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Judo in Japan getting unwanted scrutiny for abuse, violence

48 Comments
By YURI KAGEYAMA

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48 Comments
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Good grief.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Violence and abuse of coaches and teachers toward students is a different issue than judo itself being violent. It is less violent than most martial arts. Of course, accidents like head injuries, broken arms, etc. occur in every sport, and judo is no exception to that, but as far a getting scrutiny, it should be the perpetrators of crimes, not the sport itself.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

It may be unwanted but it is clearly deserved

Yamashita, who became the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee last year after his predecessor resigned in a bribery scandal.

A ban on corporal punishment was declared law in Japan only this year. 

From 1983 to 2016, 121 deaths were reported in judo in Japan

Yikes. What a mess. No one in jail either?

A recent report by Human Rights Watch on sports organizations in Japan, including judo, said a standard for sanctions of abusive coaches was lacking, complaints weren’t being properly handled, and public data on abuse reports or investigations weren’t available.

Well, there's a course of action. Will anyone do anything?

1) standard sanction for abusive coaches

2) a proper and independent complaints system

3) public data on investigations

The national judo hierarchy says it 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," Yamashita said.

What fix? Given that 1-2-3 has never happened these are just weasel words.

Judo needs people of character to clean it up. By the looks of it it's too far gone. Might as well start up a new Judo association with clear rules and guidelines plus police checks to keep out the offenders. Time to get rid of the weeds

This is a microcosm of a lot of Japan. So much pride and beautiful pursuits being ruined by neglect causing actual deaths. What an utter shame.

I hope they can clean it up. Japan deserves better and all its players need a safe and fun environment.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Oh common on people! As a person who has studied martial arts, it should be a given that your child may get hurt. It is part of the process of learning how to defend yourself. If you can't handle it, don't sign your kids your up for it. Don't complain and destroy the opportunity for others who really want to learn. This is a YOUR CHOICE situation. Don't push your negative feeling onto others.

-13 ( +10 / -23 )

That's it? 121 death in like 3 decades? And they called this dangeous sport? I crack my ribs doing karate when i was young. All sport has injuries and accidents can happen.

This is just nitpicking.

-17 ( +9 / -26 )

"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."

Yet Japan wins more Judo Gold than all of them put together.

"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."

Leave it to a good gaijin to teach the Japanese how to be Japanese!

God help us all.

-24 ( +7 / -31 )

Add Kendo to the list. Neice excelled at Kendo (College athletics scholarship) and her female teacher used to kick her. [As a side note WTF with kicking as punishment in Japan.]

Sister in law was lucky I was not in county at the time. I figure if you physically abuse a child, you would not have a problem with a 6'3" 215 guy reaponding in kind. Pisses me off to this day.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

Sister in law is Japanese to the core, "don't rock the boat"

2 ( +4 / -2 )

If we change Article 9, kids need to toughen up and learn military discipline. Otherwise Japan will be finished.

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

HiroToday 07:55 am JST

That's it? 121 death in like 3 decades? This is just nitpicking.

Peeping_TomToday 07:56 am JST

"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.

Leave it to a good gaijin to teach the Japanese how to be Japanese!

Ms. Kobayashi is Japanese.

24 ( +25 / -1 )

Oh common on people! As a person who has studied martial arts, it should be a given that your child may get hurt. It is part of the process of learning how to defend yourself. If you can't handle it, don't sign your kids your up for it. Don't complain and destroy the opportunity for others who really want to learn. This is a YOUR CHOICE situation. Don't push your negative feeling onto others.

There's a wide, wide difference between unavoidable injuries that come as part of the study, and the sorts of injuries discussed in the article. As a 2nd degree in judo myself, I've seen it. I've seen 'sempai' not just throw 'kohai' hard, but then proceed to shove, kick, and scream in the face of them for some imagined insult.

Case in point: When I came to Japan, I learned my black belt I earned in the USA wasn't recognized, so back to white belt for me. No problem, a belt's meant to hold your gi closed. But during one early practice I had with a college judo team, one of the players and I got into a pretty funny situation, and we both started laughing.

One of the seniors went ballistic, screaming in my face that "here we study warriors! We are warriors! You show respect to heart of war!" and more. He assumed (wrongly) that because I was new in that particular dojo and wearing a white belt, I didn't know about judo... or war.

The shame on his face when I calmly explained to him during the next water break that A) I'm a graduate of the United States Military Academy, B) I've served in a real army, and C) that many people I personally know and have called friends have died or been permanently injured in combat while he was playing samurai in his padded dojo, was immense. He had no place to lecture me on the 'way of the warrior.' And when I proceeded in the next randori session to get him with two different arm locks, it shut him up all the more.

