From Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia.
- If you were looking for the NPC in the Pokémon games who assesses a Pokémon's IVs, see Stats judge.
A battle judge, also known as a referee, is a person in the anime who presides over the judgment of Pokémon battles between Trainers in official, designated challenges. They are identifiable by the Poké Ball symbol on their shirts. There is no game counterpart to a battle judge.
A battle judge is responsible for determining whether or not a Pokémon is able to continue battling. They can be found in Pokémon League Conferences and other lesser known tournaments, and even some Gym battles when the Gym Leader does not designate a personal hand to referee the match.
Most Gym Leaders, however, do not have official battle judges and instead instate a capable student, intern, assistant, or even a family member to aid in calling matches between Leader and challenger. Their calls are official and appear to have the same judgmental powers as learned battle judges. This is not the case in most Kanto Gyms, where no official or unofficial referee was present to rule, except in the case of Agatha in the Viridian Gym, who allowed Scott to judge the match against her and Ash; the Gym Leaders primarily self-judged the match. Robots can also referee battles between Trainers, as seen in Ash's battles against Spenser, whose robot is named Jamero, Volkner, and Clemont, whose robot is known as Clembot.
Gym Leaders themselves are qualified judges. Brock has provided judgment for many battles over the course of the series, Roark presided over an official Gym match between Byron and Ash, and Flannery's grandfather—the former Lavaridge Gym Leader—took up the position as the judge for Flannery's match against Ash.
The training a person must go through to become a judge was shown in Judgment Day!. In Hoenn, the Pokémon Battle Judge Training Institute is located on Bomba Island, where Professor Serena teaches and ex-student Jimmy studied. Jimmy mentions that for battle judge training, this school is the "only one there is," either indicating that all judges are trained out of Hoenn, it is the only battle judge school in Hoenn, or it is the top school for such training (if not one of the top schools).
According to Brock, there are not many judges capable of evaluating a battle at the level necessary for battles sanctioned by the Pokémon League, so only so many exist under the profession of "official." Max hints at the profession's prestige and esteem: given that so few are capable of judging a League battle, simply being able to is an honor.
In Alola's trials, the residing Island Kahuna typically watches over the Trainer's battle with the Totem Pokémon. During Ash's grand trials against Hala and Olivia, Professor Kukui has judged in the Kahuna's stead. In his grand trial against Nanu, Acerola took on the role of referee.
Judges are trained to critically evaluate the battle field, which includes the Pokémon, the Trainers, and the field itself, if the terrain is not ordinary. They have to be able to recognize when a Pokémon has fainted and announce a winner through defeat, by determining all aspects of a Pokémon, including its type-cast and what a species as a whole is capable of (attacks and abilities).
They are responsible for officially beginning a match and upholding the rules of the battle, such as how many Pokémon a Trainer can use and what are the clauses, such as substitution limitations, making it clear to all Trainers involved what the parameters of the match are. The terms for a win are also in their ruling, as in what is required for a Trainer to lose the match. In general practice, the default appears to be until all the available Pokémon on one side are "unable to battle."
Their ruling is usually absolute, so making the correct call is imperative to the eventual announcement of a match. A wrong call might lead to the questioning of a judge's abilities to referee, especially in a professional setting. According to Serena, a battle judge must have confidence that the decision and ruling they are making is correct, otherwise it leaves room for error.
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