New Gi? Are You Ready to Rumble?

December 2, 2010

New judogi sizing…are you ready?

The IJF are introducing new judogi regulations which in theory are to facilitate better gripping during contests. The aim here is to give both opponents the opportunity to grip up ideally with each an arm and lapel grip. Optimistic? You bet!

 In my opinion, the sizes of the Judogis will definitely dictate the future development of gripping skills and tactics. The new rules now have allowed for the skilled grippers to succeed in their grips. For example, in the past, when Judogi sizes were changed, skilled grippers adapted to the changes and evolving the skill of gripping to their needs (i.e.: pistol grip). They were then penalized for being the superior gripper and finding their most effective way around the judogi.  It is one of the more important skills that determines the winners from the losers.  What has to be observed is that no matter what size the gi is or the rules changing, there will always be an evolution of gripping to circumvent any ruling to gain the edge.

We can hope for the traditional gripping, however, this will unlikely happen unless we go the way of the Visually Impaired competition where opponents are lead to each other, told to grip up and then Hajime is called.

New grips will evolve from this, so long as the referees allow the gripping to develop naturally in a positive manner and aid Ippon Judo. What I see happening, if the referees and the officials are not careful and don’t think it through completely, superior grippers will again completely dominate by developing their “winning” gripping system with a new, thinner, bigger judogi. With any evolution, variations will develop and enviably, will bring back variations of pistol grips of old. All I would have to do to get my opponent penalised is to turn my wrist over once they got a sleeve grip and that, to a hawk-eye referee will look like an illegal pistol grip. This, in turn, can create an accumulative shido situation, therefore not promoting positive and Ippon judo; completely devastating the objective of the new judogi. Referees will have to be instructed on how to play this scenario. Is it a pistol grip or not? This is a scenario that needs to be considered along with the increase in hand & finger injuries. 

What’s the answer? Keep the gi the same? No, not necessarily as it might, just might, go the way that it is hoped to go and help to bring back traditional gripping and stance. It’s like a burglar system. No matter what system you put in, there is always someone who is up to the challenge of circumventing the system depending how much they want to get in and claim their prize. What I’m saying here, is that we need to look at all the possible scenarios as with any new system, there is always someone who looks to exploit & circumvent the situation to their ultimate benefit…..I may have just been one of these people in my day….maybe. ;0)

Developing our Younger, Heavier, Judoka

February 23, 2010

I have been asked recently by a governing body, my thoughts on cadet & junior weight categories and I thought I would share them with you as well.

It had come about that in the +90 kg category at a tournament, two 15 year old judokas, one weighing 93 kg and the other, more than 90kg heavier than the first (that would +150kg), found themselves in the final. The fight ended with the lighter fighter being severely injured when the bigger of the two lost his balance and collapse on the former’s knee. That player has seen 18 months of surgery and rehabilitation as well as a loss of this crucial development time. To the other heavier fighter, as he is a really nice lad, a blow to his self-esteem and confidence.

Now, my question here would be: How can this happen in these days of Child Protection and Duty of Care? Coaches are constantly reminded about weight control and there have been incidences of charges brought against coaches for weight loss by their athletes of 1 or 2 kg. I am not condoning this practice at all or making light of what may seem like to some, a little amount of weight. In fact, I am wondering as to why this line of thinking, ie: weight control is not extended to the heavier weights? Is it not as dangerous to have a 90kg differential between players as it is to have, let’s say, a 44kg player combined in a weight with 48kg players which is frowned upon by the Federation and is written as a rule not to be broken without explicit permission from the parents and athletes.

I have never been a fan of weight control in the lower age brackets as this is a part of their development and they must learn to conquer the challenges that they face as they climb the weight category ladder. It should be encouraged that a player who is starting to be regularly 2 kg over their category to be in the next weight higher for health and development reasons. More often than not, do we lose our athletes to this unnecessary stressor of keeping a weight. This is where National Squad Systems come into play but I’ll come back to that another day.

My answer to this is, that there should be heavier weight categories added as studies have shown that the average weight of our younger people has risen considerably over the years. In short, kids nowadays are just bigger. We should be looking at the possibility of adding u100kg and an u120kg to the u90kg already in place for the males, and possibly u78kg and u90kg for the females. You may be asking now what about a +120kg category. My answer would be, do we really want a plus category for the sake of one or two people and their safety, health and mental well-being? This should not be encouraged in my opinion and there has to be a cut off point in name of health & safety. Our sport is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world and it would be irresponsible to encourage weight gain so as to fill a category.

Federations and the IJF with the Continental Unions have a responsibility to their younger players and their development across all the weight categories. I am hopeful that they will look upon this example, look at their respective LTADP’s and reassess this in regards to the overall development stages of the younger, heavier athletes in this day and age.

Double Whammy!!

February 6, 2010

What’s next you may ask?

