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Inside Events: USA Judo

13 Feb, 2015

By: Corinne Shigemoto,Jose H. Rodriguez
An Interview with Jose Rodriguez, Chief Executive Officer, and Corinne Shigemoto, Chief Operating Officer

USA Judo is: the National Governing Body (NGB) and member of the US Olympic Committee. It enables all United States athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence in domestic and international judo competition, and to continue the promotion and growth of the sport of Judo in the United States. Its mission is to be a world leader providing maximum opportunities to all its members with programs from core development to Olympic gold.

Sports Destination Management: How many members does USA Judo have? Are they individual memberships, or does a dojo have membership?

Jose Rodriguez: Our organization has different membership types. “A” level membership is held by multi-member organizations, and there are two of those: United States Judo Federation and United States Judo Association. At the “B” level of membership are state judo organizations. “C” is for military groups and others. “D” level is individual membership, and we have about 10,300 of those. We place most of our emphasis with our communications with our clubs and our individual members.

SDM: There are a number of martial arts, including karate, taekwondo and more. How does judo compare with those in terms of popularity?

Rodriguez: Judo is actually one of the most popular. The most popular martial art is jujutsu because of the great work the Brazilian jujutsu has done. Their business model for growing the sport is to be admired.

Corinne Shigemoto: Martial arts as a form of fitness are very popular. That is due to the success and the popularity of groups such as UFC. You’re seeing more and more people getting into mixed martial arts for fitness.

SDM: Many sports today are developing programs to make sports safer for children. Does USA Judo see the need to do this?

Rodriguez: To me, judo is and should be the basis of learning to practice all other sports in the safest way possible. When you start judo, the very first thing you are taught is how to fall safely.

Shigemoto: What other sport spends days and weeks of teaching you how to fall without getting hurt? In what sport do you not need to have that skill? It is a skill you can use not only in every sport, but throughout your life – and not just in the dojo.

SDM: What generally attracts people to judo?

Shigemoto: There is something about judo that just grabs you. It’s very much a family sport. Parents will bring their children into the dojo.

Rodriguez: After one of our national events, a local newspaper did an article on two competitors, a father and daughter, who were both competing. It becomes something the children want to do because they’ve seen their parents do it.

Shigemoto: Plus, in the last summer Olympics, the USA won its first gold medal in judo. Parents see that and want their kids to join the sport.

SDM: According to the website, USA Judo holds its national events back-to-back each year.

Rodriguez: For our national event, we are in Irving, Texas, for the next two years but we move across the U.S. for all our events.

SDM: What sort of venues do you look for?

Rodriguez: While there really is not a preference of venues, we do need unobstructed space. You can’t have any pillars or columns. Adequate bleacher space is important to us as well. We also want something near restaurants and hotels, and especially for one of our national championships, something near a major airport. Everything has to be within reasonable driving distance.

Shigemoto: The ideal venue is also one that I would call self-contained. It should have the tables, the chairs, the seating. It’s just easier for us if the facility has what we need and we don’t have to find outside vendors.

SDM: What about mats and so forth?

Shigemoto: We bring in a lot of our own equipment. We are pretty self-contained in terms of mats, scoreboards, cords, computers – the supplies we need to run the actual events.

SDM: Are there any miconceptions about judo as a sport?

Rodriguez: One in particular: most of the people hear the word, ‘judo,’ and they immediately think you’re going to throw a karate punch. That’s so wrong, and it’s one of the biggest challenges we face. This is a sport where participants don’t punch, kick or fight. It’s the skill of self-defense.

Shigemoto: Basically, the goal is to put your opponent down with as little energy and effort as possible. It’s a defensive art.

Rodriguez: In Japanese, judo means ‘the gentle way.’

Website: www.teamusa.org/USA-Judo

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