This is the Judo blog of Lance Wicks. In this blog I cover mainly Judo and related topics. My Personal blog is over at where I cover more geeky topics. Please do leave comments on what you read or use the Contact Me form to send me an email with your thoughts and ideas.

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Rules of the Game. 

In this post I want to talk about the "Rules of the Game" in relation to the sport of Judo. In 2013 we see big changes in the IJF rules being trialled.

How this happens and the reasons for the changes is not however what I want to discuss. WHat I want to explore in this post is the rules of the British Judo Association and how that affects me as a coach in Great Britain.

The genesis I guess for this post was in January this year after the British Cadet Championships; regular readers will remember the post I wrote on January 18th about refereeing. And this past weekend I took a small team of players to the British Universities Judo Championships. Some of the occurrences at that event lead me to start a discussion on Facebook which spurred over 100 comments.

The discussion and my concerns are focussed not on specific rules, rather the importance of the Rules as a document. That is what I want to explore today.

Back in my days studying for the EJU Level 5 coaching qualification we examined the structure of sport, ethics and cheating. The short version is that all sport consists of artificial constructs in which sport is played and cheating being when we step outside that defined (and inferred) construct.

The construct is a product of the rules of the game. I.e. the written rules define what we believe the values and beliefs of the sport are and provide the structure within which our sport is played.

The rules also tell us the specifics of how the sport is played and the inferred standards our sport is played to.

From a coaching perspective, the rules provide us the contraints within which we innovate. Every player coach and team is looking for the best way to play within the rules. The rules give us hard boundaries for us to stay within. They inform our behavior and set the stage for not only the way we play the sport but also how we coach it and how we conduct ourselves whilst involved.

So why this post?

At the BUCS event a couple of referees were strictly enforcing the the "co coaching matside, except during the period between Matte and Hajime." rule. This is a IJF initiative to decrease the excessive shouting and gesticulation that the powers that be feel is occurring.

The problem I, and some of my fellow coaches had on the weekend is that this is not a rule in the BJA.

Don't believe me, and trust me the referees on the day certainly thought this rule exists, well take a look at the BJA rules: ... tober-2012

This document is the foundation upon which all Judo competitions in the BJA are based. It tells us how to play the game and should tell us all we need to comply with the referees one would think. Unfortunately, it apparently is not. Seeing as referees were commanding coaches to stop coaching their players.

If you read the rules you will not find anything saying that the referees are empowered to do this, no where, so for me it should not happen and I am concerned that it is happening. Much like the incidents I have seen of match decisions being changed after referees have left the contest area. There is no part of the official rules of the BJA that allows this to happen.

As I did in January, we can look at other sports and compare. A quick look at the FIFA rules and I found this:

from Law 5:
* takes disciplinary action against players guilty of cautionable
and sending-off offences. He is not obliged to take this action immediately but must do so when the ball next goes out of play

* takes action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may, at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds

So in football there is a clear rule stating the referee can and should take action against inappropriate behavior. The BJA has no similar directive.

The FIFA rules also have the section on the "Technical area" which is interesting and relevant:

The technical area relates to matches played in stadiums with a designated seated area for technical staff and substitutes as described below.
While the size and position of technical areas may differ between stadiums, the following notes are issued for general guidance:
• the technical area extends 1 m (1 yd) on either side of the designated seated area and extends forward up to a distance of 1 m (1 yd) from the touch line
• it is recommended that markings are used to define this area
• the number of persons permitted to occupy the technical area is defined by
the competition rules
• the occupants of the technical area are identified before the beginning of
the match in accordance with the competition rules
• only one person at a time is authorised to convey tactical instructions from
the technical area
• the coach and other officials must remain within its confines except in
special circumstances, e.g. a physiotherapist or doctor entering the field of
play, with the referee’s permission, to assess an injured player
• the coach and other occupants of the technical area must behave in a
responsible manner

Again the BJA (and IJF for that matter) do not have such a clear description.

Why does this matter?

We have a situation in the BJA (and to a degree in the IJF), that the rules of our sport are not being obeyed by referees. They are applying rules that don't exist in the rules. This past weekend coaches were reprimanded for coaching form matside, despite there being no rule saying they can't do it.

That is simply wrong I feel. They are breaking the construct of our sport.

It was disturbingly difficult at times to explain to referees and online to people why I felt this was wrong. The coaching matside thing was only one of several instances I have observed this year where things are being applied as rules that don't exist in the rule book.

Referees are being told to apply this rule in their pre competition meeting and referees are blindly doing so. They should be questioning it as I would hope they know the pages of our rules better than I as a coach do. I worry about the environment within the refereeing community that leads to a situation where referees will apply things that are not in the rules.

This is not a case of interpretation. This is not the difference between Ippon and Wazari; this is a more objective call. Is the rule in the book, no, then it should not be applied.

Referees reading this, have you told a coach to be quiet? Is that written in your copy of the rules anywhere? If not, then why did you apply it?

I am genuinely interested in the reality of how and why referees are adopting unwritten rules and how and why they can do that.


personally, I have grave concerns over the quality of the the BJA and IJF rules. The BJA rules are basically carbon copied from the IJF rules. The IJF rules I do not feel are very well written, the english used needs revising by a native english speaker and I also think that the core concepts are blurred and could benefit from a serious revision.

Perhaps we could engage with law/rule writers from other sports?

And I do not feel it is acceptable for the BJA to say they can't do anything because the they are using the IJF rules as their base. I think they could be leaders in the sport and rewrite the rules and encourage the IJF to consider using revisions based on the British version of the rules.

Even if the IJF do not take up the BJA re-write, the BJA can have a well crafted modern version of the rules that are clearer, and encompass the full range of situations and intentions that our sport requires.

What do you think?

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