1. Reassembling Artistic Impression (AI) categories

Reassembling Artistic Impression (AI) categories

Many would agree that judging AI is demanding, highly subjective, and challenging because of the need for judges to consider 6 different categories at the same time. The committee quickly realised that all existing components of AI are important and none of them can be simply deleted. So the idea was to reassemble the components in a way that judging them becomes more natural and less complex and results thereby less error-prone. Moreover, visually compelling style of play shall be incentivised. The result:


3 categories will disappear:

Flow can be split into team flow and individual flow. Team Flow is becoming part of the AI category Teamwork and Individual Flow is becoming part of the new AI category Show (see below) as well as Execution (see document about Judging Execution By Break in Flow). I.e. Flow is not an own AI category anymore.

Music Choreography and General Impression go into the new AI category Show (see below). I.e. Music Choreography and General Impression are not own AI categories anymore.


3 categories will stay and 1 new will emerge:

Form becomes a separate judged category, hence gaining additional scoring weight since visually, and from a spectator’s perspective, graceful/smooth form appears more professional and visually compelling.

Variety: stays as it is; and a wide range of different freestyle moves are still encouraged.

Teamwork stays at it is, except for that it additionally includes Team Flow i.e. smooth movement of the flying disc as it is exchanged between players.

Show is becoming a new AI category including Music Choreography, Individual Flow and General Impression. The rationale for calling this new category “Show” is due to the need for judges to determine the level of enthusiasm they feel after watching a routine, overall general impression, and how good a “show” was the routine in which they just witnessed?  Music choreography and the recognition of forethought into a routine as being connected to a team’s musical choice (vs. just jamming to a song) is part of recognizing the “show”.  Also the flow demonstrated by individual players in moving their bodies and handling the disc adds to the perception of Show. Judges, other competitors, and lay audience members will likely be more interested in watching routines if Show is demonstrated by freestyle teams.


Technical implementation:

Form, Variety and Teamwork will be judged from 1-10 on the judging sheet (as it used to be). Show will be judged from 1-20, gaining more scoring weight than the other AI categories, since it includes many different aspects and is considered especially important to make Freestyle more attractive for lay audience members. All 4 scores are added up and divided by 5.

23 Replies to “1. Reassembling Artistic Impression (AI) categories”

  1. The new structure and scoring weight sounds very good!

    Why are the points for the categories from 1-10 (1-20) and not 0-10 (0-20)?
    Theoretically that means I can earn 0,8 Points for doing nothing!?

    Notes sheet
    It would be very helpful to have a “notes – scoresheet” for AI. An overview of the categories and maybe something like a checklist for Variety, so that the judge can make quick and good readable notes during the routine. On this sheet shouldn’t be the marks – I should be only be there to support the judge. Most difficulty at judging AI is to keep everything in mind what you are seeing! It would be also good to have this as feedback for the players.


  2. the form catagory could be eliminated as there is NO one type of form to be used as reference. Freestyle at the top level can have different forms, we aren’t going to subtract points if it doesn’t look like ballet so why make this an avenue that forces results.

  3. I’m still thinking about seriety of judges…all others changes are not necessary…BUT…


  4. I also think the changing of the structure looks very good and has been very necessary.

    I really like the idea of putting Music Choreography, Individual Flow and General Impression together in the new category “show” because particulary music-choreography has been, as I think highly subjective dependening on the taste of music a judge has.

    I also think it is good to give the category “Form” more weigt in the judging-system which will hopefully create a more esthetic and/or acrobatic style which could make Freestyle even more attractive for spectators.

    On the other hand I particullary often had difficultys to judge “Form” because one player had a significant bether form than the other and so i had to give the mean between the two notes which I am not shure if it is the best way.

    For variety i really like Flos idea of using a kind of checklist to get a more objective and more verifiable category.

  5. Hello,

    before I go into detail, I would like to mention that I approve of a ‘simplification’ of AI and that it was well done according to the rationale of attracting lay audiences. Thanks for working that out.
    Besides, I would like to ask for a specification/reassurance about the meaning of “‘smooth movement’ of the flying disc as it is exchanged between players”. Thus far, I interpret this expression as favouring the stability of a disc (absence of wobbles) when flying between partners… Did I get this right?

    I would also like to have note sheets, but I somehow fear that these could be kind of suggestive when too standardised – unless of course a higher degree of standardisation would be appreciated.

    Best wishes

  6. Hi,
    I really like the proposed simplification of AI judging. It could make the AI category more “popular” to judge among jammers.

