One Step Backward, A Few Steps Forward

Contrary to what I was originally told, I received word a few days ago that the Women’s Judo Championships in Las Vegas scheduled for January 23 will use the new rules. How that came about is more troubling and disappointing than the decision itself. An official from the USJA asked several of the referees what they thought we ought to do. Hello! What do you think referees are going to say? Their allegiance is to the rules, not the sport. For the life of me, I don’t understand why the tournament director didn’t make that decision? Meek sheep falling in line?

All is not lost however. Four in-house, development tournaments in Southern California will be held in the next three months. Old rules will prevail. Patrick Mahon from Australia has indicated that many of you have emailed him to inquire about the petition he is working on. Let’s get other coaches and players to do the same. Check out the last batch of comments my blog has received.

Here’s what a local assistant coach from Southern California just emailed me.

I also share your frustration with the rule changes.  I’m one of the people increasingly discouraged with judo politics and the frequent rule changes.  As a 1-2x/year competitor, I’m not that interested in keeping up with the constant rule changes.  Judo is becoming so idiosyncratic that I’m afraid it will CONTINUE down the path towards becoming irrelevant.  Nonetheless, I do appreciate your insightful posts.   I look forward to seeing you soon.

I sense that many in Judo, whether competitors or not, share his feelings. Becoming irrelevant is not what I wish for Judo to become. If we allow this latest round of rule modifications to take firm hold, irrelevant is what Judo will become. This is especially true if we teach to the rules as many dojos do, rather than teach the full scope of Judo techniques.

One of our leaders who is looking at the big picture and doing something about it is AnnMaria DeMars, President of the United States Judo Association. She is proposing that the USJA adopt “development rules” for tournaments. These rules would encourage the development of Judo skills rather than merely award wins and losses. This is in line with my November 3, 2009 blog Where is Judo’s Futsal?. She’s been looking into the AAU rules, and is open to other ideas. If you would like to offer suggestions, please contact her at

I’ve just finished reading Winners Never Cheat by Jon M. Huntsman. Huntsman writes:

A crisis allows the opportunity to dip deep into the reservoirs of our very being, to rise to levels of confidence, strength, and resolve that otherwise we didn’t think we possessed. Through adversity, we come face to face with who we really are and what really counts.

I believe we are at a crisis. I ask you to join me in rising to a level of resolve we have never reached before. Help AnnMaria DeMars, Patrick Mahon, me, and hundreds of others take back our sport.

2 thoughts on “One Step Backward, A Few Steps Forward

  1. When I first got word about the new rules, I thought it might be time to take up the violin and drop judo. If I hadn’t already commited to helping out at the club, I probably would have. It seems to me that judo is being compromised to make it fit better into the olympics; I’m not sure that the cost of being an olympic sport is worth it.

    I coached some kids at the Reedley tournament last weekend where the new rules were used. At the referee meeting it was decided to hansoku make on the 1st offense, with some disagreement from a few of us. From my perspective, referees attempted to enforce the new rules at the beginning of the day, but slacked off as the day went on. There were some frustrated players, coaches, and parents, but the tournament was still pretty good.

    I think the new rules are throwing the baby out with the bath water in the case of several techniques like ouchi-makekome or blocking with the hand below the belt. It’s going to be very difficult to tell when a forbidden technique is a combination or counter, making it legal, and when it’s a separate attack.

  2. I agree that the new rules have made it nearly impossible to referee a match competently. Eventually, referees will quit refereeing and perhaps drop out of the sport altogether, just as coaches like me will no longer attend tournaments that enforce the new IJF rules. I believe that the rules are so ridiculous and controversial that they will not stand. It’s imperative that referees like you voice your concerns to the U.S. Referee Commission. You guys must stop being sheep. The more you refuse to referee, the more the commission will have to listen. This might actually present us with a rather unique coordinated coach-referee assault on stupidity.

    Regardless of what the IJF does with the rules, Judo must survive on a local level. We can exist without taking orders from the IJF. We have a great sporting and social activity that must go on. Contrary to what people think, we do have options when it comes to tournaments. I have spoken to many coaches who tell me that they run tournaments with different rules. We just have to expand that number and empower our coaches to think outsider the box, and to discard rules that will not serve us well, especially here in the U.S.

    Many good Judo people have left the Judo establishment, but they have not abandoned our sport. Put your West Point education and leadership skills to good use, and help me turn the tide- one referee, one coach at a time.

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