How to watch Judo matches and analyse the action.

If you wish to improve as a Judo athlete, then you need to be able to observe a Judo match and understand the dynamics of what you have seen. This will give you insights that will allow you to improve your own Judo and also see ways of beating your opponents Judo. In this post I will outline a framework around which you can build your own methods of understanding Judo.

XV jogos Pan-Americanos - Rio 2007 (Judô)Judo is a game and like any other game, it has structures, styles and events that are consistent across all the games that are played no matter the level or the players. As  Judo athlete you need to be able to identify all of this, understand it and practice the skills you need to improve your abilities in each of these areas.

Lets start with the basic structure of a Judo match…
A Judo match consists of a set of “segments”, a segment being the times between Hajime and Matte being called by the referee. These segments are typically around 20 seconds long and 10-15 seconds apart and there are about 8 of them per match.

Within each segment, there are several stages or events. The basic stages are:

  • Kumi Kata
  • Movement
  • Attack
  • Transition

Of course, within each stage there are many sub-stages to observe and analyse, as per our previous post for example, there are many elements of Kumi Kata that we can analyse. But lets keep it simple for now.

Kumi Kata:
You need to identify the left or right handed-ness of each player. You also want to identify the gripping style of the player(s), where do each of the hands touch their opponent and take grip. You will of course need to be aware that grip patterns change according to the left or righted-ness of the players. Also the gripping styles will affect the grip patterns and styles.
Something you want to be aware of is who has “won” the Kumi Kata section of the match. Much like a sprinter, a good start is important to winning.

After grips have been taken, the players in the match will move. This movement will be different for each pairing of players, also different according to the tactical situation at that stage of the fight. A player will fight very differently if they are winning or losing for example.
Movement is a fundamental building block of throws, so is essential in your observation. Simplistically, A player that moves backwards and brings their opponent towards them for example is likely to do forward throws.

At some stage after grip fighting and moving, one or possibly both players will attack with a throw attempt. It may be a single attack, it may be two or more linked attacks in combination. It may also result in the opponent executing a counter-attack.
Judo players will attack in a relatively consistent manner, players also have a limited range of tachi waza techniques they can execute in a competition. You can do worse things than write down the techniques that the opponents in your category use, build a dictionary of people you fight.

After each attack, there is a transition, a change from standing attack to something else. This may be to another attack (and might be considered part of the attack perhaps) or to ne waza groundwork or perhaps just to another Kumi Kata session or direct to Matte.
Each player will have a selection for transitions, you need to be aware of what your opponents likely responses to an attack of yours (or their own) might be. For example, the famous Neil Adams was well known for his transition from tachi waza to ne waza using a roll into Juji Gatame.

How to start analysing Judo matches.
You can start very basically and easily, with a pen and a notebook. of course in todays day and age, you probably will start by recording a video of each match first. 🙂
Watch the fight, for each segment, try and write down a quick summary of how the player you are watching (or both if you are quick) is gripping, “right handed, high lapel” might suffice.
Then record how he/she moves, “moves back and to the right”.
Add what happens next, “attacks with right Tai Otoshi, left leg bent, scores yuko”.
Now write down the transition, “hooks right leg in to ‘mount position’, grabs right wrist of uke, Juji gatame roll turnover”.

Repeat this for each segment.
Once the match is over, summarise the match generally, based on how it looked to you and what you thought happened. try and note the strategic situations events in the fight. In the example above, the Yuko may have been the moment that the player took the lead with 1 minute to go. What changed after this? Did the other player attack differently? Did the first player move or grip differently? In our hypothetical example it might be “after the yuko was scored the player was attacked aggressively by their opponent, the player moved backwards towards the edge and did (near) false attack sumi gaeshi’s for the rest of the fight”

This summary is an opportunity to consider the less visible elements of a Judo match. Look to identify the situations, the tactics, the imbalances in the fight. try and identify too what was the decisive moment in the fight. Was it the Taio for Yuko, or was it the fact that the player was able to dominate the grips? was the fight lost because the second player had no way of stopping the first player from doing sumi gaeshi? Perhaps they had no transition to take advantage of the poor sumi gaeshi attack.

Now what?
Sit down with your coach, your fellow players and talk through the Judo matches you have observed. Read through what you have written and try and remember the fight (if you have the video of the match, even better!).
Put yourself in the position of one of the players, assess if what you do as a player would have fitted into the picture you have described of the match. Try and be honest with yourself, look for areas where you think you’d have had an advantage and of course where you would have been at a disadvantage.
Look for areas where you need to develop. Work with your coaches and training partners, put yourself in situations that mimic the situations in the fights you observe and practice ways of winning in those situations.
This can be as specific as beating a certain grip pattern, or more generic as fighting someone who drops into Sumi Gaeshi constantly.

This post hopefully gives you a basic introduction how you can observe and analyse a Judo match. Now you have a basic framework to start with, you should absolutely discuss this with your coaches, perhaps with a performance analyst if you know one. This post is not a definitive guide to observing and analysing Judo, you would do well to find someone locally to help you develop in this area. This analytical process will help you develop as a Judo athlete and perform better in competition.
Of course, please feel free to contact me ( ), with your experiences and any questions you might have.


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