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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Video refereeing in Judo. 

Hi everyone, it's been a while since I blogged and I must return to the discipline of blogging regularly. I am a firm believer in blogging as a form of reflective practice, so I am not maintaining this side of my coaching if I do not blog.

As those who follow me will know, I have recently started working as part of the EJU and IJF computer teams. This has allowed me the opportunity to observe some elite level Judo up close. This blog post is about the CARE refereeing system in Judo.

For those of you who don't know, CARE is the name given to video refereeing process now in use in Judo. It basically is a video camera connected to a laptop, which the referees commission (off the mat) are able to use to rewind and review action on a mat.
Unlike other sports like Rugby Union, Cricket and Tennis; the use of the CARE system is entirely at the discretion of the referees commission.

Which means that the commission is able to review and change decisions on the mat whenever they see the situation arise. It is quite a difference in approach to that of other sports where video refereeing is quite limited in scope and application.

In Judo, what we are seeing is the referee sing commission re-watching a piece of action then telling the referee(s) on the mat to change scores, give penalties, etc.
On video perhaps it is not apparent this happens, but in person it is more obvious. What you miss often on the video is the fact that all the referees have earpieces connected to radios so that they can hear what the commission has to say.

Now... Overall, I think this change is good. Instead of three referees on the mat watching a piece of action once at full speed, a group of high level referees watch the action in slow motion several times and inform the referees on the mat what they think.
For the players in the competition this should I think, mean that they receive a better standard of refereeing, the inevitable errors all referees make can be caught and corrected.

However, I think it is worth looking at the situation carefully and consider all the perspectives.

One of the key things I am seeing is that the dresses on the mat are being over-ruled by the commission regularly. And they are being over-ruled when the commission see fit.
This is quite different to other sports, for example in cricket the use of the video umpire is only done when a team chooses to. And there are limited numbers if challenges allowed. Tennis I think uses a similar system where Hawkeye is only called upon when there is a request from a player. In Rugby union, the video is only used at the request of the referee on the field and is only allowed to answer specific quests from the referee on the field.

Judo, from what I have seen, is the only sport where the referees on the mat are now being controlled by the video referee. I am not sure I am comfortable with this. Although I think it should and probably is providing a better level of refereeing consistency, I find it disquieting that the man/woman in charge... the centre referee is in fact no longer in charge, but can and regularly is being what to do by the commission.

In a sport where respect for the referee is drummed into us all, from day one; it seems almost disrespectful to referees that they do not have the final say any longer.

I am also inclined to recall one of the University of Bath Judo Debates, where Marian Woodward, an IJF referee argued against video refereeing. She pointed out very eloquently that sometimes watching a piece of action over and over makes the correct decision harder not easier.

Here is a link to the debate on the topic of if the use of video should be used form 2007: ... ebate.html

I tend to agree, especially when we watch action in slow motion on video, it can look very different to at real speed up close. Sometimes the gut reaction from an experienced referee on the mat is IMHO better than the opinion of a group of referees off the mat watching a small incident over and over in slow motion. It I think runs the risk of missing the con ext of the match and focussing on the minutiae rather than the total fight and the atmosphere and actions leading up to an incident.

Time will tell, but currently my thinking is that the CARE system needs some review. I think it is raising the overall consistency/quality of refereeing of matches. But I do also believe it is undermining the position of the referees on the mat and providing some quirky refereeing that is hard to follow.

Which brings me neatly to my final point on refereeing as I am seeing it. Especially with the radio intervention of the referees commission the refereeing decisions can be a complete mystery to the players, coaches and spectators. I do feel that we could benefit from watching football/soccer and football referees and developing some communication between referees and players on the mat; and the coaches/spectators. I know it is tough with our multiple-lingual sport, but I do feel that referees could make Judo flow better with a few simple words rather than giving Shido that alter the nature of a match.
If a player is being passive, why must we stop the fight to tell them that with the twirling of hands. Could the referee not tell the player they are being passive and that they will be given Shido if they don't do something soon? You here this sort of discussion in rugby, boxing, football, so why not Judo?

I think this is especially important at lower levels. At kids tournaments I think it is unacceptable for any child to be given Shido (or worse) without some good warnings and explanation from referees.
If a kid is grabbing the trousers, they need to be told not to. If they do it again, stop the fight and warn them clearly, using words, that it is not permitted. If they do it again, well penalize them, they knew better.
But don't just spot a leg grab and hansokumake someone, who most likely either has no idea about the complexities of the latest interpretations of the IJF rules, or simply didn't realize they even did it.

A little conversation during the match, would prevent lots of matte situations and make Judo flow more in the match. It could result in less Shido and less fights being one via penalties and more being won by throws.

I'd love to know what you think, especially if you are a referee. Drop comment on this post, or send me an email to

Eric Boutin 

Nice review of the CARE system from someone who intimately involved with it.

There are some parallels to the verbal penalty calling in judo for blind players. They can't see the call being made so usually I believe a coach makes the statement from the sidelines. Maybe this could be incorporated into the regular matches so that the flow would not be interrupted and make them more exciting.

The "puppet referee" effect due to the CARE system you mention is interesting. I have seen this sort of thing with the non-video system where the judges start making all the calls from the corners because they don't trust the referee. This is disastrous for the referee whose confidence drops and starts second guessing every call. I imagine the same thing would happen for someone with an earpiece. What happens if the referee doesn't agree or makes a call that is controversial and claims he was told to make it. How do the players know what really happened? That does remove some of the transparency of the old system

Just a few thoughts.
Thanks for a great blog. Keep it up.


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