By Joshua Hagen
The coming apocalypse and the prophecy of an imminent death blow looming over our sport has forever been a topic of conversation in the judo community, going back as far as I can remember. Judo people are are such an incredibly passionate group that we’re all frustrated at the lack of accolades or major media covering the sport. We love judo so deeply, and it’s in fact such a big part of who we are, that we’re convinced that at any moment the ride could be over. We fear the day will come when judo is no longer an Olympic sport, causing membership at clubs to quickly dry up, and putting an end to judo tournaments the world over. Call me an optimist, but I truly believe judo is actually healthier than ever.
By now the whole judo community is aware of the double hansoku-make (disqualification) that occured over the past weekend at the Düsseldorf Grand Slam. To say there has been an outpouring of commentary would be an understatement, which is not a surprise to me, since none of us saw handing out 2 silver medals at a grand slam coming. In case you’re in the 1% of the judo community that has not seen this match, I’ve attached the video below.
The part that does surprise me, however, is what is being said about the match. Whether it’s because we dislike authority, or are not fans of all of the recent rule changes and are letting our imaginations run amok, the commentary ranges from surprising to outrageous. Maybe people are just writing from a place of frustration, because of how embarrassed they are for judo in general after having watched the match. I have read multiple times: “the IJF needs to bring back being able to rip a grip with two hands”, which makes me question whether these people have actually watched the match.
Does anyone really think that allowing these athletes to rip the grips off with two hands, could actually have improved this match? Let’s be honest. The match was absolutely ugly. In just under 2 minutes of match time, there is not one actual attempt to throw or even break posture by either player. If we allowed leg grabs, or more defensive ripping of grips, or if we still had yukos, none of it was going to save this match from being terrible. So where does the blame really lie?
I don’t agree with all of the recent rule changes in judo, but no matter what decade this double hansoku-make-double-silver match happened in, nobody wanted to watch it. I’m sure the fighters themselves are embarrassed about that performance, and rightfully so. I would guess that the Japanese federation is pretty embarrassed to have had two of their fighters represent themselves in this way in a Grand Slam Final. I’m certain that the IJF is embarrassed, because this is the very type of thing that they’re trying to avoid. So what could have been done differently to avoid all of the embarrassment? Let the match go on another 5 minutes in that way? They had both been penalized twice already, and neither remotely changed their strategy, if what they were doing can be called “strategy”.
One thing I’m pretty sure of is that the rule changes everyone loves to hate are surely not to blame for that brutal match and its fallout. There was some spectacular judo happening at Düsseldorf on the weekend. Did anyone see Fonseca from Portugal? That guy is like a human highlight reel, and threw some of the most massive ippons I can remember recently. Dusseldorf also saw the return of Shohei Ono, who just continues to dominate whenever he decides to compete.
So while there are clearly some rules that need to be ironed out, maybe this double hansoku-make will turn out to be a shot across the bow. Fighters stalling and standing around and not attempting any techniques will kill our sport faster than any minor rule changes ever will.
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