Monday, January 4, 2016

Clamping down on waki-gatame

Waki-gatame, in of itself is not illegal but attempting to throw with it is clearly illegal, which is what Mukanov did on Ebinuma at the 2013 Rio World Championships. Ebinuma survived the attack and heroically went on to win!

Clamping down on waki-gatame
By Oon Yeoh

Doing a waki-gatame (armpit lock) while attempting a throw has always been illegal in judo. But over the years – even in top-level competitions like the World Championships and the Olympics – there have been blatant attempts at this illegal techniques which went unpunished.

The most infamous case involved the recently departed Hitoshi Saito of Japan and Cho Yong-Chul of South Korea in the final of the 1985 Seoul World Championship. Saito, the reigning Olympic Champion, came out with his arms wide opened. Cho seized upon the opportunity and clamped on a vicious waki-gatame while taking Saito down. The move broke Saito’s arm. But far from disqualifying Cho, the referees instead awarded the match to Cho. It was a grave injustice.

Fast forward 10 years, and there was another infamous incident when another South Korean, Hwang Hee-Tae, who snapped on a waki-gatame on Japan’s Hiroshi Izumi while taking him to the ground. Izumi survived that attack although his arm was clearly smarting. This time, the referees rightly gave Hwang a hansoku-make. So, sometimes the referees get it right and sometimes not.

The 2013 Rio de Janeiro World Judo Championships was the scene of one of the most dramatic and heroic moments in judo, and it involved a waki-gatame.

It was the final of the -66kg which saw World Champion Masashi Ebinuma of Japan square off against Azamat Mukanov of Kazakhstan. Towards the middle of the match, Mukanov suddenly clamped onto Ebinuma’s left arm as he took him down to the ground. The Japanese, who was clearly in pain, refused to tap and endured the armlock long enough for the referee to call “matte”. Then, with his already damaged arm, Ebinuma took hold of Mukanov’s right lapel, and threw him with a driving ouchi-gari for Ippon!

That a vicious waki-gatame such as this could happen nearly three decades after the Saito-Cho fiasco made it clear that the referees were still far too lax about this illegal attack. The 2015 Astana World Judo Championships, however, made it clear that the International Judo Federation would not tolerate this dangerous move anymore.

There were several cases of players being given hansoku-make for waki-gatame and this included two top champions: Telma Monteiro of Portugal in the individual championship and Avdantili Tchrikishvili of Georgia in the team championship.

In both cases, the players had attempted a one-handed drop sode-tsuri-komi-goshi which did not work as planned. As they landed on the mat, their arms ended up in a waki-gatame-like situation. To their dismay, they were given hansoku-make. Some commentators felt that they should have been given the benefit of the doubt.

But it could also be argued that if the IJF really wants to clamp down on waki-gatame, it has to be super strict about it and err on the side of caution. Giving hansoku-make for any attacks that approximate waki-gatame is the right move to completely weed out waki-gatame from competition judo. It’s high time the IJF refereeing commission clamped down on it.

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