Tag Archives: Judo

The Final Three Points

This was my #4 speech from the Toastmaster‘s Competent Communicator manual. I had given #5 in the recent Humorous Speech Contest so taking a little detour in the ordering!

This speech had the goal of ‘How to Say It‘ so I decided to tell the story of the day I finally got my black belt in judo.

This was not what I consider a good performance by me. For a start, this was my second attempt on the evening (hence the slightly strange beginning). A combination of poor preparation and personal life stress did not mix well: I gave up after 30 seconds due to going blank and gave myself a good mental kicking during the next speech in order to try again afterwards. I am very thankful to the support of Farnham Speakers on that! Anyway, this ultimately meant I could not relax fully into the speech which I feel is obvious on the video at times.

That said, there are positives! I left longer pauses for the obvious laughs that I wanted which worked well. I received a good evaluation on the use of language which of course was the goal of this speech anyway. Finally, this won Best Prepared Speech on the night.

Ultimately, the lack of preparation is letting me down. That’s completely my fault and I raised this last time! Knowing a speech backwards is what nails it as then you can work on enjoying it and making it outstanding.

Next time…

Kent International 2010

A judo event with history: 25 years of service!

For the second year running, I was helping referee the judo at the Kent International 2010. This is an event with more pedigree than I initially realised: Roger Down received an award for service having assisted as Referee In Charge for 25 years!

It is held at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. Some improvements have been made since I was last here. Most noticeable was the fancy new gym downstairs, complete with ‘iPod room’. I never actually visited that room. Hey, there was work to be done…

The issue I have with the venue as a whole is that it doesn’t really hold a candle to more modern ones. This especially applies when we have a hot weekend like we did this time around: Glass features heavily in the construction! As a result, the sports hall area becomes a greenhouse. This is compounded by the heated swimming pool being adjacent and essentially in a shared space. Thankfully, I was able to hunt down a mildly air-conditioned room in the catacombs of the building during my breaks.

Of course, I’ve only been doing this event for two years. Others have been involved for much, much longer and it is known by them as the ‘home of British judo’. I think this is one of those things where the two camps will never see eye to eye.

Enough of the venue. What about the judo?

Must cool down!

The rule changes (principally the ‘anti leg grab’ ones) are now well in effect. While this is meant to promote more traditional ‘stand up’ judo there was still evidence of the bent-over wrestling stance creeping in but this was being penalised as appropriate. I’m very ‘hot’ on wanting to penalise negative judo as it is all part of appreciation! Yes, we must appreciate judoka when they are performing amazing techniques and being positive but at the same time anyone involved in judo can help with stamping out the negative aspects. See also: Stepping out, excessive grip fighting, those dreaded false attacks…

Thankfully I only had to disqualify one competitor during the two days for leg grabbing. My team also had cause to disqualify a player for attempting a strangle in the Junior section, unfortunately. This event attracts a lot of players from abroad and despite best attempts to communicate the allowed techniques for each age band here, sometimes it either does not get through or a player lapses!

An interesting recent directive is that ‘bear hug’ grips are not permitted. This includes hands around the waist, overhooks, underhooks… the key is whether it is of a hug style! The hands also do not need to be touching. Current advice is to ‘Matte’ the first time it happens and penalise after that: Techniques employing it are not scorable. Only had cause to refer to this rule once which was a shame, in all honesty, as it was a wonderful and technical throw!

There were some lovely throws being demonstrated and some contests with real passion behind them. In particular I did notice some spectacular progression in newaza and it is a joy to watch that unfold when refereeing. It is certainly a refereeing skill to spot when that progression is happening and to give Tori ample time to set things up. Very few contests went to a ‘flags’ decision for my team and in addition all of those decisions were unanimous. We did need to explain to at least one coach that those decisions are now based on the entirety of the contest now though as opposed to just the ‘Golden Score’ component.

I was assessed and recommended to go for my National ‘B’ qualification next year. For now, it is a case of getting in further experience at senior events. I’ve picked up some valuable feedback so it will be interesting to see where this goes…

British Judo Association Forums discussion thread on the event.

Living my life the gentle way

This week I was privileged to give my very first speech (The ‘Icebreaker’) at Farnham Speakers. Not only was it my first Toastmasters speech, it was the first prepared speech for the club due to it being the inaugural evening!

