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 with your thoughts and experiences around mental preparation and this article.


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

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!


The Athlete, Coach relationship.

As a Judo athlete, the relationship you have with your coach, or coaches is very important. In this article we shall explore this relationship, the importance it has on athletic development and performance along with some ideas to explore to develop the relationship you have with your coach.

Researchers have identified that the relationship between athlete and coach is consider very important. Jowett  and Cockerill (2003) for example interviewed a number of Olympic medalists and identified “Closeness, Co-orientation, and Complementarity” as being important aspects in the relationships with coaches.

When we discuss a coach/player relationship, we are looking for relationships that foster improved performance. And the 3Cs (“Closeness, Co-orientation, and Complementarity”) can be used to explore this area with your own coach/player relationship.

A positive relationship with your coach is needed for you to progress and perform. Both you and your coach need to have to have high levels of understanding, honesty, support, liking, acceptance, responsiveness, friendliness, cooperation, caring and respect for one another to have an effective relationship (Jowett & Cockerill, 2003; Jowett & Meek, 2000).

Developing these areas will take many many interactions before, during and after training and competitions.


An athlete and a coach should feel close to one another, there should be feelings of trust and respect for one another and of course just plain liking the other person. As a coach, you may consider being more open with your coach, trusting them with some small details of your emotional states might be a start. Consider it a “test of the waters”, if they react in a way that you expect/want and earns your trust, then share more. This process of sharing items and trusting your coach with the information can lead to them feeling closer to you and you to them. Respect will grow from their respecting your privacy and your taking the risk of sharing with them.


You and your coach should be “on the same page”. They need to understand you and be able to think like you. And you them. Conversations may be the easiest way to explore how you and your coach(s) are oriented. If you are aiming for Olympic glory and your coach is looking to retire next year, then you have a problem. If they think you are a Olympic hopeful and you see yourself as a club level player you have an issue also.

By having open discussion with your coach you can establish a shared perspective on where you want to go and how you are going to get there. Perhaps you can ask your coach this week to sit down (away from training) to have a chat about your career plans.


An important factor in your relationship is the sense that your coach adds positively to your efforts. It is important that you both feel that you are better together than apart. For example, typically a athlete will appreciate a coaches expert knowledge and experience; whilst the coach will appreciate your ability to learn and to follow what they show you.

You may find your coach is a emotional support, this is fine. However, it only works if both of you understand what the other needs and how they can assist. If your coach sees themselves solely as your technical advisor but you are seeking a mentor the level of complementarity will not be right.

Perhaps, whilst talking about your goals this week (as above for co-orientation) you can explore where your coach feels they are of most benefit and where you feel you need the assistance. There may be areas where your coach does not understand what you want and may have been intentionally not covering that area as they felt it was not something they felt you wanted them involved in.


Relationships in sport can often be the difference between success and failure. Tyson was a huge success with  Cus D’Amato as his coach/trainer. But, without him Mike Tyson just was not the same athlete. The French football (soccer) team infamously revolted against their coach Domenech, the negative environment that caused that is commonly attributed with causing the failure of that team in the world cup.

Within our sport of Judo, I am sure we can all give examples of good healthy coach player relationships and examples of negative ones. You as the athlete, should consider that relationship as part of your preparation for competition. Just like your Judo throws, you must develop the relationships you have to make them as effective as you can. Similarly it is, ultimately, your responsibility to create the relationships you need to win.

You have to make hard decisions sometimes about the state of the relationships and if they can be developed into something productive. Alternatively, you may need to face the tough situation of being in a relationship that is not going to be able to be productive, in which case you may need to end the relationship.

You need to choose the relationships that will help you grow as an athlete and perform at the highest levels you can achieve. You need to develop your relationships like you would your strength and conditioning and Judo waza.

I would be very interested in your experiences and reactions to this article. Please do drop me an email ( ) or leave a message in the comments.


On the structure of Judo matches.

In January 2010, I was fortunate enough to visit the USA and taught a clinic at OKCDT in Oklahoma City.

