I almost never do guest posts but this email I received from Steve Scott of Welcome Mat judo was too good not to share. Thanks very much to Steve (shown below teaching a class) for his permission to post it here.
Learn more about freestyle judo at http://www.freestylejudo.org
The AAU National Freestyle Judo Championships are March 30 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Q-Why do you have numerical scores instead of Waza-ari and Yuko?
A-Two major reasons. First, the general public has a much better understanding of who is winning a judo match if they look at the scoreboard and see that Red has 7 points and that White has 3 points. Freestyle judo retains the Ippon for the purposes of scoring and ends the match much like a knockout is scored in boxing or a fall is scored in wrestling, but the numerical scores provide a clear and simple way to follow who is winning or who is losing in a match. The second reason is that the numerical scores provide a more objective approach to scoring a judo match. One of the major weaknesses in the rules of judo through the years has been that the referee and judges have too much subjective and arbitrary control over the match. In freestyle judo, we provide clear-cut criteria for the scoring of all aspects of judo action that take place in the match. This not only includes scores for throws and for the time in hold-downs but also for what is best described as "effective aggression" in groundfighting where a point is awarded for breaking an opponent down onto his or her back from a stable to an unstable position (breakdowns) and a point for getting past the opponent's leg or legs (guard passes) and a point for turning or rolling the opponent over from the bottom (guard sweeps). By providing a clear and objective point structure for these skills, there is less chance of a match going to a flag decision where the referee and judges may or may not take into account what took place in the match.
Q-Why do I have to throw an opponent so hard to get an Ippon in freestyle judo?
A-When formulating the rules for freestyle judo, one of the major things we wanted to maintain was (and continues to be) the value of an Ippon. An Ippon is scored when the thrower throws his opponent with control and force, landing the opponent on the back or back/side. This is exactly what the criteria for an Ippon has been in Kodokan Judo since its inception and was the case up until about 2000 to 2004. Gradually, the Ippon was reduced to the soft or rolling Ippon that become so prevalent. For those younger judo coaches and athletes, this soft or rolling Ippon is about all that they know since they do not have as much experience as some of the rest of us. However, from what I have seen and from has been told to me by some IJF people, the IJF is again making an effort to get away from their soft and rolling Ippons in the new rules that are out. However, this is one of the few improvements in the new IJF rules and simply is an effort to get back to what we have been doing in AAU Judo and especially freeestyle judo for a long time.
Q-Why can't I wear my rank belt in any of the AAU Judo Nationals?
A-For the purposes of scoring, one athlete wears a white belt corresponding to the white side of the scoreboard and the other athlete wears a red belt to correspond to the red side of the scoreboard. Actually, any two colors may be used as long as they correspond to the colors on the scoreboard. In AAU Judo, we don't care what rank you are or what organization you belong to. There are numerous judo, jujitsu and martial arts organizations issuing belts and rank and AAU Judo does not endorse any group or organization for the purposes of belts or ranks.
Q-If this is freestyle judo, why can't we use wrestling or our BJJ skills?
A-Do not confuse the name "freestyle" to mean that anything goes or everything is legal. Freestyle judo is very much judo. You can use your wrestling, BJJ or any skill that is allowed within the rules of AAU Judo and freestyle judo. We developed the rules of freestyle judo to provide a fair, objective and safe set or criteria for the conduct of a judo match.
Q-Is freestyle judo a "style" of judo? Is it different from Kodokan Judo?
A-The answer is an emphatic no. Freestyle judo is, as said before, very much judo and as my good friend John Saylor said' "Judo the way it ought to be done." In other words, the rules of freestyle judo were written and have developed so that as many technical, tactical and functional skills of judo can be used in a judo match. However, we are finding that the people who are attracted to and engage in freestyle judo are the people who prefer functional, effective, hard-nosed and performance-based judo.
Q-Why don't you award Ippon for Osaekomi?
