The masters divisions - for age 35 and over - at the national championships are a major source of income, often keeping the tournament from losing money. The same can be said of the very young divisions at the junior nationals - in some tournaments, children as young as five years old are competing to be national champion.
I think this is a bad idea on both ends. First of all, I don't think there is any sense at all in spending lots of money and your entire family vacation traipsing around to one tournament after another for a child eight years old or younger.
Spare me the bullshit about "my kid really wants to do it".
- Your kid, at a young age, really wants to make his or her parents proud and happy. If you say the way to do that is to go knock down another kid, your child will do it, or at least try.
- As the adult in the picture, you are supposed to decide what is best for your child and you continually refuse to go along with what your kid really wants to do. My youngest daughter really wanted to spend her entire vacation watching vampire shows on TV, occasionally punctuated by snowboarding or hanging out with her friends. We made her study Geometry and socialize with the family, too, because we're mean like that.
Like most people my age, I am kind of beat up. I'm just not in the shape that I used to be as a competitor. I weigh the same and thanks to a $50,000 knee replacement, I can do a lot of things I haven't been able to do, even when I was competing. I swim or bike almost every day. I teach judo once or twice a week. And all of that being said, the judo I can do now is qualitatively different from the judo I did in my twenties, just as much as an eight-year-old child's is. I'm not as fast and no amount of training will change that. I'll never have the strength I did in my twenties.
Anyone who believes that speed and strength don't matter in judo competition is deluded. On top of that, I have a real job and a family. I don't have time to adjust my techniques for the rule changes that seem to come down in judo every six months.
Yes, people my age can do "judo". They can do kata, they can practice throws or arm bars in the dojo. Still, it doesn't seem any more like the sport I did in my twenties than water aerobics old ladies do seems like swimming. That is, it's a perfectly fine thing to do to keep in shape, but it is NOT the same thing. Not accepting this fact is one reason you see so many older judo players end up injured. You're not a 'world champion' or 'national champion'. You're a weekend warrior who went to a tournament. Deal with it.
(The same applies to juniors at the other end of the scale but I wrote about that earlier.)