Judo America Tournament Rules

I just came back from the California State Games, which used the current IJF rules.  As always when I go to even a few events that run IJF rules, I wonder how we have allowed ourselves down this ugly road of issuing hansokumakes and shidos for what used to be good Judo just a few years ago.  Everyone complains, but few do anything constructive to offer alternatives.  So, here are the Judo America rules I use when I host our in-house tournaments.

Full matches:  We want participants to experience as many minutes as possible fighting and developing their competitive Judo skills.  I call this time in a match, or TIM.  Therefore ippon does not end the match.  Coaches have the prerogative to end a match if their students are overmatched.

Leg grabs:  All leg grabs are allowed provided tori starts with at least one grip on uke.

Gripping:  All grips are allowed provided they are for offensive purposes.

Pins: After an ippon-scoring pin, the referee will call matte, stand the players back up, and call hajime to continue the match.

No penalties:  We want players to win by positive scores, not by getting their opponents penalized.  While there will be no scores via penalties, referees will verbally admonish players in a proactive manner, i.e. white attack, blue stand up, stay in the middle, white no stiff arms, etc.

Cumulative scores:  To diminish the role of the referee’s subjective scoring judgment, (where no number of yuko can ever be the equivalent of a waza ari), scores will be cumulative.  Two yuko will equal a waza ari, 2 waza ari will equal an ippon.

Gis:  We allow for the wearing of any color judogi, including different colors for pants and jacket, on any side.  Jiujitsu gis should adhere reasonably to Judo standards.  The new IJF gi size requirements will not be enforced.

T-shirts:  No shirts for boys.  Girls can wear any color undergarment they want, but please no sparkles, or gem stones.

These rules make for more risk taking, more dynamic Judo, more positive actions, and fewer silly distractions about gis, making this an exciting, spectator and competitor friendly tournament to watch.  A coach from Mexicali, Mexico emailed me after our last tournament to tell me he thought all tournaments should use Judo America rules.  I agree.

Our rules also make it easier to learn to referee by eliminating all the rules that stifle good Judo and create information overload in a referee’s mind, making it easier to focus on the most important aspect of refereeing: getting the scores right!

I encourage you to try these rules out for yourself.  I’m pretty sure your students and parents will love the effects of sensible rules.

7 thoughts on “Judo America Tournament Rules

  1. The Judo America rules looks great! My problem with Judo is that the IJF are always changing or adding rules that make the experience no fun! If its not fun anymore, why bother??

  2. Just a quick comment about t-shirts… but what’s really the issue with wearing something like a rash guard or t-shirt for males? I personally don’t see it having an adverse effect on one’s ability to compete, though I could be wrong. If it’s just to stay in line with tradition, that’s fine. I’m more curious than anything else.

  3. There’s no competitive advantage to wearing an undergarment as far as I can see. Personally, I feel overheated when I wear anything under my gi. I may eventually revisit the rule.

  4. While I think in a development standpoint and if you are not planning to send your kids to regular competitions this is great for your dojo. However, with any sport you have to know the rules. While we can argue about how the rules are taking away from the original aspect of Judo which we all know it does, that doesn’t take away the fact that this is what it is now. While it is really difficult to see that local tournaments like the California State Games has refs that are not seasoned make really bad calls, the worst thing that can happen to a judo student is to lose outright because they do not know the rules. As someone that competes a lot it is quite frustrating to train really hard and travel a long way just to get eliminated over a technicality without even getting to do what I came there to do is to do my best judo. So not only learning judo at your dojo is important but being able to apply it at the tournament effectively is important as well. Unless if that is not what your goal or purpose is, then you can move right along.

  5. You don’t get it. Lots of sports use alternative rules, and equipment, to develop certain skills that are then performed in regular competition. Futsal, an indoor soccer game, was created to increase the number of practices during inclement weather. This resulted in better ball handling skills, which were easily transferred to the outdoor game. In Judo, TIM, or Time in a Match, is essential for skill development. Little is gained with 15 second wins or losses. By having rules that include non-terminal Ippon, TIM is automatically increased, as is skill development. All tournaments should not be solely about winning or losing. Rather, most should be used to gauge skill development regardless of the Ws and Ls.

  6. I agree with the TIM matches. The more mat time a player gets the better the skill develops for the big tournaments. It is time we all look outside the box. Thinking my cause more brain damage for some, lambs need just follow. What allows a player to win with the TIM match, or is that not the goal? As a community we need to band together to support alternative competition formats. The IJF is not the standard for good judo and we do not have to accept that it is the best for development of young players.

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