5 Simple Rules for Karate Judges

Last weekend I competed in and judged at the Old School Classic Karate Tournament.  I'm happy to report that I won the grand championship for forms.  First time I've ever pulled that off.  While I'm happy with my results, there's been some issues I've had in the past with judging, and these are things that I try to teach my students about so when and if they are called upon to judge at a tournament it'll go smoothly for them.  I'm writing these as a person who has completed for over 20 years in open tournaments and has been judging for nearly as long.

FIRST: If you are new to judging in open tournaments makes sure the other judges know this before things get started.  They should help you along the way.  Also try to get in a ring that handling younger kids.  Its a great learning experience and five year olds typically don't get too crazy when they don't like how you're scoring things.  And if you are a more experienced judge and you have a newbie there to help, make sure you let them know what they need to know.  I teach my students how to judge, but not all dojos do.

SECOND: Know the rules of that tournament.  There is usually a black belt meeting before these events in which the rules are gone over, and that's when questions are asked.  Go to that meeting.  It does not matter if you've done these things a hundred times, everyone needs to be on the same page before getting into a ring.

THIRD: It is not your tournament, it is only your ring.  The rules are in place for a reason, and you don't get to change them.  It does not matter if you are a 9th degree black belt.  It does not matter if you are yourself a tournament promoter.  You stick by the rules established.

Years ago, back when I fought in these things, we were being staged for our weight class and the center judge informed us that she would be allowing face contact in our division since we were black belts.  The rules as established and gone over repeatedly stated clearly, "No face contact", and I informed her of this.  She told me if i had a problem with this then I didn't have to fight.  I informed her that if she had a problem following the rules of the promoter, who was paying to insure the event, then she shouldn't be judging and I had no problems getting the arbitrator over to sort her out.

Just last weekend, one of my black belts was judging a ring and one kid split the other's lip.  There's a no blood rule in effect for this event.  You make the other guy bleed and its a DQ.  My students stops the match, pointing out the blood.  The center judge tried to keep the fight going.  Fortunately my student announced loudly enough "Blood" that it caught the arbitrator's attention and he got in the ring to sort it out.

When its your tournament and you are paying for the insurance on the event then you can make the rules.  Until then, know the rules and enforce them.

FOURTH: Make your calls quickly.  Don't look to the other judges to try to see what they are saying so you can follow suit.  You've got to make a call and make it quickly.  This is especially true in fighting.  Nothing gets everyone ticked off faster than a late call.

Remember: the "no point" and "didn't see" calls are perfectly legitimate calls.  Judges are positioned in different spots in the ring for a reason.  Everyone can't see everything thing.  If a judge calls a point and you didn't see it, there's no harm in calling that you didn't.

FIFTH: Go over the rules briefly with the competitors when they get to your ring.  Helps things go smoothly and there's a lot less confusion.  This could be the first time out for some of these folks and they may have questions.  They paid their money to enter so taking a minute to make sure everyone's straight on everything in good for the tournament.

There's other little tricks I know and I try to make sure that everyone has a good time when they get into my ring.  These five points that I touched on are important and should always be considered when you are judging.  These tournaments are supposed to be fun, and the best way to ensure that they are is with good judging.

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