What are your targets?

In this article I want to talk about how and why you should have some targets in your sights Judo-wise. If you are the undefeated World and Olympic Champion or number 6 in your club, having target people you wish to beat can be a very powerful tool to help your progress.

Recently I was looking at a young athletes prospects for selection, which is what prompted this article. They are currently 3rd (potentially) on a selection list. Especially in today’s qualification by points systems, it is important to know who you have to be above on the list and how you can get above them.

This is the first reason to know who your target is: STRATEGY.
If you want to fight in an event and you know someone else wants that one sport, you need to understand what the requirements to be selected are and make sure you meet them better and/or before the other person, your target. If it comes down to something like the US Olympic Trials, where there is a selection event. You’d better know that and know that the one person you need to beat on the day is your target.

Perhaps, you need to have more points on a ranking list than your target. In which case you need to look at if you fight the same events as they do, or fight alternative events. If for example, you think you would lose to your target; you need to consider going to other events to get your points. This way you can earn more points than your target and get selected above them. Alternatively, if you are confident you can beat them you might want to have as many fights with them as possible, so that the selectors have evidence that you are the better fighter and factor that into their decisions. You will also presumably get more points.

But this is where it gets trickier, if you are preparing properly you’ll need a periodised plan to allow you to peak for events. Does your targets programme match yours. Is it better to focus on key events or fight everything going? This depends on how your selection criterion is defined and on your specific abilities and situation. The strategies involved are complex and need working through carefully.

The second reason is: MOTIVATION.
Kosei Inoue the World, Olympic and All Japan champion has spoken frankly about how he had his countryman Shinohara as a target for many years. He was deeply focussed on beating Shinohara at the All Japan Championships. You can listen to him speak about this in a recording from the EJU Level 4&5 course over at theJudoPodcast.eu. In the recording it becomes very clear that his desire to win a match against his target drove him forward. This acknowledgment of Shinohara as a great champion and identifying him as a target can be attributed with giving Kosei Inoue some of the spirit required to win all three of Judo’s greatest titles.

For you, identifying targets may act as milestones towards your larger goals. You might target a player in your club you wish to be able to beat. They are the first step towards winning your area championships. If you can beat them, perhaps them you are ready to fight the next event.

If you have a sequence of targets to fight and beat, then you give yourself tangible goals to achieve and objectives to work for. You most probably, will not be able to conceive accurately what winning the Olympic final will require. But you may be able to visualise what it’ll take to beat the person in your weight from the next city with great clarity. The more clearly that image of what you need to do, your motivation should be higher too. It’ll get you through that last mile of the run, or an extra Randori on Thursday night. Much more so than the blurry, far off idea of being an Olympic Champ.

The third reason is: TACTICS.
If you have specific targets that you want to beat, then you can develop specific tactics to beat them on the mat and train to execute those tactics. For example, if you know your target better than they know themselves, you will be able to define a way of beating them. For example, in my past I fought a player with an amazing Uchi Mata, he threw everyone with it! He was an older player and tended to catch “young bucks” who tried to rough him up a bit. When I fought him, I played a careful game. Neither of us attacked much, carefully gripping and testing the other. Over the course of the match we were both penalised up to KeiKoku for passivity. With 30 seconds to go I made a scrappy Ippon Seoi to Ko Uchi Gake combination attack which dropped my opponent on his butt/back just enough for the Koka that won the match.

Another example was a player I worked with who watched video footage of their target over and over (and over and over). Together we identified that their target had a distinct footwork pattern prior to attacking with their best technique. This allowed us to go to the dojo and rehearse that footwork pattern so that my athlete recognised it immediately. This progressed to then attacking during the footwork pattern (before the attack), which nullified the attack all together. Once the targets biggest weapon was neutralised, my player was able to control the fight and do all the throwing.

Tactical play depends on knowing yourself and your target(s) very well. It also requires practise and the ability to operate in a tactical mindset on the mat. Like any skill it is something that only comes with practise and experience.

Identifying a “target” can be beneficial to your Judo career. It can give you focus and a face to aim for. Targets help you work on your strategy, tactics and help your motivation. Examples like Kosei Inoue show us the power that having targets can have on your Judo.

Getting started does not require much more than a little free time to sit and think through who your targets might be. You can think about strategically, who you should be fighting, when, where and why. Tactically, knowing your targets can guide your training and how you fight in competition. Targets also give your tangible, clear goals to aim for and give motivation as your work to beat your target and when you eventually do beat them!

Give it a go and let me know how you get on,


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