My thoughts on the 2014 IJF Rules

Just when you think the IJF rules can’t corrupt Judo anymore, in rides Neil Adams with more insanity from the IJF.  Neil has bought into the notion that Judo needs to remain an Olympic sport, and that in order to do that, Judo must be made purely an offensive minded sport with big throws.  Sorry, Neil, that’s a load of crap.  What the IJF is proposing makes a mockery out of what used to be Judo.  At my club, we will continue to have none of this nonsense.

I was so disgusted by the last video that Neil Adams put out on these changes that I issued this statement via several email lists, and Facebook pages and groups.  My apologies if you have already seen it.

To all Judo Coaches and Players,

For many years, I had been a strong supporter of Olympic Judo and the IJF.  Two of my daughters have been on our Olympic or World Championships teams: Valerie Lafon Gotay (1992 and 2008 Olympics + three world teams) and Natalie Lafon (2011 World Team).  However, with the rule changes starting in 2009, I have decided that the IJF no longer represents the best interests of Judo.  Accordingly, I support a burgeoning grassroots movement that uses alternative rules in lieu of the travesty that the IJF has forced upon us.  One such movement is the Freestyle Judo Rules formulated by another former, strong supporter of the IJF, Steve Scott.

As more and more coaches and players are finding out about Freestyle Judo (FSJ), and participating in FSJ events, threats have been made by the national organizations establishment.  We’ve seen this ploy before.  Players and coaches are being told they won’t be promoted, and referees are told they will lose their referee status or won’t be advanced to higher levels.  Most of these threats are idle.  USA Judo’s Robert Fukuda confirmed to me that it’s not the policy of USA Judo to threaten referees with loss of referee status.  In addition, the new USA Judo/USJF/USJA agreement on the “Scrimmage Sanction” confirms that tournament directors may use alternative rules as long as they don’t affect safety.  As none of the recent IJF rule changes affects safety, rescinding them carries no increase in liability.

We’ve all complained about the IJF rules for good reason.  Do yourself a favor and check out Neil Adams’s video explaining the 2014 changes.  You should be disgusted by what the IJF is doing to our Judo.

If you’re a complainer, but continue to think that IJF rules define Judo, here are some things to think about.  All those good Judo throws that were once valid but are now banned by the IJF are still valid in FSJ.  If you’re tired of the shido culture, you’ll be pleased by what FSJ has done.  FSJ referees are proactive, so they’ll be giving your players verbal warnings before a penalty score is given.  Numerical scores (1 for koka, 2 for yuko, 4 for waza ari) are cumulative, and help mitigate the impact of borderline referee calls.  Tired of the 5-10 seconds for ne waza?  Well, FSJ recognizes the importance of ne waza in today’s Judo by allowing more time on the ground, and giving scores for ne waza actions the IJF doesn’t recognize.  You’ll have to read the rules to see what ne waza actions score.  Go to

James Wall will be hosting the next Freestyle Judo Nationals on April 5, 2014 in Denham Springs, Louisiana. I’ll be there with my team.  I’d like you to support this event.  If you’re concerned about the direction the IJF is taking the sport, you should be in Denham Springs.  If you’re concerned that an IJF-emasculated Judo can no longer compete with other grappling sports in the U.S., you should join us in Denham Springs.  If you think that more Judo can be done in BJJ or submission grappling tournaments than can be done in IJF rules Judo tournaments, it should be a no-brainer: come to Denham Springs and help us grow Freestyle Judo for the sake of Judo’s survival.

8 thoughts on “My thoughts on the 2014 IJF Rules

  1. I just wanted to thank you for this. I started learning Judo back in 1981 from my father who earned his blackbelt in Korea during that war. I did not practise for a certain portion of my young adulthood and have rather enjoyed my Instruction that I began again 6 years ago with my coach Adam Blackburn (5th Dan), in the past 3 years I have found that I no longer wish to support modern judo as the IJF has completely departed from the founder’s vision and turned the valuable martial art into a mere sport. Sports are awesome, however JUDO is far more, hence the ‘do’ [the way] otherwise we should just call it JU///. ALL of the throws must be taught, along with kata for one to learn the way of gentleness and the underlying inner school of philosophy, and as it is the way of gentleness rather than the way of aggression what the IJF is doing is disgraceful to the ART, it’s founders, it’s present and future practitioners, and it’s actually causing many of us to leave the program. In fact unless my Sensei chooses to go the other way, which I doubt because he trains national and international level competitors (which is admirable in itself as a “part” of the program, rather than the whole), I will pursue something else, Aikido calls me…

