February 10

How to Make Judo Bigger and more Popular than BJJ and MMA!


Diaz judo

As a result of the wildly successful article that showcased google web data on google trends that cause me to write about how BJJ would over take Judo  in Participants by 2020 I was contacted by someone who asked “ok how do you fix this?”.

It was a good question of which  I have discussed before but I will now provide a full account and why. But before the Judo world starts to roll over in the Gi’s and cry “Judo is perfect, leave it alone” well the simple truth is that it isn’t perfect. In fact far from it.

I love Judo but not everyone does. If Judo was perfect the retention rate would be amazing, there would be clubs packed out to capacity each week. Last time I look however memberships are down and the mats have plenty of space.

On the other side of the table BJJ has classes in every town, mats are full and MMA gyms are full to the brim.

How to Make Judo Bigger and more Popular than BJJ and MMA

In this article you will learn how Jimmy Pedro feels about Judo growth, interesting facts and figures around Judo and this will require a lot of inner reflection by the Judo community. We will look at the 4 reasons people take up Judo and how Pro Judo can grown the sport an art to a new level. I will also examine how Judo was grown simply by MMA style contests and how it needs to embrace MMA and the UFC era to win back its popularity.

Scared of Change

One of the things I see all the time within Judo is ‘fear’. By that I mean fear of change. From rule changes by the IJF to the constant growth of BJJ. So many Judoka and coaches are digging their heels in and gritting their teeth and basically saying “Judo doesn’t need changing”. Is this really applying Judo philosophy?

The facts I previously reported on are clear. Judo is losing the battle of on line interest against BJJ. Many people have stated that arguments that Judo is only losing popularity in the USA and UK but trust me the BJJ and MMA phenomenon will spread across the globe.

MMA and the UFC are huge business the UFC is valued at around $2.5 billion. Any business of that worth isnt going anywhere, infact its going to get bigger

Yet still despite the overwhelming growth of these alternative activities, the IJF and other governing bodies of Judo neither recognise this or understand it. The key issue here is that they are trying to create a ‘spectator sport’ when they should be focused on creating a ‘participation’ sport.

Why People Watch Judo?

The IJF and other Judo bodies are in a ‘which came first’ problem. Was it the chicken or the egg? They want Judo to gain popularity so they change the rules to create a spectator sport that is fast and exciting. However they miss the issue.

Increased TV coverage doesn’t always = increased participation


Increased Participation WILL increase TV viewers

Judo has and always will be a sport that you have to take part in so that you can truly understand it and appreciate it. Yes, if the sport is more exciting you will clearly get ‘lay’ viewers and this in turn can increase advertising and sponsorship but when Judo is so utterly confusing and with so many rules the ‘exciting’ aspect wears off. Comments such as “why can he tackle?” or even “why do they stand them up so quickly” will be heard by an audience that is likely to be educated by the vast TV coverage of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

At the end of the day, Judo can look as exciting as Formula one racing but it wont make a difference if it continues to exclude techniques that other arts include. Judo is a combat sport plain and simple (to the outside observer).

Judo needs to evolve, it needs to adapt but in this day and age it should be ‘including techniques’ and not ‘excluding them’.

My message here is that he evolution that Judo needs is not a reduction of techniques or even an increase in its rules. It is merely the goal that Judo should go back to its roots.

Evolution should take place to make things better, to survive! At the moment Judo is genetically modified and not evolved. The modification is designed to please a mystery TV audience or even a few people on an Olympic Committee.

The Simple Truth-Judo got into the Olympics via participation and not through a TV audience

Why Judo Should Change Back To Its Roots

The UK and USA market needs are changing based on a whole range of issues. From BJJ, Cross fit, MMA, Krav Maga and many more the public no longer want what they used to. So if you want to keep Judo memberships lower then carry on as you are, however if you don’t change you risk turning Judo into a Kids only activity propped up by government funding only because it delivers a handful of medals which can be used for government sports propaganda and promotion.

Now although I would like to see Judo go back to its roots as an activity that more resembles Ju Jitsu. That doesn’t mean that it cant benefit from a change in marketing, we need a product that meets the needs of the current market place.

Judo isn’t the only business affected by  changing world. The publishing world has also been affected. If Amazon hadn’t embraced digital content they would not have Kindles and e readers. Yes they still have printed books and yes I love printed books but not everyone does. That’s the point I want you to remember. Its not about keeping the Judo the IJF tell  you to love its about putting Judo into a variety of formats that others will enjoy and utilise.

How to Market Judo Better

But before we begin please take a look at this report https://doc.rero.ch/record/29423/files/GRIFFIN_Emma_MEMOSXIV.pdf

The report is a report written by Emma Griffin which I am assuming formed part of a master degree programme with the University of France. However it is an excellent look at marketing within Judo and is packed with facts. Within this report is data on Judo and why people take it up.

