Friday, May 12, 2006

My first tournament as a corner judge

Last Saturday I participated in my very first tournament as a corner judge. This was a small tournament with most of the compeditors being under the age of 14 years old, and low kyu belt ranks.

What a learning experience! It is so different to be sitting on a chair for hours, and keeping alert to wave after wave of students coming up and performing their kata, or doing Ippon kumite. It seems to be SUCH a mental stress rather than a physical one. You find yourself having to assess so many things at the same time, and remembering what you just witnessed from the other contestants, and then making a comparitive decision. The hardest part is choosing the decision in the brief time it takes for the whistle to blow. Sure.. there were moments when the choice was obvious to me from the very first movement made by the white side. I'd see a lack of this or that in one person that revealed to me whom to choose. The worst moments of decision happened when the compeditors were so equally balanced in skill, power, and speed. At one point, there was a real tough choice placed before us, and the 6 judges kept choosing the "tie" option of flags. Those compeditors had to continue fighting for 3 times in a row. It was a tough decision. One person had a different strength than the other, but all in all they were so equal.

One thing that I learned about myself is that I had certain expectations of what I valued as important, and these were not exactly the same as the other judges. I also learned that I would stand by my decisions because they were the most honest ones I could make at that time with the knowledge that I had.

It is difficult to avoid going up to the compeditors after the event, and saying to them "You know.. You would have NAILED that event if only you had done this.." I found myself biting my tongue, and walking away.

There was such a feeling of investing into the training of these young karate-ka. To watch them struggle to calm their nerves, get up and perform their karate, to watch their eyes flipping from crowd, to the judges, to the floor, to the ceiling, as their minds struggled to handle the pressure. I realized how important it is for their development of concentration to have moments when they have to perform in an intensely stressful situation. Each performer walked away the the experience of applying themselves, and the benefits attached to that experience regardless of which medal was handed out.

All in all, it was a learning experience for me, and I enjoyed the whole event.


[Mat] said...


I can only imagine what it must have been like.

Good for you Mireille. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

FrogMan said...

Mireille, I commend you for being a judge, what a nice thing to do. Maybe it's mandatory for black belts in your dojo to be judges and/or referees, but still, giving back to the kids like that is really great of you.

As you've read on my blog, my son Andrew and I are both competing, him for three years now me only since January, and I always try to shake the hands of the judges when our day is over, and thank them for their time and effort.

Sure, there were times when I felt he had been judged a bit harshly, that I felt he could have had higher scores, but like you, I bit my tongue, knowing it was already tough enough for these people to judge. I've been in their shoes, not as a karate judge/referee, but as a soccer and hockey referee. For 8 years, I officiated in both sports and I've heard too many parents complaining for nothing, seeing faults when there were none.

I know better now, I can appreciate somebody giving back to his/her community by officiating.


Ruth said...

Hello again!

This is really interesting. I'd love to know more about what you valued as important, and where this differed slightly from the other judges. I've never adjudicated, but I have a little teaching experience and I once assisted (administratively) a sensei during a grading which allowed me to observe. I think that I might place technique (accuracy of stance) everso slightly above all else.... I know many plump for "spirit" every time (and of course that's vital).

Is it a shame, perhaps, that a judge does not offer competitors advice after the event, along the lines of "You know.. You would have NAILED that event if only you had done this.."

I don't know. I'd be interested to hear your opinions on that too.

Thanks again for the blog.


supergroup7 said...

Well, Mat.. it sure was different being on the judging side of the tournament instead of being a compeditor. The weight of responsibility felt pretty heavy.

supergroup7 said...

I didn't think of it in that way, Frogman, but you are so correct in what you are saying. I've seen so many people really resist officiating at events ( I don't blame them.) After watching irate parents track down and complain about the judgement calls at various sporting events, I can understand where the reluctant feelings are coming from.

supergroup7 said...

Hi Ruth,

What did I value as important? For me, it was the "usefulness" of the technique. Sure, I looked at stance (because the strike isn't grounded without a strong foundation), and I looked at spirit (Kiai was VERY central to my judgement call, without unity of mind, and body being expressed through breath/sound I didn't feel that there was any focus) but for me, if the technique was thrown too far, too off target, or so inappropriately that it could not actually have done anything, then what was the use of all the stance, and spirit.

I've seen really wonderful kicks, and punches being sent at least 3 feet in front of the opponent.... Without Maai (distance) How can I give that person a score?

Judges cannot offer advice because then it would be seen as if the judge had a preference of one person over the other. Judges HAVE to stay totally neutral. There are etiquette rules about correcting other students when they are not from your dojo. As a sign of respect to the teaching program of that Sensei, you do not offer your two cents to the student due to the fact that the student might be working on a different aspect of his skills. It would look pretty biased if you went up to students of your own dojo to give advice. It would look like you are giving them extra help for their next competition. OH no.. as a judge you have to bite your tongue and keep walking.

KMA said...

Glad you got that experience and appreciated it! Judging is definitely a great learning experience. It's a whole lot harder than you'd think, too. And yes, part of it is just trying to maintain your concentration through round after round after round, sitting on your butt!

There are several things that judges are usually told to watch for. The first one is, "can do, no can do". Did they do the kata right, get all the moves in the right sequence, and do them properly? Did they do their punch, kick, or block properly in sparring? Another one is timing: did the stance land, and the punch land two seconds later? Or did they land at the same time? And of course focus, since wet noodle techniques aren't exactly what we aspire to! From there, every judge has certain things they value. I'm a big fan of precision; I'll give more credit to someone who has precise techniques and stances, even if they lack a bit of power, than I do to people who are explosive but sloppy (I think that it's easy to add power to clean techniques, but hard to clean up sloppy ones that are done strong!). Other people would rather see the power, and will forgive some sloppiness. Yes, it's subjective, but that's why we have 5 judges on each ring =).

supergroup7 said...

True, Lirianfae, having 5 judges does help with keeping a balanced result.

I guess that being able to choose, and know what is important, and not important will come with experience.