So How Would I Run a Tournament?

Alright... so if the IJF rules are awful, what does a good tournament look like? 

In a recent post I pondered what the underlying principles should be as I seek to create a tournament...  The very brief summary is that tournaments should foster:

  • Self-improvement
  • Self-assessment (per Gerry Lafon's comment)
  • Innovation within the Art
  • A sense of community within the Art
  • Publicity - that is, a connection with the non-Judo public
  • The core principles of Judo
So, using that as a touchstone, here is what I came up with:
    Lose the Japanese:  Let's start with what I imagine will be the most controversial.  As we want to use the tournament to help publicize the sport, we should not use a foreign language to narrate the competition. Ippon is the only thing I think we should keep in Japanese; it's part of the Judo brand, and, in any case, it will be pretty clear to the non-savvy onlooker what just happened (if not why it happened).  We should even replace "Hajime" and "Matte" with "Go" and "Stop".  It doesn't change a tiny bit about the competition itself, which is, after all, the main thing.  And I'm just talking about tournaments, here.  Feel free to keep the Japanese in classes.
    Have a Flyer: Not at all controversial, but sticking with the publicity/community outreach thing, tournament hosts should create a 1-page flyer that goes briefly over the rules, how to win, how the tournament is structured (e.g., double elimination, round robin, etc), perhaps which divisions are on which mats, and some basic info about what Judo is.  And of course, don't forget to tell mention when and where they can find a dojo.  Make the flyer succinct and interesting.  Catchy, in other words.
    No Harm, No Foul:  If it isn't unsafe, and it doesn't clearly oppose the spirit of Judo (which is a nebulous thing, I understand), keep it legal.  Weird grips?  No harm -  legal.  Head-diving?  Much greater risk of neck injury - illegal.  Leg picks and other things that involve grabbing pants/legs?  It's embarrassing that I even have to ask - legal. 
    Bring Back Dakiage - Sort of: Dakiage, if you aren't familiar, is basically "the slam."  Quinton "Rampage" Jackson used to be famous for this, as seen here (@ around 40 seconds in):   Now, obviously slamming isn't safe - there are no good breakfalls from that, and after your head hits the mat, it will often bounce into the slammer's head for a guaranteed KO.  But one of the old rules went something like "if you can get them up to shoulder level with control, you win."  I like this rule.  They got rid of it, and now have a rule where if you can make the guy on bottom break contact with the mat, then you both have to start back on your feet. The rule isn't completely useless, but does lead to silly behaviors like "escaping" an arm-bar by lifting your opponent a centimeter off the mat. So, here's what I think: 1) If you can't get your opponent higher than your knee, the action continues, because it is hard to do a ton of damage to someone from that height (I think). 2) If you can get your opponent up to shoulder height in one decisive movement (with control), you win. Because they are basically pwned at that point (for my older readers: "pwned" in this case = finished). 3) If you get past the knee, but not to the shoulder (in ONE DECISIVE MOVEMENT), you just start back from standing. Reasoning is there is a risk of being spiked on your head, but it isn't guaranteed doom like shoulder height would be. And most importantly, 4) If you actually slam or spike your opponent - even if by accident, you are thrown out. This is to encourage control. By making this change, we would a) bring back a great technique that is super-duper useful, b) eliminate some more of the garbage, by-product behaviors like exposing yourself to an arm bar in order to stand your opponent back up, and c) possibly improve the quality of people's guard
    Use Points:  So here's another controversial one.  I don't have a huge issue with the Waza-ari and Yuko frameworks (or, in my no-Japanese version, "Big Score" and "Minor Score"), but I also don't think that it really adds that much to a judo competition.  And people intuitively understand points.  So, if it isn't adding that much, and a change will make it easier to grasp, why not?  Now, I'm honestly not completely sold on the idea myself...  I need to sleep on it I guess.  Maybe we can have "Big Points" and "Minor Points"?  It still preserves the quality over quantity principle, but is spelled out more clearly for the lay-audience.
    Deflate the Referees:  Too often, Judo referees remind me of that stereotypical neighborhood association guy that just lives to fine you for your grass being .02 inches higher than regulation.  They don't so much care that you are a good neighbor, they just live to punish and show their knowledge of the rules.  Honestly, I'll bet a lot of Judo referees *are* that neighborhood association guy or gal.  It's not about the ref, it's about the Judo, so I really like the approach of Freestyle Judo (and most other contact sports), where the ref will give instructions, then warnings... then penalties, unless something is just atrocious. 
    Work to Pair Up Comparable Ranks:  I recognize that this isn't always possible, especially in smaller tourneys or with certain weight classes, but if we accept that self assessment is one of the things we want our tournament to promote, we shouldn't just have our white belt face off against two sandans before going home for the day.  There are a few things you could do to help this, for instance... 
    Get Rid of Pre-Defined Weight Classes:  I don't have anything against grouping people of similar weight, but the current system has at least two bad by-products.  1) The guy that weighs X pounds may have only 2 other guys in his division, while the guy who is 5 pounds heavier is squaring off against 20 folks, and 2) It encourages cutting weight, which is at best not healthy, and at worst bad for you or even lethal.  So that guy who is X+ 5 pounds ends up fighting folks who walk around at X+20 lbs.  So just group people by weight and/or skill level, putting the cut-offs where ever is necessary to create the most balanced/fair divisions.  And the balance you place between skill level and size may vary - you could even get rid of weight classes altogether!  Now, it may be that having no defined weight classes could actually cause worse weight-cutting, and if we find that this is the case, then go back to the old way.  But we can help prevent that by ...
    All Weigh-Ins on the Day of the Tourney:  The purpose is to discourage weight cutting, which is not a judo skill, and to get rid of the home-field advantage for the local club who can cut more weight than the out-of-towners.
    Get People as Many Matches as Practical:  You come to a judo tournament to compete against others, and it really sucks to pay $40 to spend 20 total seconds on the mat against two vastly superior opponents. "OK - then get better" I can hear you thinking.  Fair enough, but let's let the guy or gal get some more matches in.  One tourney I liked (in Lafayette, LA?) had 2 pools of 5 people each in my weight class.  The pools would play round-robin style, then the top 2 from each pool competed in double-elimination.  It was fun.  A German beat me for 1st (GERMANS!), but it was a lot of fun judo.  Don't have time for that?  You can always just set up "funsies" matches between two folks that want to compete.  Just do something.  Find a way to help your competitors get more competition.
    Lastly, Invite Everyone to Dinner: You don't have to pay - just invite people.  Make them feel welcome.  Get to know these folks.  You have to eat, right?  And heck, maybe you can cut a deal with the local Sizzler to cut you a deal on the price if you can bring them 30 hungry customers?  Or maybe if you can get RSVPs, you can cater it, to help folks get back on the road more quickly... It's a small thing, but I think it will help build the spirit of community in Judo.  That was honestly my favorite part of going to competitions back in the day - the camaraderie. 
So that's what I'm thinking.  What do you think?  What did I miss?  Where did I go too far?



