Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

It's tough being a Japanese judoka

Japan has such depth in judo that in some categories you have multiple players who are absolutely world-class.

Take the -73kg weight class for example. Right now the top two hottest players in that category are Olympic and double World Champion Shohei Ono and Tokyo/Paris Grand Slam Champion Soichi Hashimoto but just a year or two ago, you also had double World Champion Riki Nakaya and World Champion Hiroyuki Akimoto in the running as well.

The -66kg weight class is also full of top contenders. For many years the pole position was held by triple World Champion Masashi Ebinuma but hot on his heels was Kengo Takaichi and Tomofumi Takajo. Now Tokyo/Paris Grand Slam Champion Hifumi Abe is the top dog. Lost in this conversation is Sho Tateyama.

Tate-who? you might ask. No one can blame you if you haven't heard of him but he did show a lot of potential as a youth. It so happens this World Junior Champion was born in Japan and with so many top players in his category (-66kg) he just couldn't break through to the top Senior ranks.

If you look at his results, especially in his early years, you can see what potential Tateyama had. Says Judofan:
His fighting spirit and attack-to-the-very-end style he possesses were not only crowd pleasers, but made him popular amongst the Japanese coaches as well. His consistency landed him on the podium in nearly every tournament he entered from 2011-2014.
Had he been born in another country, his story might have been very different. The Japanese judo landscape is littered with stories like Tateyama's.

Hirofumi Yamamoto (-60kg) is another one who comes to mind. Like Tateyama, he was a Junior World Champion. He possessed a devastating uchimata that sent many of his opponents airborne. He also competed in an era when the superb stylist Olympic/World Silver Medallist Hiroaki Hiraoka reigned supreme in Japan. And after Hiraoka came the brilliantly unorthodox Wold Champion Naoshisa Takato (who is now being challenged by Ryuju Nagayama).

Yamamoto's last international fight was in December 2015 and he is now 27 years old. It looks like his international competition career is over. Imagine the career he could have had if he were representing another country.

These days at the World Championships level it's possible for a country to send more than two players in a category (a maximum total of nine for each gender). So, if you are No. 2 in your country, you still have a chance. For example, for the 2017 Budapest World Championships, both Takato and Nagayma will be sent for the -60kg weight class.

It didn't use to be that way, to the detriment of talent development in some weight classes in Japan. Imagine if you were a middle-weight player in the era of Toshihiko Koga, who reigned supreme from 1987 to 1996. For nearly a decade no other player in his weight class had a chance to represent Japan in top international competitions.

Worse still if you were a -48kg player in the era of Ryoko Tani, née Tamura. From 1991 to 2008, no other Japanese female player in that weight class had a ghost of a chance to compete internationally. That's 17 years where no other Japanese lightweight females could blossom.

In the judo world, we have seen several cases where players resorted to fighting for other countries. The most extreme case was the -70kg weight class in the Netherlands which was dominated by Kim Polling. Not one but two Dutch players went on to fight for other countries, Esther Stam for Georgia and Linda Bolder for Israel.

Actually, plenty of example abound. Alice Schlesinger of Israel now fights for Great Britain (because of World Champion Yarden Gerbi) and Otgonsetseg Galbadrakh of Mongolia now fights for Kazakhstan (because of World Champion Urantsetseg Munkhbat). But until recently, we seldom hear of cases involving Japanese.

There were some reports that Japanese Olympic Champion-turned-MMA-contender Satoshi Ishii had wanted to compete for the USA but nothing came of that.

What has happened recently though is that two female Japanese players have opted to fight for other countries, with -57kg Christa Deguchi opting for Canada and -48kg Steffanie Arissa Koyama representing Brazil.

One swallow does not a summer make (and neither would two). I don't think this will necessarily be a trend going forward. But you never know. Deguchi and Koyama have broken the mold.

