Maryland Referee Joins Judo World Tour

Bobby Donaldson, President of Maryland Judo, appointed to officiate on the Grand Prix circuit.

These tournaments are part of the International Judo Federations (IJF) World Tour and is significant for athletes with 2020 Tokyo Olympic(s) aspirations as they compete for vital qualification points and a prize purse worth $100,000.00 dollars, each.

Donaldson (Center) providing instructions at the Youth National Championships(Donaldson (Center) providing instructions at the Youth National Championships)


Judo is an all-inclusive sport practiced in nearly every reach of the globe from the most economically challenged countries to the more affluent nations. Competitors from every ethnicity, gender, and religion have graced the World Championships podium.

Donaldson has been involved with Judo since the early 70’s and is one of America’s top International Referees. “I competed most of my adolescences which exposed many adaptations of Judo to me”. Donaldson said. Retired from the U.S. Navy, he entered the Referee Corps in 2010 having never officiated a match, achieving his full International License in record time. Recruited specifically due to his Judo acumen coupled with a background in operational management, this natural blend of ability and foresight has kept him at the top of his craft.

Donaldson Refereeing 78kg Gold Medal Final-IJF/EJU Cup Berlin-2016(Donaldson Refereeing 78kg Gold Medal Final-IJF/EJU Cup Berlin-2016)


Donaldson is only the second African American to receive his full International License, despite his reluctance to join the Referee Corps. “There were several reasons why I initially rejected a career in Refereeing as American Referees bear the sole cost of funding their development which is astronomical; to improve I traveled to experience the style of matches needed to expand my understanding of the sport aspect of Judo”. Donaldson continued. “Refereeing is too much like politics and/or religion; it is one of the most polarizing aspects as my friends that coach are not always in agreement with my determinations of scores or the outcome of contests”.

Donaldson’s unlikely path gained speed when identified as a possible candidate for assignment to the World Tour by the International Referee Commission. All prospects are required to demonstrate competency through practical examinations at the IJF Academy (the Academy is an autonomous Higher Education Institute licensed by the National Commission for Further and Higher Education). Completing this milestone in January, he became only the second American to attend this prestigious course, followed with an appointment to officiate the 2019 Summer University Games in Napoli Italy as his graduation gift.

“I was fortunate to receive a nomination so I could join the few International Referees that have completed the course”.

With certification, Donaldson became one of only seven (7) Referees from the Pan American Judo Confederation (PJC) whom are worldwide assignable. Indeed, his Referee calendar has filled, as he is set to officiate two Grand Prix events in July alone, Budapest Hungary and Zagreb Croatia. In August, he will officiate at the Pan American Games in Lima Peru.

“The real trick is trying to balance family life, work, and Judo. I am fortunate that my family allows me the time to pursue my passion, they are the bedrock which keeps me steady”.

When not jet setting around the globe, Donaldson serves as one of the senior instructors at College Park Judo, and is a member of several Judo committees; he spends a great deal of time furthering Judo in his own way. A seventh degree Black Belt, he is a gentle giant who towers over most the contestants he officiates as he referees throughout the Western Hemisphere yet perhaps his largest impact is domestically when he can introduce youthful competitors to the wonders of Judo.

Bobby Donaldson


Donaldson’s hopes to inspire future enthusiast to pursue the lessons he has learned from his life in Judo. “No matter where in the world I am, if I bring my gi I can find plenty of friends”.