Happy New Year! Let’s start off 2012 with a bang! Here’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I know my ideas probably won’t get very far officially, but it’s important that we at least discuss them to see if they make sense for general skill development and self-defense.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably been asked many times in class or at tournaments who scored after a throw when at first glance it isn’t obvious who did what to whom. These “gee, what just happened?” moments almost always involve a counter- I really want to say “always” involve a counter, but I may be overlooking other situations. And they produce controversial referee decisions, none more so than the one during the Douillet-Shinohara final at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
The IJF rules as written are not very helpful: too little information to really understand what a counter is. The commentaries to the rules are more useful, but they differ from referee to referee. The upshot of the lack of clarity within the rules is that many counter techniques have been abandoned by players who fear being on the wrong end of the decision. My own daughter Valerie abandoned her pretty awesome Ura nage counter after seeing a few wrong decisions at the international level.
Look at the controversial Douillet-Shinohara throw/counter at normal speed, and you have to admit that the referee has an almost unmanageable task. It’s a blur with lots of action going on. Even at slow speed, you can interpret the action to reflect your own preferences and assumptions. Here’s a good analysis of what transpired during this fight. The Japanese author makes a good case for Shinohara. In his opinion, Shinohara executed a counter to Douillet’s Uchi mata, which is called Uchi mata sukashi. That counter put Douillet clearly on his back. Unfortunately, Shinohara also fell on his side where Douillet was throwing him.
The author suggests that Douillet’s summersault onto his back was due to Shinohara’s actions, and not Douillet’s. I buy that. On the other hand, he gives little credit to Douillet for putting Shinohara on his side. I don’t believe for one moment that Shinohara on his own volition decided to land on his side. That is not how Uchi mata sukashi is done. Douillet put him there. And while Douillet was knocking Shinohara down, Shinohara managed an incredible feat to turn Douillet. Thus, I believe that Douillet threw Shinohara, but that Shinohara also threw Douillet.
It’s interesting to note that the IJF Referee Commission ultimately ruled weeks later that neither contestant should have scored as both had lost control. Folks, I’m at a total loss to understand how control was lost. I guess I don’t define control the same way the IJF does. In my opinion, both players had enough control over each other to create a throw and a counter to the throw. The real question is what do we do with this type of a situation where it appears that both players scored?
This type of throw-counter controversy will continue if the IJF doesn’t change the rules. It needs to better define the parameters of counters. In addition, there are two options that should be considered. The first one is that if it takes a whole conference of officials (referee team plus referee jury) to make a decision, then perhaps the best thing is to not award a score to any of the players. Even with the use of video replay, the right decision is not necessarily attained. Maybe the IJF can take a look at the Instant Replay Rule in the U.S. National Football League, where the evidence must be indisputable. The NFL has many cameras shooting from different angles and locations- many more than what the IJF uses for international events. Even with all the cameras employed by the NFL, the video doesn’t always get the best view of the action to give a sound and fair decision.
The second option is to consider awarding two scores, which is not something that has been discussed much, if ever, as far as I know. Judo loves the idea of only one player getting a score, even if it turns out to be the wrong player. I believe a two-score decision is more fair than awarding a score to the wrong person. In the Douillet-Shinohara case, Douillet gets a yuko and Shinohara gets an ippon. And this is precisely how the referee team on the mat split the scores.
The other benefit of the two-score option is that, as we try to live up to the self-defense aspect of Judo, it compels players to pay more attention to the landing after a throw. Case in point: you threw me with O uchi gari for a score, maybe even an ippon. I countered you, slammed you on your back as I was landing, and then had the audacity to pin you. Because of the terminal ippon in Judo, the reality of a fight vanishes. Why don’t I get a score for the counter? You should have been able to throw me and remain in a stable, dominating position so I couldn’t turn you to your back.
Now, you tell me. Who is the better fighter? The one who pulled the trigger first or the one who wound up at the end in the better position? The reasonable man might suggest that latter.