The Judo Newaza League

It was summer 2012 and the Olympics had just taken place and I had been invited down the the HQ of the British Judo Association. For various reasons this was a meeting where I would have chance to discuss a few issues with the CEO’s of British Judo who at the time were Scott McCarthy however also present was his deputy and the current CEO Andrew Scoular.

Now In was at this meeting for a few reasons however I considered that an opportunity like this to meet with the heads of the British Judo Association was too good an opportunity to pass up so I made sure I gave a few decent ideas of where I thought British Judo could change and actually grow.

Im never considered someone to hide his opinions but the hour long presentation consisted of some great points for Judo growth (this was pure freebie information as I was there for another issue) but I will share one idea that I passed on to them.


Now before I go any further this concept isnt new but I feel it requires bringing up again using some kind of blog and as I get about 400 people a day to mine this is a good a place as any to canvas views an opinions.

The concept I came up with was as a direct result of a few things. Firstly it was my experience in BJJ or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. BJJ is a great art that has seen huge growth and continues to do so across the world but most importantly it attacks the demographic that Judo struggles with.Namely 18 to 40 year old group. This group tends to be income rich and hobby mad and as such BJJ has not only grown as a sport but it has clothing companies, numerous GI companies, DVD sales, magazines and much more. In fact go into your local newsagents to the martial arts section and you will find BJJ magazines or at least an MMA magazine that features BJJ input. You will not however see a Judo magazine.

The point is this, Judo struggles to retain people. That fact has been stated by its CEO’s before and even Andrew Scoular said this in the latest edition of matside magazine

“Our biggest issue is not getting new members but retaining them”

Now this is a major issue for any sport because if you dont have enough members that stay you wont have growth and if you want to know where the growth is going then check out martial arts like BJJ and krav maga. Recently I was told that Stealth BJJ in Manchester had 36 people on the mat one night recently. Almost all of them lower end grades and all of them above the age of 16!

Judo is not retaining members but BJJ is. Now from my experience of both sports I know why this is, the simple truth is down to injury. BJJ is a low impact sport where as Judo isn’t. In Judo you get thrown and it your body suffers over time and if you are older then you really wont like the thought of landing on your back no matter how good your break falls are.

The answer I stumbled across one day when I was training Judo. During the session a former British Judo legend showed the class a technique that I had never seen before. It was a turnover and I have never seen it on any book but it was brilliant. We then went about a groundwork marathon which consisted of lots of 2 minute long randoris on our knees. The end result was of course a great workout, no injuries and of course a new technique. Now this was similar to a BJJ session but to be honest was faster paced and I thought more fun. Dont get me wrong I really like BJJ but this was different, we were looking for pins and submissions and as such the game was very different.

Explosive Groundwork

Over the years I have learned one thing that Judo has  a great groundwork system but it is very explosive where by BJJ is a slower game. A very technical game of chess indeed. Another point I thought was how Judo really does neglect its groundwork and there is almost a secret syllabus out there. Techniques which older players and former internationals know but teach rarely. I have to say I do love Judo groundwork and I want to learn all the aspects possible about it. After all Judo has two very  good products, its standing game and its ground game.

The Big Idea

The idea was very simple, that British Judo should look to capitalise on the growth of BJJ by providing its own unique and detailed groundwork system.Yes and entire syllabus written by experts and to support his there would be gradings up to Dan Grades. This was something that I felt could increase club numbers, help retain people who would leave Judo due to injury and even attract new people to the sport. I could not see anything bad about this idea.

I was hoping the British Judo Association would have a Eureka moment and get to work on such a simple suggestion. In fact I even added that there should be a Newaza League so that people could compete and have its own ranking system. Imagine going to events and having a newaza league so you could have a few fight and add points to your position in a league. It would mean that you didnt always have to run groundwork competitions, instead you could have them added on to normal events and even have inter club events.

Now Im not bragging but I thought this was a superb idea but lets run up the pros

  • Retain older members
  • Attract new ones
  • Provide income generation for the association with a new syllabus and special groundwork courses
  • increased income for areas with more competitions focused on ground work
  • Attract the new BJJ crowd
  • Further club income as people can run an additional night dedicated to groundwork
  • videos and online material could be published by athletes and coaches

Now that’s just a few of the pros I could think of.Needless to say after the meeting nothing has happened. There is no new groundwork syllabus and I dare say people are still leaving Judo for the mass media endorsed BJJ which enjoys huge support in the UFC.

Now if you like this idea let me know and post a comment below and if you are the BJA people reading this and thinking how long could this guy sort this out in? Simple I could push out a Judo groundwork programme in 3 months with courses, on line videos and even books for sale on it. I wouldn’t create the moves, you have all the talent in the world for that but someone has to pull this together.

If you like the idea just spread the word. Can Judo groundwork compete with BJJ? I think it can, but it wont unless they actually try to compete. You wont win a battle unless you take part!


Andrew Holland



Andrew Holland

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