Paris [France]: Judo is becoming one of the prevalent sports in France.
With more than 6,00,000 people nationwide regularly practicing the discipline also known as “the gentle way”, it has become the fourth most popular sport in France, behind only Football, Tennis and Equestrianism.
Speaking to CNN about the rise of the sport as one of the mainstreams among the French was President of the French Judo Federation, Jean-Luc Rouge.
“In France, judo is more than a sport. It’s a part of life. We have 5,700 clubs in our country and we are present in all of the villages and towns. We are everywhere,” he said.
Rouge was the country’s first ever world champion, clinching the gold in the 93kg weight category back in 1975, but it was not always as popular back then as it is now.
“It was something strange for the French population because it was coming from Japan and difficult to understand,” he says.
Regarded as an unknown, “mythic” discipline when Rouge first took to the tatami (traditional Japanese mat) in 1963, there were just around 30,000 practitioners in all of France.
The tables, however, have turned considerably and today, the Judo ‘scene’ is quite vibrant.
Rouge, speaking about the meteoric rise of the sport in the country, said, “It has not developed like a sport but like an education system. The French Judo Federation has always been sure to have professional teachers; because of that, we are in good confidence of the parents.”
According to Rouge, almost 10 percent of eight-year-olds in the country are members of the French Judo Federation, a higher percentage than any other sport in France at that age.
“I think we are the best for this age. It is a mainstream sport,” the 68-year old said.
The ‘French Judoka’ have won 147 World Championship medals, with 48 of them being gold, a haul only bettered by Japan, where the discipline started in 1882.
With Rouge paving the way, Judo surely has a very bright future on the horizon. (ANI)