kodokanjudo said...

I like your rules better than the IJF's and freestyle's.
You say that you would like to leave the ippon but not the waza-ari? <=0
Ippon is a point (match) and waza-ari (incomplete waza) is a near ippon. Meaning that the ippon is a "virtual kill", so that makes the waza-ari a near "virtual kill",
it is like wounding the opponent.
As you can see, you cannot have one without the other. :)

Dr. AnnMaria said...

I like your rules. It sounds a lot like freestyle judo. The one freestyle judo tournament I attended impressed me a great deal for exactly the reason you mentioned - the referees got out of the way and let people do judo.

When people cannot understand why someone lost a match THAT is a good indication that judo is failing as a spectator sport - "What do you mean she lost because she touched her leg?"

I also don't understand why the scores have to be in Japanese and can't be numbers. Again, failing as a spectator sport.

Not only is it failing spectators but it is also failing competitors. I hear the comments, "Just play by the rules, don't complain about them". However, rules are enacted for really unfathomable reasons, as opposed to safety, and are enforced far out of proportion to the offense (have hair tie with metal in out - you lose) - it really seems like we are dealing with the TSA (anyone who flies in the US very often can relate). If someone is a good athlete, trains hard and loses because he/ she held two hands on the same side of the uniform, that person is likely to look for a more understandable sport.

Stephen said...

But one of the old rules went something like "if you can get them up to shoulder level with control, you win." I like this rule

When I came back to Judo after my a long lay off, I was amazed to discover they had removed this rule.

I think a revised point system (with "little points" = 1 point, "small points" = 2 points, wazari = 5 points and pin/ippon = match would make a great start, and one that would be spectator friendly.

kodokanjudo said...

Points may work well for those who see judo as a sport as the IJF sees it (1981 declaration), but what do you say to those traditional individuals like me who have never seen and will never see judo as a sport?
Judo in the USA was very popular with at the very least 20,000 participants and as many as 25,000 before 1976 when it was still traditional and not a "sport". Today we have 5000-7000 participants, if that.
My solution would be to go back to those pre 1976 Kodokan rules and bring back all of the traditions that made judo popular.

Chad Morrison said...