Next case in point: I've watched a high school coach who weighed roughly 100 kilos start pushing and throwing around a helpless high school 2nd year student who weighed 60 kilos, simply because the kid was 10 minutes late to practice at an off-site dojo. Not throw as in randori throw, but as in throw the kid, then as the kid is down, grab the helpless, face down child, pick them up by the back of the collar and the obi, and give them a bum's rush towards a stacked up pile of tatami on the side of the practice area. I stepped in then too, and was told I was in the wrong.

Bullcrap. There's training, and there's training injuries. Too many judo 'sensei' though are nothing more than bullies. And those injuries and deaths are 100% avoidable.

27 ( +27 / -0 )

Coaches who use abusive methods are a problem in many sports in Japan. In certain clubs/organizations, there will be a culture of hitting athletes to keep them in line. The abuse will be completely systematic and cannot be passed off on "bad apple" coaches. However, for judo specifically

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.

Aren't some of these deaths from PE lessons? I think its been phased out now, but there were notorious cases of regular school PE teachers teaching judo in regular PE lessons to all students with no extra training. This unsurprisingly led to lots of injuries, almost on a "human pyramids" level. The reason untrained people were teaching judo was the ol' "we must teach the kids our culture" one, which sounds nice but didn't seem to bother with the practicalities. If inexperienced kids of all shapes and sizes were throwing each other around with an idiot in charge, then yes, you're going to have injuries and deaths.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

As a judo practitioner for over 15 years, teaching in Japan has shown me different sides of Judo. When I first came to Japan and worked an an ALT, the first school I taught at had an amazing Judo teacher that taught me many things while also properly caring about his students. The second school I worked at had a horrible judo teacher that clearly only followed what he read in the practice book and just got angry all the time. That teacher pissed me off.

If the teacher properly trains the students, the risk of training and sparing injuries are low. The problem with most schools is that their judo teachers are not real judo teachers so they skip a lot of the defensive basics that you need before you move on.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

These types of things tend to attract the worst of psychopath teachers.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

"Ms. Kobayashi is Japanese."

Try again.

This time quoting the correct portion of my post.

-17 ( +2 / -19 )

Violent "sport" attracts violent teachers. No surprise here.

-6 ( +8 / -14 )

Fighto.

I agree with many of your views. I still give you up vote.... On this issue I disagree.

Judo, Karate should be encouraged more. It's part of Japan's culture, tradition, soul.

Having more citizens, especially the young one, be able to participate,learn to defend themselves, be more confident, make friends, be active, should be encouraged and promoted more!

You can have bad teachers, violent teachers in everything you do that's athletic, active, sport related, competition related.

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

If the teacher properly trains the students, the risk of training and sparing injuries are low.

My friends Japanese husband is a high school teacher. He is forced to teach judo for after school activities. He is not good at judo, and is scared of some students. He always has some injury.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

People saying it's ok for judo to cause harm sometimes have no idea what judo originally stands for.

Trainers under who people got injured have also no idea what judo stands for..

I have a 4 Dan black belt in another Japanese martial art, and I'm offended people still consider the nowadays judo a martial art as well. In judo (and other sports), one does everything allowable by the rules (sometimes pushing the boundaries) in order to beat your adversary and win.

In an martial art, one does everything allowed by the rules to improve himself. There is no adversary to be beaten. Most people practicing judo (especially in competitions) have totally forgotten this.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Just your japanese group activity here, nothing to be surprised about.

Soccer, badminton, street dance etc were supposed to be healthy activities where kids could have a little bit of fun, but as many other activities in this country, it feels more like a military camp with overwhelming rules and pressure, you don't see kids smiling and goofing around, this is a place for discipline and group bonding, and not in the fun way.

If they beat, yell nasty words at kids playing ball games, I don't want to know what happens in the karate, judo clubs in this place.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

One problem is that judo teachers in Japan tend to be good at judo, but not at dealing with the physical and psychological needs of youngsters

Let me fix it for you:

One problem is that teachers are not good at dealing with the physical and psychological needs of youngsters

Period. I already dread the day when my kids enter school here in Japan. After going through experiencing and seeing how Japanese are abusing and harassing each other in the workplace, I feel like my kids will be constantly in danger in school.

Also, look at the (summer) Olympic results!!! Such tiny nations as Hungary with a fraction of the population easily beat Japan in their ranking.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Power harassments is Japanese culture. what else?

