Yesterday I reffed my first judo tournament. It wasn’t anything large, just a scrimmage for our club members to give the kids who’ve never competed a chance to see that it’s not that scary and that it can be a lot of fun.

Reffing is way harder than I ever could have imagined.

You’re not just enjoying watching a fight, you are working. You need to watch the fight in a critical manner. Is it waza-ari or yuko? When did osaekomi start? What is their current score (is this waza-ari or waza-ari-awasete-ippon)? In the end I’m pretty confident of my calls, but my hands were disconnected and lagging behind my mouth and brain. It definitely was a lesson in how hard it is. I spent the whole time worried about if my calls were correct, let alone “good”.

There are other things you might not think should be hard. Who got the points? You’re watching the match in real time so you know there was a yuko because you signalled it, but when someone says “blue or white?” you’ve already forgotten because 3 seconds have passed and you’re so intently watching. (The solution is to signal with your hands the points and player, as well as calling something like “waza-ari blue” – though I can’t do this in higher levels of reffing). It also gave me a new appreciation for bad calls. When you make one, you feel bad, but you can’t always remember what just happened so you have to rely on having signaled and scored it right the first time. I’m definitely going to be more forgiving about bum calls in the future (like missing points for a throw). It’s rough.

In the end I really missed how simple the BJJ rules are to ref. Is there a takedown? It’s 2 points. It doesn’t matter how sloppy. Is there a pin? Give the points and move on. Which player got the points? Well, which hand did I hold up (the colored wrist bands are a dead give-away)? Grading someone not only on whether the execution worked or not, but to what extent it did is taxing. In wrestling you care if the takedown puts the other person on the ground. In judo you care about how well the throw puts on the other person on the ground.

Reffing = Stress.


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