Friday, July 30, 2010

Judo and the new rules - My perspective

Obviously in the Judo community there has been a huge uproar in the changing of Judo rules regarding leg grabs, pickups and Russian style techniques. I have travelled all around the world and experienced different styles of Judo, from the traditional Japanese judo, the Russian pickup style of judo and even the weird Mongolian and Kazakhstan styles as well.

I read the maybe once or twice a week and there are constant threads about the new rules and people who just keep on complaining about how Judo isn’t a martial art anymore and how we are excluding grappling techniques that aren’t necessarily used in only judo but also in various forms of wrestling.

For a while I was very against the new rules of Judo due to the fact that it clashed with my own style of Judo that I have been doing for so long. Although recently I have travelled to Taipei, Rotterdam, Samoa as well as Brazil and now in Japan and I think the new rules have been great for the sport for multiple reasons.

I have participated in many training camps over the last few months and have noticed that a lot of the top judo guys who used to do pickups and leg grabs (and now cant) are still here doing judo and still performing at a top international level e.g. Tsaagaanbaatar (MON) despite that fact that their main techniques have been banned.

Although I am also aware of a few competitors who have suffered immensely such as Brazils 2 X world Champ Derly BRA 66kg. Who, to my understanding is not to highly ranked in Brazil anymore.

Due to me being in Japan and having a lot of time on my hands I have been doing a lot of thinking regarding other sports who have changed rules for various reasons.

A few years ago in competitive Taekwondo competitors were able to punch to the head. But what tended to happen was amateur boxers would enter the tournament block all kicks to the head, come in close and knock fellow competitors out. The pure essence of Taekwondo is their amazing kicking skills, but due to the way the sport went spectators were not seeing spectacular kicks they were seeing a boxing match.
So by banning punching to the head the more complete taekwondo fighter using the very essence of the sport would more often than not win the match.
By changing the rules they could keep the essence of the sport alive so that when people came and watched they would watch Taekwondo's amazing kicks not just a boxing match.

In my opinion yes they were taking out an effective attack in a punch to the head but to keep the essence and spirit of the sport alive, I see no problem with the change.

Rugby League & Rugby union

Rugby league and rugby union at first can look very similar and for a long time they were similar especially when the Scrum in rugby league was contested. It would collapse and they would start over. Very similar to Rugby union.
But by not contesting the scrum onlookers would hopefully be able to see the difference between league and Union.
In the end one major aspect of the game of rugby union is the contested scrums and rucks, while in League it isn’t a huge part of the game. By eliminating contested scrums league and union could stay different.
I see nothing wrong with this.

Brazilian Jujitsu.
It is my understanding that in BJJ once you throw or perform a takedown you must then engage on the ground, if you don’t you may lose a point.
These rules are in place so that the throwing sports such as judo and wrestling cannot come in and (due to superior stand up) throw and break away, throw and break away. If these rules were allowed the essence of BJJ wouldn’t be there. The fundamental nature of competitive BJJ is the ground game. Without the ground game what is it? Is a Judo or wrestling match. But by keeping these rules you are keeping the essence of the sport alive.
Imagine going to a BJJ comp and all you saw was stand up and no ground work. Same as imagine going to judo and all you saw was ground work and no standing fighting. It’s not what the 'Sport' is.


What makes Judo...Judo? Is it the Gi? Is it the throws? Is it the Japanese names?
In my opinion Judo is the most superior unarmed Martial art as well as sport. It has all the making of real world self defence as well as a sport.
For example in Judo the fight starts standing and in most cases the ground game is well and done after no more than 1 minute. I have never heard of a street fight or a fight in a pub where both fighters were wrestling on the ground for 10 minutes and the fight finishing with an omaplata from rubber guard.

