Judo in the world today
Judo in Morocco
Morocco is located at the northwestern tip of the African continent, and Casablanca, made famous by the movie of the same name, sits facing the Atlantic Ocean. Casablanca developed as Morocco's primary center of commerce, and its modern countenance is far from the "African street" image commonly held by the Japanese.
Morocco has a population of 30,000,000, and approximately 10,000 of those are Judo competitors. Judo is a popular sport for all ages, ranging from children to adults, and the number of women competitors, in particular, is showing a rapid increase. Being an Islamic country, many women competitors wear scarves.
In the capital city of Rabat, town dojos can be found at approximately 1-kilometer intervals; such is the popularity of Judo in this country. The Morocco Judo Federation has been registered from the beginning as an official national sports organization, and is also registered as such at the world level.
The roots of Moroccan Judo lead to France
Coming from an advanced Judo country, the French were responsible for the spread of Judo in Morocco following its independence from France, and Judo was initially viewed as a sport for the upper classes. Moroccans were attracted by the unique aspects of the martial arts (Judo, Karate, Aikido, Taekwondo, etc.) as opposed to those of other combative arts, and Judo tended to be the most congenial place to begin.
In addition to those who began Judo due to an interest in the martial arts, many others began due to a parent or friend who was learning Judo, and due to the accessibility of a neighborhood dojo. There was also an episode in which the Morocco Judo Federation sponsored Judo demonstrations around the country, carrying the tatami mats from place to place.
A go-getter instructor whose students range from his own daughter all the way to national team members
The undisputed top instructor in Casablanca is the 60-year-old Mr. Naqouss, who instructs approximately 30 students 3 days per week. He also holds the post of coach for the Casablanca district, and on his off days, he instructs members of the Casablanca district team at the National Dojo in that city.
" I have four daughters," says Mr. Naqouss, "And three of them are learning Judo. Watching their efforts is one of my pleasures in life." A fleeting shadow of sadness crosses his face then, possibly conveying an unspoken regret, that, if voiced, might have been, "It would have been nice to have had at least one son ... "
Mr. Naqouss's unusual introduction to Judo
Before Judo became a major sport in Morocco, what could have induced Mr. Naqouss to begin Judo?
"When I was a boy, a Frenchman lived in my neighborhood, and when I saw a Judo uniform hanging on his clothesline, I wondered what it could be. That's what sparked my interest in Judo. That was some 40 years ago, and the French were about the only ones practicing Judo then."
The monthly fees for studying Judo must have been very expensive.
The thing that brought Mr. Naqouss finally to Judo was the concept of "Regardless of an opponent's size, he can be thrown by utilizing the opponent's own momentum."
The daily joy of being a Judo instructor
Mr. Naqouss now focuses exclusively on being a Judo instructor, and he keeps his own body in shape while teaching the students. Despite the trendy "topple and roll" maneuvers of today's world Judo, Mr. Naqouss teaches his students Waza based solidly on Judo's traditional "bring to the shoulder", "spring", and "reap" techniques.
Drawn by his teaching methods, some of his students commute from considerable distances in order to receive his instruction. His daughters, too, have flourished in the daily practices under his instruction, one of them even winning the Morocco National Women's Championship.
Moroccans love their Judo despite an inadequate environment
Dojos tend to be small due to a lack of funds, and moreover, a large pillar often stands in the center of a Moroccan dojo. In some places, the dojos are home-made affairs consisting of woodchips covered with plastic sheets instead of mats. The sight of students in worn and soiled Judo uniforms striving to become stronger despite these obstacles is impressive indeed.
Mr. Naqouss's message to the Japanese
"It's my dream to visit Japan, the home of Judo, at least once in my life. I'd like to see Japan Judo in action with my own eyes.
With the current trend of world Judo seeming to be heading in a different direction from traditional Judo, I'm trying to instill in my students the same sense of wonder toward traditional Judo that I first experienced as a youth. That, and the important precept that Judo is not merely about winning.
- AddressBoulevard d'Anfa Casablanca
* The above information is current as of July, 2008.