by Elie A. Morrell, Hachidan

The current IJF referee rule 20(a) reads as follows:

The referee shall announce ippon when in his opinion the applied technique corresponds to the following criterion:
a) When a contestant with control throws the other contestant largely on his back with considerable force and speed.

This paper will only discuss the requirements of ‘largely on the back’ and ‘speed and force.’ From a personal standpoint, I feel that these requirements are by and large grossly misinterpreted or not clearly understood. I strongly believe that the ‘largely on the back’ requirement for scoring purposes is absolutely clear in both meaning and intent. For example, I do not believe that the IJF refereeing commission intended this requirement to mean that the Uke could impact on the side of his body followed by a roll on to his back and then awarded an Ippon. Also, speed and force are intrinsically connected and cannot be treated independently.The rule states that speed or force can independently be partially degraded for the scores of Waza Ari and Yuko. That is physically impossible based on natural physical laws.

If one thinks about this realistically, the so called continuity of impact of Uke’s body makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Admittedly, a continuity of motion may exist but if the throw was made with control, considerable force and speed and the Uke does not impact largely on his back per the requirement of the written rule, it then makes no sense to award an Ippon for any subsequent motion of Uke’s body.

It is recognized that once contest rules have been officially agreed upon, formally published and posted on the IJF website, that changes in the rules can be made by the IJF committee without a posted change on the website.

The practice of allowing referees and judges to base final scoring calls for throws on the use of ‘continuity of impact’ is in current use today. I have seen cases on many occasions where a player is thrown squarely on his buttocks followed by a gentle roll on to the back and an IPPON was called! How can one possibly correlate a call like this to the IJF written requirement of ‘thrown LARGELY on the back’. Certainly, there is no skill involved by the Tori for that part of the throwing action once the real impact of the Uke has taken place.

One of the most prominent examples of the use of ‘continuity of impact’ occurs when the Uke is thrown and impacts on the side of his body and rolls on to his back. Again, in the majority of cases the call by the referee is a higher score than that which is warranted. Though the additional motion of the Uke following his impact on the mat is attributable to the action of the Tori, only those conditions existing at impact should be used in assessing any score. Otherwise, the written rule would be violated if the score assessment is based on post impact.

Perhaps IJF rules 20,23, 24 and 25 corresponding to Ippon, Waza Ari, Yuko and Koka respectively, should be construed as four of the most significant of all the rules. Decision making for the cases of Osaekomi Waza, Shime Waza and Kansetsu Waza is certainly far less complicated than that required for Nage Waza. A very high degree of judgment is mandatory to properly assess the outcome of any throw!

Assessing throwing scores using the ‘continuity of impact’ rule or the philosophy that the throw is not over until the ‘action’ is completed would seem to have far reaching implications. Throwing scores have been assessed in this manner since the year 2001. To the best of this writer’s knowledge, I am unaware of any formal change by the IJF refereeing commission that stipulates that throwing scores shall be assessed based on the premise that the throw is not over until the action is completed. I have yet to meet any individual who is able to show or prove that a rule change has been officially made and more importantly, disseminated to the rank and file. Inquiries usually result in responses indicating that is how throws are assessed now.

From a personal standpoint, I prefer to abide by the rule as currently written. After all, this has been the way throws have been assessed for over 100 years!! We all have the individual right of a personal opinion. However, if a change to rule 20(a) has been officially made by the IJF refereeing commission, I for one would certainly abide by the change. I believe that the judo community would agree that some of the rule changes made over the years are good and some are bad.

In judo tournaments it is common practice for a tournament director to modify the playing rules for safety and matters of expediency. This is certainly all well and good as long as the written rules are not violated based on personal preferences. If, in fact, the common practice of assessing throwing scores based on the ‘continuity of impact’ originated in a tournament or tournaments based on the personal preference of the director(s), then that is indeed unfortunate.

When I refer to personal preferences by any tournament director, I am alluding to an individual who, for whatever reason does not agree with certain parts of the contest rules. Sadly, there are individuals in the judo community with this particular mindset.

If the IJF has not made any official change to referee rule 20(a), it behooves them to communicate this to the worldwide judo community and to request that the interpretation of the rule be properly administered in future judo contests.

In the included reference I pointed out the very serious shortcomings of referee rule 20(a) as it pertained to the requirements of considerable speed and force in the assessment of throwing scores. This reference was written in 2003. Unfortunately, either the comments in this reference were not seen by those responsible for formulating the rules or they fell on deaf ears.

A serious problem arises when a throwing score for either a Waza Ari or a Yuko is assessed by the referee. The rules for either of these two scores states that ‘force’ could be partially lacking while ‘speed’ is NOT partially lacking and visa versa. This is physically impossible since if one parameter degrades the other must also! Likewise, if one parameter increases, the other must also! This is simple physics and is based on Newton’s second law of motion. Anyone familiar with this natural law would readily note that these two scores should be corrected.

In the preceding discussion regarding the so called ‘continuity of impact’, the IJF certainly has every right to make this change in rule 20(a). At issue, is not whether one agrees with the change but communicating the change to the rank and file in a timely manner.

It is imperative that a revision of the ‘speed and force’ requirements be made by the IJF refereeing commission as quickly as possible since the current requirements are totally incorrect. One simple solution would be to drop the ‘force’ requirement and maintain the requirement of ‘considerable speed’.Force would then already exist with considerable speed. Also, the referee can easily perceive any degradation in the speed requirement.

REFERENCE: Observations and Comments on the current IJF Judo Contest Rules by Elie A. Morrell, 2003.

Fear causes hesitation, hesitation will make your worst fear come true.