Breaking with the Past

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.

For a change, my daughter Alexis is pinning her opponent!

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!

18 thoughts on “Breaking with the Past

  1. Well it would be my humble opinion to continue to let your students participate in these
    “IJF events” and let the adjusting to “IJF rules” start early on, it would “give way” to the IJF non-sense and your teachings would reflect in their events therefore making your point across in a proven model and your theory’s will have been giving a chance.

  2. Count me among the Judoka who are disgusted with the IJF rules. When you manage to remove a throw that’s in the nage-no-kata from competition, you’re too far gone.

    That said, have you looked at Freestyle Judo rules at all? I think Steve Scott and the others involved have a good thing going, and I’d love to see it get more recognition and support. It still retains the “insta-kill” ippon, but it has to be a /real/ ippon, and not a lazy flopover. It also makes newaza a much more viable part of the game, and the AAU referee style of talking to and warning players instead of immediately assigning penalties is excellent.

  3. Participating in tournaments that follow IJF rules has a tendency of pissing people off sooner or later. Why would I risk having a child or a parent pull out of my Judo program because he’s had enough of the IJF rules? IJF rules plus incompetent referees = potential disaster for club membership. Enough people have pulled out of Judo already. Why tempt others?

  4. Not only have I looked at the AAU and freestyle rules, but I have commented on them several times in previous posts. While they are far better than the IJF rules, they don’t quite represent what I want for development purposes.

  5. We do not use IJF rules in our club randori, or our local tournaments. We do get complaints about our officating. After I came of the mat last tournament, I spent 10 minnets explaining to a local coach, that one shoulder and two feet, was not ipon. At least while I was on the mat. He then stated We should have given hansomaki to his students opponent, for defensive bridging. There is no panacea. Nothing worthwhile is easy. Judo is worthwhile.
    He ( the coach ) just held a referee certification clinic. Sadly I was not able to attend.

  6. This is exactly why despite living all the way out in Eastlake I am strongly considering pulling my 5 year old daughter from the community center Judo she is currently doing and driving up to Mira Mesa 2 to 3 nights a week.

  7. Just out of coursity have you considered looking at Judo in us in more open grappling such as Grappling X and BJJ tournaments?
    Since you teach transitions your players should actually do rather well.

  8. I have not yet thought of taking that route. I am still a Judo guy, not a grappler or submission wrestler. If anything, I’ll go the AAU route.

  9. A bit of history for you. The Kodokan has been at odds with the IJF for decades, and it has not always fully embraced the IJF rules. For example, blue gis are a no-no, and koka was not recognized. I see no reason why we should not pick and choose to fit our own needs.

  10. I don’t keep current on your blog, but rather read it in month to 2 month intervals. I happened across this post today and I understand your frustration.

    I’ve only been doing Judo for a year now, and I got into it to make myself an all around better fighter. Having grown up wrestling I had a pretty decent sense of balance and body control before. However I wanted a bit more of a top game in my BJJ tournaments that would overwhelm my opponents. I studied a couple of simple throws on the internet and in books and used them in a competition to a pretty decent success rate, thus I decided to train Judo.

    I belong to one club, and one “dojo” (for lack of a better word). The club is non-profit run by a very old school female Judoka. The way in which we practice is much like described in this article:

    The other location I train at on my club “off-days” has a much shorter practice, but more “fitting-in” and motion drills. The randori is better (due to more people and body types), but rarely happens.

    I had my first tournament experience a few weeks back and while doing pretty well for a 30ish year old guy taking on the younger guys, I felt like a lot of my aggression was muzzled due to the rule sets. I knew that if I went in for a throw that anyone with a sense of balance like my own could and probably would reverse me and that would be the end of the match. All in all I thought that tournament was run well.

    A week after that tournament I witnessed an absolutely horrid display of a judo tournament. I watched as numerous children and adults received ridiculous ippon calls when their opponents were clearly not landing on their backs. Shido’s for things I did not see, which left me wondering if the referees were even watching the same matches. I ended up dropping both of my matches, one due to numerous shido and the other to the infamous “not a real ippon” throw when I obviously landed on my shoulder while rolling to my knees (I know this for a fact because I had to take the last few weeks off training to recuperate). The final straw for me was watching one of our shodan national level competitors lose a match to almost the same landing I had previously. Even our coach had had enough. I volunteered to speak to the tournament director and the head referee.

    I made my argument and was told “Well, you know how to handle this little problem of yours don’t you? Get out and referee.”

  11. “Get out and referee.” What an amazing thought! That’s so typical of referees. They are missing the forest for the trees. How about we simplify the rules so that referees can do a better job. Eliminate most of the penalties so referees can concentrate on the positive aspects of Judo instead of the negative ones. More importantly, we need to remove control of Judo from the referees.

  12. I’ve been lucky in my area, without many experienced referees, to be mentored by some good ones and have some good ones keep control over the situations.

    Frankly, while refereeing is part of the problem with Judo, it is not the solution. The problem is that tournament directors have meekly chosen to go along with the referee committee and follow rules they don’t have to follow. To wit: Right now, in Junior divisions we don’t allow chokes and armbars at a certain age. Some tournaments don’t allow certain techniques in novice divisions. None of that is allowed for by the rules, is covered by exceptions!

    The change will not come from the referees. The change will come from tournament directors who have the balls to stand up and say, “This is stupid, and I won’t run my tournament this way.”

  13. You are absolutely correct about tournament directors needing to stand up to referees and grow some balls. Unfortunately, most directors don’t put their foot down for fear the referees won’t show up. How about this. Do most directors understand why attendance is down? Maybe they are happy with the rules, and don’t get the whole picture.

  14. I disagree that they are in fear of referees not coming out. As far as I understand, AAU tournaments and Steve Scott’s freestyle tournaments are supported by referees.

    The reason I think tournament directors are not doing it more often is tied up in too many’s opinion of IJF rules and how much impact they have. I’ve read no less than Gary Goltz say that the rules should mirror the IJF rules so that kids can go to the national tournament and understand and not be penalized. To me, that’s bollocks. The number of participants you could get at your local tournament, by having rules that can bring in the Jujitsu, or BJJ, or wrestlers, or Sambo players could add at least a third potentially to many tournaments. I’ve heard many classical Jujitsu instructors tell me they quit dealing with Judo due to the rules and politics. How many would return if the rules made sense?

  15. Steve Scott trains his own set of referees. From what he tells me not all certified referees are allowed to referee at his events. It takes a certain mindset to referee AAU and Freestyle events. You might be right that many leaders are tied up in playing by the “big boy” rules even though 99% of participants don’t need to play by those rules. It’s still mind boggling that tournament directors watch participation numbers dwindle without trying to do something about it…like change the damn rules!

  16. I fully believe the “No Leg Grab” rules changes are a way for the IJF to improve Japan’s ability to compete by eliminating wrestling tactics and counters. The reason for this is that the IJF and other “purists” has long been frustrated that wrestling tactics work better than gi based throws.
    Some years back, the Russians and various other “eastern” countries realized that Leg Grabs of various types are much easier to learn and more reliable than standard throws. Instead of allowing Judo players to solve the problem by encouraging innovation, they have resorted to ridiculous rules.
    This is a clear example of a corrupt governing body, because the rules are mainly there to avoid injury, not to eliminate techniques which are fundamental to fighting as well as fundamental to Judo. Kata Garuma, kibisu gaeshi, kuchiki taoshi were all added LONG ago because they are effective techniques regardless of whether they make it harder to execute other throws.
    All of the previous rules for hansoku-make were for doing dangerous things, not for technical reasons.
    But now, they have used their power, even though a quick survey of competitors would show that very few competitors want to eliminate leg grabs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *