Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A change I would love to see

Each tournament I attend is different in some ways from all the others, and generally I'm well satisfied with the way Taekwondo tournaments are run.  With rare exception, the tournament sponsors have invested a tremendous amount of time and energy in the venture, much of it devoted to selecting qualified and unbiased judges.  The "unbiased" part is extremely important, by the way.  Every now and then you run across a tournament in which the judges seem to know all the top local competitors and also seem to have certain events judged even before the competition begins.  This, I'm glad to report, is the exception, not the rule.
   But one judging norm that I would love to see changed is the fairly common practice of judging two forms competitors at the same time.  For the uninitiated, this means having two competitors stepping onto the mat at the same time and executing their respective forms -- often different forms -- while being scored by three, four, or five judges.
   Okay, first let's understand why this makes practical sense.  Some tournaments may have 500 or more competitors, and if you had to judge 500 forms, all lasting roughly one minute, you would need over eight hours to get the job done.  Obviously you cut that time in half by judging two competitors at the same time.
   The problem, however, is that no judge is capable of watching two competitors at the same time.  A judge can shift his or her attention from one athlete to the other periodically and get a general impression of how sharp each competitor looks, but he or she cannot possibly watch the full start-to-finish forms of two competitors at the same time.  It can't be done.  And by shifting attention back and forth between the two competitors, judges are apt to miss either the best techniques or worst mistakes -- or possibly both -- delivered by the two athletes.
   So we seem to have a dilemma.  If you judge all competitors individually, you end up with a tournament that never ends.  But if you judge two forms at the same time, there's a good chance that the officials will miss something important.  In addition, there's also a reasonable chance that the two competitors will collide in the middle of the mat, especially if they're executing two different, complex black-belt forms.
   Well, there you have my brief analysis of the problem.  Now it's fair to ask what, if anything, I would do to fix it.  Answer: in the interest of time, I would continue the practice of judging two forms competitors when they are under the rank of black belt; for black belts, however, I would allow each competitor to receive the full attention of all judges throughout the complete form.  Since all black-belt competitors should be executing their forms exceptionally well, it's critical that judges see everything that's right or wrong with each athlete's
performance.  At this level of competition, small differences will make the difference between gold and silver, and judges simply can't see all the small differences if they're being asked to watch two forms at the same time.
   All of this, of course, is just one man's opinion.  If you would like to weigh in on the subject, please send an email.  I'll gladly publish your comments no matter which side of the argument you take.