score card
Over the last decade, it has been drilled into my head and many other officials not to give advice to competitors on what we may have deducted for in their form. "Give your score and nothing more" is a phrase that you will commonly hear from officials when talking about whether to give critiques to competitors afterward. To be honest, I have had to develop a standard line of something like, "I thought you looked great today… That sure was a tough division you were in." The premise is that it should be the coaches or instructors' job to correct any problems or mistakes in the competitor's technique.

The reason I bring this up is that some of the best advice I received as a competitor and coach throughout the years have come from judges who were willing to share their time and experience with me. Frankly, most of the judges in the black belt divisions are hopefully the ones with the most experience also. So why is it that we have gotten to a point where you need to be mute or give generic answers to a simple question of "what can I do better". Can you imagine getting a performance review at your job and the boss telling you that you weren't getting a raise and you can't know what I marked you down for and I am not talking to you about it? This is similar to what judges are being told to do all the time.

In one of the leagues that I frequently judged in we were encouraged to keep notes of what we saw for deductions during the form. I would tell competitors afterward that if they wanted to see the notes after the division all they had to do was ask. While I generally didn't have conversations afterward with them it at least provided them with some insight into what I was seeing when they performed. The funny part of that is only a few competitors ever took advantage of being able to look at those notes. I did find it interesting that the ones that did take advantage of it were generally the top three in the division, which is one reason they were probably on top.

Coach martial arts

One of the reasons I believe the mentality has gotten this way is because too often there have been overzealous officials that have gone to competitors unsolicited trying to tell them everything that they were doing wrong. This has happened to several of my students at tournaments over the years and usually it came from someone that I didn't know at all or someone that had an over inflated ego and felt that they knew everything. What also gets lost in translation a lot is when the judge says one thing and the student runs back to their instructor with something completely different than what the judge said. I know that as a young judge I got chewed on more than once for something I supposedly told someone's student that was completely different than what I had actually said.

So, what is the right answer to whether advice should be given or not? I would normally say that in most if not all under belt divisions don't even go there with the student. Try to up lift and encourage them to keep working and improving technique. Within the black belt divisions, I try to make sure the person is really asking from the proper perspective and not simply "why did I lose". Generally speaking, I try not to have conversations with competitors at ringside in the heat of the moment because I find that after a tough division when emotions are high things get misconstrued even if you have good intentions. If the competitor wants feedback and its allowed by the league try to have those conversations later in the day with their instructor present, if possible, to avoid any confusion if they must happen at all. Advice can be both good and bad depending on who it is coming from and that should always be determined by your instructor if it is helpful or not.

I will leave you with this, I spent last weekend judging at the Amerikick nationals in Atlantic City. I have trained in Shotokan Karate for almost 30 years at this point and I was judging another hardstyle that had a few differences from what I am used to training myself. After the division, I found one of the current WKF competitors and asked about a specific way that a position was being demonstrated and how it differed from what I practice myself. I am always trying to further expand my knowledge of what I am seeing and if I need to adjust my way of thinking on technique. If the advice is valuable and comes from the right place it only furthers our development as martial artists.

David Clifton has refereed over 1,500 MMA, Kickboxing, and boxing matches. He has also been the center official and training official for WAKO USA, NBL Super Grands, World Sport Karate Federation, World Karate Commission (WKC), and many Naska national events.

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Judo
Saddleburn

Two-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer Hayward Nishioka has been campaigning for judo in the United States to harvest more shodans (1st degree black belts) Shodan literally means student. It's analogous to being a freshman in college. It's not the end but the beginning according to Jigoro Kano, the Founder of Judo.

A very dear friend and sensei of mine the late Allen Johnson, may he rest in peace made a home at Emerald City Judo. In Redmond, Washington.

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Competitive Edge Karate
Photo Courtesy: Jackson Rudolph

Team Competitive Edge, coached by Jackson Rudolph, Reid Presley, and Cole Presley, has become one of the premier teams in the sport in recent years. The team consistently takes home individual overall grand championships and they are the reigning U.S. Open ISKA Team Demonstration World Champions. Moving into the 2022 tournament season, they have made a huge move to deepen their roster and add seven junior competitors to the team. The new additions range from proven champions bringing their talents to the squad, some skilled workhorses who have previously joined the team for the Team Demo division, and some promising young stars who will be making their debut in the black belt division this year. Keep reading to learn more about each of the new additions (ordered alphabetically).

