Martial arts will become a required subject for both boys and girls in junior high school from April. Schools can choose the type of a martial art they teach. Many schools are expected to choose judo because other martial arts such as kendo and sumo require special equipment or facilities.

Many students have died on account of injuries they suffered while playing judo. Not all physical education teachers are judo experts. Many of them may not be able to teach students even basic skills to protect themselves from injuries. Because of this situation, there is great concern by both parents and teachers.

The Education Ministry should rethink the introduction of judo to junior high schools. If it introduces judo, it should only teach students judo-related manners and ukemi (the skill to protect oneself when falling) and should strictly refrain from teaching them waza (aggressive techniques).

Making martial arts a required subject is due to the 2006 revision of the Fundamental Law of Education by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito government and the 2008 courses of studies based on the revised law. The revised law stresses the importance of respecting Japan’s traditions and culture, and calls for nurturing an attitude in students to love their country as well as the local areas that have fostered its traditions and culture.

But Mr. Ryo Uchida, an associate professor of education sociology at Nagoya University, has found that in 28 years through fiscal 2010, 114 students died and 275 others suffered serious physical damage because of judo accidents during club activities and physical exercise classes at junior and senior high schools. The death rate is said to be much higher than with other sports.

In many cases, students hit their heads against something and suffered brain damage. Even if the head is not hit, blood vessels in it can suffer damage through shaking of the head. Mr. Uchida says that while the risk of damage to the brain has been known to be high, sufficient countermeasures have not been taken.

Many teachers have little experience in judo. How is it possible to fully train them in judo in a short time before the school year starts in April? Education Senior Vice Minister Tenzo Okumura said that the introduction of judo will not be postponed. But how can he take responsibility if a serious accident occurs?

In this situation, parents should not hesitate to refuse to send their children to judo classes.

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