New year, new training diary.

Welcome to 2015, it is going to be a great year for Judo and Judo athletes.

Diary entries from Jack Lovelock's training diary, by Jack Lovelock. 1936. Alexander Turnbull Library. MSX-2510-114.

Diary entries from Jack Lovelock’s training diary, by Jack Lovelock. 1936. Alexander Turnbull Library. MSX-2510-114.

I thought January was a great time to write something about the value of using a training diary and how to use one. It’s been covered before on this site ( http://judoadvisor.com/2009/01/planning-your-training-101-for-judo-athletes/ and http://judoadvisor.com/2009/02/how-to-get-started-with-a-training-diary-for-judo-athletes/ ) but a review for 2015 seemed appropriate.

A training diary is for me the first and most important tool a Judo athlete can have. If I could suggest one thing to a novice athlete I would go with a training diary. They provide essential record keeping, reflection and planning, and cost very little.

My suggestion for a diary is always the B5, one day per page, hard cover type. If you have been using one for a while you may feel more comfortable with a larger format but I always found personally that too large and I would not carry it in my kit bag.

I recommend a paper diary as your training diary should be with you 24/7 and should be something you can access and use all the time, anywhere, anytime.

GETTING STARTED

Buy your diary, buy a nice pen (or three) to go with it and start recording what you eat and drink and write down every training session. This is a good start and requires little thought/effort.

Next, start recording what you do in your training sessions. Was it a gym session of Judo? Was it endurance work, skill development, etc. Next record the quantities, you track how many uchi komi, nage komi, randori you do. Just the same as you would record reps in the gym.

Next, record how things felt. Did your throws work well against the tall blackbelt? Did your shoulder feel a bit sore after the session? Was it a fun session or were you not enjoying it. At this stage you have probably already started recording things like when you went to sleep and woke. You might want to start recording how you felt when you woke up, were you tired in the morning, did you ache?

Review

Now you are recording things in your diary you are already starting to informally review your training, simply by stopping and writing it down. But you need to take this a little more seriously. You should set aside time to read your training diary. For example, you might want to make it part of the process of ending a training cycle (every 6-8 weeks).

You can start by simply scanning over the pages and seeing what leaps out at you.

Next you can apply the following questions and yes, write the answers down in your diary:

  • What went well?
  • What did not go well?
  • What can I change to improve?

The next step is to share your diary with someone you trust. Normally your coach; though training partners and husbands/wives have been used before. Ask them to answer the three questions above too. And let them tell you what they see in your diary. I suggest closing your mouth pretty firmly and not interrupting as you can ruin the process by getting defensive and talking too much. You have to trust the other person and respect them. That will help you listen and consider what they say.

Put your PLAN in your diary.

Every Judo athlete should have a plan, simple or complex. And that plan should be written down. The next step in your training diary use is to put you training plan in your diary in advance. This way when you rock up to the dojo you can look at your diary and be reminded that you are working on left Seoi Nage that night.

You may not follow the plan entirely (or at all) but having it there will remind you and keep it in your mind, and will also prompt you to explain in the diary why you diverged if you didn’t do what you wrote down.

Tips and Tricks

  1. Use your diary as it suits you.
    This means if you are artistic, fill your diary with pictures of the techniques you worked on. Rather than writing “I felt good”, draw a happy face in the margin. If you are a numbers person (like me) give things percentages.
  2. Track your weight
    You probably did not need me to tell you this one, most Judo athletes weigh themselves a lot anyway. But you should be recording your weight in your diary so you can track it’s movement upwards towards your target final weight.
  3. Blog it.
    If you have a good training diary, you have a good blog. Social media (as we covered in an earlier post: http://judoadvisor.com/2014/09/social-media-for-athletes-coaches-and-ngbs/ ) is now a essential part of being an athlete. Many athletes struggle to find things to share. Your training diary has a lot of information you can integrate into a social media post. Don’t share the private stuff, but trust me, people will love seeing how much hard work you are putting in.

Summary

A training diary should be in the kit bag of every serious aspiring Judo athlete. I always respect the player I spot writing something down in a diary in the changing room or on the side of the mat after a session.

A training diary is THE essential first tool for becoming a Judo athlete. It is a recording device that allows you to see what has happened over the past week/month/cycle. It is a tool for reflection and planning which is simple, cheap and effective.

If you have any questions on the use of a training diary, let me know. Either drop me an email ( lw@judocoach.com ) or leave a comment in the comments section below.

Lance

 

The image on this page is of the training diary of Jack Lovelock who won the 1936 Olympic Gold medal in the 1500m and is sourced from http://schools.natlib.govt.nz/multimedia/primary-sources/olympic-games/diary-entries-jack-lovelocks-training-diary

Social Media for Athletes, Coaches and NGBs.