Gavin Bodiford

Gavin Bodiford

Photo Courtesy: Kellie Austin Bodiford via Facebook

Bodiford is twelve years old and hails from Lebanon, Tennessee, a product of Premier Martial Arts Lebanon (formerly known as Success Martial Arts Center), where the Competitive Edge coaches have all earned black belts. He has five years of martial arts experience and was the 2020-2021 ProMAC Southern Region Champion in four divisions. He also finished the 2021 NASKA season in the top ten for creative, musical, and extreme forms and weapons. Bodiford is one of the competitors who has stepped up for Competitive Edge in the past, joining the demonstration team to help them secure the 2021 U.S. Open ISKA World Championship.

Riley Claire Carlisle

RC Carlisle

Photo Courtesy: Mallory Parker Carlisle

Carlisle (pictured with coach Sammy Smith) is a 10-year-old rising star from Starkville, Mississippi who has been training for four years. In the underbelt division, she has won grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and numerous regional events. She holds multiple divisional and grand championship titles from the ProMAC circuit, and has amassed over ninety divisional wins in recent years. She is moving into the black belt division in 2022 and looks to continue her winning ways.

Kodi Molina

Kodi Molina

Photo Courtesy: Priscilla Molina via Facebook

Molina is a 13-year-old world champion from San Antonio, Texas with 10 years of martial arts training under her belt. She has won many grand championship titles on the NASKA circuit, and has claimed world championships from NASKA, ISKA, ATA, and WKC. At the 2021 U.S. Open, she became the reigning ISKA world champion in 13 and under girls creative/musical/extreme weapons. She is a versatile competitor who can win with extreme bo or kama routines, performs beautiful traditional forms, and is a solid point fighter as well. She is an active member of her community and participates in a variety of leadership programs, making her a great role model for younger members of the team.

Michael Molina

Michael Molina

Photo Courtesy: Michael Molina via Instagram

"Super Bomb" is the 9-year-old brother of Kodi, who is a world champion in his own right. In his seven years of experience, he has already won a variety of titles across multiple leagues, including NASKA overall grand championships at the 2021 Battle of Atlanta and AmeriKick Internationals. Since he began training at the age of two, his regimen has included strength, speed, agility, and conditioning training at "Rojo Dojo", where a number of world champions and national contenders gather to train. He is known for his incredible performance ability, always putting on a show when he graces the stage.

Gavin Richmond

Gavin Richmond

Photo Courtesy: Bobby Benavides

Richmond is yet another world champion being added to the Competitive Edge roster. The 13-year-old from San Antonio has been training for five years and has accumulated several grand championship titles, including wins at prestigious events like the Diamond Nationals and U.S. Open. The young star is a well-rounded athlete, not only because he competes in a variety of divisions at sport karate tournaments, but he also finished in 7th place in the pentathlon at the 2021 AAU Junior Olympics which included the high jump, long jump, 100m hurdles, 1500m run, and shot put, resulting in him being named an All-American. He is currently recovering from a knee injury, but his high-flying routines will be back on the mat soon.

Madalynn Wiersma

Madalynn Wiersma

Photo Courtesy: Gabrielle Dunn

Wiersma (pictured with coach Gabrielle Dunn) is another rising star moving up from the underbelt division who is expected to make waves in the black belt division. She first moved up into the black belt ring at the WKC world championships, where she won her first world title. The 9-year-old Georgia native was the 2021 Underbelt Competitor of the Year for ProMAC and she secured underbelt grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and U.S. Open this past year.

Elijah Williams

Williams is a 16 year old from Lebanon, Tennessee who trains at Premier Martial Arts Lebanon. His eight years of martial arts training has culminated in black belts in Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do. He is on an upward trend as a competitor as he has started breaking into the top four in his divisions, which are some of the most stacked on the NASKA circuit. Williams has been a great asset to Competitive Edge in the past, stepping up to fill in for team demonstration, such as in the world championship effort at the 2021 U.S. Open.

The Competitive Edge coaching staff told Black Belt that they are thrilled to take their roster to another level with these moves. They believe that these new players will create the perfect storm to win more overall grand championships now, strengthen the team demo, and build a great foundation for the future of the program.

Jose Also
cdn.vox-cdn.com Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
The seemingly ageless Jose Aldo won his third straight fight at bantamweight Saturday claiming unanimous decision over Rob Font in the main event of UFC on ESPN 31. Font started well against the former featherweight champion working behind a strong jab that kept Aldo on his back foot and allowed Font to consistently land sharp punches. But with 30 seconds left in the first round, Aldo threw a stiff left jab and immediately followed with a powerful straight right hand that dropped Font though time ran out before he could do more damage.
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