Page 32 of this report states

The survey also revealed that fitness was the primary motivation for taking part in judo,
with other key other motivators including self-defence, strength and friends (social

This data came from a membership survey of British Judo members. All the data is freely available on line but the above clearly states that there are 4 key motivations for taking up of Judo.

  1. Fitness
  2. Strength
  3. Self Defence
  4. Friends/Social Aspect

So there you have it. In plain English from the members of the British Judo Association. A chart also from this document shows just what people think of Judo:

Judo Heat map

Whilst there are a lot of positives among, the down sides here are the easy to access and affordable. Now the report does say that there are Judo 868 clubs in the UK however I will add that there is a major issue among the Judo bosses. If I was in charge of the BJA or USA Judo organisations I would know day in and day out exactly how many people are going through the club doors.

Now this type of information inst hard to ask for or hard to implement but tracking data each quarter is pointless, you need daily figures. Clubs need to input or send data to the head office for figures. This allows you to spot trends, look at clubs doing well and see why or how they are doing and gives ‘real time’ data on Judo participation.

However this data alone states that people don’t think Judo is affordable or accessible and they take it up for 4 reasons.

Marketing Message

To start fixing Judo the people who are in charge need to communicate the actual benefits of Judo as part of their major marketing message. No One and I mean no one will do Judo because they just want to do Judo. There will always be a reason behind choosing that sport. That’s what marketing is about.

So the 4 motivating factors need to be clearly made out as they are benefits.

For example “Get Strong, Get Fit, Make Friends and learn to defend yourself” is actually a far more powerful message than Judo- more than sport because Judo more than sport doesn’t actually tell you anything about why you should do it.

Simply put the first thing Judo needs to do is establish its marketing message!

Judo and MMA

judo gif


Judo gained its huge popularity via challenge matches. This is a fact.

In the award winning book on Judo “The Pyjama Game” by Mark Law on pages 37 and 38 it discusses the infamous match Ju Jitsu and Judo to decide which system would go on to teach the Police. and I quote “kano now  did all he could to promote and protect the Kodakan Judo brand. He sent his representatives to every region of Japan giving lectures and demonstrations, which usually ended with a contest between the lecturer and a local challenger”.

Now is this really a huge difference from the Gracie Challenge that lead to Gracie Jiu Jitsu becoming so popular and eventually lead for the creation of the UFC?

Of course it isnt, so why should a Judoka be penalised for showing the effectiveness of his Judo skills in mma? Judo can like it or lump it but as stated the UFC is not going anywhere so its important to embrace that by allowing and even encouraging its athletes to consider an MMA career if they wish. If you look at the Judo throw above by 2008 Olympic Gold medal winner Ishii of Japan. Is this not judo? Does it show the beauty of Judo techniques to the masses?

My view is simple. If Judo used to go around getting involved in challenge matches when Kano was around to grow the participation of Judo then why on earth shouldn’t it be encouraged now?

As I stated earlier. The goal is to get rid of modifications for the Olympics and take Judo back to its roots. Challenge matches may well have to be a part of this albeit in the MMA arena.

Saving Judo with Pro Judo

Judo needs changing. In an interview by Jimmy Pedro he discusses this in detail click here for that interview.

If we look at boxing they have all the things Judo needs to copy for growth. They have a product for every customer:

Boxercise, Amateur Boxing that is in the Olympics and Pro Boxing of which I briefly worked as an official.

Simply put if Judo just adds pro Judo to its options then we will see a different ball game. So what is pro judo? Well I envisage pro Judo to be a very dynamic sport where anyone can fight anyone. Leg grabs, kata gurumas and grip fighting are allowed along with extended time in groundwork. This is where the common club player can compete with ex internationals, BJJ players who have grades in Judo can also compete and the winner gets paid!

Who pays them? Well this comes from sponsorship but I believe Pro Judo could be an amazing activity that exists outside of the Olympic rules. It is the version of Judo we all want to see, back to the roots of Judo.

Despite this we need professional level Judo instructors that get paid to teach Judo. This is exactly what Jimmy Pedro thinks. In the UK most Judo instructors run clubs in their spare time and make zero money. This needs to change.

Judo needs both good coaches who get paid for their time but the interest in Judo wont be there unless Judo alters its marketing message.

I hope you are starting to see the picture here. Judo needs to change to what made Judo so big in the first place and also adapt to a modern marketing effort.

The Judo Newaza League

I first wrote about this idea here and I know that the bosses of UK Judo have certainly seen it. However Ill go into more detail.

Ask yourself this:

If Ground work is part of Judo, why do Judo players train in BJJ?

The idea behind the Judo Newaza league was quite simple. There is a definite demand for Ground work training as people are interested in BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) and a large number of Judo players are now cross training in this sport.

As previously stated I don’t have an issue with BJJ but I honestly feel that Judo groundwork is more exciting and faster paced due to its rules where pins create a dynamic and very different sport to BJJ. Lets face it BJJ is all about taking the back where as Judo gives the back as they don’t want to be pinned. That alone creates a very different game. I also like shorter round when doing Newaza, 2 and 3 minutes to get the job done rather than 5 minutes. The clock changes the game I assure you.