Perhaps other Japanese players might consider this route to the Olympics if their paths are blocked by compatriots who are too dominant. Unlike for the World Championships, countries can send only one player per category for the Olympics. And the next one will be held in Tokyo!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Antalya Grand Prix 2017, Turkey - DAY 3

The third and final day of the Antalya Grand Prix ended in a firework display for the host country, as Turkey added two more medals to its collection, including one in gold with the title of Kayra SAYIT. Lukas KRPALEK (CZE), who today was unbeatable, is about to succeed in becoming one of the top athletes in his new heavyweight category. After having won the World Championship and the Olympic Games in -100kg, he is now running after more glory in +100kg. It should not be forgotten that today Russia won again two titles, one for the men (Adlan BISULTANOV -100kg) and one for the women (Anastasiya DMITRIEVA -78kg), while Mongolia also climbed to the top of the podium in -90kg (Altanbagana GANTULGA).

The fifth event of the year in Antalya ends with the same observation that was made a week ago in Tbilisi: one can discover the advent of a new generation of judokas. While 2017 is a necessary year of transition between the last Olympic cycle that ended in Rio and the new one that has Tokyo 2020 as its finish line, new faces are emerging. Juniors, whom the connoisseurs have been following for some time, now come to rub shoulders with the senior elite. In four years, many of them will probably have to be counted on as major factors in Tokyo.

In this landscape composed of new faces, one can still meet some big names of the last few years, who are far from having renounced to shine at the highest level. The old versus new mix offered a magnificent judo show during the three days of the Antalya Grand Prix, and Lukas KRPALEK (CZE), who after his world and Olympic titles in -100kg, is starting a new career in the heavyweight division. The Czech's +100kg exploits are to be continued.

During the weekend, it must be underlined that the groundwork continued the breakthrough seen during the last major international tournaments. Athletes have more time to build a winning strategy on the floor and they are exploiting it more and more.

This Grand Prix also allowed the new Turkish governing team to familiarise themselves with the organisation of a Grand Prix. Again, the transition between the former and new team went wonderfully and the Antalya Grand Prix achieved its goals.

In a few weeks, the world circuit will head towards Russia and Ekaterinburg. A new city for an event already well-established, it will allow the continued testing of the new refereeing rules, which have been implemented since January.

Commenting on the changes in the rules since the beginning of the year, Jan Snijders, IJF Head Refereeing Director, explained: "We have a good team of referees. If we see new faces within the athletes, it is the same in the refereeing body. It is a very good thing. We work in the long-term. Everyone needs experience and as such the last two events of Tbilisi and Antalya were very interesting. I think we're on the right track. We still have a few months to test everything, but we can already say that judo is easier to understand at all levels."


For more than two years, the International Judo Federation and the Turkish Judo Federation have embarked on a large-scale program to help the Syrian refugees who have arrived in Turkey, in the Kilis region on the Syrian border.

In 2014, on the initiative of the TJF, judo activities began in the Oncupinar refugee camp, more commonly called 'container city'. A few dozens of children could try judo for the first time. A few months later, it was about fifty children who regularly were practicing judo in a set of containers which was turned into a makeshift dojo.

Thanks to the IJF’s first judogi donation and the visit of the Judo for Peace Commission in 2015, the program gained momentum and a year later the IJF and its President, Marius Vizer, in Dubai, were awarded the prize of the best international federation in the field of development (Creative Sport Award from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation).

Boys and girls are participating in the activities in Container city

This award allowed the IJF to provide 500 refugee children with sports clothing. The equipment was handed over last year in Kilis, while the sound of the bombs were echoing across the border and while during the IJF’s stay, rockets were falling almost daily over the region.

During this visit, the IJF also produced a film showing the journey of these young children who have lost everything but who can smile again and how they rediscover human values through the practice of judo.

Mr. Vizer (second from the left) meets with the representatives of the Turkish Judo Federation and of Kilis

In recent months, the security situation has considerably improved, even though the number of refugees fleeing the conflict in their country is steadily increasing.

On the second day of the Antalya Grand Prix, President Vizer was able to meet the representatives of Kilis who came to attend the event. In a very fruitful conversation, Mr. Remzi Arkalti, Kilis Youth and Sports Director, and Mr. Okkes Buldum, coach of the Kilis refugee camp, explained how things have been greatly improving, since the IJF and the TJF have been involved.