In this article the aim is to cover the principles and a small amount of practical tips on the use of social media in sport.

LetsMeetinChelyabinskAt the recent world championships in Chelyabinsk, Russia, the IJF and local organisers out did themselves when it came to the use of social media. The use of video streaming, websites, social networking and social media was high and had a direct impact on the success of the event.

Athletes, coaches and governing bodies can use the event as an example of the positive effects of sharing via social media.

Basics:

Social media is a term used to describe the creation of “media” by individuals and shared online; especially via social networking. The difference between this and traditional media is that it is mainly about sharing by individuals rather than broadcasting by traditional means.

We share, rather than broadcast. We participate in a community rather than publish.

An easy example of of social media is this article. It is written and shared on a blog and is not published in a magazine for example. This blog is part of the wider Judo community and unlike magazines for example invites sharing and comments online.

Other examples of social media are sites like Twitter where 140 character posts are shared, instagram where photos are shared, soundcloud and podcasts where audio recordings are shared, blogs where long form test is shared and of course Youtube where videos are shared.

Benefits:

Social media allows the democratization of media, where anyone can share something online without the necessity of traditional publishing methods. Anyone can share their media and  equally, anyone can find the media and follow the creator.

For the creator, you are able to share with anyone. The act of sharing has the benefit of giving your thoughts public viewing. Creating the media is a creative process that is a wonderful way of crystallizing your thoughts via reflection. You also become part of a wider community and you can gain a huge amount of insight from the responses from people who reply to your posts.

As an athlete/coach or even NGB, the benefit of social media is that you can share the trials and tribulations of what you are doing. As an athlete you will have people interested in your career. Be it parents, friends, other athletes, coaches, fans or journalists. Social media allows you to share with them so they know you better and understand who you are and what you are all about. For an athlete you can develop a following, and audience, and if you are interested in ideas like crowd funding, this is vital as before you can ask people to support your campaigns you need followers/fans and social media is how you develop fans.

Social media for coaches and NGBs is important too as it is a wonderful way to share the efforts you are making. Again your fans/followers can follow you day to day struggle and get emotionally involved which leads to them supporting you when you need them. It also helps prevent negative opinions forming in the vacum. Social media allows you to share what is happening and that can help prevent people getting the wrong ideas of what is happening.

There is a perception held by some that the sharing can give away your secret edge. But the reality is that what you are doing is never a secret and the edge you have is a result of your doing not of people knowing what you are doing. There are a tiny minority of people whom I would suggest their ideas are worth keeping secret.  Sharing what you are doing does not mean people will be able to steal your idea and beat you; it’s the doing that matters. Equally, it is highly unlikely you (dear reader) are that special and unique. Whatever you are doing, others are probably doing it already and you sharing a little about what you are doing is not going to stop your success.

Risks:

The benefits of social media are huge. The risks are normally NOT what you imagine. Sharing all your training online is not going to mean that other athletes can beat you. It is a common and naive worry and one you should discard today.

What is a real risk is that you damage your reputation with bad decisions on what and how you share online. I would encourage you to be true to yourself online in your social media; but that is under the caveat that you are not a bad person. Racist, sexist and rude social media content will do you  more harm than good. Of course the readers of this blof are not bad people, but it can be all too easy to say something that gets taken the wrong way.

Another bit risk is that you get embroiled in the negative views of the people online. Take a quick scan down teh comments on any youtube video and you’ll see some horrible comments. And it’s all too easy to react to it and blow your cool and get embroiled in a battle you can not win. My advice is to focus not on the critics (there will be many) and focus on your views and on the kindred spirits you will find online.

Act like anyone in the public eye, accept that there will always be people who dislike your views or even you as a person for no reason you understand. Ignore it and continue.

Obviously, the other big risk is that you share  personal information that can be taken advantage of by “bad people”. So no sharing of where you live, your home phone number, where you will be walking on a dark night.

Do:

  • Be honest
  • Be yourself
  • Share
  • Try all the different media you can, find the ones that suit you

Don’t:

  • Give away personal information
  • Don’t try and sell
  • Don’t lie
  • Don’t give up!

Summary:

Social media for athletes is simply about sharing your journey online yourself. Share the pain and the tears, share the joy and the smiles. It is NOT about finding people to give you money. You may be able to grow a fan base and approach them for financial support, but that should NOT be why you share online. It has to be about you sharing. Social media is NOT a sales channel, a propaganda broadcast medium.

The benefits include having mediums to reflect and express yourself. Social media can act as a training diary, a postcard home.

I would invite you to start with a simple blog, just write a few words about your training today. Tell those who find it about the hardwork you are doing and let them see what you are doing. Maybe someone reading is an expert in a area you have issues and is drawn to help you. Perhaps they are a critic who goes from not liking you to being a fan as they see how hard you are working. This goes for coaches and NGBs too. If you genuinely feel you are doing good things, then share it.