We recorded some video of the teaching and me chatting about the concepts and ideas behind what was shown. Mike Darter has kindly placed it online so people can watch it. So I am including it here for anyone interested:

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In the clinic we taught “Cowboy Judo” which was a method of training using the structure of Judo as defined by researchers, rather than relying on pure opinion. Not the whole clinic is shown and perhaps it is not clear to some viewers what we are promoting here.

Basically the model is this; each Judo match is broken into short segments of action approximately 20-30 seconds long. This is the time between Hajime and Matte. Within each segment, we have a sequence of events that is consistent:

Hajime – Grip – Move – Attack – Transition – Matte

What we covered was each of these segments and linking the segments. The idea being that rather than just teaching a throw, we teach a throw within the context of the grip-move-attack-transition framework. So low sleeve and mid lapel grip-backwards movement-ippon seoinage-transition to ippon. Or transition to ne-waza, etc.

Rather than having training where people spend long periods doing kumi kata, if we promote this style of training within the framework grip fighting is limited. It also discourages wandering around the tatami after grips are taken.

A mis-conception we found common on the was that we were encouraging players to break grips. This is not the case, what this framework hopefully encourages good attacking Judo.

Please let us know what you think.

Managing your Judo training partners.

In this article, we shall explore what Judo training is like and how you can get the most from your training. This covers both the short-term and long-term, for as we shall discuss there can be conflicts in this area that need to be balanced to ensure you progress optimally.

Judo training is hard, really hard. You need to be strong, supple, skilled, speedy; you also need to have stamina and your head in the right place (psychology). And this is just the broadest outline of what you need to train.
07-01-02 Randori Camp - Pori FIN (7)
Within each of these categories (the 5 S’s) there are sub-categories. For example, you need to work on maximal strength and strength endurance. You need to have static and dynamic suppleness (aka flexibility), etc etc.

In our sport of Judo, “Skill” is arguably the most important and hardest area to train; it is the focus of this article.

When you train in Judo, you mainly work on tour technique. You will drill throws and groundwork. You will practice throwing people for hours upon hours. You will ratchet up the level till you are closely simulating contest and be knocking seven shades of heck out of yourself and your partners. This is what we shall talk about in this article, how to best manage this process.

I repeat myself here, Judo training is hard, really REALLY hard! It is not for the faint-hearted and it is not for those adverse to a little bruising and pain now and then. You can not train Judo and not feel pain; or inflict some.

For this reason it is essential that you approach each training session with a plan of how you will be training, why and what objectives you wish to accomplish. This must be within the structure of a long-term plan for your training.

Getting thrown hurts, we get good at not feeling it and taking the falls in our stride. But it hurts, so if you are perfecting your throws, you’ll be hurting your partners. You will bruise them, you will cause them to fall badly and get winded, you may even break them. This is something you need to accept and plan for. Your partners do not have an unlimited capacity to soak up the throws. They will smile through some of it, grimace through more, but eventually they won’t take anymore. At which point your trainig stops, even if you’ve not done all the training you need.

So, knowing this you need to plan out your training so that you do not wear out your valuable training partners. The concept you need to understand and implement is this, you need to cycle through partners to give them a chance to recover. This means inside a single session, within a training cycle and over the course of years too.

In a single session, you will want to limit the number of throws you do on each partner you are able to use. You may need to train with larger and smaller players; players of low grade etc. You have to use these people carefully, don’t smash the yellow belt! Use the big males for throwing with more commitment and power. Use the lighter players for speed and uchi komi perhaps. Make use of the crash mats and other training tools to limit the number of big falls you inflict on people.

Within a sesison you will also want to alternate your focus potentially. I.e. instead of “going hard” in every randori (or even within a single Randori), perhaps you can alternate between throwing and being thrown, or between grip fighting with the dan grades and playing a light game with a yellow belt?

You might chat and joke with a partner whilst lightly turning in for a new throw in one Randori, then “put on your game face” with them in a second randori (or perhaps go hard for 1 minute at the start of the randori, then relax and play for the next minute).

