Getting to know your opponents – Scouting Reports.

Art of War

Photo by Nuno Barreto on Flickr

Sun Tzu, the famous ancient strategist once said “Know the enemy and know yourself” he also said “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought“. This second quote is one that Rhadi Ferguson uses in introducing hisThe Judo Scouting Reports Success System” package.

The concept of Rhadi’s product is this, you as a Judo athlete need to know your opponents. In Rhadi’s product he discusses this and even walks you through the process of doing it with a live example of him doing a couple of scouting reports on British Judo athlete Craig Fallon. It is a great introduction to the subject, in this post I want to cover some of the same areas as Rhadi and also talk about it from some different perspectives also.

Most of us have done some scouting, my first real experience of it was watching video footage of a team mates main competition at his house one day. We watched and watched and realised that he had a movement pattern that he used everytime before he did his best throw. Basically he” skipped” to the left three times before dropping in for a Seoi Nage. It was a revelation to us, and on the weekend my team mate beat this guy easily by applying this knowledge. Eveytime the guy started skipping to the left, my colleague attacked with ashi waza, stopping the movement… and the attack. So my team mate was able to do his Judo and win the match, virtually without being attacked once.

Now in other sports researching your opponents is common. Rugby, Football, Yachting, Tennis, you name it they all know their opposition backwards. The think I used to observe is that they all had good systems for doing this, in Rugby for example the coches have access to statistics on how each player on each team plays. They can easily see what number of yards a player makes per game, they know how often they pass left and how often right. They know from where on the field a kicker can get the ball between the uprights.

Yet in Judo, it’s all a bit of a hidden, small scale thing. At least in most environments. I have yet to attend a club session on or doing video analysis or strategy devising. I know elite players do it and that the top Judo nations are doing it, but it has not made it to the lower levels, where the skills could begin to be developed.

For example, the late Simon Hicks (of Fighting Films) gave a lecture on the EJU Level 4 course on notation of players for your players. He showed the work he had done with Winston Gordon, providing one line summaries of players. He spoke about having a shared vocabulary and abbeviation system to describe their gripping style, fighting style and throws. It was in ways an eye opener for many of us. It was clear and concise and brilliant… and sadly not being used at all levels in British Judo.

So here is a simple example of what sort of thing you can identify, their grip style. This is pretty easy, there is “Standard” which is what you leanrt first, sleeve and lapel. There is “Wrestler” which is common in elite lightweight Judo; all bent over and head to head etc. “Russian”, which is extreme side on.

This is a starting point, along with identifying if they are left or right handed, and what throughs they favour. If you watch Rhadi’s DVD he gets into identifying how often people attack with what throws and how they enter throws etc. Those of you with good support teams may have video analysts idetifying all the throws each player in your weight does, either with software like Sportscode, or by hand.

Having this information is the start of the process. Your scouting reports (as Rhadi calls them) are the starting point, they give you the baseline info to devise strategies and tactics from. They provide insights that you can apply in training and in competition. If we return to my first example, knowing that the person skipped left 3 times, then attacked Seoi Nage gave us the opportunity to devise a method to defeat that attack (by preventing it happening).Just identifying what someone does is not enough, it will help, but it won’t help you win, you need something that can be applied in the shiai situation.

And just like anything you use in competition, what ever you devise needs to be tested and practised in the club training environment. You’ll need to be able to get your training partners to replicate the situations you have identified. You will need to work with your coaches to devise the strategies and apply them in training.

One thing you must remember, returning to Sun Tzu, is this… you must conduct scouting on you too. Watch yourself on video, get you support team to analyze your Judo. identify you tell tale movement patterms or grip patterns. Look at your Judo and how it matches or clashes with your opponents. Find where you have advantages and of course your weaknesses. There is no point identifying that you can beat an opponent with Uchi Mata if you have a dreadful Uchi Mata!

Much of this may sound like a big expense or effort, and it can be both. Mainly effort rather than expense. Your “support team” may be a industry expert using video footage filmed on location and analyzed using computer software. Or it could be just taking notes in a notebook while you sit at Judo competitions or training. Your analyst might be hiring someone like Rhadi or myself, or it might be asking your Dad or team mate to watch video with you on YouTube.

Personally, I would recommend starting by taking notes in your training diary… you have a training diary right? Then take a camera to your competitions and film your entire category and watch it with your coach and fellow players at a later date. Watch Rhadi’s DVDs and talk to your national coaches about it and see if you can learn what you can do.

And as always, you can also email me ( ) and ask any questions.


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