“The security situation is more stable now, it is more safe, and the refugee camp programme is perfectly running. We built a new dojo inside the camp so we can accommodate more children. But the demand is massive and we need to have more coaches and more facilities“, said Mr. Remzi Arkalti.

More than 500 children are participating in the judo activities on a daily basis.

“A few years ago, we started only with the boys, who could practice judo, but in 2016, the girls also started to practice the sport. This is an amazing achievement. If we are working in one camp for the moment, it is because we need more infrastructures and more humain resources, otherwise, we would be able to spread judo and its values even further“, explained the coach.

During the meeting, the IJF, the TJF and the Kilis representatives pledged to strengthen their cooperation in order to welcome more refugee children under the best possible conditions.


While five IJF World Judo Tour events have already organised since the beginning of the year (Paris GS, Düsseldorf GP, Baku GS, Tbilisi GP and Antalya GP), the next stage will take place on May 20-21, 2017, in Russia. The event will be organised in a new city since the Grand Slam of Russia will now settle in Ekaterinburg.

Ekaterinburg is a Russian city located on the Asian side of the Urals. Watered by the Isset, a tributary of the Tobol, it is the administrative capital of the Sverdlovsk region. With a population of 1,444,439 in 2016, it is the fourth largest city in Russia. It is an important railway crossroads with connections with all parts of the Urals and the rest of Russia, on the famous Trans-Siberian railway line. Ekaterinburg is 1,417 km east of Moscow.

Mr. Vasily ANISIMOV, President of the Russian Judo Federation said: “Ekaterinburg is the largest administrative, cultural, scientific and educational centre of the Ural region, the fourth largest city of Russia. A lot of people in Russia are fond of judo and understand it well, and Ekaterinburg is rightly considered to be the one of the most sporting cities.

“We are glad that the Russian stage of the prestigious Judo Grand Slam of the post-Olympic year with the participation of the elite of world judo is held precisely here.

“I am sure that this tournament in Ekaterinburg will be an excellent motivation for the new generation of Russian people. I hope that the
participants and guests of the tournament will be satisfied with the quality and organisation of the competitions in Russia and will have wonderful impressions about this hospitable city.“



Yesterday we explained the scores in judo with the IPPON and WAZA-ARI as well as the OSAE-KOMI. Today, we offer you an explanation of the penalty system.

The prohibited acts are divided into ‘slight’ infringements (Shido) and ‘grave’ infringements (Hansoku-make).

SHIDO: The referee decides to penalise the contestant(s). The referee indicates the appropriate gesture for transgression and announces the penalty while pointing to the contestant(s) who committed the prohibited act.

During the contest there are 2 Shido, and the 3rd will be Hansoku-make (2 warnings and then disqualification). Shido do not give points to the other contestant, only technical scores can give points on the scoreboard.

At the end of the contest, if both players have no score or scoring is equal on the scoreboard the contest continues to GOLDEN SCORE. The first judoka to receive a shido loses, or the first technical score wins. The contest is won when any technical score is given. If a player receives a Shido he/she loses the contest ONLY if he/she then has more Shidos than the opponent.

HANSOKU-MAKE: There are several possibilities for disqualification. When an athlete receives a Hansoku-make he/she may or may not be allowed to continue in the competition. In the case of Hansoku-make resulting from progressive penalties (3 shidos), the contestant penalised is allowed to remain in the competition.

In the case of direct Hansoku-make for protection of the judoka (diving head first onto the mat), the judoka is allowed to continue competition (repechages if applicable).

In the case of direct Hansoku-make for acts against the spirit of judo, the judoka cannot continue in the competition.

TV news and info will be available at


Use #JudoAntalya2017 to join in with the social media discussion 



The first women’s final of the day opposed Yarden MAYERSOHN (ISR), who so far had no record on World Judo Tour events, and Anastasiya DMITRIEVA (RUS), who before the final had an impressive record of eight medals in Grand Prix and Grand Slams.

