Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Most ridiculous interpretation of the new IJF rules

There have been some different interpretations of the new IJF rules for 2017 because the press release that the IJF issued is unclear about certain things. But as I have mentioned in past posting, on many things it is very clear.

One of those very clear things is that leg grabs are still illegal. Whether they should be illegal is a topic for debate but the fact that they are still illegal is not in doubt. It is abundantly clear that leg grabs are not allowed. The IJF press release says this:

* Leg grabbing or grabbing the trousers, shall be penalized first by shido and secondly by Hansoku Make.

There have been quite a few commentators who -- quite incredibly -- interpret the above rule to mean that if you throw someone with a leg grab and he lands on his back you will score an ippon (and thus nullify the shido).

I don't know how they can dream up such an interpretation because you can never score with an illegal technique. If you throw with a leg grab and your opponent lands on his back it is not a score because that throw is illegal in the first place. What you'll get is a shido. And if you do it again, you'll get a hansoku-make.

Lingering questions regarding IJF Rules

Now that the IJF's press release on the new rules for 2017 have been out there for some time, people have had time to digest them and make comments on how the new rules will impact judo. Some aspects of the rules are crystal clear but there a few lingering questions which need to be clarified before a proper analysis of their impact on the game can be made. There are five key things the IJF needs to clarify:

1. Are fingers inside the sleeve allowed? The IJF press release says yes but Neil Adams says no. Matt D'Aquino of Beyond Grappling also says no. Do they have access to a version of the rules that none of us has seen?

2. Can you duck your head when someone does a high grip on you? Neil Adams says no. Again, this is not mentioned anywhere in the IJF press release.

3. Can you break off a grip with two hands? Neil Adams says no. Not in the press release.

Note: Neil is an IJF video commentator so perhaps he has advance access to the rules that have not been released yet.

4. What exactly is the role of shido in Regular Time? We have been told that you cannot win by shido during Regular Time. Some people have interpreted this to mean that shido cannot win the match if there is no score on the board but if there are equal scores you can win by shido. For example if Player A has waza-ari and Player B has waza-ari, and Player A then gets shido, Player B wins. But is this really the case? It's not clear from the IJF press release. If anything, the IJF release seems to indicate that even if the scores are tied and one player gets a shido, the match still goes into Golden Score. This is what the IJF release says:

* In the case where there is no score(s), or scores are equal, the contest will continue in Golden Score.

* Any score and/or penalties from regular time will remain on the score board.

5. What exactly is the role of shido in Golden Score? The IJF says shidos will be carried over into Golden Score but it also says:

* The decision in the Golden Score is made by the difference of score or shido.

So, if Player A has one shido and Player B has none and they go into Golden Score, doesn't that mean Player B wins because there is a difference of one shido? Or does it mean that Player B is allowed to get one shido because Player A already has one shido on the board? Then, when both are tied at one shido each, if either one gets another shido that person loses because there is a new differential of one shido. Is that what it means? We don't know. The IJF press release is very unclear about this.

Those are the five questions I will be looking out for in January when the IJF clarifies everything during a referee summit in Baku. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Neil Adams provides some clarifications on new IJF Rules (but some things are still confusing)

Neil Adams answers some questions about the new IJF rules and he clarifies some things but other things are still left unclear. In fact, some of the things he's said seem to contradict what the IJF press release said.

The key things Neil touched upon:

1. Ducking of the head and breaking grips with two hands are still illegal. You will get a shido for either of those infractions, Neil said. (There have been some speculation as to whether these would be allowed under the new rules. Neil says no.)

2. While he affirms that the pistol grip (which in recent years has been commonly used and not penalized) will no longer be considered illegal. However, Neil says you cannot put your fingers inside your opponent's sleeves. This is in contrast to what the IJF had said on the matter:

In order to simplify the refereeing and its understanding all the actions that have been punished in the past on how to grab the judogi (kumikata) will not more be penalized: pistol grip, 2 hands on the same side, fingers in the sleeve…
3. Neil said during regular time you cannot win with shido alone. That means if by the end of four minutes there is no score and Player A has one or two shidos, he won't lose the match (it will go into Golden Score). But surely if Player A has three shidos in regular time, he would receive hansoku-make and that would lose him the match. So, technically it's not true that you cannot lose on shidos. You can do if you have three shidos. (Or, so it seems... we'll know for sure when the IJF clarifies all this in January).

4. Neil also said that you cannot win on shidos in Golden Score. That again contradicts what the IJF says on the matter:
The decision in the golden score is made by the difference of score or shido.
Conclusion. While many aspects of the new rules are clear and simple enough to understand, some areas are very vague, in particular with regard to gripping and the role of shido (in regular time and Golden Score).

