Judo Blog: Controversy at Kosen Judo Event in Vegas

Shoshinkan Judo Tournament

The first Kosen Judo Event held by the Shoshinkan Dojo (a 501c3 corporation) this past Saturday in Las Vegas on May 1st is now history, but it's already on the way to becoming a legend. The venue was their new larger dojo. Approximately 130 competitors from clubs throughout the area attended.

The Opening Ceremonies

Kosen Judo Opening Ceremony
Kosen Judo Opening Ceremonies

Marcus Martin sang the National Anthem. Me with David O'Donnell & Jerome Jeannest of Shoshinkan.

Comments from Jerome Jeannest

How did David O'Donnell come up with the idea? Dave has lived in Japan for a short while as a teen where he worked on his Judo, Aikido and Karate journey. Embracing the culture and a Wonderful Country that is embracing various martial arts, understanding that one art completes another. Martial Arts doesn't divide, it unites. What happens here is that politics, special interests and a thirst for glory is overshadowing the beauty of martial arts.

Unity was the spirit of the Kosen Judo Tournament that took place last Saturday, friendship, love of the arts and rejoice from being kept away from full-contact sports for over a Year of hardship all around the World. I remember Dave speaking to me after returning from the Judo Winter Nationals®, about the fact that coaches and some referees were nostalgic of the original rules of Judo, resembling more of Kosen-Judo than what is Judo now. Inspired to bring back newaza focus into Judo.

Our takeaways from the event:

  • Lots of happy faces
  • Lots of amazing Kosen-Judo techniques
  • Great sportsmanship from most contestants
  • Some true leadership from certain coaches
We also saw:
  • Some frustrations from coaches and referees
  • Some bruises, some physically and to some egos, mostly the latter

No one is truly at fault, really. We could point out that the rules were clearly explained from the get-go, that categories, timing, genders matches were all clearly stated, emailed and posted on the website. We could place blame on some coaches for not understanding that it was not a judo tournament but a true Kosen-Judo tournament. We could have been condescending and re-explain not only the theme of the tournament but also the history of Judo and the true spirit of Kano Sensei but we chose not to. Instead we chose the path of understanding the frustration of some coaches that have accustomed to only bring gold home, to crush their opponents and not to enjoy being challenged.

Change is difficult and it is sometimes painful to realize that this tournament is meant to challenge one's ability to face a new facet of the sport. Truth be told, only one coach seemed to not understand where he was and that he was attending a Kosen-Judo tournament. Everyone else had grasped the concept and rolled with the "punches" (no pun intended) of trying something new to them. I was amazed by the courtesy of Steve, Leandro, Denise, Ilene and Anthony. Not just coaches but sensei in its true meaning.

The marriage between Judo and BJJ is not a tough one when you are open-minded, not insecure and willing to push yourself to new horizons. And also familiar with the history of these two fine martial arts originating from Kosen Judo. We learned that we need a Kosen Judo referees program, if it was hard to grasp for coaches, imagine how difficult it was for our referees. We need the coaches to actually attend the coaches meeting required prior to the event. Some of the frustration of some coaches came from not attending such meetings.

I think the most eyes opening moment for me was to observe a coach not caring for his students feelings, not appreciating that the kids were having fun, not seeing the contestants hugging each other after the fight, complimenting each other, coming to see me and Dave privately so that their angry coach would not see them thanking us for so much fun and congratulating Dave on his excellent teaching technique for having brought true opponents to them.

One of the participants, multiple time champion in BJJ, also won in our tournament, telling us that, while he won, he had never been challenged that much before. Another kid said to another, that he had been training all his life and yet had never been challenged that much and it felt so good to not win again.

At the end of the day, listen to your students, watch how much fun they have, watch how much more they progress when they learn something new. Worry less about building up a trophy cabinet full of easy-handed victories and more on teaching martial arts, opening up to new techniques, legendary techniques that were tucked away to sensationalize our sports and mitigate chances of worthy opponents.

Kosen Judo is not new, it's been there for centuries but it seems that, on May 1st, 2021, it was re-discovered by some and certainly re-introduced at Shoshinkan Las Vegas and we are very proud of that. We can't wait for our 2022 tournament. We are so excited about it; we won't even wait another 12 months for it, announcing our 2022 Kosen Judo Tournament to take place in March. The outpouring of compliments and inquiries (example below) are telling us we are heading in the right direction, already looking at larger locations to host, developing a Kosen Judo referees program and more to come.

