In my experience, there are two main roles that is fulfilled by a head judge at Koi shows: first is to facilitate the method as to how the Koi are going to be judged and second is to act as a “tie-breaker” or a final decision maker when there are differing opinions between the judges.
This weekend was an interesting one since all the judges were each coming from very different backgrounds. After the judging concluded, I approached Ray Alexander and asked him how his experience went, to which he replied, “It was pretty interesting because the first Koi show that I had judged was in Kentucky and we judged with someone from Australia. This is our [referring to himself and his wife, Terri Alexander, who joined him as a candidate judge for both shows] second time to judge and this time our head judge is from Shinkokai! It was a lot of fun and we learned a lot especially with the different styles.”
The styles are truly different and if you aren’t familiar with the Shinkokai method of judging, it could feel a lot like jumping into an ice cold pool. Since my dad has had prior experience in both the Japanese and American style, he was able to ease everyone into the experience with the least amount of impact.
One of the main differences is that the Grand Champion is typically judged before anything else. After conferring with Bryan Bateman, who was the Show Chairman for this year’s Koi show, Papa proceeded to judge the MPKS this year in the Shinkokai method of judging. He asked his co-judges, Michael Frady, Ray Alexander and Terri Alexander, to select their top five Koi in the entire show. Papa waited for everyone to conclude their selections and these were the finalists:
He concurred with the decision and once again asked them to select among the five which one they would rank as the best fish and the second best fish, leaving it to his fellow judges to first submit their choices. Everyone had ranked the top two Koi the same way, to which my dad replied that he once again agreed with their decision.
After they had decided on the top two Koi, they proceeded to break into groups to judge all the rest of the size classes from size one onward.
I’ve found that there are times where we can talk ourselves out of a beautiful Koi, and conversely we can convince ourselves that a Koi is better than it appears. I am guilty as well of second-guessing myself, especially when I stare too long at several different Koi when trying to decide which is the better Koi by trying too hard to analyze and deconstruct the fish.
Judging koi can be daunting and at times even nerve-wracking, but what I feel is most important is the appreciation of the Koi for it’s beauty rather than it’s shortcomings. The top five Koi nominated for Grand Champion are quite beautiful and are without a doubt the five best Koi of the show for the day. Each deserves praise and acknowledgement, but as all competitions go, there can only be one Grand Champion.
So, what makes these two the finer Nishikigoi? Something to ponder….