Thursday, January 24, 2013

Differences in Making Weight in Judo and Mixed Martial Arts

The question of weight divisions has come up recently and Jim Pedro, Sr. , said I should yell at Ronda for him because after her first Olympics in 2004, she had trouble cutting to 63 kilos (138 pounds) and went up to 70 kilos (154 pounds) in 2007 or so. Now, he said, she makes 135,  so she could have stayed at 63 kilos all along!

Of course he knew better and just likes to complain for exercise because he is getting too old to run, but for those of  you who are not aware, there is one big difference between judo as it was practiced at that time - you weighed in the morning of the tournament. In mixed martial arts, in contrast, you weigh in somewhere around 30 hours before you fight.

If you don't think that matters, then you have never had to cut a lot of weight to compete. Many competitors - I'd venture to say most serious ones - get into the lowest weight division they can, which often means they don't eat sometimes two days or more before and, depending on how much weight they need to cut, might not drink anything 24 or 48 hours before they weigh in.

They might sit in the sauna for hours or run in a plastic suit for an hour, and then rest and do it again.

I've done all of it (well, not the not drinking for 48 hours part, but I've drank very little). There is a limit to how much weight you can cut before it weakens you and you can't fight worth a damn.

However, if you get to weigh in 30 hours earlier, instead of an hour before you get on the mat, it's easier. You can rehydrate. Drink water. Eat food. Digest. Rest up from the 6 miles or however many you ran that day. And being an athlete in good condition, tomorrow, you can be 12 pounds heavier (or in the men's case, 20 pounds heavier) and feel fit as a fiddle. (Where did that analogy come from? Fiddles aren't fit. They can't do anything.)

Supposedly now judo is going to go to weigh-ins the day before, evaluate it and see what difference it makes. That seems very bizarre to me because I think it would be blatantly obvious the differences it will make.

  1. People will make weight divisions they could not previously because they will have time to recover and so, 
  2. People will take more extreme measures to lose the weight because 1

When this turns out to be the case, will anyone be surprised?


Kurt N. said...

I know there are apt to be arguments against, but I kind of feel like fighters should be weighed maybe, an hour before competition time. Opening the door to weight-cutting tactics just seems bad.

Pessimistically, my guess is that organizations want to eliminate any weigh-in surprises, since fighters that can't make weight mean that they might not be able to fulfill their financial liabilities.

aglee said...

The experimental thing seemed odd to me too, as if we don't have decades of data from boxing and wrestling and other sports.

Michael Hultström said...

How strange, over here it is the other way around. Judo weigh-ins are all the day before, and MMA/BJJ weigh in right before the match (with gi when that is the case).

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Michael -
Judo weigh-ins were mandated to be the day of competition here for senior elite divisions, but then there is a change now where they are experimenting with having them they day before.

Anonymous said...

I think for any sport where you're being whacked in the head, giving athletes a 100% chance of rehydrating is a good idea. For sports where this is not the case, maybe not required?

Sylver said...

On the other hand, Judo comes from a long tradition of fighting without weight classes and it is still a fairly common occurrence, particularly in Japan, even at the very top level.

Winners aren't always the biggest guys either. Last year's All Japan winner usually competes at -90kg and fought opponents who had 20, 40, 60 or even 80 lb on him.

If a competitor walks on the mat 20 pounds over the supposed weight limit, no big deal, the guy on the other side will most likely be over the same limit anyway.

Besides, it's not as if weight cutting tactics didn't exist up till now. They are just a lot more dangerous for the health of the players.

I attended a workshop with Phil Baroni a couple weeks ago. This guy is a mass of muscle who competes under 176lb (already about 20lb below his normal weight). The day before his last fight he was told that the weight category had changed and that he had to make 168lb instead. So he cut another 8 lb within 24 hours. This kind of stuff is just begging for injuries, but when it comes to a decision between dehydration and disqualification, most athletes will chose the former.

If by having a weight-in a day before ensures that no-one walks on the mat while dehydrated or exhausted, so much the better. I rather see healthy guys and gals give it all they got than have judoka "mysteriously" run out of steam in the middle of their first fight.

PS: The origin of "fit as a fiddle" is obscure, but I think Charles Earl Funk has it right (mostly on account of my gut feelings - and my gut is large enough to have feelings of its own):

His theory is that two hundred years ago people thought of fiddles as instruments of great beauty. Anyhow, says Funk, ‘to have one’s face made of a fiddle’ was to be exceptionally good looking. To ‘play first fiddle’ was to occupy a leading position, and a man ‘fit as a fiddle’ was beyond need of improvement in health. started back when "fit" meant "suitable, proper or in good taste".