New rules…Additions of tournaments….How about adding two athletes from every country into a World Championships just as the Olympic qualifying is about to begin? We have to ask the obvious question of how is this going to effect World Judo and the on-coming Olympic qualifying criteria? This can have a grave affect on the qualifications for the 2012 Olympic Games. This will be severely evident in relation to the smaller nations who are trying to qualify individual athletes in certain weight categories. (You can see where I’m going with this…) The countries who have depth, and I’m talking about France, Japan, Korea, Cuba, Russia, are going to, in my opinion, strategically endeavour to stop certain athletes in specified categories from qualifying. This will be achieved by these countries targeting the qualification events and the World Championships in order to block top fighters from getting the all-important points to get to the Games. Most top athletes in the past looked to get their work done at the World Championships in order to qualify early therefore, enabling them a longer preparation period specifically for the Olympics Games. This new structure could cause the same result as is 1996 when the qualifications first came in and everyone in Europe was in a brutal race for points and battering each other right up until the Olympic Games with no time to really create a targeted Olympic training plan. The necessity was Qualification not Preparation. My fear is that the development of the sport for top-level achievement will become elitist and only available to the bigger Nations and the countries who have money. I’ve been told the reason behind this decision is that the IJF want a true representation of the best in the World therefore giving countries the ability to showcase their 2 top players for each category. I can see the reasoning in this as on the surface this would seem to be the answer. However, I can’t help but stop and think of the future ramifications this will have on top-level Judo worldwide and the funding that goes along with it. If it was me in charge of one of the bigger National teams with a 3-4 person depth in each category, I would be sending out my number 2’s & 3’s to target specific fighters in certain weight categories, with the goal of thwarting the qualification chances and resting & preparing my Number 1’s. Not a difficult formula to grasp. I called it then and saw it happen in 1996 and now it will be more so. So I’m leaving it open to discussion. Would it be better to see this develop into what tennis has – Top 100 in the world and everyone aspiring to get on that elite list? Or will it damage any dreams of smaller and less financed Judo Federations who look to medals counts for their funding and with a knock-on effect to the development of the sport in those countries? For tennis….it seems alright but tennis is a popular recreational sport & past-time. As Devil’s advocate, maybe it may not be such a bad thing…it may only result in widening the gap, or rather create two definite sectors, between recreational and top-level competitive Judo, which, in time, may help define funding structures for Sporting Organisations.

Yours in Judo,

Neil Adams

An IJF New Rules Update by Neil Adams

February 4, 2010

The New IJF Rules – Out of hand?

January 24, 2010

I was hoping to have a video blog ready for all of you, but as it happens, we have been faced with some “technical difficulties” and won’t be able to publish it until early this week, so I appologise for that.

I thought, however, I would make a few comments on the New IJF Rules. I do have an editorial coming out in the next Matside (at least I hope I do…).

Yesterday I was a part of a presentation by our (Belgian) referee, Franky De Moor, who is now a part of the EJU Referee’s Commission. (This is handy, to say the least!) Not to mention that he is a damn good referee, one I hold in high regard.

The presentation consisted of possible scenarios and the possible outcomes of certain manoeuvers. My video that I have coming asks and demonstrates some of these and I was able to present them to Mr De Moor for his opinion.

One of the main things that came out in the discussion was about the Hansaku-make penalty which gives everyone the reason to sit up and take notice. I asked him how this was going to be played and will the referees on a whole be “trigger happy” with the penalty? His response was that direction from the IJF was that “when in doubt, do not give the penalty”. Well that’s great for a referee of his standing and understanding of the game, however, my fear is that not all referees are going to adhere to that advice. The fact is, they are not.Talk from Korea and the Masters event was the penalties were quick to come. Another interesting fact, was that Day 2 of a competition can and will be played differently from Day 1. By this I mean, for example, if Shidos were not given out enough on Day 1, referees are then given the directive to deliver more Shidos. Ok, that might be a little strong….be more aware of situations that warrant Shidos. So if you fight on Day 2, find out what the new directive is for that day. You have to do your homework, people!!!

Then we spoke of the “Grey Areas”. What’s absolute is: no touching below the belt except when countering or used as a combination. The grey areas then, for me, would immediately be: when countering an opponent you must wait until the throw is in full motion, which with someone like Inoue or Koga is 1.5 seconds too late! The instinctive reaction of someone about to be thrown often results in a hand blockage on the hips or leg which is now an immediate Hansaku-make. Inoue would have loved this! He wouldn’t have even have had to do the throw, just a little hip twitch!! Already some big throwers are taking advantage of this.

The grey area with combinations is the amount of force and movement needed from the first attack before being allowed ie: not severly penalised, to carry-on into the second technique. This is where the interpretation will differ greatly and I forsee many champions losing first round on this grey area alone.

Another area I brought forward in the conversation was that of cross gripping and gripping of the belt. I’ve been to 2 presentation now on the New Rules and the first one said, one could only counter their opponent by taking the legs if the attacker had cross-gripped onto the belt. (You following me? Got it your mind?) The 2nd presentation stated that attacker only needed to cross-grip onto any part of the jacket and /or belt thus allowing the opponent to counter by attacking below the belt. Whew!! Two different referees, two different interpretations. Hmmmmm.

Now listen…I’m all for the new rules….I hear you, you’re saying, “What? Adams are you crazy?”. Maybe, but I’m all for bringing Judo upright again and it does sound like it’s happening. They do need to iron out these grey areas quickly to create constistancy as well as consistancy in tournament results. It is going to cost some athletes valuable qualifying points.

Then there’s the Shidos!!!! Yikes!!!! We have already seen the tactical use of the Shido. The French, Korean, Japanese and the upright fighters of the world are pulling in the head and when the opponent pulls away to create space and to get their grip, otherwise seen as positive Judo, they are now getting nailed with Shidos for non-combativity or defensiveness. It will have to evolve that the strong armed posture is looked on as a defensive posture if they don’t attack as well or we are straight back to a non-throwing, defensive posture sport which defeats the ultimate goal here and the reasons for these new rules. At least we had some big throws with leg grabs and kata gurumas. This is does not make for “made-for-TV” sport!

The implementation & interpretation of the New Rules are what is key here. To make the referees consistant as well as the understanding by the coaches and athletes solid, there needs to be constructive communication, open minds and clear directives. I hope this comes sooner rather than later.