Judo in the world today
France boasts the world's largest Judo population
Judo in France has reached the level where it can produce an Olympic champion. Immensely popular in France, the Judo population there is approximately 800,000, as compared to Japan's approximately 200,000. Judo is a required course in some public primary schools, and it's not uncommon to see women engaging in Keiko.
France met Judo in 1935, the year when Mikinosuke Kawaishi, knows as the "father of French Judo", first visited France. Kawaishi proposed a method for teaching Judo to foreigners (non-Japanese), and he founded the Japan-France Judo Club. Although he returned to Japan during World War II, he came to France again after the war and set the stage for France's Judo boom which began in the 1950's.
How did Judo charm the French?
The core values of the Judo spirit, "discipline" and "severity", would seem to be diametrically opposed to the common image of French nature; a nature that abhors standing in lines (often cutting in line), and which pays little heed to the clock.
But perhaps it was the very Latin-blooded nature of the French that allowed them to see the freshness of Judo's precepts, and appreciate them as something worth learning. In a sports world darkened by scandals involving bout-fixing, payoffs, and even violence, the cleanness of Judo may also have been a factor that spawned its popularity.
Conveying the teaching of the man who sparked the Judo boom to the next generation
The man who sparked the Judo boom in France was a student of Mikinosuke Kawaishi named Bernard Pariset, the first Frenchman to participate in the World Judo Championships (1956). He went on to take the bronze medal in the 1958 Championships, and was promoted to the 9th Dan in 1994.
His son, Eric, now heads the "Club Eric Pariset", and teaches Jujutsu that centers on the Atemi. "I began learning Judo from my father at the age of 7, and then, at the age of 17, I decided to devote myself exclusively to Jujutsu," Eric explains, recalling his father's instruction. "My father was a man of few words, and preferred to teach by silently practicing rather than by explaining. He believed that this method of training the body would lead naturally to mental strength as well."
A background that prefers "Jujutsu" to "Judo"
Most French students come to Judo to learn the arts of "focus" and "decorum", and there really isn't much interest in actually competing in contests.
According to Eric, "There aren't many in Paris who study Judo to become strong. Instead, they're interested in learning the wealth of Jujutsu variations that Judo offers, and to learn methods of self defense." It would appear that Judo is viewed in different ways from one country and city to another.
Practice begins from the fundamentals of etiquette (the "bow")
Adults in France, generally average 2 to 3 hours of Judo practice per week, and children 1 hour per week, practicing on the non-school days of Wednesday or Saturday. Just as in Japan, children's Judo lessons begin with Judo etiquette (the bow), proceeding then to warm-up exercises and "Kata" (form) practice.
In a country like France where bowing is not taught, the teaching of this subject alone requires considerable time. The act of bowing makes some children laugh, and others, embarrassed, fail to lower their head.
Although the Atemi Jujutsu that Eric teaches is not well known in Japan, it of course includes rank promotion testing, as well as yellow and orange belts to give the children an incentive to train.
"Instructor training" distinguishes Judo in France
The pioneers of French Judo, Bernard Pariset and Henri Courtine (promoted to 10th Dan in 2007) have focused on training superior instructors by creating an institutionalized instructor system. Beginning from 1955, aspiring instructors must pass a national test in order to become certified to teach Judo, and as a result, many excellent French Judo instructors have been dispatched overseas.
Eric's motto is "Not only to learn Judo, but to convey it to the next generation". This French respect for tradition has no doubt played a large role in the development of Judo worldwide.
Eric's message to the Japanese:
"Japanese Judo is a beautiful thing to watch! I love to watch it. Although French Judo practitioners have become strong and are able to win many medals, most are doing so by physical strength alone. But it's more than winning or losing. When I witness the techniques of Japanese Judo competitors, I always think, 'Yes, they have different blood flowing in their veins.' We still have a lot to learn from Japan. Japan Judo remains the eternal ideal."
Club Eric Pariset Bastille
- Address21 Bd Richard Lenoir, 75011, Paris, France
* The above information is current as of July, 2008.