After 47 seconds, MAYERSOHN and DMITRIEVA were both penalised a first time for passivity. The first powerful attack came from the Russian after two minutes when she launched a o-uchi-gari transformed into a uchi-mata but for no score. Feeling the pressure, MAYERSOHN had to attack, but the lack of control, offered a perfect situation for a counter attack, which DMITRIEVA perfectly used for a ura-nage for waza-ari. Perfectly positioned, the Russian, again took the lead and produced an effort to engage a o-uchi-gari for a second waza-ari, immediately followed with an immobilisation for ippon. DMITRIEVA’s victory could not be disputed.

The first bronze medal contest opposed the Zarina RAIFOVA (KAZ) and Kumush YULDASHOVA (UZB). After 15 seconds, RAIFOVA scored a first waza-ari to take the lead, just before YULDASHOVA was penalised for cross-gripping without attacking. With 38 seconds until the final gong, RAIFOVA received a shido for blocking her opponent’s sleeve, but that did not change the final result as RAIFOVA won here second medal at a Grand Prix.

In the second bronze medal contest, Yahima RAMIREZ (POR) faced Albina AMANGELDIYEVA. After fifty seconds, both athletes were penalised for passivity. 10 seconds before the end and the golden score, RAMIREZ received a second shido. Both athletes started the extra time without being more active and after a little while the referee announced MATTE and gave one shido to each of them, the difference of shido offering the victory to AMANGELDIYEVA.

Happy DMITRIEVA on the medal podium

MAYERSOHN, Yarden (ISR) vs. DMITRIEVA, Anastasiya (RUS)

Bronze medal contests
RAIFOVA, Zarina (KAZ) vs. YULDASHOVA, Kumush (UZB)

Final Results
1. DMITRIEVA, Anastasiya (RUS)
2. MAYERSOHN, Yarden (ISR)
3. RAIFOVA, Zarina (KAZ)
5. RAMIREZ, Yahima (POR)
7. GUZELSOY, Cagri (TUR)
7. WANG, Szu-Chu (TPE)


Turkish crowd was definitely waiting for the last final of the women’s category, as they knew that they had their best change of medal with the female’s heavyweight. Kayra SAYIT (TUR), who started her judo career in France, has been competing for Turkey for several years, collecting five medals on the world circuit (1 grand slam, 4 grand prix). Altogether, she spent no more than 2 minutes and 41 seconds on the tatami during the preliminary rounds as she defeated by ippon Ivana MARANIC (CRO) and BATTULGA Munkhtuya (MGL). In the final she faced Larisa CERIC (BIH), a bronze medallist at the 2016 World Masters in Guadalajara.

As the public had been chanting since the athletes entered the arena, after one minute and a half, SAYIT scored a first waza-ari with a sasae-tsuri-komi-ashi and then controlled the end of the final despite the fact that she received penalities. But at the end the public could explode with joy as Tukey won its first gold medal of the tournament. 

Kayra SAYIT celebrates with the Turkish young supporters

The first bronze medal contest opposed an other Turkish athlete, Kubra KARA (TUR) and Santa PAKENYTE (LTU). Kubra KARA received a first shido for false attack in the first minute but then scored a waza-ari with a counter attack that totally surprised PAKENYTE. With one minute left on the clock, the atmosphere in the arena started to warm up a bit, announcing what it would look like in the final. Much smaller than her opponent but fantastically supported by her public, KARA could keep her calm and tactically keep her advantage to win a fourth beautiful medal for the host country.

The second bronze medal contest saw the third local competitor, Sebile AKBULUT (TUR) facing BATTULGA Munkhtuya (MGL). With a superb action-reaction, concluded with a ko-uchi-gari, BATTULGA scored a first waza-ari. Despite all the support she got from the public AKBULUT could not score and the Mongol won the bronze medal.

