The Purpose of Competition?

OK...  Not to beat this rules thing to death, but I have some stuff in my brain that I want to get out before moving on...  I think that the Freestyle Judo rules are a great improvement over the IJF, but not perfect.  Gerry Lafon also has some interesting thoughts on the subject, but I'm not 100% sold on his brand either.  So... how would I design the rules?

Let's start with some statement of purpose:  something to set out what we want to accomplish with judo competition that we can true back to when going through this process.  Let's see...

    Self-Improvement:  Competition provides a forum for the competitor to test and hone their skills, hopefully compete with people outside their dojo, and observe the techniques of others.  There's something missing here, something missing about what one gains from competing beyond just technique, but I'll go on...
    Innovation:  Competition should be the breeding ground for the Art.  As one killer technique is introduced, the seed for it's killer counter is planted.  Any reasonably safe techniques should be allowed, even if they are "un-Judo-like" - it is the responsibility of the Art to figure out a "Judo-like" counter such techniques.
    Community:  Tournaments, as they bring different dojos together, are a great place to foster relationships and comradery within the Judo community, and should be used as such.
    Publicity (not quite the word I want, but...): Tournaments provide an opportunity for visibility to the non-Judo community, and they should make the best of this opportunity (particularly in light of the state of Judo in the US)
    Principles:  I haven't fleshed this out at all, but the rules of a competition should ban/penalize unsafe practices, but should also ban/penalize actions which go against any underlying principles of the Art - both in its role as a combat art as well as the "Do" (way) that Dr. Kano envisioned.  What I am thinking about here is the encouragement of bad habits as a side-effect of some rules.  For instance, defenseless turtling - you shouldn't do that in a fight, but a judo player might do that from force of habit.  Or unsafe attempts at avoiding a throw - like posting.  I *think* that even in a fight, it may be better to take a safe fall than risk breaking your arm to avoid the fall... Additionally, some principles may need encouragement - things like Jita Kyoei (mutual benefit and welfare) and Seiryoku Zenyo (maximum efficiency, minimum effort).  One must be cautious here, as I think the primary place for teaching this is in the dojo, not a tournament - nonetheless we should keep an eye towards encouraging these principles where feasible.  And one last note on principles - I think the underlying concept of the shiai is to simulate a fight, within the confines of the Do, so we need to keep that in mind.
Not terribly concise, and it still needs work, but it's a start.  What do you guys think?  What is missing?  One off-shoot of having a clear statement of purpose as the basis for our competitions (rather than just a hodge-podge of various regulation) is that we could create different rule sets to increase focus on different aspects of the purpose.  For instance, if you really want to focus on development, maybe you implement something like Lafon's rules where all matches must go the full time-limit, or if you want to encourage people to learn to fight different sized-folks, then you get rid of weight classes, and have the heaviest fight their way down the group, then the next-heaviest, and so on.  And maybe you start over or fight your way back up once you reach the end.  Whoever has the most wins at the end wins the tourney!  But I digress...  My point is we need not be one-size-fits-all...

So... again... what do you guys think?



kodokanjudo said...

Great post Chad (two thumbs up),
I've been preaching this for years.
It is the difference between practicing within the spirit of Kano's judo or simply "jacket wrestling".

kodokanjudo said...

Several points:
-In shiai, a participant should be thinking of measuring his own progress and not think that he is in a "fight" versus an "opponent".
In other words, the struggle or match is within himself.
-In judo, the "ippon" represents a "pseudo kill" like in a traditional Japanese pre-Meiji battlefield. Sumo uses the same concept. When a competitor looses, he goes home, no second chance or "looser's pool", no returning from "dead" on that day.
-Time limits in judo matches were introduced so they could get certain amount of matches in a given day. A match can be done in seconds (ippon) or go the distance for a hantei.
-Weight categories were never considered by the Japanese but imposed on them by the European controlled IJF in the early 60's, but even today the "open" is the only one that holds any real meaning in Japan.
When Geesing beat Kaminaga in the open in 64', the entire Japanese nation felt a great loss that was only avenged in the 76' Olympics by Uemura.
Who holds the Kansho at the Kodokan today in the absence of a Kano family member? The nation's judo hero, Uemura.

Gerald Lafon said...

Before you can come to a statement of purpose, I think we need an identity check. What are we? Sport? Martial art? Entertainment? The label we affix to Judo has a bearing on the rules, and the rules, especially current ones, have a bearing on what we can rightfully call ourselves. The IJF is seeking to make Judo entertainment to attract spectators. Thus we have penalties to speed up the game, and soft ippons to make it seem like players actually threw, etc. Current rules certainly don't make Judo a martial art, not when you ban half of what used to be useable.

Next, we need to ask ourselves whether we want to be a sudden death sport, which is what an ippon is, or a sport ruled by negative scores.

Finally, we should ask ourselves if rules designed for international competition should be the same for 10-year olds.

Competition is competition. It's designed to pick winners and losers. From a coaching standpoint, competition is also about gauging your students's progress. However, you can have rules that provide for greater skill development, greater breadth and depth of allowable skills, and greater entertainment value, while still choosing winners and losers. That's what I seek to do with the rules I implement. Clearly, this is not what the IJF has in mind.

Chad Morrison said...

That's a great point about needing to define this "Judo" thing before starting on what a "Judo competition" should be. Smells like another post, perhaps. And I couldn't agree more about not needing the same rule set for international competitors and 10-year-olds alike. And I think that the need to measure progress is another point that needs to be made explicit in any "purpose statement."

As for the value of Ippons, I think that they certainly have a place. They don't allow for any lapse in concentration or effort, and, especially in terms of thinking about Judo as a martial art, I don't think we would want to entirely eliminate them. That said, I do love the idea of "developmental" tournaments for kids or for those new to the art to cut their teeth. Again, we need not have one universal set of rules.

Thanks for weighing in, Mr. Lafon.

kodokanjudo said...

Kano did not mean for small children to practica judo, nevermind compete. He created judo programs for middle school children with watered down rules (Kosen-judo) with more ne-waza and minimum tashi-waza for their interschool competitions.
Maybe we are not getting the lessons that he wanted us to learn.

kodokanjudo said...

To me, judo is what Kano meant it to be: A way of life (do) with elements of self defence, never anything like a mere sport.

Chad Morrison said...

Leo, did he really not mean for kids to practice judo? I thought that it was his idea for judo to be a core component of physical education over there...

kodokanjudo said...

Not for small children,
only for middle school age and up. And like I said before, with watered down rules for team competitions.
Today we have 4 and 5 year olds competing with the same rules as grownups, save shime-waza and kansetsu-waza.