Point Fighting

One of the world's premier sport karate tournaments is just five weeks away, as the events at the Battle of Atlanta will begin Thursday, June 17th with the Professional Martial Arts Conference (PROMAC) Championships and Award Ceremonies. The Battle is PROMAC's marquee event and a number of competitors vying for national PROMAC titles will likely bolster the expected large turnout for the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) portion of the event taking place on Friday and Saturday.

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I don't know how many times I have heard from a parent or a coach that a referee had somehow made a bad call and inexplicably cost their child 1st place.

What's even worse is that I myself have been one of those coaches questioning the referee's decision and I have been positive that I was right and they were wrong. That is not to say that judging errors don't happen, but to hear most parents or coaches tell it, their competitor was completely ripped off and the judges should be taken to the parking lot and run over a few dozen times. I have been tempted to use the response I heard one official use years ago when approached by a parent. The judge simply stated that he was sorry but when he had walked in the door that morning, he had decided he was going to rip one child off that day and her child just happened to be the first one he had seen. While the judge was joking it does illustrate a point that needs to be made. Most judges show up to volunteer their time at tournaments and are not there to make sure that your child or student doesn't win, they are simply doing the best job they can without a lot of thanks from many people. In my experience there are three areas that in most cases can be the source for most controversies in the ring; Experience, Judgment Calls, and Angles.


ProMAC Judges


Above: ProMAC Judges following an Official's Certification Course

While it would be preferable to have the most experienced referees in every ring at every tournament the fact of the matter is that with the time demands of home, dojo, and life it doesn't always allow every tournament promoter to have the best referees all of the time. In fact, most tournaments don't even know who their referees will be until thirty minutes before the tournament starts. This is horrible for the competitors who spend their hard earned money to compete and end up getting judged by people who have not seen the inside of a dojo for almost a decade. What is even worse is when I have seen promoters desperate to fill a ring with judges start enlisting the help of karate parents who themselves have never trained to sit in a ring. Just because they are at tournaments a lot and have watched their child train does not mean they are qualified to be a judge. Just as bad are the judges who pop out of the woodwork when a big tournament comes to town. They seem to show up to help with eight, nine, or ten stripes on their belt and nobody either knows them or they have not seen them at a tournament in over twenty years.


Bad Judging


This is probably the hardest thing about judging to explain to parents and coaches. The word judge actually describes the job that we as officials are required to do. Our judgment of a form or fight is based on our own unique experiences as martial artist growing up. While as an official I try not to bias myself to one form of thinking, I know that my experiences as a student and instructor do have an impact on me when I am judging. Having these opinions is not wrong, they are what make each and every one of us unique as people and officials. Basically it comes down to my opinion of what happened in the competitors form or sparring match. But, I alone don't make that decision. All tournaments have at least three to five judges in the ring so hopefully between all of the combined experience in the ring the correct judgment will be made.


Point fighting judge


I have lost count of the number of times I have been judging and I have had a parent or a coach wonder how I didn't see the point their competitor scored. Most of the time it comes down to angles. Sometimes the judges have a better angle on one technique than another. A good example of this would be years ago when I was attending a tournament in Omaha, NE. I had one of my students I was coaching during a sparring match. Every time he would attack he would hit the other kid with a clean back fist, but the judges would point to the other kid for the point. I knew two of the judges had almost as much national experience judging as I do and I could not believe they were missing that many calls. I was so mad when I left the ring that I immediately got the video tape from one of the parents and was preparing to show it to the tournament promoter. It was a good thing I looked at it first. The video was shot from the other side of the ring and what I found out when watching it was that my student was getting hit cleanly with reverse punch every time he threw his back fist. This really helped me to understand why there are so many questions about calls from parents and coaches. The old adage is call what you see. Sometimes that means that the judges have a bad angle on the fight but it can also mean that the coaches and parents have a bad angle also.

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.

First off let me start with what an honor it is to be able to share my opinions and experiences for such a prestigious magazine such as Black Belt.

I wanted to take a minute to officially introduce myself to those of you that are the readers. My name is David Clifton and I have been involved in martial arts for over 35 years. I have owned and operated American Sport Karate Centers in Kansas City for 25 years now and we have competed on many of the sport karate circuits both nationally and internationally for many of those years.

The main goal of these articles (Clifton's Corner) will be to try to relay my opinion and experiences not only from a sport karate official's side of things but also from a school owner, coach, and promoter's side. I expect these articles to invoke discussion among martial artists that helps raise the level of professionalism in our industry. As with any discussion, I am always open to differing opinions and don't expect everyone to agree with everything I say or have an opinion on. My opinions, both right and wrong, are based on my experiences in the industry over many decades. I hope that you the reader find the articles thought provoking and help bring us all closer together as martial artists in the industry. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or if you have suggestions for future topics you would like to see discussed at dclifton@askc.us.

Keep reading for David Clifton's first Black Belt article - It's Official.

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Jessie Wray brought back the Virtual Fight Tour for a seventh promotion, complete with a competitive lineup of point fighting matches.

Virtual Fight Tour VII was headlined by a team fight between the rising superstars of Team Next Level and Team All Stars, but that was far from the only excitement in the sport karate promotion hosted by Uventex TV. The card also had an heavily anticipated matchup between nationally-known fighters Chance Turner and Anthony Merricks in the Co-Main Event, and several other well-contested bouts throughout the card. There was also a pair of special performances by forms and weapons world champions Julia Plawker and Shaquan Parson, who both represent Team Next Level and put on a great show. Keep reading for complete results and analysis for every clash at Virtual Fight Tour VII!

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