How Reffing Can Make You Better

For some people, the stress of being a referee can be a miserable experience.  I have been involved in one way or another in US Grappling tournaments for years, and have always looked forward to the experience of being a referee.  Shortly after getting my purple belt, there was a referee certification clinic put on by US Grappling in the gym I regularly train at.  I got invited, went, and I was hooked.

The referee clinic was a good experience.  I was nervous at first, but the more I learned and listened, the more I understood how to do well at tournaments.  My understanding of why points were scored and how the decision was made helped me to change and develop my overall tournament game plan more effectively.  Up to that point, I was willing to settle on my back and play guard.  After going to that clinic and discussing it with a local competition machine “Bagels”, I had an epiphany.  Bagels told me “You score from the top.  The only way to even score from the bottom is by going to the top”.  He was right, and my game plan for competition changed.

An experienced ref understands positions, how they change, and where they end up.  By standing on the mats and watching hundreds of matches over the tournaments I’ve worked, I understand those things better than some, and not as well as others.  I feel that seeing all of those matches, getting to watch what’s fresh and new, and be exposed to all of those different styles has helped me not only as a referee but also as a bjj practitioner.  It’s a great way to give back to the bjj community, and will only help you in the long run!


Sean Zorio is a purple belt under Guy and Rob Pendergrass