SAYIT, Kayra (TUR) vs. CERIC, Larisa (BIH)

Bronze medal contests
KARA, Kubra (TUR) vs. PAKENYTE, Santa (LTU)
AKBULUT, Sebile (TUR) vs. BATTULGA, Munkhtuya (MGL)

Final Results
1. SAYIT, Kayra (TUR)
2. CERIC, Larisa (BIH)
3. BATTULGA, Munkhtuya (MGL)
3. KARA, Kubra (TUR)
5. AKBULUT, Sebile (TUR)
5. PAKENYTE, Santa (LTU)
7. MARANIC, Ivana (CRO)
7. SUN, Pei Yu (TPE)



The first male category final of the day opposed GANTULGA Altanbagana (MGL), who finished only seventh last week in Tbilisi and Komronshokh USTOPIRIYON (TJK), who also obtained seventh places in 2017 so far (Paris Grand Slam and Düsseldorf Grand Prix).

The four minutes of the final went very fast as both athletes were very active even if they were not able to score. As a illustration of that, no penalty was awarded during 3 minutes and 58 seconds. Golden score was getting very close, but with only 2 seconds left on the clock, GANTULGA suddenly dropped under the centre of gravity of USTOPIRIYON, with a kata-guruma for a waza-ari. Two seconds synonymous of happiness for the Mongol champion.

In the first bronze medal contest Shakhzodbek SABIROV (UZB) was opposed to Magomed MAGOMEDOV (RUS). The Russian was the first in action as he scored a waza-ari in less than a minute with a te-waza technique. He added a second waza-ari thirty seconds later with a ko-soto-gari, as in the meantime, both athletes also received penalties (one for MAGOMEDOV, two for SABIROV). SABIROV started to believe he could win, when he also scored a waza-ari. With eleven seconds left, MAGOMEDOV was awarded with a second penalty but his two positive scores were enough to give him his first bronze medal on a Grand Prix.

The second bronze medal contest saw JUNG Hae Joo (KOR) and Aleksandar KUKOLJ (SRB) disputing a spot on the podium. After a bit more than one minute, KUKOLJ received a first penalty for a pistol grip. After the next hajime, he launched an aerial uchi-mata for waza-ari, immediately followed on the floor with an immobilisation for ippon.

GANTULGA, Altanbagana (MGL) vs. Komronshokh USTOPIRIYON (TJK)

Bronze medal contests
SABIROV, Shakhzodbek (UZB) vs. MAGOMEDOV, Magomed (RUS)
JUNG, Hae Joo (KOR) vs. KUKOLJ, Aleksandar (SRB)

Final Results
1. GANTULGA, Altanbagana (MGL)
2. USTOPIRIYON, Komronshokh (TJK)
3. KUKOLJ, Aleksandar (SRB)
3. MAGOMEDOV, Magomed (RUS)
5. JUNG, Hae Joo (KOR)
5. SABIROV, Shakhzodbek (UZB)
7. BOZBAYEV, Islam (KAZ)


Being 31 years old, Maxim RAKOV (KAZ) is already a veteran of the World Judo Tour. The Kazakh was World Champion, but it was already eight years ago (Rotterdam 2009). World silver medalist in Paris in 2011, he also won the 2012 edition of the World Masters. With a record of 13 medals he also won on the occasion of international events, he is one of the most decorated athlete in his category. And still, he is looking for some more victories. In the final he was opposed to Adlan BISULTANOV (RUS), who is a little bit younger than RAKOV and also counts 11 medals on the circuit.

In the final RAKOV being less active than BISULTANOV was penalised with a shido for passivity after the first minute. Halfway to the end with a superb tai-otoshi, BISULTANOV scored a first waza-ari. Both athletes entered the last minute with one more shido as they were escaping from gripping one another. A few seconds before the end, BISULTANOV received a second penalty but he just had to control until the final gong to enjoy his victory.

BISULTANOV celebrates his victory

The first bronze medal contest opposed another former World Champion, Elkhan MAMMADOV (AZE) (Rio 2013) and the world bronze medallist (Chelyabinsk 2014), Ivan REMARENCO (UAE). The first ko-soto-gake attack of MAMMADOV scored a waza-ari after a few seconds on the edge of the competition area, but then he was penalised for a defensive attitude with a shido. Despite that penalty, the match continued on a high rhythm giving the feeling that it will not reach the four minutes. When REMARENCO launched his next attack, he did not really put his opponent out of balance and the sanction was immediate as MAMMADOV bent his knees and engaged a low counter attack, but as the impact was clearly on the back with force, speed and control, the referee announced IPPON. Bronze for MAMMADOV.