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The pros and cons of centralized training

Recently, we heard news of British players, Gemma Gibbons and Ashley McKenzie losing their funding from British Judo.

Gibbons has revealed that the reason for this is that she did not want to relocate to a centralize training centre under the "World Class Performance Programme (WCPP)" located in Walsall.

"I was offered a place on the WCPP with funding but chose to decline due to the condition put to all players that they have to relocate to Walsall to receive this funding," Gibbons said on Twitter. "Of course, I want to be on the WCPP and I feel British Judo's strategy of a centralised system is the way forward, but as a married woman studying at a Scottish university who believes I am in the best place for me to train right now, it is a move I am unable to make. I therefore declined my place on the programme and the funding that accompanies it."

Presumably McKenzie also lost his funding for the same reason as he had previously stated that he prefers to train at the Camberley Judo Club. 

"... what I am trying to say to you reader, it's not that Walsall (centre of excellence) is not good for others....Because it might be, but I am in the BEST place, Camberley Judo Club, for me and my judo, no money or anything else will move me from here as I feel Camberley is the place that I can achieve my full potential."

There is something similar going on in the Netherlands. In the past, top judokas were allowed to train at their own clubs but since September, it became a requirement for players to train at the Olympic Training Centre in Papendal. Those who choose not to relocate and train there run the risk of not being chosen for international competitions. That could be a problem for the Netherlands because two of their top players, Kim Polling and Noel Van T' End are training abroad.

It's obvious they won't get funding but will they be allowed to compete? At least in the case of Great Britain, both Gibbons and McKenzie will be allowed to compete as long as they self-fund. That option might not be the case in some countries like the Netherlands.

This whole issue of allowing players to train where they like as opposed to centralized training is something many countries grapple with, and there are pros and cons to both sides.

The pros for centralized training are obvious. You can pool resources in terms of coaching, support staff, players, equipment etc in one place. It makes economic sense and perhaps most importantly, it allows the top players to train together in one place. That last point is crucial because unlike in Japan or France, most players in most countries have difficulty finding good sparring partners for randori. 

If you look at judo heroes of the past, many of them lived and trained in Japan for long periods of time in order to have enough randori. Today, many countries have improved in judo and perhaps it's no longer necessary to move to Japan to get good randori. But finding enough sparring partners is still normally a challenge for most players in most countries.

There are downsides to centralized training of course. Many players feel more comfortable training under their own personal coaches. And especially if the formula has worked well in the past, they want to maintain that working relationship.

For slightly older players, there are usually more issues involved with relocation. Young ones who are single and carefree could more easily relocate. Older ones might be in relationships or might even be married. Some might even have children already. They might be studying or holding some jobs. Having to relocate will really up-end their lives.

So, it's a tough call. But if a country wants to require its judokas to all live and train at one central location it must have a program that gives them enough funding so that they don't have to worry about a job. In other words, judo is their job. It shouldn't be just enough for them to scrape by but to live reasonably. And if some players are currently pursuing an education in their hometown, the governing body should ensure that these players get a place in a good educational institution near the centralized training centre. Otherwise, it is not fair to ask them to move.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Some confusion about the role of shido

The IJF has published its first release about new rules for 2017. Most of it is clear cut and easy to understand. What's a bit confusing is the role of shido.

Originally, rumor was that it's not possible to win with shido during regular time UNLESS there are equal scores on the board. For example if Player A has a waza-ari and Player B has a waza-ari too, then if Player B gets a shido (in regular time), Player A will win. However, if neither player has a score and Player B gets a shido (or two) during regular time, Player A does not win. The IJF release sort of confirms that when it said: Only scores (technical scores) will decide a contest.

 Note: A JudoCrazy reader has pointed out that based on the IJF statement that only technical scores count, logically speaking even if both players have waza-ari each and one of them gets a shido, it should still go into Golden Score. He has a point. The IJF should clarify.

The IJF goes on to say that at the end of regular time, if there are no scores or if the scores are equal, the match will go into Golden Score. It adds two other points relating to this:
i) Any score and/or penalties from regular time will remain on the score board.
ii) The decision in the Golden Score is made by the difference of score or shido.

Based on the above, if Player B has one shido going into Golden Score, that one shido should remain on the board. Does that mean Player A has one shido to spare, meaning he is allowed to have one shido without losing the match? Because if Player A gets one shido, then it is one shido each. Only then, logically, should the next shido count as the decision maker. Right?

What if Player B has two shidos going into Golden Score? Does that then mean Player A has two shidos to spare?

This matter is unclear and not clarified in the IJF release. We will soon find out the details in early January. Until then, we can only speculate. 

