Why is that illegal?

My colleague Steve Scott, recently wrote in his newsletter, “As an interesting sidelight to how history repeats itself, a variety of these techniques are used in various forms of submission grappling and mixed martial arts, although they continue to be illegal in judo competition.”  He was talking about various forms of shime waza or constricting techniques, not necessarily neck chokes.  Not very long ago, one of my readers commented, “Please correct me if I’m wrong; wrestling, Brazilian jiujitsu, and competitive sambo will allow all Judo throws of the Kodokan in competition.  With the IJF rules, Judo does not.  This is a disgrace.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Think about this for one moment.  There may be more Judo in Brazilian jiujistu, sambo, and submission wrestling than there remains in IJF Judo.  Although only a small portion of the judoplaying masses competes, most Judo instruction is based on what the IJF rules allow.  So what we are left with is a very diluted version of the Judo curriculum.  I’ll admit the IJF is not the only organization to blame for this.  Little by little over the years, the Kodokan banned things left and right, often under the guise of making Judo safer, before the IJF even came into the picture.

For many of us, the history of the development of Judo rules elicits the same response many Americans utter when they actually read the Constitution of the United States: “I didn’t know that!”  A few of us want to know what criteria were used to make the prohibited acts list. Safety is often used to forbid certain techniques, but as you will see, many of the banned techniques are no more dangerous than legal ones.  So, let’s take a look at some of the more curious items in Article 26, Prohibited Acts and Penalties of the IJF rules.

Even if I’m attacking and not being defensive, I can’t “screw up” the sleeve, pistol grip it, pocket grip it, or put fingers inside the opponent’s sleeve end.  But I can do that to my own sleeve.  The same applies to grabbing inside the bottom of pants.  It’s OK to do it to my pants, but not to my opponent’s.  Seems to me that we should all be able to attack and defend from any and all grips, and use the gi as a weapon.  If safety is the reason for some of these rules, then we should be responsible to decide for ourselves whether to use these grips or not.

I can bear hug my opponent from behind and from the side, but not from the front. Huh?  The IJF wants us to believe this is not Judo, because the grip is “abnormal,” but just when you are in front.  Get that?

I can put my hand in uke’s belt to escape from let’s say Kesa gatame, but can’t put my foot there.  Why not?

I can use uke’s jacket to choke him, but I’ll be penalized if I use my jacket to do the same thing.  Why?

I can figure-four (Sankaku) my opponent’s neck or trunk, but I can’t scissor (Dojime) them by stretching out my legs.  This is the type of shime waza Steve Scott was alluding to.

I can encircle my opponent’s body with his belt or gi if less than 360 degrees, but if I go to 361 degrees, it’s not OK.  What dangerous event occurred with that additional few degrees of encirclement?

I can’t lift my opponent off the mat from ne waza (Daki age) and drive him back onto the mat.  However, if I am standing, can grab uke’s leg legally, then do O uchi gari to his supporting leg, then it’s OK even though both of us would more or less be in the same position as in the Daki age situation.  By the way, if uke jumps onto me from the front (pulling guard) for some silly reason, I can slam him to the mat.  Now I’m totally confused as to why Daki age is a no-no.

I can’t reap uke’s supporting leg from the inside while he is attempting to do Harai goshi, but apparently I can reap his leg (Ko soto) from the outside.  What’s the difference?  Same potential to hyperextend the leg.

I can’t fall backwards when uke is on my back, either from a Tachi waza or Ne waza position, but I can fall to the side or even do a forward roll.  Say what?

These are just some of the silliest examples of what’s illegal in Judo today.  I think it’s safe to say that Judo Ne waza would be strengthened if we removed all the above listed rules that pertain to ground grappling.  And Judo would still remain a safe activity.

Judo would be more effective if we removed all of the gripping rules.  Effectiveness should take precedence over how pretty Judo looks.

The pendulum has swung too far to the safety and aesthetics side.  These rules are sanitizing Judo into irrelevance.  It’s time to stop being so protective of judoplayers, and return to our martial roots.  How can we continue to prohibit so many combative techniques while Brazilian jiujitsu, sambo, and submission wrestling embrace these same techniques?  Can you see the logic of that?  I can’t.

11 thoughts on “Why is that illegal?