The second bronze medal contest saw Soyib KURBONOV (UZB) and Niyaz ILYASOV (RUS) go face to face for a spot on the podium. In less than a minute, ILYASOV countered the first main attack of KURBONOV for a waza-ari, which he immediately followed on the floor with an immobilisation for ippon after he could free his leg, and a first medal on a Grand Prix for the Russian.

RAKOV, Maxim (KAZ) vs. BISULTANOV, Adlan (RUS)

Bronze medal contests
KURBONOV, Soyib (UZB) vs. ILYASOV, Niyaz (RUS)

Final Results
2. RAKOV, Maxim (KAZ)
3. ILYASOV, Niyaz (RUS)
3. MAMMADOV, Elkhan (AZE)
5. KURBONOV, Soyib (UZB)
7. HWANG, Min-Ho (KOR)
7. PALTCHIK, Peter (ISR)


The last and most awaited final of the day was the one between the current -100kg Olympic Champion, Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) and Iurii KRAKOVETSKII (KGZ). World Champion and Olympic champion in the lower category, KRPALEK decided that he had already proved everything in -100KG and decided to move up to meet the ‘big boys’. After a fifth place in Düsseldorf for his first appearance in his new weight division, KRPALEK this time did not have much difficulties to reach the final. With his long arms and speed inherited from his years in -100, he could without any major difficulties overcome CHEN Sheng Min (TPE) in the first round before defeating Musa TUMENOV (RUS) and then Zarko CULUM (SRB). In the final, he was opposed to Iurii KRAKOVETSKII (KGZ). After this second good tournament for the Olympic Champion, it must be said that everyone is impatiently waiting for the day when KRPALEK will be opposed to the great Riner, who was not defeated since 2010.

In the first half of the final, KRPALEK tried to impose his rhythm, while KRAKOVETSKII was counting on his rapid accelerations with sasae-tsuri-komi-ashi. But the strongest attack came from KRAKOVETSKII, who lifted up KRPALEK with a superb uchi-mata, the Olympic champion miraculously escaping. The bout looked pretty well balanced when KRPALEK cleverly utilised a small mistake from KRAKOVETSKII to throw him with a o-uchi-gari for waza-ari that he followed with an immobilisation for ippon. KRPALEK is back on top of a podium but this time in the heavyweight category.

The first bronze medal contest opposed Musa TUMENOV (RUS) and Ushangi KOKAURI (AZE). After one minute and forty seconds, TUMENOV received a first shido for passivity followed by the second one a few seconds later. It was then KOKAURI’s turn to receive a penalty. A few seconds before the end, TUMENOV made his main and strongest attack of the bout, but it was enough as he could roll his opponent with a sumi-gaeshi technique for a waza-ari. There was one second left before the golden score.

The second bronze medal contest saw the last chance of the host country, Semih ADIYAMAN (TUR), stepping on the tatami for a medal. He was opposed to Zarko CULUM (SRB). Half way to the end, both competitors were penalised with two shidos each. Flirting with the third penalty is always dangerous and that is what ADIYAMAN and CULUM had to do for two more minutes. The Turkish after an epic resistance couldn’t avoid to step out of the tatami and received the third penalty, while CULUM could enjoy to become a bronze medallist of the 2017 edition of the Antalya Grand Prix.

KRAKOVETSKII congratulates KRPALEK at the end of the final


Bronze medal contests
TUMENOV, Musa (RUS) vs. KOKAURI, Ushangi (AZE)
ADIYAMAN, Semih (TUR) vs. CULUM, Zarko (SRB)

Final Results
1. KRPALEK, Lukas (CZE)
3. CULUM, Zarko (SRB)
3. TUMENOV, Musa (RUS)
5. ADIYAMAN, Semih (TUR)
5. KOKAURI, Ushangi (AZE)
7. OLTIBOEV, Bekmurod (UZB)