You need to give your partners a rest physically and mentally. For example, being good at grip fighting and being able to dominate another player is vital to winning a match. But it can be frustrating and annoying to partners in training. Don’t dominate the same people all the time, if you destroyed someones grips yesterday, maybe just take a basic grip and try and throw from there today? Don’t keep out-gripping them everytime you meet, else they will start to hate training with you and you’ll get less from them and your training will suffer as a result.

Variety is important for your partners, if you smash the same three partners for a week leading up to a competition they might love being part of your preparation. Do it the week after a competition and they are likely to hate you for it and not be there in the build up for the next big competition.

Hopefully, by now you have an feeling for where this article is going. You need partners to train for Judo. Your partners will need to take a hammering from you and will willingly do it… but not forever!

So the second part of this article is a bit more practical, how do you get the most from your partners without burning them out?

This comes down to periodisation and proper planning, plus a little bit of human empathy.
You will, I hope, have a good plan of when your competitions are and what types of training you need to be doing when. So you’ll have a strength development phase, speed phase, etc etc. You’ll have a competition preparation phase and through all of this you’ll have a technical development plan running also.

Now you need to look at your training schedule and consider who you will have available to train with. For example, lets pretend this week you’ll be training at a national training centre two nights for Randori and 3 days at your home club. In your weight there is usually 2 players in your weight and at your level at the national centre, 1 person at the club. At the national centre there are also 5 other players in your weight, but not at the same level as you. In your club, there are no other players your weight, but some 3 heavier players who are of a level comparable to your. Just to make things interesting, at the national centre there is another player in your weight who is better than you. They are a selfish bully, but very good at Judo.

So… who have you got to work with and how should you prioritise them?

The two players at the national centre at your weight and level are your #2 partners.
The person your weight and level in your club is #1 partner.
The 5 other players in your weight at the national centre are #4.
The 3 heavier players n your club are #3.
The selfish bully is your #6 partner.

The way I have prioritised the partners is based on how much training with them you will be able to do and also on their level and weight. Ideally you want lots of players of your level and above your level. But as this example shows, you need to be careful to factor in the personality of your players. The best partner might seem to be the player in your weight who is better than you; but if they are going to use you as “cannon fodder” or just use you to train their Judo then they are a poor partner for you.

Your #1 partner in this case is the person you have the most access to, who is also of the right size and ability to train effectively with you. The 2 players at the national centre you have less time with. The three heavier but high level players in your club are important as you have access and they are bigger so you can go harder with them than perhaps the 5 lower level players in your weight at the national centre. Again, the #6 player is the selfish partner.

Next look at your schedule and your #1 partner, you want to identify both the quantity (volume) and level (intensity) of the training you will be doing with them. You need to protect this partner as much as you can, so carefully manage your training around the idea of protecting them from overuse. The #2 partners you can afford to be less careful with, they are in a national centre and you’ll not have the same amount of time with them. The three larger players in your club are important, you can use them to balance against your #1 partner. If you did a hard session with your #1 partner yesterday, go light with them today but go hard with your three larger partners today.
The 5 lower level players in the centre are good for using when you need to let your #2 partners have a break or when you want to work a new technique or variation.

Now… partner #6. They are a challenge. You need to train with them, they are your weight and better than you. They are the perfect person to test yourself against and to push yourself harder with. If you need to up your intensity, they may the partner you need to try monopolize that session. BUT… if they are just about their own Judo, you may not want to train with them if you need a light session. You need to train with them, but you need to do it on your own terms so that you don’t simply become a crash test dummy for their throws and training.

How to manage the training and your partners.

Having identified your partners and prioritised them, looked at your schedule you need to start actually training.

And you need to start managing your partners around your training schedule (and theirs of course). Depending on your relationships with the partners, their coaches and your environment you may have a meeting and discuss this all out in the open. Often you’ll not have this opportunity and you’ll have to manage your partners by managing your own actions.

Here are some example to help you get started.

Alternate light jovial sessions with hard work sessions. Too often players forget that they need to have some fun on the mat. That goes for you and for your partners. Sometimes even if you are a deadly serious athlete, you need to share a joke or be a bit silly. You need to take a few falls and allow your partners to have some fun of their own.

