Governing Bodies

I went to the Judo Club’s summer party last night. I had a lot of fun. Also, I am terrible at soccer. The subject of the Olympics came up – how hard it is to get in to compete, the different models for qualification among sports, etc. To qualify for judo you have to be fighting year round and be ranked. To qualify for wrestling you have to fight in world-class tournaments, but as long as your NOC has been present it doesn’t really matter what you did outside the qualification process (i.e. the rest of the year).

When discussing the IJF ranking system I gave full disclosure – I’m not the biggest fan of the IJF. We then discussed what it means to have your organization be recognized by the IOC. It’s important for the people who haven’t started competing yet to understand that there are politics.

I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth from pretty much all of the governing bodies. It’s no wonder. Even if the allegations are false, FILA has a pretty bad image of corruption from the whole Abrahamian thing (not just once, but at two separate Olympics – really?). In theory the IOC made FILA try to be more honest by allowing coaches to contest a referee’s call, but let’s face it, that does little in the countenance of corruption. The IBJJF? There’s not even a qualification for the so-called “World’s” let alone a standardization of rank or ranking of athletes. It’s my opinion that the IBJJF does not have sufficient resources to adequately provide for the BJJ community as a governing body. I’m pretty sure with everyone else complaining about too few referees and too many matches that it’s pretty obvious this is the case. The IJF? The 2010 rules change, questionable calls from International level referees, and the politics of judo. Even worse, there are three governing bodies for judo within the US – USJA, USJI (USA Judo – the actual NGB), and USJF. USJF isn’t active in my area so I don’t get to hear their end of the bickering, but the constant back-and-forth between the USJA and USA Judo is enough to make any man hate both organizations and feel that they are choosing the lesser of two great evils.

So the inevitable question is always – if this governing body is so bad, why do people still join? Why is the IBJJF still the only governing body for BJJ? Why do people stand behind the IJF when even the Kodokan doesn’t? Why do people still wrestle under FILA?

The answer is that the organizations aren’t all that bad.

FILA may have rigged two Olympic games, their website and publications contain more typos than I’m willing to accept from professionally published work, and the creation of grappling is a blatant encroachment on fad grappling sports. FILA also provides said publications for free, strives to maintain the history and culture of wrestling, and oversees two Olympic sports so that we may enjoy them in the highest level of competition every four years.

The IBJJF does have too few referees for the number of matches they are supporting. The IBJJF is trying though. If rumors are to be believed they’re testing out a system for ranking athletes in Australia which could become an international standard so that you know exactly where you fall. To be fair, they’ll also never have the rights of an exclusive governing body like the IJF or FILA has. There are two important facts to remember about BJJ when it comes to governance:

  1. There are a lot of organizations making money by running BJJ tournaments which don’t follow the IJF rules and aren’t affiliated with the IJF.
  2. People who do BJJ don’t stay in the sandbox. ADCC isn’t BJJ, it’s submission wrestling – closer to FILA’s no-gi version of “grappling”. Think about that – one of the most prestigious victories a BJJ player can have isn’t even a BJJ tournament.

Those two facts makes ranking BJJ players hard. I mean, if I’m raping-face in judo, sambo, and grappling tournaments should that be reflected on my BJJ rank? The answer of other governing bodies has been no – my BJJ matches don’t count for judo points. I don’t think it would be a popular answer for the IBJJF to complete exclude non-IBJJF events though.

The IJF is the IOC-recognized body for judo. If we want judo to remain in the Olympics we need to at a minimum support the IJF and understand why they are making the changes. The IJF has also done a lot for the standardization of ranking internationally. In what other martial art can you say with a high level of certainty that a black belt from America is approximately equal to a black belt from Japan or Korea? The IJF does good things.

When we complain about the governing bodies it’s because we want to see them grow. They provide us services and we WANT to be able to support them with clear conscience. When I say the IJF royally messed up with the 2010 rule changes it’s because I feel judo loses its ability to stand against other grappling sports when people stop learning to shoot and sprawl. When I criticize FILA for their misinformation or grammatical errors it’s because a lot of the information is truly great and I want it to be presented in the best way possible. When I criticize the IBJJF it’s really because I feel they’re completely unnecessary. Whoops.



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