It is common practice for judo competitions to stipulate a minimum and/or maximum grade requirement. The reason for this is that if the competition is of a certain level, lets say national level, then a minimum grade requirement, lets say green belt for now, means that unsuitable players will not enter.
We all know that the belt system is based upon this, it is a safety mechanism when you train the the club environment. If a blue belt faces a yellow belt in randori he has an idea of the level of the opposition and knows to “take it easy” or maybe put some shin pads on 😉
This has worked fine for many years but there is now an issue with it, especially in the UK but I am sure in other countries too. recently British judo changed their grading system to a non-competitive system. This means that instead of competing the players have to demonstrate a number of techniques (waza) from a set syllabus. This is a move I fully support and I think it is a good thing for British judo.
The problem arises with then using this grade to predict or inform of a players ability to compete. How can it? The player has demonstrated a number of techniques from a set syllabus and contest ability is based upon skill. Technique and skill are two very different things, for more information on this in a judo context you could read “judo inside out” by Gleeson (1983). You could read almost any motor learning or skill acquisition book to read about it in a non-judo context.
Neither can we assume that knowing more techniques will improve competitive ability. In fact an increase in options (in this case the number of techniques available) is know to increase reaction time (you could read into Hicks law for more on this). It has also been shown by several authors (including Weers, n.d.) that elite judo players only have 4-6 standing techniques (tachiwaza) and 3-4 groundwork techniques (newaza).
So, in my opinion using the current grading system to asses competitive ability is a little like using knowledge of spelling and grammar to assess an individuals ability to write a novel.
Of course, it is one thing to say something doesn’t work but quite another to suggest something that does. I do not have all the answer but the suggestion I would make would be qualifying events. For example you have to have competed in x number of events that year of a specific level/standard. Admittedly this wouldn’t be easy to monitor or check. It might,however, mean that less competitions are cancelled due to low numbers.
Please comment below.