Developing a technical training programme for Judo athletes.

In the sport that is Judo, there is a large technical component to develop. The Judo athlete with the best technical skills has the advantage over the opponent with equal physical capabilities but lesser technical abilities; some would go further and say the more technical player can beat a player of superior physical abilities.

IMG_0271In this article, again aimed at the novice Judo athlete, we shall look at how to develop a training programme for your Judo technical skills.

As with your physical training, your technical training consists of a variety of different areas which must all be developed. As with physical preparation for Judo, a well designed plan for developing your technical skills will deliver the best results.

Fitts & Posner (1967), describe three stages of skill development, which BobC on the British Judo Association coaching forum described like this:

Verbal cognitive, this stage is characterised by a lot of thinking through the skill by the athlete (cognitive) and verbal instruction by the coach. This is a relatively short stage.

Motor stage, this is where the techniques has been learnt. The student may now be able to do it in several directions or from a variety of grips but there is still a need for feedback and control.

Autonomous stage – The first thing about this stage is that not all athletes achieve it. Athletes tend to be able to produce the technique (which is now a skill) on demand and may not need to focus on it as a single thing, i.e. within a tactical situation.

With these stages in mind, it becomes clear that in developing your technical training programme you must design for each stage in your own skill acquisition.

Stage 1:
In this stage you might meet with your coach and watch videos of elite players doing the skill you are wishing to develop, you might read up on the principles also. You and your coach would then start “walking through” how the technique is done; building up to a point where you are able to do nage komi in perhaps one direction consistently.

Stage 2:
Having developed a good ability to execute the technique, you need to start working towards using the technique in a variety of directions. For example when moving in different directions, from left and right grips. The technique should be reliable in Nage Komi and basic form executable regularly in Randori.

Stage 3:
Once you are able to execute the skill in a variety of directions, grips etc. You may be able to move the technique to a level where it is “available on demand”, without needing to think about it. Your training might include situational simulation. Meaning that you have your opponent play in a certain way and you execute the skill against it repeatedly. You will be simulating a number of situations that are common in competition and also in your opponents. You will be simulating not only physical characteristics but also tactical scenarios such as being behind on points with 30 seconds to go.

As you have probably guessed, each stage is likely to take exponentially longer than the previous one. So if there is a technique you decide you need to have in your arsenal then you need to start developing it months and years before it is needed. Old coaches of mine quoted the figure 10,000 uchi komi for any technique. Which rather nicely fits with the concept being popularised by Malcolm Gladwell about 10,000 hours being the magic time to master something.

Stage one may take only hours or days, stage two weeks or months. Stage three, months to years.

Another key issue is to ensure you are developing your technical skills is the issue of technical balance. Although elite performers display a limited set of techniques at that level ( ). They will normally have a excellent vocabulary of throws if observed in light Randori, and even at the elite level they are showing several skills capable of use at the highest level.

As a Judo athlete looking to develop, you must be careful not to become “one-sided”. If all you have is one excellent technique then you will be extremely weak in many situations. When planning your technical development you must ensure you provide enough time to each of the technical skills you are developing.

Scheduling the training
As a novice Judo athlete, one of the issues you will strike is that the Judo sessions you attend are unlikely to be working on the skills you are working on at that time. You can help negate some of this by working closely with the coaches. However, you will need to work outside of classes or independently within a class environment.

This again will mean liaising with the coaches to ensure that you are given the permission and opportunity to practice you skills, perhaps whilst the rest of the class does something else.

You will also need to ensure that when doing Randori and even when competing in training event competitions that you practice the techniques you are developing. Competition and Randori testing of your new skills should be planned into your programme.

Developing your technical skills as a Judo athlete is essential if you wish to progress to higher levels of competition. You need to plan out your training to enable you to progress through the phases of acquisition and also to develop a suitably balanced portfolio of technical skills.

This is a long and complicated process and very difficult to plan initially as you will not have a good awareness of the times required. Also each skill will have it’s own timetable. By working closely with you coaches you will find the optimal timings and methods for you.

Comments (2)

T.RaidynApril 1st, 2010 at 9:57 am

Thank you! I’ve been looking for something like this for close to 4 months now, and it’s extremely helpful.

lanceWApril 1st, 2010 at 9:18 pm

I am very pleased this was useful for you. I would love to know how you apply it.

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