I'm in Chung-do-kwan; we practice speed, precision, strength, focus, and balance.

In last years tournament, I faced up against an opponent who probably shouldn't have even been in my group due to size and skill.

All four of the ring judges voted that I won, but the head judge, who has the final call, said my opponent won. Everyone there knew I won and the other dude had just gotten a break because he was the 'underdog'. Unfortunately this was a 'No contact' tournament so I couldn't beat the bejeezus out of my opponent to prove myself.

This years tournament is coming up and i would like to know how to respectfully ask my judge "Why did HE win?"

  • 1
    I solved a similar problem by quitting karate and competing in tournaments where such corrupt judging is harder. In my case it was judo and BJJ, but boxing and kickboxing, where you actually hit, knock out, and knock down the opponent, would work too. I don't see how asking the judge is going to make anything better. Dec 3 '14 at 21:42
  • My guess is that if I were to challenge him, I would be backed by the entire attending crowd. He would be forced to give me a straight answer. I just want to know how to do so without being a jerk or making myself angrier with him. But yeah, I'm gonna join BJJ. I hope to do both. Dec 3 '14 at 21:46
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    I'm just trying to wrap my head around a sport where one judge can overrule four other judges....
    – Doug B
    Dec 4 '14 at 12:16

I've always considered non contact tournaments to be a lottery, but even in full contact matches you will get calls that go against you that you don't agree with - that is the nature of the sport.

I would (politely!!) question the organisers and determine whether they have a review process for decisions. If they do then the referees/judges will have to justify their decision. While you may have a valid complaint, I would not create a huge scene over it - that would show a lack of respect and humility.

Alternatively, you could look at this another way: if a head judge is going to award the win to your opponent because he was an underdog but he still participated, then maybe this is a tournament (or a class/division) that you are over qualified for?


As a competitor, it is not your place to criticise the judges' decisions. You should show proper decorum and fair play even if you know the decision is the wrong one. You can (and clearly in your case, should) bring it up with yours manager/team captain and ask why you did not win.

If there is something not right, your manager or team captain or whoever is in charge of your team should bring it up via the proper channels for your organisation. This is why you have them! They are the ones that argue for you so they get the bad press and not you.

This, of course, assumes that you are part of a team. If not, you can easily have a friend act as your manager/captain. That way, they can concentrate on all the administration and logistic while leaving you to train and prepare fully focused.

  • It wasn't clear from his question that he was on a team. Dec 4 '14 at 12:15
  • @TheWudangKid: That is true... Answer edited. Dec 4 '14 at 13:00
  • Yeah, my captain pretty much said that the kid worked hard, even though he didn't (fairly) win, so I should let it go and congratulate him. I did but it's bugging me now that I know the judges will be the same as last year. I just want to avoid a repeat. Dec 4 '14 at 15:38

If you are not happy with a judge's decision, you should take it up with the head official. The head official is usually not the senior judge. In my own organization, the head official was our Grand Master, while the head judges were instructors from various dojangs.

Just take note of the fact that the head official is there to make sure the sport's image isn't tarnished, so you'd better be 100% sure you were treated unfairly before you appeal to him. Because he will make a decision that's best for the organization, which may or may not be in your best interest.

Also remember that you will (unfairly) be labeled a troublemaker, which will disadvantage you in future. Especially in a close fight where the winner isn't obvious.

As always, a personal anecdote: in my very first Taekwondo tournament I faced a guy two years older than me who also happened to belong to the most popular dojang. I managed to beat him in a very hard fight, but the judges decided to award him the win. My instructor appealed the decision to his father (the grandmaster) and I had a rematch. I "won" the rematch too, but for a second time the win was awarded to the other fighter. We appealed a second time. Again I clearly beat him, but the win was again awarded to the other fighter. We decided to leave it as is. Later that day I gave what I felt was a pretty decent performance of Chon Ji (the very first pattern learned in TKD). I somehow managed to score a 5.0 out of 10, even though the lowest anyone had ever scored was 6.5. In fact, the scoring cards only went from 5.0 to 10, which means I only scored a 5.0 because it was literally impossible to score any lower. Clearly I was blackballed.

The only thing that saved me was that my instructor was the head of training for the entire country, so he sorted the guilty parties out afterward. I came back the next year and took 1st place in sparring as well as patterns. I also earned national colours for the first time. The lesson? You run a serious risk of being black balled if you challenge the wrong type of person. Also sometimes life is unfair and the bad guys win.

  • 1
    Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something. -- William Goldman. Dec 4 '14 at 15:17
  • Man that sucks. mine wasn't that bad, I just barely lost a place on the podium. Dec 4 '14 at 15:36
  • It's not a contest ;) I was just saying that you're looking at a lot of trouble even if you win your appeal. Dec 5 '14 at 7:03

You mention in the comments that you are trying to avoid a repeat.

You may or may not be able to do that. Excepting the appeals process, all you can do is show up and compete to the best of your ability. One thing I have learned over 40+ years competing in various things (Including close to 30 in martial arts now) is that sometimes you will have your absolute best day and get beat, and other times you think you performed horribly and will win.

You can't predict it, and it will go for you sometimes, and against you sometimes.

Clearly, this instance went against you. However, you appear to have handled it with grace and dignity (Unless there is a secret rant you aren't telling us about :p), and that will impress people more than a temper tantrum. If you go back to the judge, he may not even remember, and then it will give the impression that you are not someone who can accept things and let them go.

Show up, compete to the best of your ability, and you can take some comfort in the fact that apparently the chief judge felt your opponent "needed" the encouragement of an undeserved win more than you did.


Not to annoy you, but EACH and every sports have problems with referee on different level ... the more the final victory is held on the judges decision, the more you'll see this. ( look at any professional sports, you ALWAYS see judgements call and athlete/coaches complaining about ref )

Ref are part of the game, you have to adapt and play with it.

If you thinks its getting too far and you are being deliberately wronged, ask a coach to bring it with your federation. (be mindful, referees is a small world, there wont be more than 100's ref that you'll meet, and your coach will probably personally knows most of 'em . Also, be carefully not to have an habits of doing this, or you'll get flagged as a problematic athlete.)

You could also be a ref yourself. start by asking to ref child competitions. soon enough they'll see your implications, and it'll be beneficial for you to understand how the technicality works, and to approach ref after the competitions or during breaks, and ask 'em for advice on different referee situtation. ( "If I am in a competition, and I do this move, and he react this way, according to you should he get the points, or would you give it to me ? )


I have recently been in the same situation. I recently lost a match 9-8 due to none of my hits being called by the refs. They were calling body shots when my opponent wasn't even throwing any but instead ducking down everytime I would strike to the head. Eventually towards the end of the match they starting giving me points but time ran out before I could score another point. In football I ran into the same situation but all the same I didn't argue with the refs if they made a bad call or didn't make a call. It makes you look bad and also like a punk. Even though I knew that the match wasn't going in my favor I keep going to try to end the match. Sometimes it just doesn't work out in your favor. My advice is to watch the video of your fight, talk it over with your teacher to figure out what adjustments need to be made so it doesn't happen again.

  • This isn't quite there as an answer to "how to respectfully ask my judge...?". I think your answer is actually "Don't; put it down to experience and do better next time", which is a valid approach; the text needs to actually say that, though.
    – Mike P
    Jun 5 '18 at 11:48

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