Sunday, February 17, 2013

Freedom in continuous change

While all changes do not lead to improvement, all improvement requires change. The ability to develop, test, and implement changes is essential for any individual, group, or organization that wants to continuously improve. To quote Winston S. Churchill:

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
Recently I was lucky enough to attend the Paris Grand Slam, where I was able to observe first-hand the application of the recent IJF rule changes. The judo was magnificent, fast-paced, explosive and exciting. Over 500 players competed, and there was an increase on the number of ippons compared to the previous year. During the first day, there were only 2 fights that went to golden score. The statistics speak for themselves. The empirical evidence supports my subjective view that the rule changes are a big improvement.

I started to reflect on the concept of change.
With huge changes in the development of judo in Cambridge, UK, I was drawn to the thoughts of the famous Cambridge graduate, Charles Darwin:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
So the judoka that survived, and thrived in the London Olympics were the judoka that adapted best to the rule changes adopted in 2010, prior to the Olympic qualification period. Looking forward, the judoka that survive and thrive in the Rio Olympics will be the judoka and coaches that adapt best to these changes.

So as judo continues to evolve, there is a process of natural selection, where those coaches and players best able to adapt, survive.
For an excellent chronicle of the rule changes in judo, I recommend the article written by the judo legend, Syd Hoare:

Let’s not forget that the judoka that competed in London, were those that qualified. Those qualifiers had adapted to the new qualification process, based on the World Ranking List. When those changes were introduced, some people were resistant to the change. But those changes in the Olympic Qualification system meant that the best players in the world competed, and yet there was participation by 137 nations. Let us be under no illusion, had those changes not been made, judo could be facing the same fate as wrestling, dealing now with the threat of being removed from the Olympic programme, for the 2020 Olympics. Imagine the scenario that was averted. A potential Tokyo Olympic Games without the sport of judo!
There is a Japanese philosophy called “kaizen”. It refers to continuous incremental change, in order to improve quality and efficiency. As judoka we have to practice kaizen every time we put on a judogi, and throughout our lives. The challenge to the coach is to manage the process of kaizen with the athlete, to help them adapt, and to help them thrive in a changing world.

The coaches that resist change will not manage this. We need to welcome change, expect change, and embrace change.
Any coaches that are willing to adapt, and are looking to make incremental improvements to their coaching, could consider following the suite of coaching awards from the European Judo Union. See or to find out more.


  1. Honestly, I'd like to see Judo voluntarily withdraw from the Olympics. Judo is not a spectator sport and shouldn't try to be one. Competitive judo is a train arm of martial arts judo. We should be trying to allow as many alternative techniques as possible into judo competition and then figure out the judo way of defeating them. The new rules only serve to weaken judo and make it a meaningless sport exercise like modern wrestling. The only reason I can see for making judo more spectator friendly is because we want to make advertising money off the spectators. Isn't that the definition of selling out?

    1. Hi Budo Bum. I agree we should encourage alternative techniques and solutions to them. I'm not sure that I see competitive judo as a training arm of martial arts judo. I prefer to think that judo is a budo, and that judo stands on a three cornered stool of kata, randori and shiai. Shiai is a necessary part of the budo.
      To be a competition the shiai needs rules. The rules are defined globally by the IJF. Local organisations often make ammendments to those IJF rules.
      The IJF care about the future of judo, and try their best to help it evolve in the right way.
      You may have a view that people should not spectate judo, but not everyone agrees with you. There are many throughout the world that want to spectate judo, just look at the viewing figures for the IJF internet streams.
      Modern sport is a business. Judo needs to deliver as a global sport brand, and utilise that position to remind people that judo is more than sport. There are many projects that do that, Judo for Peace, or the excellent wok of EJU Coach graduate Nuno Delgado in Lisbon.
      I don't think judo is selling out. I think judo is working hard to take the life changing impact of it's activities to as many people as possible.
      Thanks for reading the blog.

  2. There are elements of both this original post and the first comment that I agree with. With regard to Budo Bum's comment that we should "figure out the judo way of defeating" these alternative techniques. In so doing, we make judo stronger. As for the Paris Grand Slam, which of the new rule changes were responsible for what this writer saw as improved results? Was it the gripping, the no leg blocking, or the changes to the scoring? The scoring rules I believe are a positive change, the no leg blocking and gripping changes not so much. Last, the Olympic qualification system is horrible. The Olympics are about each nation putting their best athletes forward and competing. If we make it so that only the rich who can afford to attend all of the Olympic-qualifying tournaments can compete, then it becomes elitist... like golf.

    1. Hi Rich,
      The rule changes that I think had the impact were the combination of the gripping changes, and the more rapid application of shido for not attacking.
      Players were operating from the grip they got, rather than tring to break it off. That led to an increase in the attack rate, which made it all more exciting.

  3. We need to see the precise statistics for all recent international competitions to determine exactly what constitutes an ippon. In Germany Peter Seisenbacher, the new coach to the Azebaijan team, said that 7 of his players received hansoku-makes in their first match at the Budapest Open 2 weeks ago. Did he mean first international match or first contest? I am not sure. I have glanced at the PDF results and if you look at the site for that event you will see that disqualifications are recorded in two ways. As H for hansoku-make and s4 for 4 shidos and in each case the opponent is awarded an ippon. The statistics reveal that only 7 hansoku-makes were awarded while 779 shidos were awarded in in a total of 315 contests. Now, the shidos are not broken down as per player but per contest which means it is difficult to analyse quickly the full number of disqualifications from shidos as the results show 100 contests incurred between 4 and 7 shidos each. On the other hand the Statistics show that there were 195 ippons in the 315 contests equaling 62%. Now go back to the Athens Olympics which I think was the catalyst for the need to increase ippons and you will find a very different story. Obviously the two events are far from strictly comparable. Budapest was men only and the repercharge started at the quarter-finals whereas Athens was men and women and a full repercharge. Briefly, from my records Athens totaled 523 contests with an average of 57.87% ippons across the 14 weight categories with the highest at 67.74% (+78kgs) and lowest at 42.42% (u52kgs). Now this is the important bit; there were no hansoku-makes and only 8 disqualifications from 4 shidos. In the case of Budapest a quick count reveals there are 7 hansoku-makes AND 25 disqualifications from 4 shidos! If the disqualifications were counted as ippons then the true ippons would equal just 51.74% of the results. I am not a statistician but even if the Athens ippon winning contest total is adjusted to remove the 8 times 4 shido disqualifications we are actually going backwards. In my opinion the IJF refereeing commission needs to reconsider the direction it is traveling. Certainly 4 shidos and hansoku-make should not be counted as ippons the same as an uchi-mata throw or any other for that matter. Get that right and we might know how to truly improve ippon scoring techniques.

  4. Very interesting David.
    This is an experimental period, and all analysis and evidence such as this will be very important.
    We should look into how the software is recording the wins in order to have accurate data to review.
    Let's talk to the IJF computer team about it.

  5. The PDF results show the 4 shidos and the resulting ippon to the opponent. But the statistics do not show the number of 4 shido disqualifications. In my opinion these are not ippons. Certainly in another era disqualifications were rare and had very little affect on the percentage of ippons. That is now different and should be differentiated from technique ippons in the same way that 3 shidos are. However that will need some thought and the IJF should review this fully.