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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Coaching versus Instructing. A little example from my weekend. 

Regular readers will know that over the years I have developed a belief that in Judo we have many people instructing Judo and a much smaller number coaching Judo.

So today I thought I would highlight what my train of thought is by looking at an example... me. Why me, because this weekend I had a great experience of seeing coaching pay off.

The tale starts like this... in the previous Hampshire Team Championships, several members of the team submitted to strangles. So as the coach I watched in horror as matches were lost as they tapped out.

So for the past month or two at the club I have been doing regular drills around strangles. Mainly getting players to lie on their front and allow their partner to place their arm under their chin and around their throat. On Hajime, the person underneath must defend the strangle. We did several variations, such as quickly turning away from the strangle or popping the chin under the arm (read Dr Annmaria HERE for more thoughts on this ).

I did very little instructing on how to defend a strangle or even how to apply one. I was more basic, put them in the position and shout Hajime; then Matte. repeat, repeat, repeat and yes you guessed it repeat again.

This past weekend, the team again took to the mat and fought in the next round of the team championships. And not one of the players tapped out to a strangle. This despite several pretty good attempts by their opponents, purple abrasions galore afterwards.
But none of the people in my club got caught; the reaosn? Mainly they were comfortable knowing when they were in trouble. They knew the point where they were going to go to sleep. They knew how to defend via experiencing it in the club in training.

What I did not do was spend long periods of time showing variations and tricks around defending strangles. What I did was put the players in competitions, observe the players in action and identify areas needing improvement. Having identified areas I spoke to the players and then did specific training to address the weakness over a two month period or so.

The players learned in training and when they were attacked in the competition with strangles they had taught themselves what to do.

This is an example of coaching. I did not instruct the players what to do; rather put them in situations where they could learn for themselves. This is coaching for me. Using my eye, knowledge and experience I created a series of situations where players learnt.

I didi not instruct them on how to defend from position "X" or from specific strangulation techniques from books or form competitions. A majority of my exercises were just player one face down on their front with their partners arm under their chin holding the jacket on the far side. I just called Hajime, counted the time and called Matte, got them to swap over or swap partners and called Hajime again.

The result, the team learned how to defend a strangle.

Having watched this weekends action we have more to focus on and that is what the role of a coach is, to observe and adapt. To keep tuning the training to help the players get better and better week on week.
It is not my job to instruct them on how to do everything they need to do. I can not teach fast enough or well enough for this to work past the novice levels (if that).

I hope this little example helps to express what I mean when I argue about coaching versus instructing in a Judo context.

Let me know what you think.

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2013 it's going to be a busy one! 

Hi everyone!

So here we are at the end of January and the Judo year is about to start, all guns blazing! And my year starts in earnest too.

This weekend I have a busy one, this morning I took a session for Holbrook Judo Club as guest instructor for their monthly squad session. Tomorrow I shall attend the Hampshire Judo Junior and Senior squad training sessions. After which I shall be taking my regular sunday training session at Southampton Solent University Judo Club (aka Southampton City Judo Club). Monday I'll be taking the Alresford Judo Club, Tuesday (7am) and Thursday (6:30pm) Solent again.

Then on Sunday the 3rd I shall be in competition organiser mode running the fourth in the Hampshire Team Championships series of competitions, the first of 2013.

Come the Tuesday (5th), I fly to Paris to help stream the Paris Grand Slam tournament for the IJF. This is a huge event and one not to be missed, I hope that we will be able to share the stream for all of those unable to attend in person. Thankfully my good friend Danny Murphy is taking the session at Solent whilst I am away! When I get back I have Tina and Dennis Penfold coaching the Solent Judo team in Kata in preparation of the Hampshire Kata COmpetition later in the year.

Later in February I head to Samsun, Turkey for another IJF event. I will also be taking the team from Solent up to Sheffield for the British Universities Judo Championships. In March another Team Championships and then the big event for the first part of the year for me, The 2013 Hampshire Judo Championships (Hampshire Closed). This is the biggest event I have run to date so i am looking forward to it. Entries opened on the 19th and are coming in steadily.

This year is looking very exciting and I am looking forward to it hugely.
I am also, trying to breath new life into the podcast, work on the JudoTicker, and generally keeping busy!

The truth is there is far too much for me to do, so I am actively looking for people to help. I need to find some volunteer coaches for Southampton and Alresford, I need people to help pull the events together to take on some of the little jobs and some of the big ones. So if you want to help me out or mosre likely you would like to help out Judo in Hampshire then drop me a message and let me know!

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Last weekend at the British Cadet Championships there was an incident where a hantei decision was changed by the referee in charge after the match had finished.

