Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Tips for Newbies from a Referee

As a referee I get to interact with a LOT of competitors.  If a tournament with 250 competitors runs 5 mats, that's 50 competitors (ish)  per day.  Most tournaments I've worked at have had more competitors then that, but also more mats.  But 50 is probably a decent average.

So I see all the ranges of experiences, age, and belt and it's always really obvious who the first time competitors are. Generally, they are white belts, but every events got a few first time blues and even purples!  

So, to help you all you new competitors out (and by doing so  help myself and fellow referees out)  I'm writing up this post to cover a lot of the etiquette, rules, and situations that competitors should be aware of!

All this stuff is going to apply to tournaments that follow the IBJJF ruleset.  So that means, the OJA tournaments, the IBJJF tournaments, the Buffalo Classic, and a very large portion of other events that get put on across north america.

I think we'll just start at the very beginning and go through the whole process, from weight classes, weigh-ins, matches, draws, ect.

1.  Weight classes:  This is one thing that varies event to event, some events follow most of the ibjjf rules but deviate on the weight classes. So I'm not going to specify them here. One thing that I do want to point out is that the weight classes are the UPPER limits of the category.  I've seen a few parents put their kids into the wrong division because they thought they were the bottom.   The only exception to this is the top division which is generally specified as OVER 220  or 220+  for example. Also:  NOGI divisions tend to be 3-5lbs lighter then the gi divisions and you generally have to weigh in for both.  SOME events don't do the second weigh-in and some events have a larger allowance if the competitor competes in gi and nogi. The IBJJF has ZERO tolerance.     Here's a chart of the IBJJF weight classes

2.  Weigh-ins : This process varies a bit tournament to tournament as well. Generally you should be at the event 1h+ before your division is scheduled to start.  Weighins will happen right before your division starts.  You weighin in your uniform. So if it's a gi event, you need to be wearing your gi and your belt. If it's no-gi you need to be wearing your shorts + rashguard.  The IBJJF has no tolerance for missing weight.  zero. none. ziltch. If you are over you will NOT compete.  The OJA tends to have a 1lb allowance and many other events do as well.

3. Gi Check : The IBJJF is, of course, the strictest when it comes to "legal" gis.  Only Black, Blue and White are allowed.  You cannot mix and match the colours (like blue pants and a white top) and they have to be in good repair(no rips, frays or tears).  There are several rules in place about the baggyness and length of the sleeves and pants, as well as maximum collar thickness, gi "skirt" length and belt width and length.  Finally, there are rules about where patches can and cannot be placed on the gi.  Page 30 and 31 of the IBJJF rule book outline the rules pretty specifically.

Some details to note about uniforms.

1. Men are NOT allowed to wear a rashguard under their gi.

2. Women MAY wear one, they are also allowed to wear a sports bra only or a 1 piece swim suit.

3. Everyone needs to wear non-thong underwear underneath their gi. (note: if you have Shorts under your pants, you can wear all the thongs you want, this rule is just so their are no bare bums).
4.  Men: no tights under your pants.

5. Women are allowed to wear tights under their pants, as long as they are shorter then the gi pants.

6. For NOGI: you need to wear a rashguard, and it has to be black or white, with ate least 10% and up to 100% of it being your rank colour. (most tournaments are not that strict about this).

7.  For NOGI: men are not allowed to wear only spats,  they used to not be allowed at all, but now black spats are allowed under your regulation shorts.  Your shorts have to be board short style, no pockets, no zippers.  They need to be black or white with up to 50% of your rank colour.

8. For NOGI: women are allowed to wear lycra tights, OR lycra shorts that are mid-thigh to knee length.  Interestingly, board shorts aren't mentioned in the rule book, but I'm fairly certain shorts that meet the men's guidelines would be ok as well.

So, bring at least 2 gis (or nogi sets) to every event, just in case.  Because it would be really shitty to get to a tournament and not be able to compete because your gi isn't legal.  Also, if your gi rips, you need to get a new one to carry on in the match.

4. Pre-Match You made weight, you passed gi-check and you are brought over to your mat!  Congratulations, the hard parts over! ;)  The runner(they'll be the one with the clipboard or tablet that has your drawsheet on it)  will tell you which side to go on.  Wait on the side and do NOT go on the mats until the referee invites you.  (the gesture for this is their arms are up and they wave you in).

If you both competitors are wearing the same colour gi, the fighter on the referees right side will wear a green/yellow belt to identify them. Generally the competitor who's name is on top or the left of the bracket will go on the green side.  If one competitor is wearing white, and the other blue or black, the blue or black competitor will always go on the green side.  If one is wearing black and the other blue, the blue competitor will go on the green side.  so basically, blue trumps everything and black trumps white.

Once the referee has invited you onto the mat, make sure to shake the referee's hand.  If there are 3 refs, make sure to shake the corner refs hand as well.  If you like, shake your competitions hand at this point as well.  Many competitors will do the slap / fist bump after the referee says combatche, this isn't required, and I would be wary as there are always those guys/gals who will fake and go for the arm drag or takedown.

5. Referee Comands  There are only 4 commands from the referee (in Portuguese) that you need to know.  Make sure you know them and respond to them appropriately. There is nothing more frustrating to a referee (and coach) then a competitor stopping and getting up when you gave them a penalty.