I have already written a blog about the whole evening. As this is my personal site, this one is going to be oriented around my personal experiences in putting this together.

I wrote the core of this speech when I was first introduced to Toastmasters and it was easy to do: Everything in this speech I am passionate about and truly believe. However, it was then ‘parked’ for quite a while: The intention was always for me to do it at the club launch. Also, as I was going to be joining as a founder member, I wasn’t eligible to present it at any other club due to not being signed up.

Shortly before the opening night I got to work on perfecting it. I am incredibly blessed to have Nicky Kriel as my mentor. She really helped to transform my speech from a good one to one that was exceptionally well received on the night.

Here are the sorts of things that Nicky suggested:

  • SLOW DOWN. I was rattling through with no pauses. By deliberately slowing down, and remembering to breathe, everything improved. My confidence increased. I was engaging more and reading the audience better.
  • IT’S A SPEECH, NOT A BOOK. By practising it ‘live’ I realised that certain aspects sounded like a lecture rather than a fluid speech. Nicky pointed some of these out and I also ‘felt’ the stifled elements when she made me perform it in front of her.
  • DON’T SAY TOO MUCH. When the speed was reduced it became really obvious that I was saying too much. The audience would glaze over. Loads of content was actually removed to tighten up the speech. However…
  • EMPHASISE. My speech has a few key points. These were changed to be reiterated in different ways to ensure the audience totally absorbed them. So, have fewer ‘things to say’… but make sure they are strongly put across with variety.
  • BE PERSONAL. As an ‘Icebreaker’ speech the idea behind it is to introduce myself. In the original draft the second half had drifted away from it being about me, and just about judo. Nicky suggested tweaking it to have my personal associations present throughout. This was key in keeping it engaging and not just sounding like a lecture about judo.
  • YOU DON’T NEED NOTES. She took my notes away! I struggled… then realised I knew much more than I thought. This encouraged me to practice (typically in my car!) until I knew the speech perfectly and was confident to just get up and do it. Note that I never memorised the speech word for word… it is a speech, not a recital!

As a result of this fantastic advice, and practising the speech enough so I was confident that I could deliver it without thinking too much, I incredibly enjoyed presenting it to the club. Sure, I was REALLY nervous beforehand but once I was in front of the audience I just relaxed and went with it. Hopefully this shows in the video above!

I do have lots to work on, of course: I was about 20 seconds faster which implies some nerves were present. There is some pointing and hand clasping. I need to work on addressing everyone in the room… not just those in the first few rows. This is why Toastmasters is so helpful!

Now I need to start writing my second speech!

Like parent, like child. Like coach, like player.

Coaching styles may vary.

“There are no bad children, only bad parents” is a phrase which is known by many. Essentially, behaviour is learned, mimicked, whichever you feel applies. The same principle applies to sports and over the years I have certainly seen it first hand.

I should stress before continuing that ‘bad’ is a bit strong in most cases. A coach is not setting out to be a bad coach. They are not sitting at home before heading to an event wondering how best they can upset people and have a counter-productive influence on whoever they are coaching. They do want the best outcome for their athletes but their approach has somehow become misguided.

Judo is predicated around mutual benefit and welfare. As a result, the attitudes of the vast majority of coaches and indeed the players has been exemplary in my experience. Yes, perceived bad calls from the referee team are challenged but it is an absolute exception when any behaviour starts to become threatening! This just goes to show how enforcing such principles from the very beginning of the coaching process reap benefits throughout a judoka’s life.

Football, however, has a long-running battle with behavioural problems. The fact that the Respect campaign exists in the first place is testament to this. There is conflict between players (even those on the same team), managers, coaches, spectators and referees. The second game I refereed ‘featured’ an altercation where one manager allegedly assaulted the other over a confrontation regarding a child swearing at some of the gathered parents.

Particularly with youth football, the coaches set the example. If I meet a friendly, relaxed, professional and balanced coach it comes as no surprise when his or her team are there to actually play football. There is precious little dissent. In the unfortunate event that I had to dismiss a player for violent conduct (the irony is appreciated), a manager I am thinking of said after the game “I have no problem with the decision, he deserved it, he has to learn somehow”. Such a well-balanced view is sadly rare.

Compare and contrast to, shall we say, the more shouty coaches. The referee’s decisions are likely to be targeted to compensate in any short falls in team ability. A referee may be pilloried for getting a penalty decision wrong, but the fact that a team missed several open goals will be conveniently forgotten!