It was a very close match and the decision was a split one, 2-1 for the Player from the Ealing Judo Club. Watching the match online, I have to say I felt that white had edged the match; but did not feel it was a trevesty for blue to get the win, especially by a split decision.

However... much like at the London games the decision was altered by the intervention of the commission/referee in charge.

I just posted on the BJA Group on facebook a quick exploration of the official position of a number of sports including Judo towards the referee.
I thought I would post it here also for a wider audience to spread the discussion about the direction/approach our sport is taking to officiating matches.

It is I think good for us in this period of discussion around refereeing to consider how other sports approach it. Below are some snippets from the official IRB rule book in reference to the referee and match officials:

"The referee is the sole judge of fact and of Law during a match. "

"A match organiser may appoint an official who uses technological devices. If the referee is unsure when making a decision in in-goal involving a try being scored or a touch down, that official may be consulted."

FIFA Rules of Football:
"Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match to which he has been appointed."

"The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.
The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match."

"In respect of each LTA Official Competition, the Referee will:
(a) be the final on-site authority for the interpretation of the Rules of Tennis and these Regulations (including the LTA Code of Conduct);"

British Judo:
"Generally, the contest shall be conducted by one Referee and two (2) Judges under the supervision of the Refereeing Commission. The Referee and Judges shall be assisted by Scoreboard Keepers and Timekeepers."

"Should the Referee express an opinion on a technical result or a penalty of a higher degree than that of the two (2) Judges, he must adjust his evaluation to that of the Judge expressing the higher evaluation. Should the Referee express an opinion on a technical result or a penalty of a lower degree than that of the two (2) Judges, he must adjust his evaluation to that of the Judge expressing the lower evaluation. Should one Judge express an opinion of a higher degree and the other "

I have just read through the document (May 2012 edition) and I can't see anything saying that the commission or RIC can have a decision changed. In fact the only reference to them I spotted as I canned the document is included above.

It is noticeable to me that the other sports are rather clear that the referee is the sole decision maker and the ultimate authority. Other assist the referee be they assistant referees or a video replay, but it is the referee who decides and in the above examples generally at the request of the referee.

Our rules are blurrier, all that majority of three stuff. And no where I saw on my scan through is the a succinct statement that the referee is the ultimate authority.

What do others think?

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Asian tour, new IJF rules and 2013 

Hi everyone,
I have completed my Asia tour, 9 days in China and 7 short days in Japan. It was a wonderful trip with my colleagues in the IJF team helping share the two competitions online with you.

China was an interesting event and my first time in China. Tokyo was very special, only my second time in Japan after about 17 years when I was last there, training that time.

I spent a full day at the Kodokan, where I was fortunate to be able to visit the Museum etc. As the centre of the Judo world, it was amazing to meet to walk up to the building, see the Kano statue and go inside. The All Japan Judo Association staff and Kodokan Staff were incredibly welcoming and it is a highlight in my Judo life for sure.

The Tokyo Grand Slam had my favourite match in a long time, Iliadis Versus Rakov. It was a real chess match between two fioghters who showed amazing respect to one another. It was even better for we who were there all day as we got to see them warming up together first thing, so the handshake and hug after the initial bow really resonated and highlighted the friendship and respect these two gentlemen had for one another and the sport we all love.

Which bring us neatly to the new IJF rules announced this week. One change included is the banning of handshakes and displays of respect in favor of a traditional bow.
The rule is in my opinion daft and poorly written. It is outlawing a show of respect, why? What was the rule written to prevent that was bad for the sport? It certainly is not a safety decision? Although I understand partially the idea that the bow should be enough, then why does the IJF specifically state that after the match handshakes are ok?
In terms of how it is written, the rule is specific and says "handshake", the later interpretation talks of handslaps and hugs etc. But the rules state handshake, so to me a handslap is not a handshake, I would love to be the person who takes this one to a courtroom.
For me, there is no reason for this rule.

The rules in general and in the new rules suffer the regular problem of being vague and coming form non-native English speakers are difficult to interpret as the language (grammer etc) is not good.
I don't understand (and I am focussing on this one rule a lot I know) how you write a rule that specifically says "handshake", then state in the explanation that it refers to other actions. The other rules are even less precise and through up more questions and areas of confusion.

The breaking of grips with two hands is so hard to interpret from the rules and teh additional explanation is not clear also. Does it mean letting go with two hands? or breaking your opponents grip with both your hands?


So 2012 is coming to an end and it has been an amazing year (that I will I hope review in a post before the end of the year). 2013 promises to be even better with the competition schedule in Hampshire, Europe and Internationally promising to keep me very VERY busy!

I can't wait!

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