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The importance of referee's in the sport of judo.

Two judokas stand at the edge of the competition area, excitement and nerves swirling in their guts. Family and friends look on with nervous expectation while enthusiasm slowly begins to build within the spectators who have come to watch the dual. Everyone is filled with emotions, anticipating the moment when the two athletes lock grip and engage in combat. This is what competitive judo is all about. There is only one minor issue, there is no referee to signal the start of the match, to score a technique as an Ippon, a Waza-ari or Shido; to determine how long a judoka is able to hold their opponent to the mat; to determine the final outcome of the dual. Without the referee's presence, their is no judo competition.

As the curtain draws closed on another Judo Australia National Championships, we want to take a moment and show our appreciation to those who committed their time to ensuring that our National Championships could happen. Over the course of the 4-day event, we saw some great performances across all categories. There were displays of power and strength; sportsmanship and respect; passion and pride that personify our beautiful sport, but none of this would have been possible without the dedication and commitment from our referees.

This core group of volunteers allowed Judo Australia the opportunity to step into their training course ahead of the competition to get a behind the scenes look at how they prepare for a big event to ensure that they are able to provide the best experience possible for everyone; from the competitors to the spectators in the stands and to those watching at home.

The 27 referees from seven States and Territories, as well as, three from New Zealand and New Caledonia, spent the morning going through their introductions and discussing the event itself. They then broke into groups to discuss techniques and what to watch for in regards to scoring. How hand placement or arm holds could constitute an ippon or a shido. How techniques may be applied by athletes that stretch or brush the line of what is considered good technique or possible infraction. Most importantly, however, they openly spoke about the importance of getting it right.

After 5 minutes of watching these referees discuss the rules through demonstration and open debate, it was clear to see that their passion for the sport of judo is unsurpassed. Judo is more than a sport to this group; it's a part of who they are, a way of life; a code to live by, to respect and preserve. Having the privilege to be allowed into this session, to watch the way they questioned, sought answers, spoke with passion and yearned to seek more knowledge was inspiring. Five minutes of time quickly became a half hour as I found myself engrossed in their regiment. If not for their afternoon break, I would have likely stayed all day.

The IJF Refereeing Rules states: "The referees are the guards of the physical, cultural and philosophical expression of Judo. Judo must be understood to be appreciated."

Without question, this group of referees appreciate the sport more than anyone I have had the pleasure to meet and exemplify what it means to be a referee according to the IJF Rules.

So the next time you're at a competition, take a moment to find a referee, shake their hand and say thank you for allowing us to enjoy this sport, because without them, there would be no Judo competition.

Written by: Charles Hall


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