That said, some such coaches are ‘balanced’ in that they are just as likely to shout in the same way at their own team. This does, however, result in the players having the same form of attitude (high levels of dissent) which the referee has to deal with firmly. It is important to set the boundaries EARLY.

Referees are there to control the event and enforce as required. Coaches, however, should have trained their players in such a way that the referee should never NEED to be dealing with discipline issues.

However, it is very important to keep an open mind despite the general trends. I was surprised when the latter style of coach who had very loudly criticised a penalty decision during a game was very polite and listened afterwards. He just wanted to know the reasoning. I also heard him complimenting an opposing player on a run. More balanced than perhaps someone just hearing the shouting might have realised.

During my cup final there was one player getting VERY angsty over an offside not being given. I took him to one side and explained what had happened. Once he understood, the angst immediately vanished and he apologised.

Let us not forget the parents as well. They are not just instilling behaviour (good or bad) in their children at home but also when standing and watching at the side of a sporting event!

Coaches, parents, referees… we all have our role to play in education.It is NEVER someone else’s problem: We all have a responsibility to help!

I would love to hear about any behaviour, good or bad, you have witnessed at sporting events and how this may have been linked to any coaches and/or parents present!

Nothing below the belt II – Finalised rule changes for 2010

I have posted previously on the proposed judo contest rule changes for 2010. Well, they are no longer proposed. They are now with us and running at international level for all events. As a result we can expect this to filter down to domestic events (more on that later).

The core of the changes are still the same. However, some leeway has been given to a judoka who finds that they are in ‘cross guard’ (Tori has forced Uke down by taking an arm over the back so it is on the same side as the sleeve grip). In such a situation Uke would not have many attacking options which did not involve contact below the belt. As a result, to add to the complexity, this is now allowed…..UNLESS (yes there’s more) Uke had deliberately put themselves in that position to begin with!

As always, based on the discretion of the referee team.

Actually, this is one good thing that has come out of this: The IJF is no longer insisting on a single referee per mat. They will continue to use three in conjunction with the video system. Business as usual. Some commentators feel they intended to backtrack on this one all along so it gave more of an impression of actually consulting the coaches and players that form the international circuit.

Despite this consultation there is still some absolutely dreadful use of the English language in the document. For example, ‘Judo is a physic and mental education system’. Physic?

Naturally the issue of referees having to decide whether a leg grab has been part of a genuine combination or that the opponent genuinely attacked first still stands. Or, in IJF words, that there was an attempt to ‘make fall’! This is where there has been an absolutely horrendous change to the previous draft: It is now HANSOKUMAKE ON FIRST OFFENCE. There is no warning of any kind. If it is judged you have fallen foul of the changes the contest is over for you.

Up to now, direct hansokumake was reserved for items such actions against the spirit of judo or use of a prohibited technique (where the technique was prohibited for safety concerns). Now it is being used for techniques deemed responsible for ‘untidy’ judo. Disgraceful.

Domestic judo organisations may take a different approach. As an example, the British Judo Association has announced that it will retain the shido for the first offence at all levels.

The IJF has released some video examples to help illustrate which sequences are still permitted and which ones would now result in direct hansokumake. Some are good examples of negative judo which of course are not attractive to watch. However, look at example 23. Hansokumake. Why though? White has put in an attack and blue has attempted to immediately counter which means they should be permitted to grab the leg. Yes, it ends up being a lame attack and it looks bad BUT they should be allowed to try that one still, surely? Part of the reason it doesn’t work is because white is diving for the tatami as soon as they can once they realise they are off balance. Also, wasn’t blue in ‘cross guard’ as well?

One more: Example 24. Deemed hansokumake. To my eyes, this was a good combination. Yes there was a slight delay between techniques but it was seamless. Perhaps the first attack was not considered ‘genuine’? Look at it again though, give the benefit of the doubt to Tori: Uke tried to attack at the same time so they had to perhaps change their strategy? The reason the throw was successful was due to Uke becoming vulnerable in that initial exchange.

Lafon has made a fantastic blog posting on this subject including some more analysis of the videos: Hansoku Make, IJF!. I strongly recommend it.