Be sure, especially if some of your partners are at equal or lower level, to relax now and then and let them take their grip, try their throws and see you breakfall. Smile as you get up and let them go again.

Even with people like our hypothetical selfish bully, you sometimes need to go easy and let it be fun. Sometimes it can be invaluable for defusing some of the tension and emotion that can build up in a session or overtime in a training environment and between players.

You can have an entire session of light fun Judo (especially good after a competition), or alternate it during a training session. Or even within a Randori.

Part of managing your partners will be knowing what they are like as people and making training fun for them, within the confines of your plan. If you have a partner who loves high intensity, short bursts of hard work then use them in that way; maybe throw outs?. If they like long medium intensity, perhaps they are the person for uchi komi?

You will want to use the abilities of your partners carefully. If one of your partners is especially at kumi kata use them for this; not for nage komi. If one partner is especially good for uchi komi use them for this, not grip fighting drills.

You will also want to vary the amount of training and the intensity of the training you do with each partner; as your volume and intensity increases you may need to use more partners to protect them from burnout. Alternatively you may start using a smaller number of partners who are capable of helping increase your intensity.

The key is to plan this out in advance and to be aware of the negative factors that being one of your training partners can have. You must never forget that you need partners to train and that as such one of your top priorities is to ensure you have the right partners available, healthy and willing to give you what you need to succeed.

Please leave you comments on this subject here on the blog, or drop me an email to
If you have any questions I would be happy to hear from you and will find answers if I can.


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 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,


Managing minor Judo injuries.

Mat burns, bruises, scratches, black eyes, cuts, aches, torn nails, sprains, etc. Judo is a tough contact sport and as a Judo athlete you will get your fair share of minor injuries. In this post we’ll look at some of the common injuries, how you can treat them and why it is important that you do.
First Aid, Second World War
Every Judo athlete gets injured, some major some minor. Major injuries are the breaks, the concussions, torn muscles, damaged ligaments etc. These are very serious and need medical treatment.

But we also suffer from minor injuries, ranging from bumps and bruises, through to mat burns, cuts and finger nails being bent backwards. These are less serious medically but still need treating. Too often these minor injuries are ignored and can have a big impact on your training and performance over the long-term.

Many coaches and some scientific papers will tell you how much time athletes lose in their preparation due to injury. Injuries in training can ruin your peaking for competitions or take you out of events all together.

But minor injuries, the type described above that we often ignore can impact your ability to train too, possibly ruining your chances of winning. Because they are minor injuries however, the impact is often not given the attention it deserves and treatment provided often is of a lesser standard to that for major injuries.

Lets look at a common Judo example; mat burns. Mat burns are a minor injury, your average performance coach is not going to give you too much sympathy. However, it is very important that you treat a mat burn properly for both medical reasons and for training reasons. A mat burn is basically a graze, caused by the rough texture of Judo tatami (mats). You will normally get the “burn” on a soft piece of skin that is not normally in contact with the mat; for example the top of your toes or feet. The top layer (or two) of skin if removed and the flesh underneath is exposed to the air.

A mat burn stings, but generally is just a slight discomfort. Often a mat burn will simply go away as your skin naturally recovers and after a few days you’ve forgotten about it. Some times the burn causes a scab to form and these burns can take longer to heal and can be uncomfortable for quite some time. Worse yet, mat burns can easily become infected and become red and very painful. This in turn can lead to bigger issues if the infection spreads.

Mat burns need treatment, they need cleaning and dressing. You should wash every mat burn as soon as possible and you’ll probably not like this, but anti-septic (the stinging stuff) should probably be applied. You then want to cover the burn.

It’s important to consider the environment in which you got the burn. You got it off the mat, where lots of people have been walking/fighting, where people have been doing ne-waza and people have been sweating. There are a lot of bacteria potentially floating around, bacteria looking for a nice moist pace to live and grow… a mat burn is ideal. So cleaning and covering a mat burn is really important for you, it will hopefully prevent burn getting infected. It also prevents you spreading anything nasty around the dojo and infecting anyone else. We are all carrying our own fair share of bacteria, germs, etc. By cleaning and covering a mat burn you are helping ensure that both you and your team mates stay healthy.

