Always one to support club level activities I jumped at the chance to have a go. I also thought it would be useful to be on the other end of the marking scheme which was the same scheme that will be used in my grading. As it was just a fairly small competition (around 30 competitors) we just had one area in use with 5 judges. Most of the competitors were our youngest students (6 - 10 year olds) with a few older children and young teens. Though we had a full range of coloured belts represented the majority were still in the very junior ranks.
Sensei gave us a briefing on how to assess and score each competitor. He told us not to worry if our marks seemed a little higher or lower than other judges - scoring consistently within the category was more important.
Things I learned about judging:
- It's a lot easier to judge a kata performance if you know the kata. Since most of the competitors performed one of the pinan katas or a familiar kyu grade kata this wasn't a problem. However, we had one senior category with 2 competitors performing 2nd dan katas which I don't know yet so I just had to look at the details of stances, hand positions, general tidiness and precision of moves. I've no idea if they made mistakes!
- I'm a hard marker. I seemed to consistently score between a half and one and a half marks less than other judges. It's not always easy to know how much to add on for a particularly good performance and how much to deduct for mistakes. I was starting to feel embarrassed that watching parents would see me as the 'mean old woman' of the judging panel!
- Different judges notice different strengths and weaknesses in a performance. This is probably partly due to the fact we each see the performance from a different angle and a mistake may not be noticeable from a particular judge's angle. It may also be because each judge has a slightly different set of criteria. I have a particular thing about stance work - I spend so much time in the junior class getting the kids to bend their front knee in zenkutsu dachi or bend their back leg in cat stance that any straight legs seen in the competition lost them a half mark! (I'm so mean). Other judges may have had their own particular 'thing' that they looked for.
- You have to concentrate very hard and not let your mind wander - you have to be in the moment. Most of these katas take around 30 - 40 seconds to perform so if you let your mind drift you've missed it!
- The standard was more variable in the very junior ranks than in the more senior kyu ranks. This made the purple and brown belt category much harder to judge and we did have a few tie breakers to decide who went through to the next round. The winners were a lot more clear cut in the lower ranks.
I was really impressed with the standard of our kids. A few on them were particularly outstanding even though they were only very junior belts. I thought they all rose to the challenge very well - it must be very intimidating to a 6 or 7 year old to perform their kata in front of judges and watching parents. I was very proud of them.
I really enjoyed my judging experience, it has helped me understand the marking scheme a bit better and given me a better overview of the standard of the kata performance of our junior students, and I was impressed!
Do you have any judging stories to tell?
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