"We have met the enemy and he is us." I remember when that line was first published, in a Pogo comic, as the final statement in a not very interesting drawn out saga in a not very interesting Sunday morning comic strip. Still, it was so profound that by that evening, everyone from talk-show hosts to my father were quoting it.
On the flip side, I have had an epiphany lately. For years, people in judo have been waiting for someone to rescue us. If we only had a major corporate sponsor give us millions of dollars, if we could only get several hundred thousand dollars of that money the government is giving away, if we could only be the subject of a major motion picture, that would rescue our sport and we would have hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people competing in judo. With those millions of people, we would win fourteen Olympic gold medals - maybe we would win twenty, because with that influx of ten million new judo players from the U.S. there would need to be new weight divisions added and ... and...
Fade to reality ....
Corporations sponsor activities which are already done by millions of people, to get themselves more publicity. Federal grants go to programs that can demonstrate need, capacity, a good evaluation plan, qualified personnel. When you get the money, you have to spend it on salaries, facilities. Take it from someone who does this for a living- you would be truly amazed how fast you can burn through a million dollars. If you have a half-dozen employees for three years, you have pretty much spent it all.
Motion picture? When is the last time you watched a movie on, say Double-Dutch jumprope competitions or a cheer-leading squad and said to yourself, "Wow! I can't wait to join that."
Judo is growing in this country in both quality and quantity. It is growing because we have people like Greg Fujimoto organizing host families from Nanka Yudanshakai for a Japanese high school team to visit and Gary Goltz from the USJA offering his club so that 90 judo players can attend a clinic on Saturday morning (shown above). You have the USJA Development fund, thanks to wonderfully generous donors, sponsoring Pedro Dias from Portugal to give clinics for Nanka and USJA kids at Tenri Dojo in East L.A. on that same afternoon. You have Frank Sanchez that evening opening his home and throwing an all-out party for all of the Guerreros Judo Club judo players and their families. The morning after, kids from age five through twenty-five showed up for three hours of extra training at the USJA/USJF West Coast Training Center.
We have coaches who are working everywhere to learn more and teach more. The recent National Coaches Clinic with Jim Pedro, Sr. Hayward Nishioka, Jim Bregman and moi was attended by 65 coaches. Of these, five were recognized for their outstanding teaching and technical ability and certified to teach coach education workshops. (Congratulations to Mike Noriega, Gerry Lafon, Dan Alef, Neil Ohlenkamp and Paul Nogaki.) The fact that we have volunteers from throughout the country attending these events at their own expense speaks volumes about what we are all doing to grow judo. If we had a million dollars, it would not cover the valuable professional time these individuals donate. On December 22, I will be in Springfield, MO doing another coach certification workshop and I am sure I will meet just as many terrific people in the Midwest.
I have been called some very creative names, as well as some more common ones casting aspersions on my mother, had people say truly unkind things about my children, been accused of everything from assault to extramarital affairs... and that's not mentioning the money and hours I have poured into this sport, the arthritis from old injuries and training through pain. Those people who say, "No pain, no gain," are correct but they seem to under-emphasize the fact that the pain part is well, uh, painful. Yes, there are times I thought it really wasn't worth it. After all, we are really talking about involving more children, adults and families into a relatively minor sport. As usual, Ronda fought her heart out in Japan and I am very proud of her. The Kano Cup is the toughest tournament in the world and she earned a silver medal despite injury, despite everything. On the other hand, she won a tournament almost no has heard of in a sport almost nobody knows what is. Why even bother? A good answer to that question can be found in Lord of the Rings
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.
What we are fighting for in the USJA and all our associated activities with Nanka, with supporting clubs like Southside Dojo and Guerreros, with supporting organizations like USJF, is to have a sport be more accessible to more people at a higher quality. What we are fighting against is everyone who has darker motives, who wants to be a coach for access to children for sexual abuse at the most extreme end. We are also fighting against those who want to teach to make other people feel smaller so they themselves can feel more important, against those who want to be involved in organizations so they can be promoted to judo ranks that are wildly out of proportion to their knowledge, giving a false portrait to the world of what judo is and what the people who excel at it are really like.
A retired judo player said proudly,
"You may have never heard of me, but I was once one of the best in the world at something worth being the best at."
That our children twenty years from now may say those same words, is one of the many things worth fighting for. I think that every day as I look down (or, in some cases up, those teenagers are getting big!) at the faces of the people learning judo around the country.