Another year, another set of rules...And the introduction of the “Super Ippon!”  Not kidding.

Oy.  Back at it.  The IJF has published yet another suite of changes to their rules. This isn't breaking news, mind you, but I got my first dose of first-hand experience this weekend at the Takemori Open.  So here is my quick summary of the changes:

Corner judges are replaced by cameras.
Description: Basically, they will now have the two people that used to be corner judges watching a laptop or TV. The main purpose, as stated by the IJF, is to make judo work better on TV. Corner judges "do not add to the presentation," can block some camera angles, and – when they disagree – "appear incompetent." So the guys watching TV are only supposed to voice their opinion under "exceptional circumstances."  Okay. It appears that one side effect of this one was to introduce instant replay at international competitions. That's fine.
Additional Commentary: While fine for international tournaments, local tournaments shouldn’t use this. Locals unfortunately don't need to worry about TV coverage, and the new equipment seems like an unnecessary expense. Worse, local tournaments are used to train referees. Thus, if you want to have an accurately called contest, intervention will be needed much more frequently than just in “exceptional circumstances”.  The result is that you have much more frequent verbal communication with folks off of the mat and it gets to be a real mess.

Returning to the old-school definition of Ippon.
Description: Over time the interpretation of "Ippon" has gotten more and more liberal. The definition is always required throwing the opponent largely on the back with speed, force, and control. The interpretation, however, allowed for lesser and lesser throws to receive the Ippon award.  I once saw a guy land on his belly, where Tori didn’t even have a grip on him anymore, and have Ippon called against him.  So they’re correcting that. They did make an exception for something that they're calling a "Super Ippon": this is basically where one guy throws the Bejesus out of the other one but the thrown guy may land on his side instead of on his back.  If it's super fast, super hard and with super control, they will make an exception on the "largely on the back" rule.  I agree with my friend Rob that this is been misnamed, however; it should have been the super Waza Ari.
Additional Commentary: Love this guidance. That said, they certainly didn't use it this most recent tournament. I think it will take years of reeducation to get a true Ippon back to the local level. But I'm glad the IJF noticed.

If you land in the bridge position, you automatically lose.
Description: Just clarifying the earlier rule. The purpose is to discourage unsafe behaviors. Fine with me.

While you will still lose after receiving your fourth penalty, the earlier penalties award no points.
Description: The purpose of this one was to give less of an incentive for players to try to get their opponents penalized.  So in the old world where your second Shido gave your opponent a Yuko, now it gives him nothing. Neither does your second or third. Your fourth one, however, will still result in a Hansoku Make (disqualification). Penalties do, however, play a tie-breaking role. So if you reach the end of the match with a tied score, and one person has fewer penalties and the other, the person with fewer penalties wins. Accordingly, any penalty in “Golden Score” time results in a win for the other guy.

Two-handed grip breaks, leg-assisted grip breaks, and “striking-eque” grip breaks earn you a Shido.
Description: The idea here is to discourage defensiveness and facilitate offense. The grip breaks that they have made illegal are viewed, it seems, as purely defensive movements. 
Additional Commentary: I don't have as big a problem with grip fighting as some. I also think that there's an art to defense and an art to grip-fighting and I would hate to lose that.

You must attack almost immediately after cross-gripping, belt-grabbing, or same-side gripping , else get a Shido.
Description: Continuing with the theme of discouraging defense, they removed the buffer time that you could go without attack.
Additional Commentary: Same answer as above.

There is a shorter fuse for not engaging.
Description: If you avoid engaging your opponent, or you grip your opponent solely to keep them from gripping you, then you get a Shido.

No more warnings for bear hugs – now it’s an automatic Shido.
Description: I guess this one is to protect the "aesthetic" of judo competition. I don't like it though; it keeps people from learning how to avoid and how to defend the bear hug.

No touching below the belt (with arms or hands) ever.  Not in combinations, not in defense. Hansoku Make (instant DQ).
Description: A worsening of the worst Judo rule ever.  One of the comments on this rule by the IJF read “It is agreed and understood that a greater degree of time will be allowed in Ne Waza because of the loss of transition time from Tachi Waza to Ne Waza.”
Additional Commentary: I have a few other posts about how much I dislike this rule’s predecessor, and this one is even worse.  In addition to all of the reasons for disliking the old rule, a new reason to dislike it I is that it will require a massive reeducation of referees in order for a longer transition to Ne Waza to be allowed. So groundwork is further neutered at the local level.  Which means it will be taught less, which means it wither – which makes our Art less effective. The same goes for leg attacks (e.g., Kata Guruma, Morote Gari, many versions of Ko Uchi Makikomi). The thing that kills me is that none of the referees I've spoken to like the rule, none of the competitors like the rule. So why do the local tournaments keep using it?

Once Osaekomi is called,the guy on bottom can no longer escape by moving everybody out-of-bounds.
Description: The ref now has the discretion to call an Ippon for the other guy if bottom guy is just blatantly trying to pull the person out of bounds..
Additional Commentary: This is great. Fleeing isn't allowed on the feet, so it shouldn't be allowed on the ground, either.

