Judo Referees and Judges
According to the International Judo Federation (IJF)
Contest Rules, three officials are generally used to officiate a contest:
The referee standing on the mat and the two judges sitting opposite each
other. In general, the referee acts like a chairman of a committee, and
the judges voting members of the committee. Hence, all three are basically
equal as each has a vote in regulating each action of the contestants. In
principle, voting would take place each time when one or more of the
provisions are invoked. For instance, when one contestant steps outside of
the danger zone, a ?matte? command is given to momentarily stop the match
to bring the contestant back into the contest area. However, it would be
very confusing and time consuming if three votes have to be cast each
time. Therefore the referee is given the responsibility of initiating the
voting process. He is the one to give the command of ?matte? in the above
example, or to score the result of a throw, or to enforce other provisions
of the contest rules. If the judges agree, they simply do nothing thereby
implying assent. On the other hand, if they disagree, they would cast
their respective votes indicating their individual opinions. Then the
consensus would be by the rule of ?majority of three?, with the exceptions
On the other hand, if an action takes place and the
referee does nothing, but one or both judges feels differently, they will
indicate appropriately. Again, the rule of ?majority of three? prevails.
As we can see from the simplified description mentioned
above, a judo match is judged by three officials working together, but
each with individual opinion. That is the system of the IJF Contest Rules.
If implemented correctly, that is the fairest system under present setup,
both actually and perceptually. Therefore, it is vitally important that
the judges should referee from the chairs with as much effort as the
referee while remaining calm and staying in the chairs. They should stay
totally alert so that, in case of dissent, both judges display their
individual opinions simultaneously.
The following is a situation from one of the International
Invitational Tournament in Colorado Springs, CO, several years ago:
A contestant was thrown, and the referee declared it
?ippon?. Thereupon the winner jumped up in joy. Then one of the judges
indicated ?waza-ari?. After a pause of about a second or so, the other
judges also indicated ?waza-ari?.
The procedure was correct, but the timing created an
impression that the first was not paying close attention to the combat and
reacted very slowly. The problem here is with the second judge. The
impression here was that he was merely following the first judge. If that
were the case, the whole system is totally compromised, and it is not
acceptable. It is not acceptable even if the second judge were just slow
I have heard that some high-ranking referees instructed
lower ranking referees to follow their calls. If this were true, that is
corruption in the highest degree. Not only is the system compromised, but
also the outcome of the match would have been predetermined. As mentioned
previously, the three officials are equal under the IJF Contest Rules.
Every vote has equal weight.
Unfortunately the above situation is not a rare occasion.
It happens in many matches. If we value our system, we must make effort to
change our way of refereeing, namely the judges must follow the action of
the contestants as closely as the referee except the judges do verbally
pronounce the commands, but the commands should be mentally and silently
pronounced. This is a very demanding task, but it should be done to give
the contestants the best professional service we can render.