Lastly, the work social is there for a reason. Social media is about sharing in a community. Join that community today, read some blogs, leave some positive comments, send some emails.

And start that by writing a comment on this article in teh comments section below or by email me your thoughts on social media (lw@judocoach.com).

Lance.

Crowd funding for Athletes.

Crowd funding is mainstream now, Kickstarter is the biggest brand and people are getting amazing opportunities via crowd funding and the area of sport is no exception. In this article we will look at crowd funding in the sporting context and try and provide some tips on how to make it work for you as an athlete.

What is Crowd funding?

Lets quickly cover the basics; crowd-funding is a new way to raise funds to get something done. By leveraging the internet to find people who share an interest; people are able to raise money from the community rather than from traditional sources like banks, venture capital or limiting the scope of what you want to achieve.

Well known examples are the Veronica Mars movie, Peeble smart watch and Ouya gaming console.

In short, crowd-funding is about giving the fans or future customers the chance to financially support a project to make it happen.

Crowd funding in sport

The two big names in crowd funding are kick starter and indiegogo. Kick starter is the biggest but not ideal for sport; IndieGoGo is better for our needs as it is better structured for this sort of campaign and also allows you to run a campaign where if the target is not met, you still retain what you did raise. Kickstarter does not.

However, we have niche services for sport also.

Some examples are MakeaChamp, Pledge Sports and Wij Zijn Sport.

These sites are tailored specifically towards sport and athletes.

Athlete Examples

Some examples of athletes using crowd funding platforms in Judo are:

  • Nathon Burns (GBR)
  • Harkirat Sekhon (GBR)
  • Kathy Hubble (CAN)
  • Nick Kosser (USA)
  • Antoine Valois-Fortier (CAN)
  • Do Velema (NED)

Top Tips (and some don’ts)

1. Be worth what you ask for

Don’t be insulted, but if you are not that well known and/or not that good don’t ask for large amounts. If you are a 15 year old kid who got third place at your regional championships don’t ask for money to support your Olympic Dream. People are not silly and are more likely to support the kid they know from the club’s campaign to fund a trip to compete at the national championship[s than they are a campaign for the same kid to go to Rio2016.

It is fine to have goals that are not the Olympic games; it’s not about gold medals at the Olympics, it is about giving people that know you or can associate with you the chance to support you and share the journey.

 

2. Don’t promise things unless you can deliver

Whilst researching this article; I saw one campaign where one of the perks you could receive for sponsoring to a certain amount was a “shout out” on their twitter account. But the athlete did not have a twitter account.

You want to be creative and offer things that are unique to your journey.

Offer to send postcards from cities where the money will get you to, maybe posters from the events or t-shirts. Offer to film a training session with a top coach and send it to your backers. Offer to do something out of the normal; don’t rely on the defaults.

3. Have a network before you start

A crowd funding campaign relies on social networking (both online and traditional networks of people who know you). Make sure you have all the networking you can do in place before you start a campaign. Make sure you know which people you know will promote your cause and know what you can do to make them feel amazing promoting you and your campaign.

Have your twitter account for months before you start, and your facebook page. Use them daily to show that you are engaged before you start.

4. Engage with people

Especially after you start the campaign, engage with people. Talk to them online and offline and really engage with them. if someone you don’t know contributes immediately thank them and ask them how they heard about you. tell them how much you appreciate them and ask about them as people; ask how yourself how you can make them feel your genuinely appreciate the hard earned money they are giving you.

Don’t be a stereotyped salesperson, don’t spam people and websites with your campaign. Talk with people and engage. Share with them and help others want to talk about you and your campaign.

5. Regular updates.

Don’t “fire and forget”; you have to use every opportunity to communicate positively with your backers and potential backers.  regular emails, updates to websites, letters, postcards, etc will make your backers happy and lead to more donations.

6. Under promise and over deliver

You need to outline your goals and your plan on how you will get from A->B. And you need to share every step. You need to offer perks to backers based on how much they donate, how much you raise in total and of course what you achieve as an athlete.

Be clever and promise realistically what you can deliver. Then plan how you will deliver both as an athlete and in how you will “pay” your backers. Then plan for the extra perks you’ll give backers if you raise more money than expected, or receive a big donation or win the Olympic games and get that big endorsement deal.

 

This short article will I hope give you some ideas on how to look at crowd funding as an athlete.  if you have questions or comments please post them in the comments section on http://judoadvisor.com or drop me an email to lw@judocoach.com

 

Lance.

 

 

—-

P.s. I’m still very busy with my activity in the EJU and IJF streaming events and being part of the IT team. Also I am also working hard to try and find a way to make the skills I am applying in those arenas available to other events and other sports… so if you are interested drop me an email so I can talk with you about the business of sport and my role in it.

The 2013 IJF rules and you.

With the Olympic Qualification period for Rio2016 starting in just a few months the IJF have published what should be the last changes to the rules before the Olympic Games.

There has been the usual wringing of hands and complaining over the changes; but progress maches on and if you are a Judo athlete you must adapt or lose.

It is vital for any judo athlete to understand the rules and how they will impact the way our sport is played. Having an appreciation for how the referees are going to interpret the actions of you and your opponent will quite likely be the difference between a Gold medal and a silver or no medal.

My advice to all athletes is to get along to all the coach education seminars you can possibly get to. This will serve two purposes; one you will learn the new rule changes and you will understand the mindset of the referees you will be competing under. You can gain an advantage by looking at how referees are going to apply the rules as much as understanding the rules themselves.

By way of example I want you to watch the video below:

 

In this video the young upcoming British athlete Nekoda Davis gets beaten by Franssen of Holland.

The question you need to ask yourself is why?

For me, it is that Franssen uses the rule that has possibly not got as much attention as it deserves; the edge.

Screenshot from 2014-03-10 00:20:03

Here you see Franssen pressuring Davis towards the edge with her left hand grip. Davis is attempting to attack her way away from the edge.

At my club I have been talking alot about this rule and I think this video highlights the impact it may have perfectly. In this contest, Franssen forces Davis to the edge and it’s clear thats what she is doing. She soon gets what she was looking for and Davis is penalised for going outside the contest area. When the action retstarts; Franssen sticks to the plan and applies more pressure, lots of straight arms forcing Davis back to the edge.

Screenshot from 2014-03-10 00:20:32

Franssen causes Davis to be outside the contest area and the referee stops the contest and penalises Davis Shido.

And then Davis gets caught for Wazari and osae komi follows. Davis is pressured out of this contest through a great understanding of the new rule interpretation and a strategy that is simple yet effective.

The use of the contest area is an underlooked element of many athletes Judo. Don’t be one of those players; get yourself along to some refereeing seminars and work with you coach to develop a strategy that works for you.

 

Judo Warm-ups

EJU Championships TV commentary position

EJU Championships TV commentary position

Preparing to compete is a physical and mental act. Before you compete you need to get into the correct physical and mental state.

As a Judo athlete you need to be aware of the level of preparation that suits you and your sport. Your mental and physical level of arousal is a personal thing that you need to explore. Some need to be hyped up and raging, others chilled and relaxed.

In standard texts, warm-up requires getting a rolling sweat. In most clubs I have ever attended, the warm-up consists mainly of running around the mat, and is something we also see at events.

However…

Judo athletes need to realise that the warm-up of the clubs and the textbooks, are not the ones of the elite athlete or even the regular Judo competitor. Your warm-ups have to match the reality of the sport.  If you are a high level Judo athlete, you will be unable to get warmed up in the way the courses describe.  The reason is because in Judo we have Judogi control and the delays of other matches to contend with.  The time between leaving the warm-up area and going on the mat will likely be between 15 and 30 minutes, which is mainly spent queuing, therefore running around in circles is out.

Even at lower level events, you will find that the warm-up area (if there is one) will be jam-packed and more than likely you will be crowding around the mat you are competing on, just straining to hear your name being called. If you are fortunate, you will have a skilled/experienced coach who will stay near the table for you, allow you to secure a corner and to prepare safe in the knowledge that he/she will get you at the right time. Although running around in circles around the mat is out.

The most running around you will see is well in advance of the start of the competition and that is mainly about getting a feel for the day and the venue. Watch any event on http://ippon.tv and you’ll see athletes relaxing into the event, jogging around the mat.

In the real world of Judo as a sport, your warm-up will be in two phases.  The first being the initial warm-up and the second is the per match warm-up. The initial warm-up will probably include a little jogging, if you want and if you have space. It will normally involve some mat time. The Japanese team is well known for the warm-up their international teams use. It is done in a very small amount of space on the tatami and could be done anywhere. It can also, with some variation, be used for both the initial warm-up or just prior to going on the tatami.

Although many other warm-ups exist and are worth exploring, I can recommend following the example of the Japanese, until you find a better warm-up. That said, you might want to be careful deviating from it for quite sometime, as after all, the Japanese teams have a much better record than you, your club coach or even you national coach… unless my readerships is much more impressive than I previously understood it to be. ;-)

So with no more delay; let me describe the Japanese warm-up for you (video will follow at a later date).
All the following exercises are carried out for 20 seconds, at a time, before changing immediately onto the next exercise.
  1. High wide Burpee.
  2. Feet shuffle run
  3. Running on the sport
  4. Tuck jumps
  5. Side to side jumps
  6. Side steps
  7. Static Bear Crawls
  8. Mini-pushups
  9. Crunches
  10. Back arches

Perform these exercises twice through.

