Tag Archives: rules

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.

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…

New Judo rules – Leg grab interpretation

The new IJF rules are now in effect in the UK. I have yet to use them myself but have been studying them, so I do look forward to it. First competition for that is this coming weekend.

I did make an error in my initial study of one aspect of the new rules, with regard to leg grabs.

My own interpretation was that grabbing the trouser cloth was allowed if absolutely simultaneous with an attack.

Elaine Down (BJA Refereeing Commission and IJF Referee) has been kind enough to clarify this correctly (Emphasis hers):

At no point can tori take hold of the trouser (actual cloth) to execute a throw – simultaneous or not..

A shido penalty will be immediately awarded when tori ‘grabs‘ the trouser (cloth) when this action takes place.

Exception: Whilst the throw is taking place and tori losing his grip or cup of uke’s thigh or calf and is holding the trouser cloth on completion of the technique. (This would only mean a momentarily time that tori holds the cloth – if at all). No shido will be given.

It is going to be very interesting seeing this in action. Note the above is referring to the cloth – cupping the leg, as per Morote Gari or Kata Guruma, is still permitted.

Also remember that grabbing the trouser cloth for defensive purposes is also an insta-shido.