Judo – the minority sport in the UK

Britain is not a Judo Nation by any stretch – there’s 66 million people here with roughly 47,000 registered Judo participants. It’s not a small number but compare that to France, a similar sized population but with over 600,000 participants.

You could argue that Judo is not prominent enough within the early schooling system. Perhaps it’s not as competitive for after school activity time when compared to other options (e.g. ballet, music, football, etc). But this presupposes that Judo is primarily for the younger population which I’m hoping will change with blogs like this.

Marketing effort

A compelling argument I found demonstrates that the marketing efforts of the UK Judo governing body are fairly weak with little presence on social media platforms. Brands figured out long ago that you focus your marketing activity on wherever potential followers/customers hang out. Where they hang out is typically on the screen, particularly over social media platforms. Facebook and Instagram are awash with BJJ-related content; alot of it is good quality too!

Judo-related content is quite slim on the ground by comparison. A more recent graph showing Judo popularity in terms of web searches that are made in the UK is below. The significant spikes are representing the London 2012 Olympics and the Rio 2016 Olympics. BJJ has now officially surpassed Judo in online metrics and interest which is quite sad really.

Marketing aside, the issue I have with Judo in Britain is that it’s not packaged up as a sport for all ages. Many times I’ve heard it’s “a young person’s game”. I’m aware that being thrown around is not easy on the joints but neither is habitually visiting the free weights at the local gym. You will not perform at your peak or be world-level after you hit 40, although there are rare instances of people still competing after that point (

Speaking for myself, I’m actually fitter now than I was in my 20s (although with considerably more effort). I have a lot more of an interest in the technical and mental parts of the game than I ever was back then. 

We are getting to a point that if you’re female (lower popularity with Judo) and older (sifting out even more from the declining numbers) you’ll struggle to find randori partners. The older female participant will then have slim pickings when it comes to finding similar people to compete with when it comes to tournament or grading time.

The point?

What’s the point I’m trying to make? Judo in Great Britain needs to reinvent itself if it is to stay relevant in two ways:

  1. Marketing! British Judo seems to be heading in the right direction, what with their advertising for a Digital Manager recently (as at March 2021). The salary offered was low for a strong candidate fulfilling this role and I’m disappointed that marketing activity is not so prominent on the job description (do they have someone already in this role?)

2. Clubs need to better promote, pitch to the older crowd and have a relevant syllabus in place. There are fathers and mothers out there, leaving their offspring at the kids class. Later they’ll do a Youtube/Joe Wicks/Instagram workout or join the lads for a 5-a-side – what a missed opportunity! The syllabus needs to provide other recreational opportunities – perhaps a focus on something other than randori for anyone who’s not keen on the rough and tumble every session. A recent Judo podcast by Vince Skillcorn mentioned that Kata might be an option for interested Judoka to specialise in?

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