Anyway the Idea was also based on how different Judo Newaza skills were across the various clubs I have trained at. Turnovers, leg passes, chokes and many more skills I have never seen in a book all taught by different clubs and coaches. It really does show the depth of Judo groundwork. Yes we dont do the ‘spider guard’ but there are heaps of turnovers that cause an opponent to spin onto their back. You see the turnover game is one of the major unique aspects of Judo groundwork that separate it from BJJ.

So If we have depth (which we do) you can use that to create a new product for Judo to sell to its clubs. I called it the Judo Newaza league and the Judo Newaza Programme which in my personal notes I simply called “Newaza- Judo Ground Attack”. I thought it sounded pretty cool.

The aim was simple to have a dedicated and separate Judo Ground work programme with its own syllabus which was filmed and put on line for which clubs and individuals could pay for access at a small additional cost to their licence fee. Boom, there you have it an optional income generator for Judo at low cost to them.

I personally would think that to have all year round access to a Judo membership site dedicated to groundwork would be worth at least an extra £30 for the year (if the site was good enough).

British Judo can do the maths but an extra £30 per member  for an exciting new activity is a lot of revenue.

The League

The idea behind the league was to create a competitive groundwork event that was points orientated. So if you are at en event you can get on the mat for groundwork and add your points to a digital league table if you won. It encourages participation of injured players and also adds excitement to ordinary events.


I hope you have enjoyed this article as it will be my last of Judo for a while as I have a lot of readers interested in other things and to be honest my traffic comes from other arts.

However I think I have made a strong case, if you want to grow Judo so it is bigger than MMA and BJJ then you need to go back to its roots.

Judo in MMA- we have seen there were challenge matches

Judo Groundwork- Kosen Judo is well known

Pro Judo- Take Judo back to its roots and include all the techniques that made it a global success. Allow people to earn income from both teaching Judo and winning events.

All of these things that I am saying are not exactly revolutionary, in fact Judo was built on ideas that were very similar. When Judo was trying to grow it took on all challengers, it also had  a strong focus on groundwork and techniques were excluded not for spectators but for safety of the participants!

BJJ is growing and so is MMA however many could say that the growth of BJJ is simply down to Judo’s focus on being an Olympic sport and trying to please a TV audience or an Olympic committee.

My view point is simple, perhaps we should take Judo back to its roots and origins and include techniques rather than exclude them. By doing this we go back to the very thing that became popular. Instead the Judo bosses seem hell bent on creating a Frankenstein Monster out of Judo by adding or taking away the things they ‘think’ will make Judo more appealing to people who will be unlikely to ever take up Judo anyway.

Food for thought but Judo is about participation.

Take care





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  1. Regarding participation judo: bad local tournaments go a long way toward making people quit. Not having enough participants to fill brackets, combined with bias to help out your students at the expense of everyone else’s students.

    For example: a 50 pound 8 year old child shows up excited, but there aren’t any other 50 lb kids his age. The tournament director has a choice: put him with 50 lb kids who are younger (so he’ll be happy and they’ll be sad) or put him with 65 lb kids his own age (so he’ll be sad and quit). That’s crap – if you advertised a 50 lb weight class for 7-8 year olds, he should get his first place trophy for being the only kid in the class. Then give him his registration fee back, minus the cost of the trophy, because you failed him. Then give him the option, to compete with the 65 lb kids. Don’t screw him out of his trophy and self-esteem because you want to save $6.50 on a trophy. Don’t take the lazy way out and say ‘you should be able to beat somebody 30% heavier than you, if your judo is any good’.

  2. Andrew, the Gracies of the first half of the 20th century were not sportsmen holding Kosen like competitions like we see today. They were street fighters and, offered challenge matches to prove their skill. Their interest in Judo was not the way, or Do, but in the techniques. They were interested in how those techniques could be used against wrestlers, boxers, street toughs and, other martial artists. It wasn’t until Relio and, Carlos were past their fighting years that they set up competition rules, belt levels, etc. They also didn’t steel anything. Carlos was taught at the school run by Mitsuo Maeda, who had started out as one of Kano’s Judo ambassadors. He also spent about 10 years fighting in challenge matches himself and, was probably not teaching Kano’s way, but self-defense techniques. In that, they did give credit to the Japanese by calling it Jiu-Jitsu.

  3. Great post and i couldnt agree more. I come from a strong newaza judo school and most judo schools dont have good newaza so i worked out allot with bjj guys. I would love to see more of a kosen type of judo here in the US.

  4. The sad truth is that Gracie family learned (kosen) Judo, added a few moves and started calling it bjj. They basically stole the art without giving proper credit to Judo. Judo back in the day was mix of Judo today and bjj ground work. It’s the Olympic rules that made one system of Judo flourish while the kosen Judo system was largely ignored and forgotten.

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