More details:

1. High-wide burpee.
This exercise consists of placing hands wide on the floor and legs wide a little away from your hands. Jump feet towards your hands, touch your shins/knees with you hands. Put your hands back on floor then jump your feet back. It is only a movement of approximately 30-40cm.

2. Shuffle run
This is running very fast on the sport, barely lifting feet off the floor. Balls of feet may not leave the floor at all.

3. Running on the sport.
High knees standard running on the spot.

4. Tuck jumps
As you would expect

5. Side to side jumps
This is as if jumping side to side over a line in the tatami, feet are together and jumps are low and moving 40cm or so.

6. Side steps
Legs wide, skip/jump to the left, then immediately back to start, then skip to the right and back. There are three positions left, right and centre. quickly moving centre, left, centre, right, centre. Feet remain wide at all times. Feet barely come off the floor.

7. Static bear crawls
dropping to the floor in press-up position, bring left foot and knee towards left hand. While moving left leg back to straight, bring the right leg towards right hand.

8. mini-press-ups
Some call these press-up pulses. in pressup position with hands under shoulders lower chess to just off the floor. The pressing up and down quickly, moving only 10-15cm up and down. Keep body straight.

9. Crunches.
Roll over onto your back, do crunches/sit-ups. DOn’t sit all the way up, just crunches.

10. Arches.
Roll over onto your front. With your arms bent at 90 degrees (like in a “hands up” position) lift your feet and chest off the floor and relax, repeat quickly.

… and back to the burpees.

The Japanese team will repeat this twice or more, take a short break (maybe jog a little) then repeat twice (or more) again. After this they will typically also do uchi komi.

 

What is notable about this warmup is that it is rather static, is is done is a small space and can be done anywhere almost. It is also known by all the teams. Senior athletes have their own models but I am sure they all know this from their cadet and junior team days.

 

I hope to expand on this subject, but before I do I want to look forther into this warm-up and others. I encourage you all to try this warm-up in your club a few time and see how you feel afterwards.

Please let me know how you find it. Is it harder than your existing warmup? Easier? More intense, more relaxing? More structured?

Please drop me an email ( lw@judocoach.com ) or leave a comment on this page.

Lance

Adapting to the new IJF rules.

There is a lot of discussion at present about the IJF rules and adapting to them. In this article I want to talk about how as a player you need to look at the current rule changes and future changes and how you can be affected (or not) by them.

The new (starting January 2013) rules have been in testing at IJF events for some months as I write this. The are affecting the way Judo contest evolve, and as an athlete you need to understand them and know how you and your opponents can use the rules and how they affect you (and your opponents) Judo.

Although it is tempting to go into the “nitty-gritty” of the new rules and talk about how you might use them to your advantage; I shall refrain from doing so. The reason being that this is just one of a series of changes to the rules and as such it is I think more important to talk about how to look at the rules and your Judo.

So….

As a Judo athlete you are training to compete; you are seeking to win contests in competitions. This is what a Judo athlete does. You are bound by an ever changing set of rules that determine what range to techniques and to a degree styles you can you to achieve victory. Within those bounds you are free to find your own way. You develop throws, ne waza, tactics and strategies that work for you.

When a change to the rules happens you need to assess if any of your ways of competing are affected directly and indirectly. For example the recent rule changes about leg grabs affects you directly if you favour that method of attack. The new shido does not equal a score affects you indirectly. The shido rule change I feel actually affects most athletes more than the leg grab rule. The dynamic edge rule again is important in the same way.

So if your waza is affected directly, you need to look at changing your techniques. This is hard work and will require dedication, effort and time. If you are not directly affected then this is good.

BUT WHAT ABOUT NEXT TIME?

This is where you need to look deeper and consider the direction the sport is going and how your style of play fits into this direction. You need to “future proof” your Judo now so that you don’t get burned the next time the rules change. For me the direction is pretty clear, the sport is trying to encourage positive attacking tachi-waza. It is trying to discourage negative defensive Judo that is deemed boring. The player that stands tall and throws with big throws from a “standard” grip has less to fear than the bent over counter specialist.

So your homework for this week is to look seriously at your Judo and decide what your Judo looks like to the outside world. Be critical and perhaps film yourself in Randori at the club. Are you standing tall like the IJF wants? Are you making lots of powerful attacks that would appeal to the TV audience? If not, then you need to seriously consider if what you are doing will become discouraged by the rules in the future.

Let me know what you find out about you own Judo.

 

Lance

Your danger throw

As a Judo athlete, you need to have a danger throw. By this I mean you need to be able to scare your opponents. I don’t mean being a threatening scary person, I mean you have to have throws in your arsenal that are dangerous.