@Dr. AnnMaria: Good call on the TSA reference. I really like a lot of the changes that they made with Freestyle Judo, but I think they may have tried to change too much (like no win by pin). I still like the setup and I would be all for competing in such a tourney, it just isn't *my* ideal. Mostly because I like to pin people.

@Stephen: When was your hiatus? I ask because I am not sure in what time range they made that dakiage rule change.

@KodokanJudo, Dr. AnnMaria, and Stephen - I could see using points in a couple of different ways - in one, one "Big throw" could be worth, say, 6 points, and a "little throw" could be worth 2. Alternatively, we could just say there are "Big Points" and "Little Points", and 1,000,000 little points don't equal a single big point, so we still preserve the concept of the yuko and the wazaari. That should still be more spectator friendly, but not get too far away from "traditional" judo rules.

@KodokanJudo: I'm not sure that the rule set was what made Judo so popular... I will grant that many of the changes have made judo less relevant as a martial art, and that that has turned away many folks. But I think Dr. DeMars makes many great points in recent post here: There has been so much *actively bad* stewardship of Judo in the US and internationally over the years that has driven an exodus. I say "actively bad" meaning that it wasn't simply that organizations failed to make moves that would have improved the situation, but they aggressively and frequently made moves that worsened the situation.

Jacob said...

That is over the line Chad... the Japanese stays. This is the least culturally literate nation on the planet: don't condone it. Judo doesn't require you to actually speak Japanese. It requires maybe 7 words. That is not too much to ask.

On the points:
i am confused by the point... what do they mean? how about this:

ippon = you win = its like a "K.O."

waza-ari = it wasn't pretty but it might have worked. if you get enough of them we'll give you the W on probability. think T.K.O.

Yuko = you tried.... we'll see. it goes to the judges.

People will get that.

Everything else in the blog is awesome.

kodokanjudo said...

Chad, the daki-age rule was changed by the Kodokan and adopted by the IJF in the mid to late 50's but here in the USA they used to call it beyond that and even Kata-guruma (before the knee variation ever existed) was called ippon if you held the guy on the shoulders with control. It was adopted as a safety rule, maybe that was what Stephen remembers.
As far as the referees, before 1976 the rule book was simple with maybe 4 or 5 pages if that. Today it is at least a 15-20 page book that no one can keep up with, especially with new rules changes every six months or so. There was little or no need to certify referees back then, rules were basic and simple and most anyone with a shodan or nidan could do it with no problem with just the basic judo experience. I don't blame the "bad referee'n", I blame the crazy IJF and their rules.

kodokanjudo said...

Jake, even the yuko is untraditional. When there was koka, people tried to win by koka. Now that koka was taken away, they try to win by yuko. To add insult to injury, now yuko is given to what used to be koka! When will the IJF learn?
Judo was meant to be won by ippon and in those cases where ippon does not happen, then it can be won by waza-ari. It makes competitors take risks. No risk, no reward, simple. Instead of koka/yuko, judo had "kinsa". Kinsa was "risk" actions with no score that were kept in mind by the referees. If there was no scores in a match, then the individual that took the most risks was given the nod. Kinsa was also "given" when one individual dominated the match, like on the ground by mostly being on top of his opponent.

Chad Morrison said...

@Jacob: See the comment right before yours for more detail on my thinking about the point system. I like the explanation of wazaari as a TKO - I had never really thought about it like that, but that's just what it is. Regarding the Japanese - I don't want to lose it in the dojo, just in tournaments. It adds *nothing* to the tournament experience (including any sort of cultural literacy outreach to those who aren't familiar with the terms), and just makes a large section of the spectators scratch their heads wondering what the hell is going on - and why the hell they showed up, given that it obviously wasn't meant for them to be watching (why else would folks be talking in Japanese?).

@KodokanJudo: I should have known that you would know when it happened... Do you have any idea why? My guess is that there was still some lingering safety issue, perhaps due to folks trying to execute with a lack of control, but I'm not sure... And I *really* like the "kinsa" concept. You get rewarded for putting yourself out there, in other words. The more I think about it, the more I like it more that Yuko, where you get rewarded for lesser results. By definition, that lowers the bar. Kinsa, on the other hand (at least as I understand it from your post) rewards sincere effort, but doesn't recognize shoddy results... Hmmmm.

kodokanjudo said...

Chad, just as the referee would keep a mental kinsa score, he would also keep a "negative judo" tally in his head.

Jacob said...

