Refereeing – Missing the Forrest for the Trees

12528464_10208357972284735_1081048084_oRecently I had my first experience refereeing at a Jiu Jitsu tournament. The tournament was the Grappling Industries sub only event held in Brisbane. Earlier in the week I had contacted the organiser asking if I could work at the event in exchange for entry into one of the nogi-divisions. I had recently been awarded my brown belt and was keen to compete against other brown and black belts in a submission only format. The reply I got was affirmative as long as I was able to work as a referee for the first half of the day. I reluctantly agreed, as I had never refereed before. I knew the rules of competition in relation to the game and strategy that I play. I did not however know the ins and outs of each and every rule across the board. Not wanting to fail at the task I feverishly studied the IBJJF rulebook. In particular the articles relating to negative points, referee hand gestures, serious and severe fouls etc. As long as I wasn’t scoring I should be able to focus on this new information I violently crammed into my skull.

Come competition day I was ready. I had my black pants, my black socks and a fresh pair of white and black leopard skin undies (just in case). I was ready, but to be honest I think I was more nervous about being a referee than I had ever felt being a competitor.

As the matches commenced I was sure to act in the appropriate manner of which I had studied making sure to referee as objectively as possible. I emulated the actions of referees I had seen at the IBJJF worlds, Pan Ams and ADCC events. I had a stern set of eyebrows, my bottom lip was sticking out further than my nose (which is a great feat as my snoz is large and Italian). I said very little to the competitors, merely gesturing to them with hand signals similar to that of a raver at the Sterosonic electronic dance festival if that raver had been heavily sedated. Man I was legit!

I witnessed some interesting things being a referee. I could detach and become an observer. Competition somehow did not feel as dire as I had previously imagined. I saw great competitors and enjoyed watching the majority of matches. It was interesting to see the different levels of preparedness and nerves displayed by the competitors that day. I wanted to congratulate the winners and console the defeated but alas I could not do this, as it was my obligation to be professional. After all, my bottom lip and eyebrow combination had not been wielded for any reason but professionalism.

I was so in tune with every thing that was going on. I had taken three alpha brain tablets and four shots of coffee before stepping onto my assigned mat so I was pretty much flying through time and space after two matches. Dealing with my new X-Ray vision I was constantly checking for foul infringements and counting time held in positions in order to penalise stalling. I was sure to consider which submission attempts had been legit and which were being slapped on half-arsed with the hope of influencing me had a referee’s decision been required. I don’t award half-arsedness. It’s full arse or no arse in my book!

12833451_10208357970644694_356353757_nOne match in particular would stick out for me that day and forever be a reminder of how far I get caught up with details sometimes. In this match the two combatants both had white gis, both the same height, both sporting faintly visible chin hair and both whiter than the florescent lights in a Surfers Paradise 7-11 at three a.m. These guys went hard! I mean they really went after it. I was dancing around the outside of them as they rolled trying to look for knee reaps and whatnot while desperately slipping stray swinging feet like a dead beat Mormon dad evading child support. Finally there was a submission right at the end of the match. It was a nice one at that. The crowd cheered for both guys as they arose from the mat tired, sweating and breathing heavy. It was at this point that I realised I had totally forgotten which one of them had tapped. Shit! They were totally indistinguishable to me. Which one was it?!?!?! I had spent so much effort looking at the finer details of the match that I didn’t catch the actual frigging T-bone steak of a sub that was right under my bulbous roman nose! I had to think fast. Darting my gaze between the two like I was watching a tennis match desperately trying to find some kind of indicator to which one of them had won. I needed to buy time. As they stood on either side waiting for me to raise the winner’s hand I noticed that both of their belts had not been perfectly tied. This was my chance! “Tie your belts gentleman.” I said in the hope I would magically recall the winner via their belt knot formation…not a chance. I noticed that the competitor who was assigned the green and yellow belt had it draped around his shoulders. I made him tie that belt around his waist too. But alas this extra time yielded no results. I felt like prince charming searching for every chance to find Cinderella, making as many girls wear the glass slipper as possible. The glass slipper symbolises my attempts to buy time but on this occasion the prince would be going home empty-handed and empty-slippered. I had run out of options. This was it. Raising someone’s hand would give me a fifty fifty chance of success. I had to try. I began raising the hand of the competitor to my right at an extremely slow rate. If I could see my face I would imagine I looked as awkward as someone watching the two girls one cup video for the first time. As his hand raised towards the sky I heard a voice faintly in my right ear say “Nah mate it was the other guy hey.”

Damn it!

One Response

  1. Des Green

    A nice article mate. You are not alone. I have refereed BJJ and MMA events and can honestly say you get sucked into the action. It can definitely cause you to lose focus on occasion. That said, I have managed some little tricks along the way to ensure my refereeing remains on track and void of notable flaws lol! Well done for doing it. Events will not function without officials. Cheers Des.


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