Similarly, effective Kansetsu Waza and Shime Waza won’t be ended just because the contestants move out-of-bounds..

10 seconds gives you a Yuko, 15 seconds gets you Waza Ari, and 20 seconds get you an Ippon.
Additional Commentary: Ippon holds were 50% longer when I started Judo…   I guess 20 is as arbitrary as 30…

Everyone has to bow at the edge of the mat and to each other.
Description: Additionally, shaking or slapping hands is expressly discouraged, though there is no penalty for this.  It isn’t clear what will happen if someone doesn’t adequately bow… Will it be considered a forfeit?
Additional Commentary: My guess is that this is another case of the Frenchies trying to stick it to the Muslims (as some Muslims feel religiously prohibited from bowing). In my opinion, as long as respect of some sort is shown to the contest area and to the opponent, then the spirit of the bowing gesture is upheld.  That said, I have no problem with bowing.

Matches will no longer be decided by referees' choice (Hantei).  There is no time limit for the sudden death period – the “Golden Score.”

“Crushing” (essentially using your grip solely to prevent your opponent from attacking) can get you a penalty.
Description: “Defensive crushing” will get you a Shido. The intent of this rule is that you should try to win via good Judo rather than just try not to lose. They specify, however, that “positive” crushing is okay, and that the “crushee” can actually get a Shido.
Additional Commentary: The intent is fine.  The effect of this rule, however, is not as fine: people will not learn to deal effectively with attackers who try to drag or sling them around, so it weakens the effectiveness of Judo.  As for the effect of the positive crushing rule (that the “crushee” gets penalized), I guess that is to prevent people from flopping and killing time, or just to weakly enter groundwork.

Weigh-ins are to be at 7 PM the night before contest.
Description: This is an attempt to mitigate the harmful effects of cutting weight. They call this rule change an "experiment" during which time they will try to discern whether or not it's having its intended effect.
Additional Commentary: I totally agree with the objective of trying to negate the harmful effects of cutting weight. I'm not sure this is the best way to do it, however. It seems to me that this will allow more drastic weight cutting by giving a person greater time to recover before the contest. Calling this an experiment, however, is fair because I don't know that my answer is the right one. I hope we’ll see.

One final comment on all of these rules is that these are IJF rules for IJF-sanctioned tournaments. Local tournaments don't have to use them. There are many rules that I oppose philosophically, but I understand if local tournament directors don't share my opposition. Other rules, however, are simply unsuitable for local-level tournament with local-level referees.  Directors should apply a filter.

There are some good videos explaining some rules at this site.


Randori vs. Shiai

It's kind of like the difference between learning to walk and being chased by a mean dog.

According to Dr. Kano, there are three tools for instruction or practice: Kata, Randori, and Shiai. At the highest level, here's what they mean:
Kata: practice of forms; predetermined movements
Randori: adversarial, free-moving practice
Shiai: competition, tournament (I've posted before about the value of competition.)

I'm not going to talk about Kata here (though it bears discussion), but I do want to talk about the difference between Shiai and Randori because they're sometimes confused.

Randori is practice. To "win" in Randori, you just need to learn something new or get better or help your partner learn. Thus, you can still win if you get thrown 30 times. The way you "lose" in Randori is that you don't do any of those things and/or you hurt yourself. You are generally not putting your heart and soul into putting your partners back on the mat. Given the principle of "Jita Kyoei” (mutual benefit), you are trying both to help yourself as well as help your partner. That doesn't mean that there's no struggle, but it does mean that if a 200 pound black belt is going against a 150 pound green belt, the 200 pounder shouldn't be making it as difficult for the green belt as he is capable. Maybe the 200 pounder will decide to focus more on foot sweeps, or he will give the green belt many looks at the same attack (even if that attack puts the green belt on his butt every time)…

Shiai, on the other hand, is a competition.  You “win” in competition by winning. You put the other guy on his back, you pin him, you make him tap, you get more points, or he gets disqualified (though I'm not a fan of people who try to get the other guy disqualified). If, for whatever reason, the 200 pounder in the 150 pounder mentioned above were in the same division, and they found themselves facing off against each other, the 200 pounder's job is to put the smaller man on his back with force and control. As I mentioned in the article I linked to above, both Randori and Shiai are about field testing your Judo. Shiai, though, is intended to be a more extreme environment, where the other guy is trying as hard as he can to put you on your back, and you’re seeing how your Judo works in that situation. Jita Kyoei still applies, but in this instance the benefit that you are providing your opponent is a sincere attack.

Randori has partners, Shiai has opponents.

One's first Shiai is often an eye-opening experience. You get hit. You get ground up. You get mauled. You get jostled like you've never been jostled before. It may not be beautiful judo, but that isn't to say that that's not what your opponent is supposed to be doing. You see, they're giving you the opportunity to test your judo against somebody who's mauling, hitting, and jostling you. That's a useful skill. Just be ready for it.

And if they're doing that in Randori, tell them to knock it off.