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First Trailer: Cover Story on Kosovan Judo.

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Third Trailer: Neil Eckersley; Women in Judo; Jeon Ki-Young: Reverse Seoi-Nage

Fourth Trailer: JudoInside, Fighting Films, JudoHeroes & JudoPhotos

Friday, December 9, 2016

Verification of new IJF Rules 2017

One day after we published our analysis of the rumored new IJF Rules 2017, the IJF has come out with a press release that verified some of the rumors and provided some clarity on what they mean. Some rumors didn't pan out though surprisingly many were spot on. There were some issues that are still unclear though. Let's go through them, shall we?

Rumor #1: Merging of Yuko and Waza-Ari
Verdict: True.

This is what the IJF said:
* There will now only be ippon and waza-ari.
* The value of waza-ari includes those given for yuko in the past.

However, one speculation was proven to be untrue, which is that four waza-ari equals ippon.

This is what the IJF said:
* The waza-ari do not add up. Two waza-ari are no longer the equivalent of ippon.Presumably, neither does 4 waza-ari.

Rumor #2: Shido Rule Changes
Verdict: True

This is what the IJF said:
* There are now three shido, instead of previously four.
* The third shido becomes hansoku-make.

What is not clear is whether a player can win by shido or two shidos without any score on the board. According to speculation it will no longer be possible to win with only one or two shidos if there is no score on the board (although three shidos will obviously disqualify a player). The IJF seems to indicate that this is indeed the case.

This is what the IJF said:
* Only scores (technical scores) will decide a contest.

Does the above mean that if there are no scores, shido cannot decide a contest during regular time? Probably so though it's not really that clear. What we do know is that a difference in shido can determine a contest in Golden Score.

This is what the IJF said:
* The decision in the Golden Score is made by the difference of score or shido.But to add some confusion into the mix, the IJF also said this:
* Any score and/or penalties from regular time will remain on the score board.

So, if Player A has two shidos and Player B has none and they go into Golden Score, does that mean Player B can afford to get two shidos without losing the match (because then their shidos would be equal)? Probably, right?

Rumor #3: Leg Grab Penalty Changes
Verdict: True

This is what the IJF said:
* Leg grabbing or grabbing the trousers, shall be penalized first by shido and secondly by hansoku-make

Rumor #4: Waza-ari for 10-Second Hold-Down
Verdict: True

This is what the IJF said:
* Immobilisations (Osae Komi): Waza-ari 10 seconds, Ippon 20 seconds.

Rumor #5: Men's Matches Drop to Four Minutes
Verdict: True

This is what the IJF said:
* Men and women four (4) minutes. Respect for parity as wished by the IOC and fight time unity for the Olympic mixed team event.

Note: The IJF is proposing for Tokyo 2020 a mixed team event which comprises 3 women (-57, -70, +70) and 3 men (-73, -90, +90).

This was something the rumors did not touch upon:

* In order to simplify the refereeing and its understanding all the actions that have been punished in the past on how to grab the judogi (kumikata) will not more be penalized: pistol grip, 2-hands on the same side, fingers in the sleeve.

That statement above is super interesting because it opens up gripping possibilities that have been severely curtailed in the past. For example, you can now have two hands on one side and presumably can use two hands to break a grip. Pistol gripping has always been technically illegal but players have been using it a lot in recent years and the referees have been inconsistent about penalizing. Making it legal is a good thing. Just allow it since many players are using it and getting away with it anyway. Although ducking the head was not mentioned, I'm presuming it will now be allowed too.

This was also not speculated upon in the rumors:

* If Uke attempts to avoid landing on their back by any movement which is dangerous for the head, neck or spine, they shall be penalized with hansoku-make. The competitor loses this contest, but can continue in the competition if applicable.

Currently, a bridge does not result in hansoku-make but rather an ippon is awarded to tori (the thrower). This new rule changes things a bit and penalizes uke with hansoku-make. In practical terms, it's still the same thing. Tori wins the match immediately. But philosophically, you are saying that uke is disqualified for a violation as opposed to tori has won by scoring an ippon. Interestingly, despite getting hansoku-make, uke can still fight in the repecharge rounds under this situation. Under normal circumstances, when you get hansoku-make you are disqualified from the competition.

There is one new rule that I don't understand because the language used is vague:

* Not to set a bad example for young judoka, false breakfalls won’t be considered as valid actions. Falling on two elbows, the action is counted. Falling on one elbow, the action is not counted.

What does this mean? Is it saying if you fall on your front and land on both elbows, there is no score but if you land on one elbow there is a score? If so, that would be a major change from the current rules where there is no score whenever you fall on your front (whether it's one elbow or two).