    I also support the idea of having some kind of checklist for variety…


  7. Hi all,

    I am fully into making judging easier and simpler. I hope one day we might even jump into olympic TM and AM (technical and artistic merit) judging.

    For me the “ideal” judge should focus on the routine the whole time and calculating the scores of in his head – putting down the score at the end of the routine. This is virtualy impossible with this demanding style of judging that we have so far. So a variety check-list might help, but also distract the judge from focusing fully on the routine.

    In the end it all comes to the well known educating judges issue.

    Any form of siplifying the current system is good.

  8. Many thanx to the committe for taking this on.
    -Freestyle is a very complex game, so if we try to simplify judging so much, how can the results of an ever evolving complex activity be fairly evaluated by LESS logistical factors? Freestyle disc has as many simultaneously occurring variables as any physical activity out there. Shouldn’t the judging of our sport have the same complexity? The game speaks for itself and we can get fair results, but I feel it is a short cut to oversimplify A.I. and remove the subtleties like flow and not to greater emphasize variety. It feels like a cop out of players and tournament directors for having to learn the parameters of A.I. This is potentially where our “spirit of the game” of having to be player judged is distracting us from really getting a system that can accurately account for what happens on the field.
    – I believe that over emphasizing show is like over emphasizing execution. It makes a player have to consider safeness in their skill set variety in order to hit cues. Talk about forcing a “modern dance”style of play. Not that a show isn’t good, but a with huge valuation of show over variety in the new proposed system, I’m concerned that we’re gonna get more safe, hi-zzzz play, less skill-set novelty, and more (potentially distasteful, irrelevant, or inappropriate)non-freestyle disc skill oriented gimmicks. And since all the general impression consideration for variety has gone to show, there’s no way to reward any teams’ greater emphasis on variety. Variety used to be its own category. Back in the winter meetings of the early ’90s, the assumption was made that by over emphasizing variety, it would “homogenize” the game and make players games too much the same. But in reality, under-emphasizing variety seems to have achieved this homogenization. How is this change stimulating diversity and unique styles of play? This proposed change seems to be going the opposite direction of the stated goal.

  9. The most important category, flow, is to be discarded?? Form is a category?? Show is a category??

    So the problem with these other categories is that they direct certain styles and preclude others. Freestyle needs a system which can be versatile enough to judge many styles. Take Variety. I can think of great routines that had every move and throw different and in those, variety was incredible. I can also think of great routines that had little variety, where they shoved a certain style down your throat and repeated it and it was still incredible without a good deal of variety. Take Craig Smith and his airbrush style….not much variety even with his array of brushing moves but compelling, very compelling, and a highly artistic style. So even though Variety is a well loved category and we all think it’s good, it’s not a broad enough category to cover all styles. It encourages people to falsely up their variety for the sake of the system instead of playing their own style.

    Form is the same way but worse. It should not be accounted for. Lots of different body styles and forms play freestyle and play it well. By demanding that judges look at form, we take away from other aspects that are more important. Like, a team’s flow and energy which are broad enough categories to allow for many styles. Plus, I don’t think the highest form in freestyle is that of the ballerina, which is what the category suggests and demands. If the women want form as a category, that’s up to them. Men should be judged on other things than toe-pointing. Plus, who among the judges can judge ballet form??

    To make Show a category is truly the final downfall in a system gone awry. When I started playing in 1985, it would have been embarrassing and you would have been mocked for bringing your show routine to the competitive field. Those of us who have done shows for a living understand that the general population doesn’t know what they’re seeing and so you can back it off a hair and spice up your frisbee with jokes and gimmicks. At tournaments, the players know what they’re seeing and to do anything but try to bring out your best play and best moves is weak. To encourage such weakness through the judging system is wrong.

    The homogenization of freestyle I think is due to the system being so overly categorized that everyone does the same stuff to try to win, meaning play safe, try to waste time with easy moves and gimmicks, and pretending that you’re a choreographer instead of a jammer. When I started, all the teams went for it because you knew someone was going to hit and you would have to bring out your best game to win. Now the preferred position is to back in to the title by playing safe and relying on a judging system that rewards things like Form and Show and misses things like consecutivity and risk and flow. I have watched the further decline of freestyle via internet video over the last dozen years and it is very visible from the outside that players win by playing safe these days, and it is boring to watch. Freestyle is certainly at a low and the proposed changes are disappointing. Contests have become ice dancing and not ice skating contests under the current system for AI. It won’t get any better with the proposed changes because the categories demand and direct a single style which does not reward risk taking. Risk taking is exciting in itself and it is worth rewarding, if there are to be audiences and sponsorships.