Sadly, not all of us have dangerous throws… at least not yet!

Watching a variety of levels of Judo over the last 18 months or so, at all levels; it has become clearer to me that without a dangerous throw lurking it is almost impossible to control or win a match in Judo. I have observed this with 12 year olds and all the way up to Olympic level. And it is an area where as an aspiring Judo athlete you can improve and make your own life easier.

The flaw I see is primarily players who are fit and strong and capable; but fail to ever threaten with a good attack. They are capable and often have good kumi kata, but once they settle in they never seem to be able to shake their opponents up at all. For me, this is not about the player being worse than their opponent. It is not about their opponent “shutting them down”, this is about them not having developed a throw that is a threat to virtually anyone.

The perfect place to see a dangerous throw is in the veterans competitions. These are not the elite athletes with amazing strength and conditioning. Often they are older, out of shape; but with decades of Judo behind them. Veterans Judo is the perfect place to watch an “oldtimer” catch someone with that one throw they can catch anyone with. That is their danger throw, the one that if they do it right is going to smash anyone. Veterans may only have one throw like it, but damn if they catch you you are in trouble! We see and feel their danger throw in the club all the time, it’s that throw that catches the 20-something year old “contender” for Ippon and leaves the young buck wondering what the heck happened.

But a danger trhow is not the exclusive domain of the Judo “Greybeards”, we can all develop one. And most of it is easy to do. Just identify that one throw that works for you and drill it till you can do it in your sleep. Develop it till you have it to such a state that everytime you attempt it, it feels like it might just work.

This may take some time, but it can and will happen if you focus on it. A simple way to develop it is to promise yourself you will try and throw someone with it in every randori you do.

You will have noticed that in the sentence above I said “attempt to throw”, not turn in for it. And that is an important point; you need to drill throwing with this danger throw, so that everytime you do it you are taking people to the floor with it. People in your training environment should reach a point where they know it’s coming; but still can’t get off it.

In competition context, this throw should be there whenever the opportunity arrises. It may be a throw you reserve whilst you work through your game plan and try other techniques. It is that throw that you just have sat in reserve and is there when you need it. You may never even use it in the competition, it’s just sitting their just under the surface like a shark, waiting to catch your opponent.

Over and over I see this pattern in high level and lower level competition. The winning athlete has “that throw” that makes the other person nervous, even if they don’t know what the throw is. They can sense that it is there, that it is threatening, that if they make one mistake they will be on their backs. They feel that you have something lurking, something scary and that often puts them off their game and allows the opportunities you need to win the match.

It is as much psychological as it is physical. The power of your danger throw is not necessarily in the throw itself but in having that throw there ready to make all the difference. The hours spent sharpening up this throw develop a faith in it that can give you an inner strength and self-confidence that makes all the difference. The faith leads you to dedicate more time to sharpening this danger throw and that in turn makes it even more dangerous and the cycle spirals upwards.

So your “homework” is to look at your Judo, consult with your coach, your partners and your opponents even and find out if you have a danger throw. If so, sharpen it. If not, develop one. It does not matter if you are training for your first match or your 100th, look for your danger throw and comment on this post to let me know if you know what it is and what it makes you feel.

Lance

The “just another day in the office” mindset.

In this article we shall explore what I will call the “just another day in the office” mindset. By which I mean a competition mindset which removes anxiety and fear at competitions.

Competing in Judo is hard, scary, stressful, nerve wracking. Just before you as a Judo athlete step on the mat to fight, you will be nervous. You will have fear of failure, etc.

This is not all negative, but for many many up and coming judo athletes it can be performance destroying. We have all met players that are wonderful in Randori and bomb out in competitions. Often, they crash out because before they get on the mat they have lost the mental state to perform.

Your optimum mental state to compete is unique to you. Some people need to be “up” higher than others, on the whole though; most novice athletes in Judo (IMHO) are in an “arousal state” that is too high and destroys their performances.

Many of the top players in judo look remarkably calm before fighting. Riner, Iliadis, Sobirov, Zantarai or Tong Wen make good examples. Perhaps, it is superficial and only they know for sure, but superficial or not they are calmer than most novice judo athletes I see.

A good friend described the state you see on the face of the greats as being a product of it being “just another day in the office” for them. Meaning, that in their minds they had done this so many times it was nothing new, not something to fear, it was their normal activity.

Fostering this calm mindset is something we can all work on. Kayla Harrison the -78kg player from the USA is a good example. In the recent video by the IJF, she describes working with a sports psychologist on visualising fighting (and beating) the other female athletes in her category. She goes on to comment how by the time she actually meets them in competition she feels like she has already beaten them over and over. She has the “just another day in the office” mindset towards fighting these other judo players.

So you as a judo athlete can mimic Kayla and use visualisation to see yourself beating your opponents and foster a calmness in competition.

