The West Bend Judo Tournament has been running for 44 years now. I’m pretty sure that it’s the oldest tournament in Wisconsin. We rushed a bit setting up and getting through the referee meeting because there was another event to attend as well – Lynn Roethke was recently promoted to hachidan (8th degree black belt), and there was a ceremony to celebrate that.
Lynn is a two time Olympian (1988, 1992), having won the silver medal in the 1988 game, plus a list of other impressive accomplishments. She is now the highest ranking female in the United States, and only the second US female to obtain the rank. Members of her club are always exciting matches to watch in the Wisconsin tournaments. Just about every black belt in Wisconsin was lined up at the ceremony. It was noted that the sum of their experience is over 1500 years. It caught me off guard how many coral belts (rokudan, 6th degree) and red/white belts (sichidan or hachidan, 7th degree & 8th degree) there were. I’ll admit, I don’t get out of my own backyard much except to referee, and the coaches are never wearing their belts when they’re on the sidelines.
After the ceremony the tournament commenced. With five people testing for an increase in referee rank, I think it was one of the best tournaments yet for us newer referees. It’s really exciting to get to learn so much by watching and participating in the judging of matches from this side of the table. It m akes me miss competition sometimes as I watch the throws. I did pass, and am now a Regional referee. I’ll need to keep working hard. I still have a lot to improve on so I can referee like an A.