New 2013 Judo Rules

The International Judo Federation (IJF) released a new set of rules for 2013 through 2016 and beyond. Last time (4 years ago) they made a drastic change banning leg attacks, which stirred the ire of the judo community, but eventually people calmed down, though I personally think that the long term effect of that rule change will be bad for the growth of judo in relation to other martial arts. This time the rule changes are less controversial but still very interesting. Here’s a basic overview, ordered from most important to least important in my humble but very biased opinion:

  1. No time limit on Golden score (aka overtime period). A match does not end until one of the contestants scores or gets a shido (penalty). This means that we could see some matches that take both guys into some deep waters.
  2. Old school ippon: Give the ippon score only to throws that result in “real impact”. Meaning, bring back the old school ippon. This is not so much a rule but a guidance to the refs. So it’s unclear whether it will change anything, but one can hope.
  3. No running from the pin or submission: Once the pin or “effective” submission starts inbounds and both contestant go out of bounds, the pin and submission attempt is allowed to continue! My judo instructor Ray will appreciate this one 😉
  4. Shidos don’t lead to points: It’s still 4 shidos for disqualification, but now getting 1, 2, or 3 shidos does not give your opponent points. Shidos are used only as tie breakers. They are now more like advantages in BJJ. So if you have 3 penalties against you but you threw your opponent for a yuko, you still win.
  5. Shorter pin: Pin duration reduced from 25 seconds down to 20 seconds. (10 seconds for yuko, 15 seconds for waza-ari).
  6. The Rhadi Ferguson rule: It sometimes feels like the IJF has a special committee on how to best annoy one of America’s most outspoken judoka, Dr. Rhadi Ferguson. Four years ago, the IJF banned his bread-and-butter throw morote gari. This time the IJF is penalizing the breaking of your opponent’s grip with two hands. This further reduces the grip fighting game, and in my opinion will make fighters more cautious in engaging and not less.
There are other rule changes, but these are the main ones as I see it. I’m a big fan of judo as a sport and in the bigger context of martial arts and combat in general. I don’t just want to see the sport of judo grow, but also want to see more effective judo on display in MMA. I think the sports of MMA, submission grappling, and wrestling have to be considered in developing the rules for the sport of judo. The rules should try not to discourage cross-training by banning techniques that are used effectively in other disciplines.