14 ( +16 / -2 )

The abuse is just part of the judo culture here unfortunately. And those born into it know nor do little else. Very hard to re-educate these types too. Old school, stubborn and completely devoid of the ability to self reflect. Meatheads basically. You wouldn’t wanna tell them that though!!

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Why stop at judo? Most if not all sporting school activies in japanese schools is rife with abuse.

It all comes down to bullying which has been a log time problem in japan.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

Bullying. All part and parcel of Japanese life.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

Bullying at work comes from bullying at school and bullying during extra scholar activities. No wonder.

In badminton, I did no see any abuse but it seems not for fun for the ones going for national level.

Good luck Japan.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I am a second dan in both Judo and Taekwondo. It's actually amazing the difference in the atmosphere between the 2 clubs here in Japan. The Judo club has a very strict severe atmosphere where everybody is supposed to know their place and woe betide anyone who steps out of their role.... On the other hand, the Taekwondo club where I help with the teaching, has a much more relaxed and easy atmosphere and I think is a lot more enjoyable for everyone.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

if you stay long enough in Japan, you will know that senior bullying is a never-ending issues here

8 ( +9 / -1 )

since1981Today  07:53 am JST

Oh common on people! As a person who has studied martial arts, it should be a given that your child may get hurt.

There's a very big distance to be traveled between "getting hurt", and "getting killed".

Shame on you for making light of the death of children.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

More or less the same at Japanese corporations. They want to hire students who engaged in sports clubs where hierarchy is absolute. If you want to quit a club, you will be punched one or two times and you will be released. I experienced it. They share the similar tradition of yakuza. If you want to quit yakuza, you have to chop your finger and offer it to the boss. Joining a group in Japan is a hell.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

But it’s also drawing unwanted scrutiny over widespread allegations of violence, and accompanying injuries, abuse, and more than 100 deaths in Japan over the last several decades attributed to judo and its military-like training methods.

Over how many decades? Interesting that the press did give the exact number of years. It is probably 5 decades which works out to two deaths a year. In the US, there are 7 deaths in American high school football.

This a typical western media hit job on Japan. No real facts. No comparison with other countries. Sport injuries only happen in Japan thinking. But sport injuries happen all over the world. Here is example:

High school athlete dies after head injury during rugby game

https://www.sportsnet.ca/more/high-school-athlete-dies-sustaining-head-injury-rugby-game/

-12 ( +0 / -12 )

The word 'Judo' in the title should be replaced with 'Culture'... Sadly it's more appropriate and true..

Culture in Japan getting unwanted scrutiny for abuse, violence

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I think it is just about the tradition too give too much unnecessary respect to a teacher or to a boss and his authority. Self defense is not to be a slave of some idiot with a belt, but to ignore any rules and authority if it will save you from being injured or killed.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

All students should wear headgear when they play Judo.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Like many have stated, it’s the Japanese culture of bullying, harassment labeled as discipline and the military gashuku camps that is undoing Judo.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Unkindness, cruelty, outward anger and violence must end in Japanese sports (and workplaces for that matter).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is old news that still hasn't been thoroughly addressed by authorities here ranging from schools to police to judo groups to govt. While attempts have been made to "clean-up" the image, silence has been the overriding common element so as not to disturb the "Wa".

It's too embarrassing for Japan as the home of judo, to be seen as involved in the deaths of hundreds of children over the years and the permanently disabling of many more.

France as the country with the greatest participation rate in judo in the world has recorded no deaths.

An extract from a decade old Japan Times article.

"....Yasuhiko Kobayashi’s 15-year-old son had skipped judo practice.

According to Kobayashi, the boy’s teacher was furious and stood waiting for him at the gates of his junior high school in Yokohama. The teacher forced the boy into the gym and made him grapple one on one. The former All Japan judo champion choked the boy until he lost consciousness.

When the boy came to, the teacher choked him again until he went limp, and threw him to the floor with such force that he suffered severe internal bleeding in his brain, an injury known as an acute subdural hematoma.

The injury incurred on Dec. 24, 2004, left Kobayashi’s son unable to remember anything for almost two years, while the teacher was later transferred to another junior high school in the city in accordance with standard job transfers among public school teachers.

The incident alleged by Kobayashi’s parents is one of a spate of similar deaths and injuries in school judo classes in recent years reminiscent of the beating death of young sumo wrestler Takashi Saito during a disciplinary “training” session in 2007.