  10. Hi
    just to defend my Argument about increasing the value of “Form”.
    I have seen that a lot of people argue that they don`t want Freestyle to have a kind of “Ballerina” Style or that this could not be judged righteous.
    I myself also don´t support anything like this but I personnally think that Form can be generated in a lot of different ways, and not necessarily only by stretching your toes. So for example a Breakdance-like Style with rather bent than strechted legs could have a really nice Form aswell if it is experienced by the Judge as some kind of Body Expression.
    This Body Expression I think is really important for the “Enthusiastic Feeling” the Spectator or judge should feel while seeing a good Routine.
    Sometimes Players doo a really crazy double spinning catch but in the end whithout any Kind of Expression, so in my opinion the trick should give a really good mark in Difficulty but not in AI…
    Hope for constructive Answers and critics to my comments..

  11. flow and form are both important so why do we not keep both!?

    I will miss the music choreography part a lot. I always love watching routines that are choreographed to the music.

    I do not like the show part! I want to see some serious freestyle when i am on a freestyle tournament and not some clowns jumping around and trying to make some points with a show.

  12. Hi all,
    I think that simplifying the system is a real need. Judging AI is always very very challenging.
    If I had to decide, I would put flow and form in one category (and not into two 0-5 point categories). As it has been said, we don’t have a “standard” form we can refer to, so I would not make a separate category only for form. Plus, I don’t agree splitting Individual flow from Team flow into two different categories: flow is flow.
    So, I would only keep Music Coreography and General Impression under the “Show” umbrella.

  13. Hi all,
    Music Choreography is Flow. Form is Flow. GI is flow. Teamwork is Flow. And Flow is also Flow. The whole A.I.-Category should be based on Flow. Variety isn’t Flow in my point of view. That’s Difficulty! When i do the counter-thing, it’s not looking very flowy, but it’s difficult.
    I hope that helps…

  14. Hello plastic lovers,

    first thanks for the ongoing discussion and hard work that was put into the preparation of changes of the judging system.
    it is true that the AI-category i not the favorite judging category for most players, at least as I have experienced it during tournaments so far.
    it is complex and people might fear giving too subjective marks, leading to weird results, especially in major tournaments.
    first and foremost, and that applies to each judging category: Judges have to be educated! It is not enough to just put an experienced judge together with an unexperienced player and let him briefly explain what to do, just before the pool starts. Therefore it is important, that tournament directors/judging comitees prepare unexperienced judges properly, before those sit in front of their sheet.
    I find Flo’s remark very helpful, introducing a list of standards that define variety on the judging heet in form of a tick list… makes life easier and judging more accurate.
    To introduce show as a category seems to be induced by the current development of freestyle but does not match the spirit of freestyle for me. It is cool if people prepare well thought through routines, train them and present them well… But as Mikey pointed out, this often goes along with a reduced level of risk and difficulty in order to have a “winning routine”. It is a pity, when you know what the same players performing their prepared, safe routine are actually capable of when jamming!
    “Flow” is one of the, if not THE, most important categories.
    By dropping Flow as its own category you will penalize the ones who might have a structure for their routine, but are mostly jamming (something that is much more difficult in a tournament in my opinion).
    If you want a category “Show”, then leave Flow as it is… Players can have incredible individual and team-flow during a jam… don’t punish them for not having prepared a choreographed routine! Individual flow of jamming teams will perish within the category “Show”, as judges will be too focused on choreography and show elements!
    Regarding “Form”… hmm, what is a nice form? does it have to be the stretched toe? or is it more the full contact roll? smooth, effortless handling of the disc? Clean brushes, sets, big air? is it all together?
    Should we also have reminders for the judges of this category as well as for the variety part?

    In total:
    Educate judges, adjust the judging sheets (put some explanations / tick lists on in order to help the judges getting more accurate and fair results), KEEP “Flow” as a category and try to avoid potential punishment of skilled jammed performances in tournaments.


  15. My trouble with judging AI is not that judging 6 categories is difficult. It’s that most of the 6 categories are vague or poorly defined and the entire category of Artistic Impression contributes more to the overall score than technical proficiency.

    There are some very specific initiatives in these proposals, and I think they need to be clearly stated. The judging committee wants the next judging system to encourage:

    – a visually compelling style of play
    – graceful/smooth form
    – planned routines as reflected in use of music
    – routines that are a show and create enthusiasm in judges

    While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these four initiatives, the FPA membership needs to evaluate their comfort level with each as the reasons behind the proposed changes. I have discomfort with all four because I have a more inclusive vision of the judging system freestyle should use, however perhaps the membership wants this to be the direction the sport goes.