Japanese: you say it doesn't add anything. well i say it doesn't take anything way either. The seven or so words that are used are not too hard to figure out. the ref says something and the two judoka bow to each other - i think they will figure out that it means "bow". he says something else and then they start - that must mean "start". You'd be changing it just for the sake of it. why?
.... and it does add cultural literacy. study after study show that just being around other cultures improves acceptance, opens minds to new ideas, and generally improves quality of life.
.... also remember that many of the words in our vocabulary today are from other languages. We have been doing it from the beginning of language. so just forget that crap about "it obviously wasn't meant for them to be watching".

kodokanjudo said...

How can someone take the Japanese out of judo and still have judo?
Even the anti-Japanese IJF knows better. If just adding un-Japanese things to judo has caused a disaster (by their own admition, since they keep realizing it and reversing their own changes), imagine what would happen if they start taking Japanese things away!

Chad Morrison said...

@Jacob: What it takes away is an understanding by the lay audience. I don't think that all of the things are as easy to figure out as you say, especially when I am often left scratching my head trying to figure things out when watching a judo match. Some throws which may look like Ippons or Wazaaris end up being scored as Yukos, and vice versa. Consider the following match: Re! Hajime! Matte! Chui! Hajime! Yuko! Osaekomi! Sonomama! Keikoku! Yoshi! Osaekomi toketa! Osaekomi! Osaekomi toketa! Wazaari awaseti ippon! Sore made!
(I'll grant you this is somewhat unrealistic, because the ref allowed groundwork to continue after toketa was called, but still)
Re: Cultural literacy, I would posit that while being in a judo *class* give some exposure to Japanese culture, with a tourney, that's negligible. Bowing, a few incomprehensible words (seriously, if you didn't know in advance what refs were saying, you wouldn't know what they were saying), and a gi. If you don't come in with knowledge of Judo, your exposure to Japanese culture in a tournament is neglible, IMO.
Re: borrowing words - First, "Crap" was a bit harsh. And all languages borrow from other languages. But I don't see "Ready, set, hajime" creeping in to our track and field events any time soon. And the existance of linguistic cross-pollination (tm) doesn't serve as a good reason why you shouldn't make your sport a little more spectator-friendly if you can do so without taking away from the thing they are watching. Maybe I am missing something with what it would take away... so fill me in! And that leads me to...

@KodokanJudo: The language doesn't make the art. I've done Judo in German, and it was still Judo. If I say "Go" instead of "Hajime", the techniques that follow will still be Judo.

kodokanjudo said...

Chad, we have a perfect example with bjj:

-Done away with Japanese terminology.
-Made a mockery of the Japanese garments.
-Tried to re-write Japanese history to siut their needs.
-Claim that they invented half of the techniques.
-Done away with Japanese ettiquete.
-Misspelled the name of their art.
(jujutsu vs jiujitsu???)

This is what can happen to judo if we allow it. I can see judoka in the future bowing in the direction of the WC in the future like they do after the bjj class.

Jacob said...

"ready set Hajime"
ready, is a Swedish influence.
set, is from a Germanic word.
I maintain that it is "crap": (krp)Vulgar Slang. n. Insolent talk or behavior.
I don't mean to be rude, just clear.

I just do not believe it is that confusing. I'll have my mother call you to prove it. she been to a lot of Judo tourneys, lacrosse games, soccer games, fights (boxing), etc. These are all thing that she knew nothing about prior to going, but i wanted to go and now she is an expert. Even if you don't have the coolest mom (like I do), the people who go to a Judo tournament want to understand. they all figure it out. I have never spoken to a spectator who was so confused that s/he just left.

The problem when you are "often left scratching my head trying to figure things out when watching a judo match" is a problem with the penalties and messed up rules, not he language - you understand the language. fixing the rules is the solution (which the rest of your blog gets to) not changing the language.

kodokanjudo said...

Any given saturday you can go to a park here in town and you can see kids (all ages and sizes) playing soccer with their parents all outside the playing area. I'm willing to bet that maybe 10% of those parents have some basic understanding of soccer and the rest don't understand it at all. Oh yeah, everything is dome in their own language but still no clue. There are a few more rules than just kicking the ball thru the goal.
Those that make it their business to understand will understand. Judo is no different.

kodokanjudo said...

This is from the book "Judo Memoirs of Jigoro Kano", pages 38 and 39:
"Since Kodokan instructors cannot always be on hand to cary out the many refereeing duties, any judoka may be called upon to act as a contest referee, therefore, contest rules had to be both easy to understand and to administer".
Also: "Contest rules should of necessity be brief and uncomplicated so that those other than Kodokan instructors can understand and interpret them without difficulty".
This is a slap to the face to the IJF and their multiple insane rules, by Kano himself, even decades after his death.