    Rieder W. Curtis

  2. The continuing debasement of traditional Judo by the IJF is, indeed, truly deplorable. Glad to see there are faithful and devoted exponents of Judo attempting to take it in the direction it needs to go to remain a viable grappling art. The extended ne waza is one such idea, which strengthens rather than attenuates Judo. The above changes proposed by the FSJ, in distinct contrast to much of the seeming nonsense promulgated by the IJF, appear more faithful to the original tenets of Judo, or, at least, build on, rather than detract from the art. Being a mere spectator of Judo, and a relatively new one at that, I don’t presume to know what is at the heart of all the post 2008 rule changes, but it’s almost enough for me to advise kids my son’s age from pursuing it.

  3. There are alternatives available. Our club is an AAU Freestyle judo club, and we are also joining the Traditional Kodokan Judo national organization. Both paths offer alternatives to the IJF USA Judo rules that so many are finding distasteful and excessive in the heavy handed move to change the nature of Kodokan Judo from a defensive to an offensive art. I fought at the last USA Judo senior nationals, and witnessed a lot of garbage in terms of applying the new rules, lots of ridiculous hansuko makes and even saw the open decided against Saito Ishii for a disqualification over touching his opponents trouser leg. The very idea that the art should be dictated by an Olympic committee board, and that they are the only valid authority for Judo is ludicrous and pompous, and the people who buy into such lies are small minded. If the USA Judo competition ethos is what best represents a particular clubs views and goals in judo , then that is fine; but to dictate to all from that bully pulpit is the height of hubris. There is only one judo,and that is the art taught to us by Dr.Kano, and it was meant to be malleable and adaptive, but to improve the art, not to restrict for the purpose of television entertainment. Freestyle judo and traditional Kodokan Judo…the way judo should be!

  4. I totally agree with you. The ne rules are going to destroy Judo. JUDO WILL NO LONGER BE USEFUL FOR SELF DEFENSE. The new rules creates a whole new sport and forget about what is all about…. A MARTIAL ART. I hate to see people practicing Brazilian jiu jitsu just because Judo stop giving newaza the importance it deserve. Judo is the origin of bjj, but each and every time a new rule is implemented, Judo falls behind wrestling (freestyle) and bjj. Eventually we will not be able to catch up. Judo should stop prohibiting things, even kata guruma is forbidden now…. For Christ Sake…. You are not allow to grab the legs. Is not a “real combat” anymore. I will love to continue practicing Judo. ORIGINAL JUDO…

  5. just returned from tokyo winning silver at the japan vets championships (2014) at the Kodokan. lost hansokumake for a (defensive) leg grab. should have won…
    this leg grab rule is ridiculous. BTW… Gerald… i remember training at your club, i think it was in San Diego about 27 years ago… out from London… am based in Sydney, Australia now….

  6. I agree with the leg grabbing been banned but there are so many new rules i get confused. I have caused a big stir in a club i practice in Bellahouston club glasgow,where the new rules are not given much attention whereas at my own club Projudo glasgow they are stringently applied as we all compete. In club bella i am always pointing out what the dan grades are doing is illegal. They dont take kindly to it as I a a blue belt but compete and they dont It is important to know the rules if you are are competitng. to carry on with old rules sets a bad example to the competitors and they will learn your bad old habits. Some guys still leg grab,Why ? Its was outlawed 2 years ago

  7. Hi Gerald,

    I started Judo way back in 1952. At that time, it was still Judo, still Kodokan Judo, and still following the model and concepts of Jigoro Kano. I enjoyed competing — winning and losing — learning with both shiai outcomes. Then the AAU took over. Yikes! What a mess. Then other organizations started to bureaucratize Judo. One would have thought the new proscriptions and regulations were originally handed down on stone tablets.

    I stopped competing so much, found opportunities to continue training in unaffiliated dojos. I had opportunities to train at dojos on military bases, and they tended to be more about Judo than about the NGO rules. I also had the opportunity to train overseas, and was always welcome. All this, of course, slowed my promotions, but Judo is not about belt colors.

    Keep up the good fight. There needs to be an opportunity to learn and practice all of Judo. I still teach some of the leg-grabbing techniques, but warn students about the rules imposed from afar by the International regulators.

    The effectiveness of any policy or set of rules is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the origin of the rules to the location where they will be implemented. That, by the way, is also the reason so many Federal Government policies fail.

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