One of the people in judo I admire most hasn't been involved in judo much for about forty years - Benjamin Nighthorse Campbell. He was a member of the 1964 Olympic team, then went on to found a successful business, was in the House of Representatives and then became the only Native American in the U.S. Senate.
I'll be teaching judo this Friday at Gompers and then I head out to North Dakota for two weeks. I've been to two tournaments in the last year. I won't be back at the West Coast Judo Training Center until February 1st, when we are having a clinic on transition, with me, Richard Elizalde and Gary Butts. Hopefully, I won't get snowed in and spend the weekend in Belcourt instead.
There are three reasons I haven't been around much. One is implied in the previous paragraph - I'm working on developing and testing games that teach mathematics. That takes a lot of my time when I'm at home, and it takes a lot of time away from home demonstrating the games, installing them in school computer labs, meeting with students and teachers to get their feedback. Growing a company is not a part-time gig.
Second, I think far too many people continue teaching judo for too long. The tribes I have worked with have a lot of traditional wisdom. One idea I particularly admire is how historically, tribal leaders did not persist until they were 60, 70 or 80 years old. They stepped down, let the younger people run the hunting, fighting and other business of the tribe while the elders provided advice. I think our judo clubs and organizations (hell, most of our organizations - universities, Congress) would be better off if more people did this. I'm 55 years old. I'm not nearly as fast or strong as I was 30 years ago. What I can do and demonstrate is limited. It's time for younger people to step up and teach.
Fortunately for me, I'm a better programmer than I was in my twenties, so more of my effort goes there. Yes, I teach that, too.
The third reason is that I'm not convinced that, in the U.S., competing at the highest level is that positive. It costs a lot of money that most of the students I coach don't have. If we are going to do fundraising, I want it to be for something that is a positive experience for them - not an ego trip for coaches and referees. The benefit of judo should be to meet people from different walks of life, see the country, get exercise, test your skills. Too many tournaments are not focused on that - they're on making sure your belt is tied right, you bow properly and you never violate any of a set of rules that seems to be changed every Thursday.
I took my students to the freestyle judo nationals in Kansas City last year and I hope to do so again next year. We went to a tournament at Hayastan and a practice there in part because I suspected (correctly) that most of my students had never met an Armenian despite living near one of the largest Armenian communities in the country. I also knew that at both of those venues the sole focus would be on the competitors having a good experience and everyone would treat our team well.
I wish I had time to take my students to a tournament every weekend and teach three or four times a week, but I don't. My highest priorities are my family and business, in that order. The students' priorities need to be on school. I talk a lot to them about studying, applying to charter schools or scholarships to private high schools. That is going to benefit them a lot more than attending a lot of tournaments. My goal is to develop people with a sound mind in a sound body.
When I was in Kansas City, Norm Miller gave me a book written by Margot Sathay. She was an Englishwoman who taught matwork at the Kodokan. When I was going to drop out of college at the end of my junior year of college, stay in Japan and train, Margot told me that she wouldn't teach me if I did. She told me that some things in life are more important than judo. I learned a LOT from Margot, and not just about matwork.