One reason is that I want them to have a great time. These are kids who have few advantages in life, and I want to add to their good experiences. With only one day a week to teach judo (hopefully expanding to two in the fall, with some help from my friends), choices have to be made about what to teach.
My students may know how to do a shoulder throw and an arm bar but not how to tie their belt perfectly. Their judo gis are mostly jiu-jitsu gis donated by the fabulously generous folks at Moya Brand (THANK YOU!) and a few more that my children and their friends outgrew.
Their gis might be too small or not the right color.
We went to an inter-club tournament with Guerreros and the always wonderful Guerreros families made us feel welcome and did not say a word.
We went to an inter-club tournament at Ogden's and Dave Overbury asked one of my students,
Is that a jiu-jitsu gi?
I got ready to fight, because I was NOT going to have anyone make one of my kids feel bad, and then Dave said,
That's really cool. I like the black gi. I have some jiu-jitsu gis myself. They're really comfortable.
Contrast that with the reaction they would have gotten at many tournaments, where they would have been yelled at and disqualified for not having the right color uniform, yelled at for not having their belt tied correctly.
So, to the comment --- someone on a forum had brought this up and asked if I was not even teaching my students to tie their belts or fall correctly how were they going to get along in life, not having learned to attend to the basics, to details.
Let me answer that ... I've been listening to that bullshit all of my life.
I definitely don't have the best falls (ukemi) . Partly that is due to bad knees that don't bend and partly due to not practicing it all that much. Nonetheless, I managed to win a world championships, Panamerican championships, the Pacific Rim and Austrian Open.
When I was a kid, the teachers told me that I would never get a good job with terrible handwriting. I have very bad eyesight that wasn't corrected until long after I started school and my handwriting was abysmal - still is. A million points to the Lions Club for the vision screening they fund in schools.
My mom, a very wise woman, had a different take on it, she told me,
Go to graduate school, because you are going to need a secretary and a housekeeper your whole life, so you better make the money to afford it.
Mom was right. I don't clean house and my handwriting never improved.
My point - I think you are absolutely wrong if you think tying your belt and wearing the right color judo gi is the most important thing to teach. Here is what I want my students to gain from judo:
- Physical fitness.
- Friends who look out for one another.
- Respect for themselves and their fellow students.
- Better grades and higher academic goals.
- Adult role models who are successful professionally, academically and personally.
- A good time for two hours after school, in a safe place.
- Better nutrition.