Judo Olympian Satoshi Ishii: ‘I felt shame with the new rules of judo’

Renowned judoka Satoshi Ishii, a stalwart in the Judo community, has voiced his dissatisfaction with the recent changes and rules implemented in the sport. The 36-year-old judo veteran, known for his achievements in the earlier era, including a gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, shared his perspective on the evolving landscape of judo.

In his illustrious career, Ishii secured significant accolades, starting with a gold medal at the Junior World Championships in 2004 and a silver medal at the 2006 Asian Games. His dominance continued with a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in the +100 kg category. He bid farewell to competitive judo after clinching another gold at the United States Championship open division in 2009.

Transitioning to professional mixed martial arts (MMA) and occasional kickboxing, Ishii has maintained an impressive record in various MMA promotions. When questioned about the current state of judo, he expressed both his love for the sport and his decision to shift focus to MMA.

While emphasizing that the rule changes were not the sole reason for leaving judo, Ishii spoke about the differences in regulations during his era. He highlighted the stricter conditions, including faster shido penalties, which added to the challenges faced by judokas in his generation.

“In our generation, we could do double leg and single leg… take leg and everything. More fast shidos and even one shido you get you’re going to lose. It was more strict. So our generation was much more difficult to beat,” Ishii explained.

The veteran judoka criticized the decision by the International Judo Federation (IJF) to hold the world title every year, stating that the previous biennial schedule elevated the prestige of the championship. Ishii also lamented the ban on grabbing opponents’ legs, a significant change since 2010, expressing his belief that these alterations have fundamentally transformed the nature of judo.

Reflecting on the impact of these changes, Ishii remarked, “It was a huge change. It was like not the same sport.”

Despite distancing himself from competitive judo, Satoshi Ishii continues to make waves in the MMA arena. Recently signing a multi-fight deal with the Professional Fighters League (PFL), Ishii remains an influential figure, contributing to the ongoing discourse on the evolution of martial arts disciplines.