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                               JUDO IN BC..........A FLATLINER...........WHY?

There was a very interesting article in the 14 January 2003 issue of the National Post, titled, “It’s all about the kids’: Team of 10-year-olds has $200,000. Budget.”  It is a story of how a hockey team has garnered the sponsorship of a successful businessman, Mr. Harvey Shapiro.  Mr. Shapiro didn’t even play hockey as a youth.  His philosophy is: “it’s all about the kids and making them as good as they can be and building good character.”

In the last issue of the Yudansha Journal, September 2001, and it was literally the last issue, there was a reoccurring theme.  Lack of money!  In an article titled “A New Beginning” by Francis Drouin one of his themes was that “we must continue in our efforts to become more financially self sufficient.”  James Kendrick wrote in an article “About the Technical Committee: “given limited financial resources, increased demand to meet sport Canada requirements and constant pressures to serve our stakeholders from coast to coast........”  Lastly, an article titled “Talent Identification” by Andrzej Sadej he states: “at the current level of financial support that Judo Canada can dedicate to athlete development, the National Association cannot expand an athlete development system beyond existing programs.”  One of the cornerstone objectives of the Judo Canada Strategic Plan [1998-2001] is to increase the percentage of self-generated revenue.  As was stated in this document, the Achilles’ heel of Judo Canada is its dependency on government funding.  A marketing focus is needed in order for the organization to determine its own destiny.  Obviously the parents of the hockey team of 10 years old children got their marketing focus right on target.

Clearly the writing has been on the wall for the past few years, but initiative, leadership and action have been slow or nonexistent throughout the judo chain of command.  Since the tragedy of 9/11 the focus of the democratic governments has been trained on three major areas of expenditures, security, public debit and the economy.  Many cuts to social programs including health, welfare, sports and education have been activated.  Sports organizations relying on government largess are now beginning to realize that they are the bottom feeders in the financial food chain.  Our small sport sadly is at the bottom of the bottom feeders.  Why?  Because we are too small, without effective representation at Provincial or National lobby levels, we do not have a functional system of communications to broadcast our successes and we lack the financial sponsorship to have any serious clout.  While there is leadership and initiative it is fractured, uncoordinated and in some instances, uncooperative.  We have been eclipsed by other martial arts and sports that are better organized and in a very short period have amassed large numbers of members.  Our profile, like our membership numbers is almost flatline.

It is clearly time for a paradigm shift in the way we do business.  We are a martial art and therefore structured on a rank system.  Ideally that structure is on a 3:1 ratio.  This ratio accounts for attrition but ensures progress for those remaining and openings for fresh recruits.  Everyone has a chance of reaching the top or close to it depending on ability and commitment.  This top echelon is the command and control cell, normally made up of individuals from the older, more experienced and senior ranks of the competitive group.  They are omnipotent to those ranked below.  This system worked for many years but as the sport has evolved and social changes emerged over the decades it is time for us to reexamine the organization and attitudes towards the mature Mudansha, and the parents/guardians of our youngest members of the sport.  The current major flaw within this system is that the triangle is not equal sided but more like a knitting needle standing on end   The base of the pyramid is too narrow and those that are aspiring upward promotions are not replacing those leaving the sport at their various rank levels.  Attrition and loss of experience is higher than enrollment and promotions.  Those at the top are ageing and the infusion of new blood is not enough to keep the body young and healthy.

Omnipotent leadership and control must be replaced by the social democratic values of the 21st century.   The lower levels of the sport who are the major financial contributors have absolutely no vote or say in how the meager amount of funding is distributed.  In Judo BC the black belts make up only 10% of the membership but control the business of the sport.  Only about 50% of the black belts bother attending the Annual General Meetings where they vote to authorize the executive to execute their plans.  Clearly we have very talented judoka at the Mudansha level. We issue them membership cards but not the status or benefits the Yudansha enjoy.  Yet, they pay more!   We are not or will not utilize 90% of our membership capabilities.

The numbers of recreational judokas far outweigh the competitors but the recreational contributions fund the competitors but they have no input into financial disbursement.  Granted, large numbers are  young and may not be ready to exercise their democratic rights but they do have parents and guardians who could also be utilized as contributing members.  There appears to be an apathy amongst the parents and in my estimation it is because they are not encouraged to participate in the administration of our sport.  In fact they are taught very little about the sport except what they learn by rote by attending competitions with their children.  There are many qualified professionals amongst that parent group, who could, be utilized to organize sponsorships, fund-raisers, seminars and assume responsibility in the executive.  To not mobilize this vast resource of financial, legal, medical, social, educational and administrative general purpose pool of resources is absurdity.  These volunteers could be utilized at club and Provincial level.  The only areas requiring Yudansha control are on the Technical, Grading and Referee Committees.  Resei Kano was not a practicing member of the sport but he was still able to assume the presidency of the Kodokan and be a very effective businessman.  Why can’t we elect good business people to administer the sport? 

Compliance with the status quo is not an option for the future.  Our membership figures for the past four years indicate the sport is almost flatline: 98/99 1,985 [258 Black Belts], 99/00 2,218 [209 Black Belts], 02/01 2,397 [268 Black Belts], and 01/02 2,373 [274 Black Belts].  Looking back over the last decade, the figures are similar.  We must take new initiatives to expand, modernize our sport and project a new image through effective media and visual communications.  All this takes money, organization, cooperation, initiative and leadership with a determination to enact a paradigm shift.  Without that shift and the possibility of further government reductions in funding, our sport will simply continue to wither on the vine.

One final thought.  The military has a very rigid rank structure with civilian input throughout but the ethos and battle standards have never been compromised.  The Commander-in-Chief is a civilian, our Governor General.  What is so special about our martial art that we can’t conform to this system and maintain our fighting skills and standards. 

At the next Annual General Meeting you will be asked to vote on a proposed restructure which would include the Mudansha as full and equal members with the Yudansha.  Please give it some serious thought and reflection.  This is a long -term project but one we must address, sooner than later.

Darrell M. Dean

Godan