Trivium or delirium? A review of the Youth Olympics judging system for breaking

Jason Pu
Jason Pu
Apr 21, 2018 · 5 min read

Amidst all the recent drama, there was a quiet but major development for the breaking community: the WDSF released its official Rules and Regulations Manual for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. This manual includes the judging system that will be used for breaking.

Niels “Storm” Robitzky and Kevin “Renegade” Gopie, two respected figures in the scene, seem to be the masterminds behind the judging system in the WDSF manual.

Storm (left) and Renegade

Their creation is a marked improvement over any other method that I’ve seen in breaking competitions. However, it still has noticeable flaws that make it more of a work in progress than a finished product.

The Basics

They call it the “Trivium Value System,” a name which is suggestive of the system’s three main criteria: Body, Soul, and Mind. (Coincidentally, I used these same terms in my “B-Boy Types” article from 2017.) Here’s a quick breakdown of these categories:

  • Body, Physical Quality: composed of Technique (20%), Variety (13.33%)
  • Soul, Interpretive Quality: composed of Performativity (20%), Musicality (13.33%)
  • Mind, Artistic Quality: composed of Creativity (20%), Personality (13.33%)

Each judge moves six sliders on a handheld tablet to rate competitors on each of these criteria. There are also other factors, like slips or crashes, that can affect scores.

Breakers are judged per round, and win a battle by scoring higher on more rounds than their opponent does. The scores are calculated and displayed through a digital system developed by and8 — see the image below for a screenshot from a judge’s handheld device.

You should read through the rules manual if you’re curious about the individual buttons and sections of the interface. If not, we’ve already covered the basics of the system.

Now, let’s talk about how effective the Trivium Value System could be. We’ll measure success via two main goals: objectivity of outcomes, and authenticity to the discipline.

The Good

The upsized criteria (Body, Soul, and Mind) are a fantastic, intuitive way to conceptualize breaking. The model must be Storm’s brainchild — he’s the only b-boy I know who says “upsized” and “performativity.” The three abstract concepts are authentic values of breaking, yet also accessible to general audiences. As human beings, we have a somewhat common understanding of body, soul, and mind.

When we move down to more granular definitions, however, the model starts to falter. Should musicality be attributed to the mind, soul, or both? Who gets to decide which sub-criteria are included? Essentially, how does the concept of a “b-boy foundation” fit into this whole hierarchy? Such questions must be resolved for the system to be completely objective and authentic.

Nonetheless, quantified score is more transparent than a binary decision. Using Trivium, judges can’t just give weights to criteria as they please. Everyone can see whether a judge scores differently from the others in a given situation, and whether this discrepancy constantly occurs.

The system itself could be biased in its weighting or exclusion of certain criteria, but it’s clear how each criteria factors into the final score. In any case, it’s easier to correct biases in a system than it is to correct the biases of individual judges.

So…maybe using scorecards wasn’t the best idea.

The Bad

For all the positive aspects of Trivium, there are as many negatives that must be addressed.

A continuous scale means that outcomes can be determined by fractions of a percent. Unless you can justify choosing such specific numbers, it is more simple and transparent to use discrete values. Perhaps a 5 or 11-point scale is an appropriate middle ground.

The shortcut-penalty and shortcut-score buttons influence some criteria more than others. For example, Performativity is affected by six shortcuts while Musicality is only affected by one. At best, this is confusing. At worst, it skews the results. The shortcuts should be removed or revised to affect the criteria equally on average. The “slip/crash” penalty, which deducts from all criteria, seems fair enough.

Last, deciding the winner by rounds can sometimes lead to illogical decisions. Although unlikely, it’s possible that a breaker can lose by small margins in two out of three rounds, and win dramatically in the third round. That breaker would still lose the battle if he or she were judged with Trivium. One solution is to determine the winner by overall or average score, instead of round-by-round.

Every time a judge makes a poor decision, Alkolil gets hit in the face with a hat.

The Recap

The Trivium Value System is a significant step towards a truly fair and effective judging system for breaking. Storm, Renegade, and the other contributors clearly dedicated many hours of thought and discussion towards creating the best system possible for the upcoming Youth Olympics.

Body, Soul, and Mind are intuitive, generalized criteria that form a strong foundation for the system. Using weights and a percentage-based scoring system is a bold move that will at least prompt discussion about how to score breaking battles accurately.

My gripes with Trivium are directed towards more specific features, such as the use of a continuous sliding scale and the shortcut functions. These parts of the framework can feasibly be revised and tested for improvement. I fully expect Trivium to evolve or inspire alternatives in the future.

I can’t wait to see the Trivium system in action at the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympics. Go USA! (Realistically, Japan will probably win. Thanks Shigekix. Edit: Turns out I was wrong — Bumblebee from Russia took home the gold. Unfortunately, Team USA didn’t send any representatives.)

As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or feedback. Follow me on Instagram @glissando for the latest updates, and please share to spread the knowledge. Thanks for reading — peace!

Jason Pu

Written by

Jason Pu

Amateur dancer, analyst by trade, and aspiring hip hop scholar.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade