If you thought refereeing was too complicated, or that we have too many incompetent referees on the mat, or that there are too many controversies in Judo competition, wait until you see what we have been served up by the IJF. May God have mercy on our sport!
It appears that the IJF has issued the “definitive” version of the rule changes. We are now stuck with them until December 31, 2012. Go to http://126.96.36.199/intranet.ijf.org/ijf_video.php to see examples of illegal Judo. Focus on clips 19-60, the ones in red that merit a hansoku make for the offending player. Of the forty-two clips in red, some of them appear to contradict the written information we have received so far. With others, you must view them several times before coming to some conclusion. Each one of those clips elicited from me comments that would have to be paraphrased as “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Check out # 20, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34, 36, 42, 43, 44, 47, 49, 50, 51, 53, 57, and 60.
The main problem I have with the latest wholesale remodeling of Judo is that that there is no free shido for the first offense of grabbing a leg as had been thrown around previously. If you grab a leg the wrong way or at the wrong time, you are disqualified from the match. This is a rather drastic measure, don’t you think, for what is considered ugly Judo rather than dangerous Judo? In Greco-Roman wrestling, a sport that forbids all attacks below the waist, the cost of the infraction is a point taken away, not disqualification. You have to stall four times before losing a match, but grab a leg once and it’s lights out. What sense does that make?
Direct leg grab attacks like Morote gari or Kata ashi dori are easy enough to understand and obvious enough that bad refereeing decisions should not occur. The more nebulous situations are those associated with counters and combinations, and with throws that appear to be attacks but are not.
Timing of a leg grab is critical: too soon or too late and it’s hansoku make. In one of the clips, player A turns for a forward throw and is blocked. On his way out to face player B again, B grabs his leg and counters. This is what we call a late technique or late movement counter. It’s definitely the Go No Sen Judo (counter) principle at work. Unfortunately, the IJF calls this hansoku make. Why? Because the players must have “body contact” to legally grab a leg. Imagine the additional layer of decision making the IJF has foisted upon our referees by inventing “body contact” as a criterion. If you’re like me, you’re probably just dying to get to that first 2010 Judo tournament.
According to the IJF, simultaneous or quasi-simultaneous attacks with grips of legs are prohibited. Can someone explain what the heck quasi-simultaneous is? Will this require a stopwatch or so many frames per second on a video to get it right?
Timing of ducking also seems to be critical. You can’t duck under your opponent’s high grip on your own volition in order to attack his leg with Te guruma for example, but you can attack his leg if he puts you in the same position by cross gripping you over the back. That’s clear. However, I’ve watched clip #29 at least ten times, and still don’t get it. Why is this hansoku make? Did the player have to wait longer before launching his leg grab counter? If it’s still not readily obvious after watching the clip numerous times, how are referees supposed to make the correct decision without the benefit of reviewing the action? I’m not getting warm, fuzzy feelings about this. Are you?
Now what about the law of unintended consequences? Will these new rules engender new tactics to continue to make Judo ugly? Will players develop pseudo-attacks in order to get uke to react and perform illegal leg grabs? I think it’s right around the corner once players give it some thought. Will grassroots Judo suffer? Will fewer players consider attending tournaments? How many referees will throw their hands up and say, “That’s it for me. I’m not refereeing anymore.”?
I welcome the IJF’s desire to minimize flop and drop Judo, and to accentuate stand-up Judo. On the other hand, I dislike the emasculation of Judo resulting from the banning of non-dangerous techniques. The heavy-handedness of penalties needs to stop. If you look at the clips that show illegal actions, many represent good, dynamic, flowing, crowd-pleasing actions that certainly don’t detract from Judo’s beauty. They also add to Judo’s value as a martial art. So why the hansoku make?
The IJF has gone bonkers. We need to penalize less, and reward good Judo with higher scores and ugly Judo with lower scores. We should not ban techniques. Instead, we should eliminate or minimize their scoring value. Why not simply award a higher value to high amplitude throws done from a standing position while the low amplitude throws that require flopping onto knees or back receive a lesser score (i,e, yuko) or no score even if uke is thrown onto his back?
I hope I am wrong but my gut reaction is that we will see no good come from the latest reinvention of Judo, especially at the grassroots level. For those of us who are fighting for Judo’s survival amidst a sea of Brazilian jiujitsu and mixed martial arts clubs, this latest round of rule changes isn’t going to help our cause. It was bad enough with all the ridiculous gripping rules, now we’ve added an equivalent set of rules for the lower body.
The IJF has spoken. The national organizations will undoubtedly follow suit without blinking an eye and adopt the new IJF rules lock, stock, and barrel, irrespective of the damage it will do. What remains to be seen is how local clubs react. Will curricula and promotion requirements have to change, further diminishing the breadth of Judo’s technical inventory? Will clubs think twice about attending tournaments further decreasing participation, which is already low? I know that I can ill-afford to take kids to tournaments and risk having them disqualified for something as innocuous as a leg grab. Will clubs band together and finally do what is right for American Judo, and not blindly follow the diktats of the IJF? Will we see more tournaments with alternative rules, like the AAU freestyle Judo events?
What’s absolutely clear to me is that the IJF needs to have its head examined and it should be issued a hansoku make. If you agree, make your voice heard and contact our national and international organizations. Tell them you’re mad as hell and you aren’t going to take it anymore.