As I get older, I’ve become less tolerant of things that irritate me. One big irritant has been the IJF rules. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know how many times I’ve complained about the silly rules and the clueless IJF luminaries who keep messing with my sport.
In the movie Network (1976), actor Peter Finch who plays a TV news anchor has this memorable line, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Well, that’s how I feel, so starting this year I’ve decided to break from the past. I won’t be bringing my juniors to any tournament that follows the IJF script. Just the mere thought of all those soft ippons, shidos, and banned techniques makes me sick to my stomach.
At the beginning of the year, I issued a letter to coaches and tournament directors in my area letting them know of my decision. I stated:
I am more concerned about character development in my students and their learning good combative skills than I am about their winning medals at official tournaments. Therefore, all my club instruction and all Judo America tournaments will reflect the full scope of Judo skills.
To give my players adequate competition experience, I’ve increased the number of in-house tournaments from two to four. The first of these quarterly events was held ten days ago. Not surprisingly, fewer clubs attended than in the past, possibly because I changed the rules to truly increase the potential for development of combative skills. Besides not penalizing players, I did away with terminal ippon. Thus, all matches went the distance, in this case two and a half minutes. Recently banned throws were allowed.
I’ll make another change for our next tournament. I’ve never been a fan of yukos not being able to amount to a waza ari or an ippon. In my opinion, there’s too much grey area today between the three scores. Consequently, I’ve decided that two yukos will become a waza ari, while two waza aris remain an ippon. In other words, I’ve assigned a value of 1 for yuko, 2 for waza ari, and 4 for ippon. By doing this, I can continue to use my existing scoreboards without making too many changes, and still come close to a numerical scoring system for Judo.
You’re probably wondering how my first tournament went. Well, it accomplished everything I thought it would. Parents and coaches were happy. Matches were more exciting because players took more risks and more Judo was performed. Since all divisions are round-robin, every player had a minimum of seven and a half minutes of match time, while players in 5- and 6-man pools hit the 10- and 12-minute mark. In the past, half the players would have suffered 15-second losses. Longer TIM (time in a match) equals more experience.
It is true that running full matches increases the length of the tournament. Several officials not involved in my events have pointed this out as a reason for not using this format. Of course, we should not factor in their opinion because they fail to remember that tournaments are for the benefit of the athletes’ development, not the comfort of the officials.
Others have said if we go with developmental rules how will our players be able to compete in IJF events? Simple, the same way our NBA stars and our collegiate wrestlers learn the international rules. Or to put it more bluntly, the same way our current international judoplayers adapt their game to every set of new rules thrown at them by the IJF.
I guess the only question I have about this new format is what took me so long to make the switch? I’d like to encourage all coaches to consider running similar events in their neck of the woods. I’ve been told that you should never use never in a statement, but I feel pretty confident that I am never, ever, going to look back and second-guess myself. So long IJF rules, and good riddance!