Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Kohaku shiai

A while back I wrote about differing opinions on weight classes in judo competition. Some folks say they are necessary to promote fair competition and prevent injury. Others blame weight division for the apparent technical decline of Kodokan judo from a high point in the 1950’s (before weight classes).
Well, recently I came across some references to a kind of competition used traditionally in judo schools that pretty much negated the need for weight classes while retaining the variability in the competitor pool that made for great judo in the 1950’s. From the 2006 AAU Rules:
STAND-UP CHALLENGE Contestants lined up from lightest to heaviest. Winner of each match stays on mat against next challenger in moving from lightest to heaviest.
And a more complete description from judoinfo.com:
Traditionally Judo competitions were organized using the "winner stays up" or Kohaku shiai method. In this method contestants were lined up by size, or sometimes rank and experience were also considered, and the smallest two competitors in a division would fight. Then the winner would stay on the mat to fight the next biggest competitor. The winner of each match would again stay up until losing. The largest person, if he won, would be permitted to fight back down the line a limited number of matches. The person with the most wins at the end would be declared the winner.
Perhaps the best discussion of this sort of old-style tournament and the plusses and minuses of modern tournament systems is Ichikawa and Draeger.
I, for one, wish I’d come up through the ranks in a club that did monthly red-white interclub tourneys with this “winner-stays-up” lineup method (as opposed to 3-4 'real' tournaments per year against folks from other clubs). I can’t wait to get this going with my judo kids class.


  1. Why do you think lightest working their way up is best, rather than, perhaps, working in to the middle from both sides, or just the heaviest working their way down?

  2. well, as you work upward from smallest to largest, as a competitor gets to the point that the size difference makes a significant difference, they generally just lose and sit down.

    If you work from the top down then the heaviest guy gets to crush his way down thru the line to the point that the size differential becomes a safety issue.

    The size differential almost never becomes a safety issue when you work from the bottom up.

    also, as a side effect, if you work your way up thru the ranks and don't allow the heaviest guy to fight his way back down the line then the heaviest guys have fewer potential matches. Since the winners are determined by the number of wins, the heavier guys are handicapped wrt the lighter guys.

    this tournament structure gives a slight advantage to the guys in the middle of the line because they have the greatest chance to win the largest potential number of matches.

    Because of these advantages and handicaps, I started moving last month's champ 1-2 spots higher in the lineup toward the heavier end to handicap them a little.

    I've tried it as a red and white team tourney and it is ungainly. but it is SUPER easy to tell everyone to line up tallest to smallest on the wall thn start working your way thru the line.


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