From: Denise Gonzales <judolady5@yahoo.com>
Date: May 3, 2021 at 18:23:47 PDT
To: Jerome Jeannest <jerome@shoshinkanlv.com>; David O'Donnell <david@shoshinkanlv.com>
Subject: Thank you so much

You are both so gracious and welcoming. My team had a great time and enjoyed the tournament. This event made them even closer as a team and will make them more determined to train harder. We hope to develop more champions for next year and eventually go to the nationals in the near future. Thank you for including us in this event. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Mahalo and Aloha

Comments from Steve Ficca

Thank you for your warm words and compliments. I appreciate your making us a part of your event and making us feel at home in your amazing new gym. I love your vision for the tournament and I feel that you and Dave have done an amazing job with it.

The refereeing on the other hand was puzzling to me at best. I feel that the gentlemen who came in agreed to one ruleset but then went off the cuff and enforced an entirely different ruleset, one that we didn't understand. I really appreciate your response to the whole thing, both you and Dave, and your willingness to rectify it in future events. I love your idea and I see a future where your tournament helps not only bring together martial artists of all styles, but also helps make everyone better. I'm really looking forward to working with you and your team again. You guys are all gentlemen and true martial artists.

It was great to work with Jerome and Dave once again and be a part of their amazing concept. When I was initially approached by them, Dave brought me his vision of creating a tournament that would allow all the grappling arts to showcase their abilities and share their styles with one another. Immediately, I loved the idea and jumped at the chance to enter into this type of event. Any chance we get to gain some competition experience is always welcome, but competing in a different ruleset against martial artists of different styles brought with it a whole new element of intrigue and excitement for myself and my students.

Steve Ficca Judo

Steve Ficca (in coach chair) of Odin's Halls Brazilian Jiu Jitsu And Fitness

The first event we did together went off without a hitch. While we were still getting used to the rules, the scoring, and the refs communicating with us in Japanese, we were welcomed with open arms and had a great time learning about what Kosen is, and what our strengths and weaknesses are when facing off against other martial arts styles. Since that day, we have begun studying the rules a bit more, learning the ins and outs of Kosen Judo, which as I understand it, is a ruleset much closer to the original Judo invented by Jigoro Kano than the Olympic style we see today.

This past Saturday's event, however, went quite differently, and some controversy arose regarding the rules. As complete rookies to the Kosen style of competition, we studied the rules given to us in the USJA rule sheet, as well as told to us in the rules meeting the night before. Rules such as leg grabbing take downs and guard pulling being permitted helped our players feel more comfortable when entering the event, while the rule that "competitors will only be stood up if both are entangled in some form of guard with neither one attempting to improve their position" assured us that as long as we work at an active pace, we would be allowed to work the techniques we specialize in on the ground.

Unfortunately, there were certain officials who either did not respect or did not understand these rules, frequently standing up and resetting our players not only during the application of techniques like juji gatame, sankaku-jime, and shime waza, but also after these techniques had been completed and our opponent had submit. In one such instance, the referee actually asked another official what a sankaku-jime (triangle choke) was, and the referee informed him of not only what it was but also its legality, forcing the same child to be strangled to submission for the third time in the same match.

These oversights led to a convoluted event, with many of the coaches, participants, and officials losing their temper on one another rather than celebrating the beauty of what could have been a great event. In my experience, great martial artists and great people will always come together to share the beauty of their art and culture with one another. In order for that to happen, all of us as martial artists have to be willing to adapt, change, and grow not only to further our respective sports, but the art of grappling as a whole. I feel that as time goes on, we should look to see more and more of these events, hopefully under a unified rule system where all of us can showcase our art and share our ideas with one another.

In my academy, we believe and practice under the idea that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu without throws, and Judo without Ne-Waza are just two incomplete pieces to a beautiful puzzle, and in a perfect world a practitioner should familiarize themselves with the strengths and weaknesses of both styles in order to make for a more rounded, more efficient grappler. In the future, we look forward to being able to enter more of these events, not as rivals but as friends with the practitioners of other martial arts in hopes to grow the future of what can and should be a mainstream sport.

