An excerpt from Black Belt Magazine October 1967

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osoto gari Black Belt Magazine has just completed its first in-depth survey of karate in the United States and some thought-provoking facts have come to light that will probably jar the judo world.

The survey discloses that while judo leads in most of the major countries where the martial art is practiced, in the United States it has taken a back seat to karate as far as active followers are concerned and the number of spectators it attracts to its tournaments.

The survey also shows that at the end of 1966 there were 113,000 karate players in the United States compared to 75,000 judokas. And, karate has been around this country for only about ten years compared to the half-century of judo activity in the United States.

The U.S. Judo Federation had registered 67,000 members by the end of last year, but Black Belt estimates that there are an additional 8,000 not affiliated with the USJF.

The cross-country poll divulges numerous other facts that provide a clearer picture of karate in the United States. It shows that Japanese style dojos still predominate in this country, closely followed by the Korean and Okinawan style schools.

Another interesting revelation is that women, in ever-increasing numbers, are turning to karate to learn how to protect themselves against attackers in an era of rising crime rates. The poll also shows mounting interest in this martial art by youngsters under 14 years of age, but there were some disturbing figures about the student dropout rate.

In seeking the answers to the many questions that have been puzzling the martial arts world, Black Belt Magazine sent out questionnaires to dojo heads throughout the country.

Some of the questions propounded in the questionnaire asked for opinions by the senseis on controversial issues. Black Belt was particularly interested to find out whether karate should be placed under a single, central organization. Many interesting answers were forthcoming.

Karate’s growth in the United States is indeed phenomenal when one remembers that it was first offered to the American public as recent as 1956. By 1965 karate had about 85,000 followers. Now, at the end of 1966, the numbers have multiplied to an impressive 113,000.On the basis of this rapid growth. Black Belt estimates that there will probably be about 160,000 karate adherents by the end of this year. We hope to get fresher figures in another survey we plan to undertake a year hence.

Judo also has been making progress in the United States but its growth has not been as dramatic as karate’s. In 1960, for instance, the USJF reported 10,000 registered members, and the figure spurted upward in 1964 when judo was officially accepted as an Olympic sport. However, judo received something of a setback when it was denied a place in the 1968 Mexico Olympics but it will be included in the 1972 Olympic games.

It would seem that judo had everything going for it. It was organized under a single organization, and appeared to be going great guns. Then political problems arose within the federation and disorganization began to set in, seriously affecting the players.

The decline in the quality of the leadership became evident earlier this year when the U.S. National Judo Tournament was staged in Las Vegas, Nevada. Because judo officials exercised little foresight, the promotion and publicity were virtually nil, and as a result, less than one thousand speptators turned out to watch the show.

As reported in the August, 1967 issue of Black Belt, the newspapers gave the tournament scant attention and few people were aware that a judo tournament was going on.

Compare that to the publicity-conscious promoters who, late in June, put on Henry Cho’s All-American Karate Tournament in Madison Square Garden. No less than eight thousand spectators turned out for the tournament, and many paid as high as six dollars a ticket.

That was only one of thte twelve national karate championship events staged in the country. Each one outdrew their counterparts in the judo world.

Karate’s upsurge in the United States may puzzle some observers of the scene because as yet it is still unorganized here. But what leaders there are, have shown great ingenuity in setting up tournaments that attract players and spectators. In their smugness, some of America’s judo leaders never realized karate would forge ahead as it has. The facts are, that judo in the United States has been handicapped by a lack of aggressive leadership. Many of the USJF officials dare not make a move for fear they might incur the ire of a higher-ranking dan. The result is, they do nothing but sit on their hands when action is the crying need.

Occasionally, a group of aggressive judo players step forward with good ideas to promote and advance the sport. What happens? They are immediately squelched by those in their ivory towers.

And so, karate is forging ahead of judo, drawing crowds wherever it goes because fans have found it more exciting, more dramatic, more glamorous.

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Black Belt Magazine editorial from one year earlier (October 1966):
The year 1966 has been an in-between time for judo, the senior of the modern martial arts. Judomen are a dedicated lot, and they have been busy recruiting for their sport. Some energetic men have come forward with some bold proposals, like those of Ben Campbell’s, for hiking the number of judo plays.

But judo has not done well in bringing in the spectators this year, and this could have an effect on its efforts to expand its membership. This is a time that will test judo’s leaders. It was only last October that the world judo championships in Rio, where the now-retired Anton Geesink and Isao Inokuma were appearing, drew 14,000 on one day. Karate has never come close to matching this kind of attendance figure — yet. But then, neither has judo since that time, and attendance was way down at the U.S. championships and all-Japan championships this year.

At this in-between stage in its development, judo now is bucking two major trends — the scarcity of enough bright new names to attract attention to the sport, and the competition from karate.

See also this later study.

This page is provided by Neil Ohlenkamp, author of Judo Unleashed. Last modified October 1, 2006.