  1. I’m a Black belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu and have tremendous love for the art of Judo. I once wanted to compete in Judo and seek attaining a Black belt in Judo as well. Now, with the recent rule changes, I’m not so excited about it.

  2. Gerry, I’m pleased that what I wrote in my newsletter prompted your insightful comments. As you know, I have been promoting freestyle judo for several years with the goal of returning judo to its roots as a combat sport. When we developed the rules for freestyle judo in 2008, we took a hard, objective look at the rules of judo with the goal of making “judo the way it ought to be” (as my friend John Saylor said at the time). If anyone is interested in getting the rules of freestyle judo, they can e-mail me at stevescottjudo@yahoo.com and I will send a copy of the freestyle judo rules. People can also go to http://www.FreestyleJudo.org to see the rules as well. Keep up the good work. Your blog is a welcome (and needed) voice of reason in the judo world.

  3. As a ref myself, I hate it. I want to just call when people are too defensive or putting each other in a dangerous position, and not much else. I’d love to have a much simpler version of the rules.

    And yes, I realize “dangerous” is a relative term. There are a lot of positions that aren’t really dangerous that we penalize.

  4. To Jeff Baldwin and other people who might be interested in competing in judo, but do not like the IJF rules; look seriously at freestyle judo or AAU Judo in general. The links to learn more about freestyle judo are listed in my first posting. As I’ve heard from other people…”Jigoro Kano invented judo, not the IJF.” The rules we use in freestyle judo allow for good newaza to take place and allow a wide variety of gripping, and msot of all, the throws that the IJF banned are all allowed in freestyle judo (and AAU Judo as well).
    Steve Scott

  5. Awesome blog! From a competitors standpoint, I completely agree with what you’re writing here in your blog. That is why I don’t compete in IJF much (if at all), but I regularly compete in Freestyle Judo. From a gripping and throwing standpoint, there is so much more freedom in Freestyle than IJF. If you want to get back to a more open, creative, and competitive form of Judo competition, then I suggest you compete in Freestyle Judo.

  6. I am glad that there are others that think the same way as I do. I would like to see the minimum of rules based on the participtants safety. Simply let the best man/woman win, regardless of style.

  7. I agree with all of the comments regarding what you cant do!
    Let the people who run the local clubs get back to Kano’s rules and iniate competitions with those rules.
    Big business is running judo now as is the olympics.

  8. Yes, I think big business is running modern day judo, It’s a shame. I spoke an official
    with the IJF and he told me that it was decided to modified judo to make it more exciting to watch, and that it would get more televsion Time, He said the IJF did
    not want judo to be removed from the olympics. SHAME IJF, Looks Like money rules judo..
    All of the so called national judo organizations have hurt judo in America. all they think of is
    money,money,money, not judo

  9. This isn’t about protection. It is about getting more flashy ipons at the Olympics for the TV ratings. They started by limiting ground time and now they are removing things which get you to the ground without a high chance of a big score.

    The sad thing is now… judo clubs will now either have to teach two different ‘kinds’ of judo fracturing the sport, or the kids (and adults) will simply move to BJJ or MMA dojos for useful self-defence.

    The banned list is so extensive that any judoka five years ago would likely clean the mat from his counter-part today. Rules are now so far removed from a ‘real match’ that self-defence or even school-yard fights is getting questionable. Anyone starting today is at serious risk of not being able to face someone with wrestling, BJJ, or MMA experience because they are now so utterly focused on the big throws.

  10. Judo is an Olympic sport. The changes the IJF has made have contributed to the sport getting faster, more distinct, and dramatically more exciting, especially for the casual fan. Judo at the highest levels was beginning to look like wresling with pajamas. More fights are being won with dramatic ippon throws.

  11. I was taking a break from Judo for over ten years. When I begun again, I immediately got the attention of one of our trainers for grabbing my opponent’s legs during Randori. When I asked him why leg grabs and associated thows — what about Kata Guruma and Sukui nage? — would now be illegal, he smiled sadly and said something like, “well, it doesn’t fit to The Show”.
    Now, I am no judge, but he certainly is. He is a trainer of a country’s competition judoists. That really made me quite disappointed, but fits well to the picture of a wholly-corrupt, non-sportive IOC.

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