Finally, the last entry is curious:

Any action against the spirit of Judo can be punished by a direct HANSOKUMAKE at anytime of the contest.

This is not new. So why mention it explicitly here? I feel this is almost a ‘warning shot’ against coaches developing new strategies to work ‘against’ these changes. The IJF could identify such cleverness and issue an addendum declaring it as against the spirit of judo, and hey, hansokumake for you guys too!

These changes worry me. Referees already had the tools they needed to punish negative judo without having to resort to banning whole techniques. The fact is, for whatever reason, they weren’t using them at international level. Flop ‘n’ drops were being allowed to happen. If anything, I have seen domestic events be harsher!

The bottom line here is that the IJF needs judo to look dynamic and exciting for the Olympic Games. If it is not visually appealing to the layperson its place in the Games is at risk.

I’ve recently finished reading Judo Memoirs of Jigoro Kano which is excellent. It includes the story of how Kano ‘imported’ Kata Guruma into judo (he needed a technique to throw someone who he just could not throw). The sad thing is that you will not be seeing too many examples of that throw at international competition now…

Coaches will be priming their charges with alternatives (e.g. the above throw but with two hands on one sleeve) which in turn could also lead to ‘flop and drop’ attempts at it from some quarters. Aren’t we then back where we started? Won’t we need rules to guard against negative attacks? And for referees to identify and penalise these?


Isn’t this where we came in? We’ve had the tools for this for a long time. Bottom line: There is no need to restrict techniques to stop negative judo. Indeed, to gain maximum efficiency here, wouldn’t a simple tightening up have worked really nicely? Maximum efficiency… I’m sure that sounds familiar somehow…

For a comparison on how these changes have been brought in compared to rugby union, check out Lance Wicks’ excellent IRB ELVs Vs. IJF 2010 rule changes post.

Bonding the referee team – Lessons from judo and football

The team of referees on the mat at a judo competition is a team of three: The referee and two corner judges. In football you have the referee and two assistants (running the line). There is one distinct difference right at the beginning here: In judo, although the referee controls the contest, the ‘majority of three’ rule applies and thus he or she may be overruled. In football the assistants do just that… ASSIST. The referee has the final say.

However, there are good hints and tips I have picked up along the way. These have become especially evident on the football side where for the vast majority of games I am the referee and needing to brief two new (club provided) assistants at each match. They are strangers to me when I arrive unlike the comfort zone of most judo competitions where I know all the referees!

So here are some points which have really helped me:

  1. Start as you mean to go on: Your strength as a team does not begin with the start of the contest or match. It should be as soon as you get together. Learn the names (I am terrible with names when meeting people so this something I try and make an effort with now) and use them. I found out just how well this worked when it was the referee using MY name regularly when I was assisting at a football match. It really helps the bonding process.
  2. Brief the team: (Football perspective here). Vital. I was staggered when one club assistant told me after my briefing that some referees he has helped out don’t even bother doing a briefing. Nice! Remember that the briefing is not just about telling the assistants what you want them to do, and assess their knowledge: It is to help get to know them so that you are comfortable with each other. Club assistants are likely to have been abused before in previous games so definitely get the point across that you will help protect them as well. For most ‘park’ games I like doing this briefing in the centre circle prior to the coin toss as it gives a very public display of everyone working together.
  3. Constant communication: Be it verbal or a simple thumbs-up (This sort of thing can look unprofessional in judo but there are subtle ways), keep the communication going. “Thanks Steve!” after Steve has helped you out from a tricky spot goes a long way. And it will help someone who is new and a bit nervous gain the confidence they need after those first few decisions. Important for assistants/corner judges to do this as well if there is someone new and perhaps nervous running the show!
  4. You are a team: Support your team-mates. If a mistake occurs never ‘pass the buck’ as ultimately in a lot of cases it is the team that has failed. Work out how to resolve it as a team (if possible), otherwise make sure you also learn from it AS A TEAM. It is also good to try and stay together in breaks to discuss decisions that have been made and bring out the whole mentoring concept.
  5. Give the referee the benefit of the doubt: If you disagree with something SLIGHTLY then take a few moments before deciding to express your opinion. Remember the referee had a different view to you so is it possible that they did the right thing with that in mind?

Any experiences from working in one of these teams? Or have you observed things that have worked particularly well? Or even particularly badly?

Nothing below the belt – Proposed judo rule changes

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…