What makes Judo unique is the techniques we use that are used in our sport.
Imagine if at a judo competition all you saw was double and single leg takedowns, fireman’s carries and bear hug kosotos, (would you think you were at a judo or wrestling tournament.) Yes, I know they are all legitimate judo techniques but are they unique to judo, so when someone saw judo match and a wrestling match they could see a difference.
Imagine coming to a Judo competition and all you saw was uchimata, tai otoshi, seoi nage and foot sweeps and then going to watch freestyle wrestling and seeing mostly doubles and singles but sometimes an uchimata and foot sweep. You would be able to easily note the difference between the two sports.
That is what the international judo federation is trying to achieve with the rule change.
In my opinion there is nothing wrong with trying to keep Judo unique.

Another example is from firsthand experience at a few training camps around the world. For a long time Georgia’s Khergiani has been the number 1 in their country and consistently placing at various top level tournaments for the past 10 years. His style of judo was a bent over wrestling style posture and the only techniques he ever used were a fireman’s carry (kata guruma), pickups and an occasional drop seoi nage (shoulder throw).
Now the new rules have come in and I don’t know is he has retired or is injured or is not number one anymore but now Georgia have 2 new judo players in 60s. Asumbani and Papinashvilli, both these guys are a complete contrast to Khergiani. These guys both have huge uchimatas, tai othoshis and seoi nages. These guys are showcasing the stereotypical 'judo' techniques while their predecessor was showcasing more wrestling styles of judo and in my opinion the new style is a lot better than the old style.

In the end I see nothing wrong with the new rule change because it will keep judo unique in the eyes of spectators as well as competitors.

Another quick example I have which is completely unrelated is from my favourite author David Gemmell. He wrote medieval fantasy novels that were fantastic. He only once wrote a suspense mystery novel under an alias (different name.) When asked why the name change Gemmell said that when people pick up a David Gemmell they are expecting a medieval fantasy novel, if they pick up a Gemmell and its a murder mystery they will be disappointed as that is not what a Gemmell novel usually is.

I thought this was interesting as he was willing to change his famous writing name to keep his fans from being disappointed because Gemmell is a fantasy novelist not a murder author. Eg Gemmell wants people to pick a Gemmell and get a fantasy novel the same way when you come to judo you want to see Judo, you dont want to see a wrestling match.

I just thought i would write from my perspective what i thought about the new rules. This is due to the fact that i have see alot of styles of Judo all over the world and since being in Japan it has really driven home to me what 'judo' techniques really are.

Feel free to comment or email me at

Catch ya

1 comment:

  1. Matt,
    Great breakdown and explanation. For the longest time I believed 'just let the athletes do their thing'. If we fight, or compete, to the basic rules of the game we're playing then you'd think everything would work itself out. However, as you pointed out, that's not always the end result.

    Outside influences do permeate into the game sometimes. Unfortunately, it does have an effect, whether positive or negative. In the end, that positive or negative effect is really a matter of opinion. That's all.

    I'm sure the majority of the judo community (especially the japanese) were beside themselves when the russians brought their Sambo-influenced judo into competition years ago. All of the sudden, there were players being thrown like they had never been before. It had to be unnerving for some of the current champions at that time. BUT, the international judo community accepted it. They let it play out, and overall it had a profound impact on the entire sport. New techniques had to be created to deal with those attacks. Things had to change for everyone.

    Now, fast forward to today. Instead of a country influencing the sport with their brand of judo, the country which spawned the sport is influencing the sport by pulling back the reins a bit. They're making some changes, and those changes will indeed create "new techniques" to overcome the setbacks. Believe me, it's already begun.

    Overall, my perspective and opinion is if you want to compete in a grappling related event, don't limit yourself to just one thing. Get out and try different stuff. Get out of your comfort zone and do something you haven't done before. Different grappling sports have different sets of rules and regs. Eventually you'll find one, or more, which you'll prefer or excel at. Others may be out of your league or perhaps you aren't able to do. Personally, I love 'em all, and I'll adapt my game to each one.

    Keep training, learning and competing.
    Chris Mikuta