffered a brain hemorrhage 16 years ago after his junior high school teacher penalized him with judo choke holds and throws, leaving him seriously injured. The reason: He had refused to go to a sports-oriented high school the teacher had recommended.

In Japan, beatings and harassment are also part of judo’s Spartan-style methods, thinking rooted in the nation’s brutal militaristic training, before and during World War II, the AP quoted Noriko Mizoguchi, an Olympic silver medalist, as saying.

The AP also interviewed Olympic legend Yasuhiro Yamashita, who said: “I feel it is sad judo is being perceived as extremely dangerous, and Japan’s judo world must take this seriously.” The article quotes Yamashita as acknowledging that the problems are serious in Japan with some injuries happening through punishment in training.

The article notes that the national judo federation has been focused on a fix for several years, but more needs to be done. “The problem is that the message has not reached everyone at the grassroots level yet,” said Yamashita.

Sometimes, certain traditions need to be discarded. Any kind of abuse in judo, needs to be done away with.