The parents of Koji Murakawa, a 12-year-old junior high school student in Shiga Prefecture, allege their son died from a similar injury in July 2009.

Murakawa complained to his instructor he had asthma. He was told to wear an antidust mask and made to spar with the instructor. The teacher reportedly violently threw him to the ground, also leaving the boy with a subdural hematoma.

Taken to a hospital, Murakawa was later pronounced brain dead. His body was covered with bruises, according to his parents...."

It was the parents of Kobayashi & Murakawa that formed the Japan Judo Accident Victims Association.

The website is also in English as they wanted to spread the word internationally about the devastating consequences of feudal style judo training in Japan.

http://judojiko.net/eng/?vm=r

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Granted that judo is a grappling sport and can not be taught in non-contact mode, unlike the taekwondo that I and my two sons did for three years with a strict but caring Malysian Chinese instructor, but the brutally described here is quite our of order and I would encourage parents to complain to regulating bodies, the police, and their politicians.

We have had trouble in Australia with Chinese gymnastic coaches from the PRC being brutal with their training methods, for example forcing the children excessively in stretching, in intensity of training and so on. Even in my days at a disciplinarian Catholic school in the 50's, no one ever treated me like that: there was corporal punishment but it was formalised. Clearly sports instructors in Asia, especially in the martial arts, need to be made to conform to a decent code of conduct and, ideally, be trained in how to relate in a teaching situation to children and young adults especially; be registered after scrutiny of their qualifications, and lose that registration if they do not conform.
2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sports is killing everywhere, not only in Japan, not only in Judo. That’s why it is promoted and loved by so many people, as you cannot be caught or made responsible. It is all booked under sports injuries, not following rules or accidents etc. A real playground for murderers without having to fear justice.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Judo is like how Bob Knight (of the NCAA basketball fame) coached his team

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Period. I already dread the day when my kids enter school here in Japan. After going through experiencing and seeing how Japanese are abusing and harassing each other in the workplace, I feel like my kids will be constantly in danger in school.

That has not been the case with my two boys in generic Tokyo public schools. As a native of the Chicago area, I know a thing or two about violence in schools.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

In our dojo we don’t wear proper uniforms. We arrive and go whenever we please. We don’t wear protection gear. We often go to izakaya together. We are a family.

We use serious techniques, but never hurt each other or have aggression. We learn from each other.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As rightly pointed out a number of times above, this is ijime, it IS PART of Japanese Culture, It IS PERVASIVE.

It is nasty as hell & Japan needs to do something about it.....but it wont for the most part, yeah sure it will to a tiny bit here.....there & then all is forgotten for a while rinse & repeat. BUT the ijime remains CONSTANT.

As one who participated in lots of sports, some competitive, some for simple fun like mixed softball, but after 30yrs here I cant say I have seen many smiles on participants here, opposite mostly & a TON of sickening stories of abuse. I wonder if I would have participated in sport here if I grew up here, thank goodness I didnt grow up here, I feel sorry for children in Japan even if they dont do sport, still nasty way to grow up & it never ends sadly

Its something we as gaijin can avoid for the most part, help maintain some sanity, good luck folks, especially those with kids, I dont think I could have handled it given the WAY Japan ""works""

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yes, as many of you already pointed out, it's not just in Judo, but everywhere. I mean, we could simply remove the word "Judo" from the title. "Japan getting unwanted scrutiny for abuse, violence". That's more like it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I've studied and taught judo and karate for over thirty years, we've never had a single instance of serious injury. My teacher was Japanese, and he was strict but he taught us self control which was most essential to protect ourselves and others who we trained with.

Judo and Karate are not dangerous sports. It's become a dangerous sport in Japan because there are no rules and no consequence.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I learned Judo in the 1960's from a French Judo sensei who was a world class Judo master and have only had to use my skills once. When I was out on the town with my late j-wife in Shizuoka we were walking home and came upon a bar where a guy was tearing it up. I went into Judo mode and put him out on the street, pinned him down and called the cops who were surprised that a gaijin nailed this guy. It's amazing that your basic instincts kick in when necessary.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Between 1983 and 2016

Fatal accidents in judo have become a social problem one after another and have already improved more than 10 years ago.

2009-2011:14 fatal accidents

2012-2014 :0

What has already been improved、

I just deliberately blame it by referring to past data.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Agree with David. There’s training, hard training. Then there’s abuse. Back in the Day in Fukuoka when the only 2 things to do were fight and drink, we trained very hard but thankfully, I never experienced abuse.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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