Rule changes for judo shiai are coming, and they are a big talking point right now. They have been officially trialled at the Junior Worlds and this was considered a success by the IJF. As a result, the trial has been extended at select senior competitions over the rest of the year. If things continue to go well it strongly looks like the rules will become official from 2010.
Here is the Word document detailing the changes.
Some may choke slightly with one of the first lines:
The IJF’s wish is to defend fundamental judo values.
Lest we forget the introduction of the blue gi and koka?
Working through the document, we start with FORBIDDEN in big red text referring to direct attacks or blocking via contact below the belt. You can see where this is going: No more leg grabs or even kata guruma. So this is removing direct usage of throws from the gokyo. Okay, you won’t find any leg grabs in the gokyo but they are still an accepted part of judo and have been used to powerful effect.
The punishment is somewhat severe. On the first offense, a shido penalty (as expected) is given. But the second is a direct hansokumake! Harsh. Two lapses of judgment and you are off the mat.
Now, a judoka CAN use these techniques if they are as a result of a sequence of techniques. Classic example might be ouchi-gari and with the arm coming down behind the leg to assist with completing the throw.
Secondly, they may be used as a counter. The classic would be against a failed uchimata and using Te guruma.
Here we are presented with our first problem as referees, and this has been demonstrated at the Junior Worlds. If Tori attacks and is fully committed, and Uke proceeds to counter by way of a technique below the belt, all is fine. However, there have been cases when Tori has more ‘offered the leg’ or feinted. Uke has gone for the counter as a ‘twitch’ reaction and been penalised for it. Not an ideal situation.
Naturally many are not happy with the above changes. It may be the intention of the IJF to ‘defend fundamental judo values’ but is removing techniques (and not for safety reasons) the way of going about it?
Why is this happening?
Ultimately, it comes down to judoka at the top events (such as the Olympics) being of a very similar level. This is naturally assisted by the qualification system: A nation has to be of a certain standard to even take part. The chances of ‘WOW’ ippons is therefore reduced. And what happens in a stalemate? Boring judo.
In particular, drop kata-gurumas which are immediately squashed by Uke and end up with a bit of fumbling on the ground, then ‘Matte’, then the whole thing again. It’s not interesting to watch. Remember, the IJF want judo to get more TV coverage and thus they need more excitement in the matches. Ban the techniques, liven up the judo, job done?
We shall see. The Junior Worlds did prove to feature positive judo but of course it favoured nations that traditionally use more stand-up techniques anyway (Predictably, Japan did excellently!). Competitors work around the rules, however, so it will be interesting to see what ‘mongrel’ techniques start to appear as the year progresses.
In relation to all of the above, the document also emphasises the need to penalise for ‘extreme defensive position’. Think ‘wrestling stance’ for this one. Adopting such a position in a negative judo way was previously a penalty anyway, so this is more of a clarification than anything new. It is also one I am glad to see pointed out again, as I am personally quite ‘hot’ on penalising negative judo for obvious reasons… it’s negative! STOP DOING IT!
As I have had told to me by IJF referees and taken on board, and have mentioned before on this blog, referees have a duty to penalise negative judo to absolutely make it clear that competitors need to be more positive. Moaning about ‘bad’ contests afterwards when you had the ‘power’ to do something about it, and in a strange way ‘educate’ the competitors, is no good. And also strongly remember that it is not just about penalising the negative, but giving their opponent the opportunity to shine.
Overall, I feel it is a great shame that we are having to prevent certain techniques and strategies. Referees at international level could have been advised to simply be stronger on penalties for negative judo. Now, I remember the guidance coming out on this matter previously, but from watching video footage of recent international events (pre Junior Worlds) … I just didn’t see it happening. Plenty of false attacks and negative judo, but not many penalties as a result.
You can’t blame competitors for being defensive sometimes. After all, one Ippon and they could be on the way home, especially with the ridiculous new repechage system. That was a bad idea. “Who wants to see losers fight losers?” was a heard quote and made me pretty annoyed. The competitors deserve more of a chance to prove themselves than they are currently being allowed.
We shall see what happens…