A-When developing the rules of freestyle judo, we wanted to get to the core of what Osaekomi really is. The concept of "osaekomi" is unique to Japanese grappling and especially to Kodokan Judo. This word translates to mean "applying an immobilization or hold" or to "pin or press the opponent to the ground or mat." Historically, in the early days of Kodokan Judo, an Osaekomi was used to control an opponent on the mat (belly up and not face down) so that a submission technique could be applied to finish off the opponent and secure the win. Sometime in the early part of the 20th century, the rules were developed so that a judoka holding his opponent in Osaekomi for 1 minute scored as Ippon as holding an opponent this long proved superiority. Eventually, in the 1930s, the time was reduced to 30 seconds and remind that way until the 21st century when the time was reduced to 25 seconds for Ippon. Now, in the 2013 rules, the IJF has decreed that an Ippon can be scored with a 20-second Osaekomi. By scoring a maximum of 4 points for an Osaekomi and requiring the athlete holding the pin to attempt to secure an armlock or a choke after gaining the 4 points makes for aggressive and skillful newaza.
Q-Why does the referee have the authority to call Ippon for an armlock or choke if the athlete does not tap out or give up?
A-Simply put; for the safety of the athlete. In the same way a boxing or MMA referee can stop a contest, the referee in a freestyle judo match can call Ippon and stop the match if the armlock or choke is apparent and there is imminent danger to the athlete. As one of our AAU Judo referees, Sandi Harrellson, said to a young man about 5 or 6 years ago when he complained that she called Ippon when his elbow was bent backward in a Juji Gatame; "If you're not smart enough to tap out, I'm going to call Ippon." While no one is implying that by refusing to tap out or submit from an armlock or strangle a person is stupid, the fact remains that the referee's main job on the mat is to ensure the safety of the athletes. In the heat of a contest, an athlete may not tap out or signal surrender from an armlock or a choke. Not only that, none of us make big money by competing in judo and we all have to go to work Monday morning. I prefer to see to it that our judo athletes in AAU Judo (including freestyle judo) go to work Monday morning without an injured arm from an armlock or loss of brain cells from a strangle. From my personal point of view, I really don't care if someone breaks his arm or passes out. The onus is on him to submit and if he doesn't, tough for him. But, I can't let my personal point of view influence my responsibility as a judo mat official to provide for a safe and fair contest.
Q-Why is freestyle judo part of the AAU? Why don't you work within the major judo organizations?
A-No disrespect intended, but honestly, do you want the people who have gone along with the IJF and have pretty much screwed up the the rules of judo to be the people running freestyle judo? These are the groups that have screwed up judo (here in the United States as well as elsewhere) for a lot of years and it is not a good idea to let them screw up freestyle judo. The AAU is the largest amateur sports organization in the Untied States and has been around since 1885. When some of us appraoched the AAU in 1994 to include judo as one of its recognized national sports, judo was accepted and we have been offering a good develompental judo program through the AAU since that time. (For more history on the AAU and its relationship to judo over the years since 1953, we can do another Q and A session, but for now, let's stick to the recent history.) Now, with freestyle judo, we have the opportunity to make real progress in the further devleopment of judo and provide the judo community with an alternative to what is already out there with the existing judo organizations. The AAU has great insurance coverage for coaches and for athletes and provides a neutral structure for over 35 sports (including judo). Even if you don't want to get involved in the AAU and want to have freestyle judo in your dojo, you can get your own insurance and run your own tournaments.
Q-Why don't the referees and judges wear a suit and tie like they do in other judo organizations?
A-Judo is a competitive activity and the referees should look like referees and not insurance salesmen. Selling insurance is an honorable profession but a judo referee that moves all over the mat, bends over to get a better view of the action and is constantly moving should be dressed in a way that he or she can have freedom of movement and still look prefessional. AAU Judo referees, including the freestyle judo referees, are attired in the same way a wrestling, MMA, football or other sports official is often attired.
Q-Why is the emphasis on groundfighting in freestyle judo?
A-The answer is that there is no emphasis on either groundfighting or standing judo. What has happened in recent years is that the rules of judo as developed by the IJF has severely limited groundfighting. What we now see in IJF judo is a sport that places too great of emphasis on standing and extremely limited emphasis on groundfighting. It is not a balanced approach to judo. When developing the rules for freestyle judo, we purposely gave equal points and equal opportunity for athletes to score and win in both groundfighting and standing judo. As long as there is effective aggression in newaza, we allow it to continue (the same can be said for standing judo).