Another tip, which is useful for those who can’t perhaps picture all their opponents; is to simply compete more often.
Schedule more events into your calendar, perhaps lower level events where the result does not matter. These are opportunities for you to feel the fear, the excitement and the nerves and manage them. With more experience, most people find things easier to cope with.

Another effective technique, which fits well with competing more often, is to modify your competition warmup to calm you. To make it more like the important events.
For example, at elite level events you will warmup and then need to go through judogi control, them wait in a queue for your match to come up. In lower level events this is not the case, you may be matside the whole time.
You may want to try mimicking at the low level events the Judogi control queue. Maybe stand away from the mat and stand in a queue of one. Then when called, walk to the mat.
This method may help you in several ways. First standing away from the mat will likely give you a quieter space to occupy. Second, you are mimicking the high level event so when you reach the high level events you are used to that delay. Thirdly, walking to the mat is a physical act that can centre you on what comes next.

Please do leave a comment or email me at lw@judocoach.com with your thoughts and experiences around mental preparation and this article.

Lance

Pressure, Passivity, Shido, Yuko and how they work in Judo competition.

Recently I helped take a session for Judo players as part of the Hampshire County Squads, in the senior section I spoke briefly during some randori about Shido and how it is being used by elite Judo athletes to apply pressure and win fights. In this post I would like to discuss it in a little more detail and share some ideas on how you as a Judo athlete can use Shido and passivity in your fights.

Mr. Geri at World CupIf we look at the sport of Judo, penalties make up a large proportion of the scores. To be precise, in the recent 2011 Moscow Grand Slam which I attended, Shido made up 48.5% of all scores recorded (According to the IJF statistics for the event), and back in 2008 my own research of the Beijing Olympic Games Judo placed the percentage at 54%. In the 2009 World Championships the figure was even higher (according to IJF statistics) at 63.5%.

Watching recent elite level competitions, what I have observed is that the passivity penalty is the most popular penalty; in fact looking at statistics it is the most prevalent “score”. In Moscow it made up 31.63% of all “scores” with the next closest “score” being O-Uchi-Gari at a mere 4.81%. Now, in the latest incarnation of the rules, the first Shido does not affect the score on the scoreboard, so people call it the freebie. That said, the IJF statistics also state that the passivity Shido makes up 11.9% of “winning scores”, with O-Uchi-Gari at only 7.6%. So passivity shido is deciding matches.

Even when not directly deciding the match, the passivity shido is indirectly deciding fights based on the next 60 second or less of the fight after the first shido for passivity. What I have been observing is that immediately after that first shido for passivity, the player without the shido piles on even more pressure on the penalised player, preventing that person from attacking and quickly resulting in them getting a second shido, which results in them being a Yuko down on the scoreboard.

This is perhaps counter-intuitive, we might expect the player penalised to up the work rate. But in reality, the elite Judo player is using the first shido as a trigger to up their workrate and encourage the referee to give shido again to their opponent. It is smart play and I encourage you to watch some high level players and watch this happen and see if it plays out as I describe.

What does it mean for you as an aspiring Judo athlete?

It means that it is important for you to control the tempo and attack rate of the match. A clever approach to passivity will help you get wins. For example, you can go to Judo and practise preventing your opponent from attacking you. By this I mean through the use of strong kumi kata AND positive attacks. You can’t be negative, you need to be attacking and working to throw your opponent.

Randori is a good opportunity perhaps for you to rehearse doing all the attacks for 30-60 seconds, then stopping (this is when the first shido would happen). Then rehearse being even more positive and preventing your opponent from getting a look in for another 30-40 seconds. At which point the second shido would be likely to be awarded.

At this point, you can perhaps try a active defense. By which I mean that you cease trying to throw your opponent but defend. You do this positively by securing a good grip (kumi kata), then using movement to protect yourself from attack. After approximately 10 seconds you want to try and make a positive attack that ends up with you in a safe position on the ground. This is not your “flop and drop” seoi nage, but a good seoi nage. It is not a kick at the ankle, rather a good ashi waza where you both end up falling.

The point here being that you want to minimise the risks of being thrown, decrease your workrate (you may need the energy later in the match or later in the day), whilst not risking a penalty. You need to fight smart.

Of course, the best way to save energy is to throw your opponent for  ippon in the first exchange. But in the reality of higher level competition this is not common. So if you want to make it beyond the level you are at today, you want to start developing strategy and tactics that allow you to win the fights using not only your own skills, but your knowledge of the rules of our sport.

Please do leave your comments of what you think of what I am describing here, traditionalists may think it is bad to even discuss the idea of playing the rules/referees in this way. Sporting purists might also consider it against the spirit of our sport to play this way. Please do leave your point of view, I welcome them all. Alternatively, if commenting in public is not your thing, please feel comfortable emailing your thoughts, questions, experiences, ideas to me at lw@judocoach.com.

