I was very happy to be invited to referee at the Kent International competition this year. This is a competition which has been going for a while and goes from strength to strength. It is officially a ‘mere’ county event, but due to its prestige and reputation attracts players from abroad. There is even a bit of an exchange programme where players from Britain travel abroad to similar competitions. It’s a great concept.
This year, the competition was back at Crystal Palace. This was also where the London Youth Games was this year so I had already had the delights of the ‘renovated’ venue. Admittedly, I had never experienced the pre-renovation one, but comments about the venue itself were generally negative compared to anything more modern. At the end of the day, it’s an old venue, but there are no alternatives in the area currently which can host seven full-size mat areas: When the competition moved to K2 in Crawley (due to the renovation works) it had to run over two separate weekends. Here is a bit more on the two venues.
It was VERY hot as the venue serves as a greenhouse and just to make things even MORE fun there is an Olympic sized heated swimming pool a short walk from where the judo hall was. Mmm, heat. Two spectators were stretchered out on oxygen after collapsing.
However, enough of the venue: There were seven mats there and a huge amount of judo. It was a great weekend.
Saturday (Juniors) was my practice day as the examination was on Sunday (has to be with Seniors where armlocks and strangles are permitted). Contests started at 10am and I believe we were finished by about 8pm. Each mat typically had two teams of referees so we were utilising an ‘hour on, hour off’ which worked well. It was still obviously a long day.
I had an IJF ‘A’ referee leading my mat and I was also on pretty much the most central one, so it would have been obvious very quickly if I wasn’t handling the pressure associated with the crowds and venue. I received continuous feedback so it was clear which elements I needed to tighten as the weekend went on.
When on breaks, I found various methods of cooling down:
The day over, we popped out for pizza, bumping into various members of the Dutch contingent who were over. They were all impeccably behaved. We also had a Dutch referee on our mat team which was great at getting different perspectives, although of course we had the common Japanese language of judo! That said, they all spoke pretty good English anyway.
I was sharing a room and behold the glorious digs that we had:
Up in the morning for breakfast and the next briefing. One element in particular mentioned was that rather than complaining about ‘crap judo’ we are in the perfect position to do something about, especially with the new rules on negativity. Penalise negative judo. Give the players the ‘shock’ they need to wake up so that something happens.
I then did my Theory paper. No problems, scored 100%. Really, anyone actively involved in refereeing would ace this.
Of course, a high score on the Theory paper means little – a pass is a pass. The practical is the meat of whether a referee deserves to be promoted. And it was now the day when this assessment would happen. Essentially, I would be watched throughout the day, so business as usual.
It was the turn of the youth and seniors, and it was a good day. Another hot day, but a good day. We had a good mix of different weights on our mat so got to see all sorts.
Towards the end of the day I was summoned back to the briefing room where I was asked for my own opinion, and given feedback. Here’s my combination of both:
- I had been working on my positioning and this was better. Some work to be done (‘working the triangle’) but better.
- Facial expressions still leaking through. I thought I had improved this but obviously they are still visible. Must try harder.
- A bit stiff. I need to relax more. I do feel relaxed but obviously more to be done. This is hard to do in conjunction with no facial expressions!
- All scores that I awarded were pretty much spot on.
- Newaza, hot and cold. Sometimes I called ‘Matte’ too early, typically as a player chose that moment to transition into an armlock attempt. Not good. Thankfully, there were other instances where there was clear and logical progression, and after about 45 seconds or so, an armlock or osaekomi was secured.
The good news is that I passed!
A long, excellent weekend with some great judo, and I have progressed. Ever onwards…