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IBSA embarks on biggest-ever community consultation in response to judo classification research

Date: September 18, 2020

Category: Judo

The International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) has revealed an ambitious plan to engage with athletes, coaches, members, federations, officials and classifiers over the coming months in response to the results from a four-year research project about classification in IBSA Judo.

Following on from the publication of their first findings in 2019, scientists at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam have published a series of final recommendations which IBSA will review and implement in time for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. The university is the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Classification Research Centre for visual impairments.

The IPC’s 2015 Athlete Classification Code outlines how classification must be evidence-based and sport-specific in order to stay on the Paralympic programme. Like other Para sports the current system in IBSA Judo was developed in response to a variety of factors over time as it grew into a global sport.

The research – which has seen scientists attend competitions, carry out a variety of experiments, analyse large amounts of data and seek the views of hundreds of experienced coaches, athletes, classifiers and officials since 2016 – will lead to changes for the sport.

In response, IBSA is launching a major consultation process which aims to gather the views of every group involved with IBSA Judo. This will allow a new classification system to be developed which takes into account the views of the community, whilst also meeting the requirements for being at the Paralympic Games.

“The biggest-ever research project carried-out into classification in judo deserves the most ambitious community involvement initiative IBSA has ever undertaken,” Jannie Hammershoi, IBSA President, said. “We want to engage with and listen to as many people as possible to ensure that we create the best possible future for IBSA Judo.

“IBSA recognises that the recommendations made by the researchers will mean changes, especially for athletes, and will need a fundamental shift in approach from our members, national federations and coaches.

“We also appreciate the contributions that all current and past athletes have made to making IBSA Judo a popular Para sport practiced in all regions of the globe.

“That is why we want to involve as many people as possible to ensure that the new classification system is not only evidence-based and sport-specific, but is also built on the spirt of community and family which judo is so well known for.”

A consultation document which summarises and contains the full research outcomes is available to download here.

The recommendations centre around the creation of two classes – one for athletes who are partially sighted and one for athletes who are blind. Currently in IBSA Judo athletes with different levels of impairment – B1, B2 and B3 –compete against each other. The minimum impairment criteria will also be raised according to the research outcomes.

The materials have been sent to the IBSA Membership and IBSA Judo community. IBSA has scheduled a series of online discussions with members of the research team for athletes, coaches, members, national federations and officials.

For those who cannot join the online sessions, a [email protected] email address has been created where any comments can be sent.

At the same time IBSA has begun work on how it can help members and national federations to support athletes who might be affected by the research recommendations when they are introduced.

Next steps

IBSA has established an IBSA Judo Classification Research Implementation Committee.
This is a group of athletes, coaches, classifiers and officials, chaired by IBSA Vice-President Robert Fenton, who will be responsible for creating the new classification rules based on the outcomes of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam research. 

The full current membership of the Implementation Committee can be found in the consultation document.
How to get involved

IBSA has published the dates, times and registration details for a series of online sessions on the IBSA Judo calendar and sent these out to members and relevant contacts. These are aimed at athletes, coaches, members and national federations and referees/officials. They are a chance for the different groups to hear directly from the research team and ask questions, as well as share ideas for what the new system could look like.

When: 25 September, 2020 03:00PM CET
Register in advance for this meeting:
When: 2 October, 2020 03:00PM CET
Register in advance for this meeting:  

When: 9 October, 2020 03:00PM CET
Register in advance for this meeting:  

A second round of sessions will take place once the IBSA Judo Classification Research Implementation Committee have drafted the classification rules. This will provide an opportunity for all groups to have their say once again.


No changes will be implemented before the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, despite the event’s postponement.

The new system will however come into force in time for the Paris 2024 Paralympics and related qualification competitions.

The Implementation Committee expect to produce the first draft of the classification rules by the end of 2020/early 2021, following the initial consultation process.

Background/Notes to Editors

In 2016, IBSA announced a wide-ranging research project to review the current classification system in IBSA Judo.

Independent researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, who are the IPC Classification Research Centre for visual impairments, were appointed to lead the project.
Dr. Kai Krabben and Dr. David Mann along with their colleagues have spent the last four years attending competitions, surveying athletes, teams, coaches and experts from within and outside the sport and carrying out a comprehensive range of tests to assess the current system.

In 2017 and 2019 the progress and then preliminary results of this research were presented to the IBSA Membership at General Assemblies.

Like all International Federations, IBSA Judo must create an evidence-based and sport-specific classification system as part of keeping its place on the Paralympic programme.
The research outcomes and move towards a revised classification system do not undermine any past or future athlete performances that take place under the current arrangements.

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