Avoid taking low probability shots.

Last week I attended the European Judo Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. What became one of the talking points of the event was the number of Hansoku Make decisions for leg grabs. In this post I want to discuss that and how you as a Judo athlete need to consider the techniques you use from more than a “does it work” perspective.

The “leg grab” rule has been in effect for at least a year, yet at the European Championships there seemed to be a rather high number of athletes disqualified because they grabbed below the belt. This article is not about whether or not leg grabs are something that should be allowed or not. This article is about how as an athlete you need to consider the rules of Judo and how it affects how you play the sport.

Leg grabs in Judo are now banned, doing it results in Hansku Make, disqualification. There are excepetions however; for example you can grab the lag as a continuation of a prior valid attack. For example if you were to do Ko Uchi Gari and as Uke started to fall backwards from that attack you were able to grab their ankle and drive; this would be ok.

Equally, if your opponent attacks you with say Harai Goshi, you are allowed to grab below the belt and use Te Guruma for example. The other exception is if your opponent crossgrips over your shoulder, you are then allowed to grab below the waist.

The problem is, that grabbing the leg is now a very dubious decision. Watching the fights in Istanbul and the videos of previous occurrences, what is clear is that it is very easy to get it wrong and get Hansoku Make. If you grab fractionally too soon, you are gone! It is similar in ways to the use of sutemi waza. If you use a sacrifice technique, especially as a counter, there is always a percentage chance that you are going to give away a score rather than earn one. To a lesser degree this is true of any action in a match, but these two situations are much more obvious than the risks of taking say a high collar grip over a mid lapel grip.

Outside of Judo I enjoy watching Basketball. I worked briefly for a Basketball team and now enjoy taking my son to watch the local TeamSolent basketball play. In Basketball they talk about taking high probability shots and low probability shots all the time. Specifically, a three point shot is generally a low probability shot whereas the lay-up is a high probability shot. A lay up has a higher probability of going in the hoop and it also has a high probability of drawing a foul from the opposition. So although it is a lower scoring shot, it is tactically better sometimes.

In Judo, a leg grab of any kind has a probability of scoring and of getting hansoku make. Different situations will give different probabilities for each result, but their is always a chance the referee wil give hansoku make if you grab below the waist. If the referees get every situation 100% right, there is always the possibility you grab early or at the wrong time. If you consider that referees are fallible and make mistakes, then the odds of getting Hansku Make changes… and probably not in your favour.

So as an athlete, you need to assess if using a leg grab is worth attempting, even if it feels like it could be a scoring opportunity. The same is true of sacrifice techniques. What is the chance that the referee(s) see something different to what you expect. What are the chances that your opponent can react and cause it to be their score. Especially with inexperienced referees a well timed shout can make all the difference. You might be trying tomoe nage, but if it does not work and your opponent shouts and reacts the right way, you could easily find you’ve given away the score.

With leg grabs, its even worse because we know the rule has been put in place to stop leg grabs. So we know referees are tasked with stopping leg grabs, so they are looking to penalise people who leg grab unless you correctly grab in one of the exception situations. But the referees are looking to stop what you are doing, that leg grab is the focus, not the crossgrip. They don’t want you to leg grab at all, so any leg grab will be a case of them wanting to penalise you first then assessing if you were in a situation where you could do it. Rather than them looking for specific situations where you can not leg grab. There is a psyhological difference; they are tasked with stamping out leg grabs, so they are looking at every leg grab.

My advice to athletes is this, and it applies to both sutemi waza and leg grabs: don’t do it!

It is quite simply a matter of the odds being against you. A leg grab has a low probability (generally) of scoring Ippon, but a high probability of getting you Hansoku Make’d out of the fight. Equally a sutemi waza counter to a throw has  agood chance of backfiring whilst a low probability of scoring for you.

So why take the risk?? It is not worth it, there are plenty of other actions you could take that might win the fight without you risking a loss at the hands of the referee. So, remove leg grabs from your repertoire today, it is what the IJF wants you to do anyway.

As a coach, I am not going to waste time coaching players how to exploit the exceptions where they can still leg grab. Why rehearse an action that has such a low probability of working in your favour?? I cringe when I see Judo athletes drilling the various variations that are technically permitted leg grab situations. We would all be shocked if we saw a football coach drilling players in how to handle the ball with their arms in a way that might be missed by the referee, so why is it ok in Judo?

Don’t be that poor soul that grabs the leg then looks around in astonishment when they are disqualified, looking at their coach who just last week had them doing leg grabs from situation X, Y or Z. Be the person who maybe misses a scoring opportunity, but also can’t be disqualified for a leg grab. Stay in the fight and win it with valid techniques that the referees want to see!

 

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