「The idea of using color
training uniforms (柔道衣)
was proposed (or was being
pitched) by 1964 open weight gold medalist Anton Geesink of Holland.
One competitor would wear blue, the other would wear white. The reasoning was that the referee and spectators could more easily
distinguish the competitors, and it would be easier for people to watch on television.
In Europe what they called
"Blue judogi" began to be used in 1988.
Japan objected that the financial burden on competitors would be
excessive, and also that it would conflict with judo culture and traditions.
Below is an outline of how the current situation came
May 1988. The EJU adopted
white and blue uniforms.
a IJF meeting, the
adoption of colored uniforms. After deliberation, it was rejected by a
vote of 33 (for) to 51 (against)
October 1989. IJF proposed that colored
uniforms be used in World Championships and Olympics. It
was rejected by 50 (for) to 87 (against).
Luis Baguena of
Spain became the IJF
1993. It was rejected by a vote of 92 against
52 in favor.
October 1993: The EJU
uniforms for the international judo tournament to be held in
Europe. Japan announced that Japan would boycott the event if colored
uniforms were adopted.
January 1994. The EJU decided not to adopt colored
uniforms in 1994.
April 1994. The EJU decided to
take no stance about colored uniforms in Europe
International Tournament prior to the Atlanta Olympics [in
May 1994. The IJF decided
not to adopt colored uniforms for all official tournaments prior to
the Atlanta Olympics, with the exception of the European International tournament
1994. At a meeting of
the IJF, the EJU proposed that after two years colored uniforms would be introduced in
Yong Sung Park (朴容晟,박용성) from Korea became the new IJF president and came
up with a
plan to assure the survival of judo by having
fewer but bigger competitions and adopting colorization of uniforms. IOC
president Samaranch let it be known that more emphasis should be
put on accommodating
the television companies. The EJU responded by recommending
warned that if colorization in Europe was made policy, Japan would
boycott tournaments there.
April 1996. The EJU decided
that colorization would be adopted for the International Tournament in
Basil (Switzerland) in December.
June 1996. The
Asian Judo Federation decided not to adopt colorization.
proposed some alternatives to colorization of the uniform. The
using colored mats. or as an experiment, putting red, or blue, lines on
Or instead of black belts, using red or blue belts.
December 1996. EJU president Franz Hoogendijk of Holland, on December
6 at a press conference in Fukuoka, announced that color uniforms would be
experimentally adopted for the European tournament
He said, "If Japan refuses,
participation will be denied" (日本がカラー柔道衣を拒めば、出場は不可能だ.)
The AJJF responded that "If the IJF
excludes Japan, Japan's
competitive power will be jeopardized, and in consideration of that
possibility, we can't boycott" [the tournament]. Consequently on December
10 the AJJF decided to send a Japanese team to
the European tournament wearing colored uniforms. However the managing
director (専務理事) of the AJJF,
(Mr. 小粥義郎) wanted to make it clear
going forward to foreigners who had supported Japan so far that
participation didn't mean that Japan had dropped its opposition to
October 1997. At the IJF meeting in
Paris on December 6 it was decided that colorization would be adopted.
That meant that henceforth
colorization would be in effect in the Olympics, World Championships, Junior
World Championships, and the World Cup. In addition, it could be
expected that colorization would be in effect in all major international
Comment. By 1972, 98% of the IOC's operating income came from
the sale of television rights. That income depended on how much
broadcasters were willing to pay, which depended on how much advertisers would pay,
which depended on how many people watched a given event. Viewers did not
watch judo relative to the more mainstream events (such as track and
field, gymnastics, swimming). Even in Japan, viewers watch judo mainly,
if at all, when Japanese players are up. National Olympic Committees get
most of their income from the IOC. Consequently the health, even
survival, of the sport depends on making advertisers, and ordinary
viewers happy. Colored uniforms were thought to be one way to
potentially engage viewers. Most (more probably, all) leaders of Japanese judo were from the
old school (Kodokan) and objected to commercialization of the art. They probably
also didn't believe it could be commercialized. Professional judo had
been tried before, and failed miserably (see Choque 2 chp. 2). There may have been political
factors as well. Understandably, Japanese groups wanted to maintain
leadership of what they viewed as a Japanese sport, while also wanting
it to become global. However, they needed cooperation from national and
regional federations to accomplish that. The national and regional
federations also wanted to spread judo, but at the same time they had
competing interests (with regard to Japan).
After a period of noble
resistance, Japan finally bowed to the "trends of the times"
and foreign pressure (外圧). In
the end, it doesn't seem that much harm has been done by colorization.
Japanese people who train judo recreationally in Japan still wear white
uniforms. Japanese tournaments can require white uniforms. Or if
Japanese judoka totally want to make fashion statements they can train
lutadores also wear uniforms (called quimonos, aka kimonos). Being
an offshoot of Kodokan judo, white quimonos were required for
competition in events sponsored by the Federação de
Jiu-Jitsu do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, as of 1975: "O quimono
deverá ser branco..." ("The uniform should be
white"). Sometime prior to 2014 white was no longer exclusively
required or privileged. Alternative colors were not marginalized.
Competitors could wear any color they liked, as long as it was
either white (branco) or royal blue (azul royal). If they
both wore the same color, one would additionally wear a green and
yellow belt. That rule is still officially in effect, but in practice
competitors, in important matches at least (based on available film of
matches), wear one or the other.
BJJ is famous for
"politics" but unlike in judo there has been no
"politics" about colorization. The reason is that BJJ is not
an Olympic sport, doesn't have to please the IOC, doesn't depend on
advertisers or the viewing preferences of the general public. Another
reason may be that no one (no one who matters anyway) in BJJ has a
strong self-serving preference for any particular color.
Kodokan, pp. 111-112.
Wenn, Stephen R. (1995). Growing Pains: The Olympic Movement and Television, 1966-1972. Olympika,
4, pp. 1-22.
**Thanks to Mestre Guedes, Marcial Serrano,
and Robert Drysdale for sharing several useful historical documents.
(c), 2022, Roberto Pedreira.
All rights reserved.