On Judging Forms Competition by Dan Docherty

I’ve been running the British Open Tai Chi Championships for almost 30 years. Things still go wrong. Well-meaning judges do things which are totally unacceptable.
It has come to my attention that at the latest British Open at least one competitor was awarded a score, but when the event’s results were handed in by the judges, the score had been changed twice. There was no suggestion of underhand behaviour, but this type of thing is unacceptable. No score should be awarded to any competitor until all 3 judges are ready.
Generally speaking, the first competitor in any forms event sets the standard against which other competitors are judged. I find it quite in order for judges to consult before awarding a score, although the rules of some competitions forbid this.
In some competitions where the difference in the score awarded by any of the judges exceeds a certain amount, there has to be a mandatory discussion amongst the judges to resolve the discrepancy. This discussion must be over before the competitor is awarded any score.
Prejudice and a lack of common sense can also lead to wrong or poor decision making by the judges. I was one of the founding members of the Taijiquan & Qigong Federation for Europe [TCFE] which runs a European Championships in Chinese Internal Martial Arts every 2 years.
The first TCFE Championships was in Utrecht in 2000. Prior to that, I attended a small competition in Scandinavia. In the spear form event, one competitor dropped his weapon and yet, mainly because he was an amiable and popular fellow, he was awarded first place. Totally unacceptable.
Another competitor began his sabre form facing the judges and ended it with his back to them. He was also awarded a medal. Totally unacceptable.
Immediately after the event I contacted the Dutch organisers of the TCFE European Championships and I told them we had to have an Appeals Committee and a Technical Committee. Only by invoking the statutes and forcing an Extraordinary General Meeting could I persuade the Dutch to have an Appeals Committee and a Technical Committee. We had appeals. We had technical matters to deal with [the infamous Old Yang style question]. Even then, one of the French competitors threatened me with physical violence.
In another TCFE competition we had one male Scandinavian judge who noticeably marked up the better looking female competitors. We had to put him to work to judge male entrants only. I’ve seen female judges do the same with male competitors.
At another TCFE event, a judge from North Britain awarded a good looking blonde lady competitor 9.2, which is close to master level. Her instructor, who is one of my senior students, was furious and asked me to speak to the competitor and the judge. Said judge [with no experience of competing or training students to compete] was arrogant enough to try to justify himself. Unbelievable.
Another TCFE Championships and the problem of 3 ladies. One was blonde and beautiful. One was a subtle oriental. One was less alluring, but far more proficient at the form she was doing. All male judges . There was quite rightly a successful appeal on technical grounds.

Mainly competition judges are not grandmasters, they are willing and unpaid enthusiasts. The work they do is invaluable. I just ask them to consider some of the points I’ve made.
In return as a promoter, I’ll endeavour to better prepare those who judge at my events in future. As we say in Glasgow, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes’.