Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thesis Wednesday: Adventures in Refereeing Kid's Judo

....except the kids were trying to throw, pin, and choke one another

Refereed my first Judo tournament this past weekend. They were short on referees and I was loaned a Gi/Belt to wear for the day in accordance with the rules.

It was the first time I'd donned a full Gi and Belt since my ACL surgery 2 months ago.
I will admit, it was a strange feeling :
1) wearing a Gi again
2) wearing someone else's Gi and Belt.

The scoring itself and the pace of kids matches became less stressful as the day wore on. Double checking that the score-keeping was accurate, and yelling the scores as to be heard was more difficult than I would have anticipated, however.
Our team's players did well, with virtually all of them earning medals (a tough day considering there were no skill divisions/it was open skill class divided only by weight class). We also won 2nd in overall team points with only 4 adult competitors.

I had a hard time not smiling while I watched the war face of some kids versus the smile that others wore during their matches...I also felt a good bit of sympathy mixed with respect for kids on the verge of tears still fighting through their match with others through the stress of parents, coaches, and teammates (and the opposing sides coterie) yelling at them concurrently.

I saw more time given to mat work than ever before regardless of what you've heard from those who've never been to a Judo tournament and something I haven't seen reach BJJ forums and discussion is that at the national level, there is now a shido (penalty) that can be awarded for a player who makes no effort to initiate mat work after a throw has failed (and is in position to initiate mat work). It remains to be seen if this becomes a utilized part of the referee's toolbox.

Usually what reaches and dominates BJJ-centric discussions of Judo are either misinformed interpretations of rules they've never actually read themselves on the IJF or USJA websites, or second hand hearsay marketing by the likes of Rhadi Ferguson about how the double leg was banned b/c it was too effective and imagine that! he has a DVD about that exact move!. When the Soviet bloc crumbled, the large advent of Sambo players changed Judo, but the double leg (morote gari in the original gokyo) wasn't suddenly the game changer that ended standing throwing despite what some wish to believe about Judo or why don't need to spend more time drilling Gi-specific throws. Myself and most if not all of the coaches I've been blessed to have over the years are proponents of less rules and restrictions, not more.

I saw a small but consistent contingent of competitors wearing BJJ Gi's (a good sign of crossover and the rules about Gi's and patches were relaxed so as to let them compete) and a decent number of submissions ranging from RNC to keylock to some armbars and collar chokes as well (with a solid amount of wins by osaekomi/pin rounding out the mat work - another element of Judo mat work that those who have not competed under Judo rules simply do not understand).

It was a long day of competition with spectacular throws, efforts to transition to the mat, and win by any means possible: be it throw, pin, or submission.
Can't ask for much more than that.

Judo has all the elements necessary to be a spectator sport, a practical mode of self-defense, and a tool for bettering us as human beings.
We just have to continue to work to compete, train, foster competitive avenues for players (regardless of the sport/rule set), and obtain the attention it deserves.

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