Jerome Jeannest, Mario Garcia, Gary Goltz, Leandro Lorenco

Jerome Jeannest, Mario Garcia, Gary Goltz, & Leandro Lorenco of Milestone Martial Arts

Comments from Kosen Judo Academy Facebook Group

Sergio Sanchez

I want to apologize to everyone in the team, students and parents for asking you to compete in a tournament like the one today.

Girls fighting boys, uneven weight division and rules favoring BJJ .

This was not a Judo tournament and was not fair, taking away the beauty of Ippon and rewarding defensive posture and no attack is not what Judo is. This is not even close to old rules Judo, this is an UGLY BJJ tournament. I had students competing in better BJJ tournaments and we are not a BJJ school.

I did not expect it this and I am sorry.

This was ugly I but you were beautiful, you fought like samurai warriors and made me proud.

Our final results were:


  • Kaliya Klise
  • Kezra Mc Kenzie


  • Vaughn Geisendorf
  • Rizgod Alvarez
  • Jayla Klise
  • William Thomas
  • Miguel Alvarez

Did not place but made our team proud:

  • Roman Klise
  • Alvaro Lewis
  • Danial Bridges

This was a tournament catering BJJ people in our city, I doesn't do anything for Judo. We need to grow Judo, bring people to Judo, not promote bad Judo.

Kosen Judo needs some rules changes.

I apologize and I hope you'll compete in the next REAL JUDO tournament.

Thanks to my assistant coaches – Miquel Leon, Luis Arregoitia, Sergio Sanchez, Jr. and Chris Miguel for being there with me.

Thank You!

Gary Goltz Sergio Sanchez

Gary Goltz with good friend (to his right) Sergio Sanchez of Ryoku Judo.

Steve Ficca

To Sergio Sanchez of Ryoku.

I propose a rematch. All the same teams, all the same competitors. We will happily keep our 13 and 14 year old girls in the 15-16 year old boy divisions if it pleases you, and we will either double our performance and take home a minimum of 18 golds in 24 divisions, or I will personally hand the head coach of each club $1,000 in cash.

Our stipulations: a TRUE grappling tournament, not a throwing contest.

Sub only. Gi or nogi, your choice. You can choose the time limits too. We will host the event, or we can host it in a venue of your choosing. We don't care .

Aurélien Ballagny

Is that the same event about which Gary Goltz posted yesterday? Two posts, two atmospheres. Is all that tension and (alleged) lack of organization common in US tournaments?

Gary Goltz

We have much to learn in this new venture and I urge everyone to keep an open mind. My approach towards referring was to let the players go unless they went got out of bounds or engaged in a prolonged stalemate.

Nico Contreras

This is terrible, I trained Kosen Judo in Montreal a few years ago and the Japanese senseis were super open minded so I don´t get why so many non-Asian guys get so cultish about it. Judo is judo and all styles can coexist.

Gary Goltz

This has been the problem with U.S. Judo, they can be very closed minded. Events like this one are needed to stir change. Yes, Judo is Judo, Kano kept an open mind!!

Nico Contreras

Yeah but there are good guys in the US, thing is marketing wise, they maybe don´t know how to promote their work more.

Gary Goltz

Correct, I've often said in American Judo we tend to step on ourselves! Gene LeBell got banned for turning into a pro wrestler back in the early 60's!

Nico Contreras

Sadly, some very good grapplers are very ignorant about the art, I know the level in wrestling and BJJ in the US it´s outstanding but some guys are way too ignorant and closed minded.

Gary Goltz

Tournament was well organized and went smoothly with no serious injuries. Kosen Judo is a new movement in the U.S. Judo and naturally still evolving.

Jesse Grinstead

Not unlike the Kosen Judo Canada ruleset used by Sensei Nakamura, our adaptation of the rules doesn't end matches on a single throwing technique. One of the main objectives of this division is to promote a more protracted match style that puts more emphasis on newaza. So few Kosen matches end by throw in Japan anyway, so the difference is more academic than anything. The same style of play is being promoted in either case.

Gary Goltz

Maybe we should reconsider that. Sergio Sanchez said that was his main concern and it is one of the aims of judo. A perfect throw would be the equivalent of a kill shot in a real fight. The other thing I noticed was that only one guy consistently did perfect throws followed into successful pins winning every match that way. Incidentally, he's the one I batsugun promoted to shodan right on the spot!

Gary Goltz Anthony Alvarez

Anthony Alvarez & Me at the Kosen Judo Tournament in Vegas this past Saturday.

More to come!

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