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Policy shift aligns Japan with international standard on black belts

14 Mar 2017 09:10


Female judoka in Japan are finally on an equal footing with their male counterparts, able to don the same black belt, the All Japan Judo Federation ruled on Monday. The federation’s executive board agreed to abolish black belts with white stripes that have differentiated female competitors from males in its competitions held inside Japan. Both women and men will be donning black belts without the stripes from now on in domestic tournaments.

The practice of issuing judo uniforms differentiating gender has long been criticized as sexist. Striped belts have not been used in international competition since 1999, when the International Judo Federation abolished the practice.

No official reason has been given for the organization’s change in stance. A likely explanation, though, is the continued success of the Japanese women’s Olympic judo team, whose medal count since the 1992 Games (when women’s judo became a medal event) currently sits at 32, two better than the 30 medals claimed by Japanese male judoka in that time frame. Women’s athletics and athletes have also been receiving increasingly prominent media coverage in Japan since the turn of the millennium, and in light of such developments, it seems the All Japan Judo Federation took a moment to reexamine why it had two sets of uniform regulations, and decided that the discrepancy was a relic of a bygone era.

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