  • Combatche: This means go/fight.  The referee will say this at the beginning of the match, and any time the match is stopped and needs to be started again.
  • Parou:  Stop.  Don't move.  Just STOP. Generally this happens when standup goes out of bounds (in this case, head back to the middle) or when the ground work progresses to close to the edge or ends up out of bounds (in this case, don't move until the ref says, they'll want to check your grips and make sure they can reproduce the position).  
  • Lutche:  This is a stalling penalty.  If you are just sitting around, not doing anything you're going to get called for stalling.  It can happen while standing, or on the ground.  There are a few positions that you cannot be called for stalling:  Mount, Back Mount, and Back Control. This is because these are the highest on the progression scale.  You can't progress further.  That being said, they must be maintained in the point scoring style. So putting a body triangle on in back control will make you eligible for a stalling call if you don't try to sub.  
  • Falta: This is the newest one.  We used to not say anything when we gave penalties. Now we say falta.  The progression for penalties is as follows:  Penalty + nothing for the other guy -> Penalty + advantage for the other guy ->Penalty + 2 points for the other guy -> Penalty + DQ.

6. Penalties  There are a lot of things that'll get you a penalty. I'm not going to go over all of them. Just a few key ones.

  1. Don't talk to the ref. Don't question their calls, don't talk. At all.  The ONLY 2 cases for talking to the ref are medical emergencies / injuries and uniform problems.  If you are injured you can tell the referee and have the medic come over. This will NOT automatically make you lose.  Having a muscle cramp will though. Don't ask the ref to stop the match for a cramp that's a match ender.
  2. Illegal Grips:  inside the pant/sleeve collar is no good, neither is inside the jacket.  You CAN grip the top of the pants though.  If you accomplish something because of an illegal grip (a sweep for example) the referee should penalize you, and put you back to wear you were before the illegal grip caused the progression.
  3. Illegal techniques:  Know the chart on page 24 of the rule book.  It's important. Doing an illegal technique will get you disqualified.  

There are a LOT of things that will get you a penalty.  You can find them on page 27-30 of the rule book.    Read them, be aware of them and don't be this guy. (warning: swearing and kneebahs).  

7. Slams  This is a topic I get asked about pretty often. Ussually from wrestlers who are scared their takedowns are going to get them DQ'ed. Most Judo and Wrestling take downs are not slams. Even if the other guy hits the ground hard.  It becomes a slam when you elevate them, and then help increase the force they hit the ground with. like, double legging, and you jump up, both feet into the air and land on top of them.  Most slams are called from guard or triangles and armbars.  For example Jane is armbarring Sue from guard, Sue stands up, and then drives Jane into the ground head first.   Or Bob has Joe in closed guard.  Joe stands up, and then jumps back down to their knees accelerating Bob into the floor.  A slam will get you an instant DQ. 

8 Some Rules that cause some confusion

  1. Out of bounds with a sub = 2 points and restart standing. 
  2. Sweeping to turtle is 2 points.  
  3. Passing and causing the guard player to turtle is an advantage
  4. Fleeing the area to avoid a takedown or sweep is a penalty, and will result in 2 points for the competitor attempting the action.
  5. Reaping!  Read page 26 of the rule book. Basically, don't let your leg cross the middle, especially when there is is a submission in play.  DQ if there is a sub, penalty if there isn't.  Unless your leg goes ALL the way across to the far side, then it's still a DQ.
  6. The Estima Lock.  For a couple years, this was a big of a grey area, at the IBJJF rules course they were saying it was legal and up to the referee discretion.  As of the last New York Open it's back on the black list for everyone but brown and up .  

9 End of the match
At the end of the match, the referee will say Parou and direct the competitors back to the middle.  stand facing the score boards at this point.  The referee will hold the arm of both competitors and raise the arm of the winner.  At this point, shake the referees hand to thank them and you may shake your competitions hand as well then head off the mats.  If you won, make sure to confirm with the runner that you won and find out when your next match will be.

10. Random Things

The runner is the person to ask about when you are up next and what place you got.  Don't bother them if they are busy.  Especially don't bother the score keepers.  They need to focus on their jobs and answering your questions is the very bottom of their priority pole.

Most tournaments use a single elimination draw system. This means if you lose you're out and the semi final losers both get bronze. This blog post I wrote a while back explains the draw system.

Be respectful always. If you are disrespectful to your competition, the referees, or the tournament staff you may be DQ'ed and it's a disciplinary DQ, which means you are OUT for the day. You don't get your medal and you do not collect 200 dollars.

Always wear your shoes when you are not on the mats.  Many tournaments will DQ you if they find you with no shoes on outside of the mats, particularily in the bathrooms.

Always keep your gi/ uniform on when you are inside the competition area.  There have been reports of the IBJJF suspending people for taking their gi of inside the competition area.  They even insist on it inside the warmup area.

If the referee instructs you to fix your gi or tie your belt, you have 20 seconds to do it.  It's a penalty if you take to long.  If you are the competitor with the green/blue belt, you get an extra 20 seconds to tie that one.

For most tournaments, to qualify for the absolute, you need to medal in your division. That means making it to the semis.  Grappling Industries tends to do absolutes / super absolutes as separate divisions that you don't need to qualify for.  Abu Dhabi Pro does 1 bronze medal,so after the semi-final is lost, the two losers fight each other for third and only the winner is eligible for the absolute.

Generally, coaching and filming is not allowed inside the competition area.  In Ontario, for most events, kids are allowed to have a single coach with them inside.

That covers pretty much all the random tid-bits of information that I can remember wishing the competitors knew over the last few events I've worked at.   I'm going to write another blog post soon about advice from competitors for first time competitors.  This will be less rules / process oriented and more about advice about nerves and what to expect and so on.

So, feel free to share this any new competitors  you know so they'll be more informed and ready when they head to their first (or next) competition!

Thanks for reading!  See you on the mats!