    There is one glaring omission: reduce the imbalanced point contribution AI currently makes to the total score by reducing the point spread. When a team can hit a few music cues or introduce non-discwork theater elements and gain more strategic advantage than playing state of the art freestyle for four minutes, there is an imbalance and need for reform.

  16. Variety:

    This is the subcategory that needs the most reform, yet there is no proposal for change. Variety as defined is about repetition of move rather than showing proficiency in a variety of skills selected by the team performing them.

    I’ve considered Variety a throwaway category as is now, almost impossible to judge responsibly. It neither measures variety nor gives teams a blueprint for improving their arsenals of skills.

    This is where stating a clear perspective is essential. For me, it would be something like “we believe freestyle encompasses a wide range of skills, and we are committed to rewarding teams for choosing a set of skills that expresses their freestyle game. We are committed that teams who demonstrate professional levels of variety will have an accountable mechanism for receiving credit for their performance.”

    My favorite solution is a manageable checklist of broad skills. Performance of X skills on the list gains the team credit for reaching a professional level of variety. Allowing the judges to reward degrees of proficiency (as with the bonus point proposal) might make the checklist even more functional.

    Perhaps Variety should be paired with Difficulty as a measure of technical proficiency.

  17. Form:

    Are we sure that graceful/smooth is what spectators are demanding? They don’t want Tommy’s on the edge, crash and burn style? How are we specifically going to encourage this? We had a lot of trouble defining Form when it was first included in the system in the 1993 work sessions. It’s tough to not pigeonhole people into ballet technique while not going too broad – yet there are many other valid and intentional body forms. I’d lean toward ditching this category before narrowing it to graceful/smooth .

  18. Show:

    I like the name, but this subcategory feels scary because points can just be thrown around for unaccountable reasons, and that’s the biggest weakness with AI now: judges can create huge point spreads that swing competitions far more than Execution and Difficulty.

    By reducing AI to four categories and making one worth 20 points, we’ve essentially given General Impression 40% of the Artistic Impression score. While I understand a goal was to simplify the judging experience, this just seems like dumbing down the system.

  19. Teamwork:

    There are more ways to work together as a team than planning co-ops. Spontaneous play is a risk that teams can choose to take. It can create magic or fall flat. Our judging system should welcome a team’s choice rather than defining teamwork as only things that are planned.

  20. Flow:
    Individual flow has nothing to do with AI, it’s an element of the difficulty (or the technic; see my general comment 2). If a player plays more fluent he plays more difficult. Difficulty judges are taking care about that, otherwise we have it in two judging categories again.
    Teamflow: Teamwork is very important and I wouldn’t overload it with teamflow. I see teamflow more like the “execution of the routine”. If a team get stocked in their routine, it’s a flow-break. The perfect routine has no break and therefore no deduction. Every flow break should give a deduction.
    Music Choreography and General Impression: Music choreography is very important and should stay a category. General Impression is the most subjective category and every judge is influenced of his general impression already when he judges the other categories. So it gets way too much weight – let’s drop it completely.
    Form: Technicly better players also tend to have a better form because they move smoother. So judging form will do the same thing than judging diff (or technic). We don’t need this category. Unless we want to see ballet like tip toe and dancing. But I don’t think that we want this – we want players who shred in the routine.
    Variety: This has always been in wrong place. It should not be a category of AI, it’s a category of technic, together with difficulty. Better players have higher diff and more moves.
    Show: I don’t like the word. My understanding of the word “show” is what I did many times to make some money during my studies. You don’t need to play hard, but you can put up a good show for lay spectators, with some nice effects. But for a champion ship I don’t want that. For this reason I think the word “show” is negative – put up a show to cover up your missing playing skills. I totally disagree to give this category 1-20 points. It’s getting much to much weight like that.
    Teamwork: See Arturs comment from June 5th – I agree with everything he wrote about Teamwork

  21. I think for Form is enough 0-5.
    Flow (individual and team) could be judge in a full scale 0-10.
    Or the judge start to watch how many teamwork a team do or this category can replace a 0-5 of Flow in the old system… so I think Form and Teamwork could make two small category.
    Show it’s not what we need, Music Coreography is really important but not if you love or hate the song, think about this category all moments of routines, put down some mark during routine and feel what your eyes hear and what your ears see.

  22. I would be willing to try this proposed change. However, I agree with
    Arthur and think variety could be more specific and needs a checklist of broad skills so that judges are accountable for the scores. I do not like the use of the word “show” which I think has a negative connotation for players.

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