Proper treatment will also help prevent your training being affected. Mat burns are not serious injuries, but they do hurt and can really put you off your training, especially if they get infected and sore! You won’t enjoy doing your Judo as much (if at all) if that mat burn you got on your elbow hurts everytime someone takes a grip there will you; so take care of them properly.

Bruises too are generally not a huge problem, but they are often not treated at all; which is not sensible as they again can affect your training pretty quickly. Take the classic Judo bruise… a heel direct to your shin, BANG! If you don’t follow the R.I.C.E. protocol a bruise can become much larger than it should be. This in turn will make it more painful and cause it to take longer to heal. So you will have a period of time where any contact with your shin is going to make you cringe in pain; which will distract you form your training and more often than not change the way you move, defend and attack.

So again, treating a bruise (or the initial bang/bump) as soon as possible with Ice or a cold pack and some compression will potentially save you lots of discomfort and disturbed training in the future. As with mat burns, taking 5 minutes out of a session to treat the injury and then getting back on the mat can save hours of lost training or lost quality of training over the following days or weeks.

The same advice of treating minor injuries promptly and properly applies to most injuries. The sooner you treat an injury, the less the injury is likely to affect you that session, that day and later on.

What can you do?

Firstly, be aware that you need to look after your minor injuries. Treat them as threats to your training. Time is precious and it is better to spend 5 minutes out of todays session than to ruin lots of sessions in the future.

Secondly, take responsibility for your injuries. Don’t “train on”, go off, get patched up, go back on and catch up. There is a fine line of course between being too quick to run off the mat and not looking after yourself. But it is your body, your career and your dreams at stake. So it’s up to you to make sure you look after yourself. Which leads us to…

Bring your own first aid kit to every session. Most Judo athletes will have some strapping tape in their bag; but you are unlikely to find one with anti-septic wipes, cold packs, plasters, compression bandages etc. So how about you be the athlete who came prepared and has a small first aid kit in their bag. We are not talking about a generic one from the pharmacy, rather a first aid kit designed for you and for Judo. So you want to try and find a box/bag and fill it with just the things you need for Judo minor injuries.

No need for a sling, thats for a major injury. But you will want anti-spetic wipes to clean scratches, cuts, grazes and mat burns. And ice pack or cold pack is a great idea and might just be a case of buy a bag of frozen peas and taking it out of the freezer before every session and wrapping it in a towel and bringing it to Judo, then developing the habit of taking it out and putting in in the freezer again.  You’ll want tape of course, plasters but also some of those larger sterile nonstick pads to put on grazes and mat burns. Maybe some of that “spray on skin” dressing stuff and maybe some of that great cold spray that seems to work magic on rugby players.

Put together your own little first aid kit and take it to EVERY Judo session. Then no matter what club you are training at, if you get a war wound you can patch yourself up quickly and get back into your training. It is really bad how often you will see a Judo player take a knock or twist an ankle and have to wait ages for some ice to be gotten from somewhere. They’ll often be sat off the mat for 10 minutes just waiting for the ice/cold pack before they get it and then have to spend another 5-10 minutes with the cold pack. If you have your own cold pack, you can just go off, ice it for 5-10 minutes and be back on the mat potentially before the other guy/girl has even got an icepack. Then you are getting more training in whilst they get ice applied. And of course, they’ve had 10 minutes of not treating the bruise/bump; so it’s had more time to swell and that’ll take longer to recover from too.

The same is true of cuts, scratches and even bloody noses. If you have everything you need near to hand in your bag, you can quickly clean and dress the cut, and be back on the mat in a few moments. Rather than sitting on the sidelines whilst someone goes looking for cotton wool or plasters. You have both decreased the risk of the injury getting worse and decreased the amount of time lost in your training.


So hopefully, this post has got you thinking about the minor injuries we all suffer from time to time in our Judo training. You’ll understand how not treating minor injuries can, when you look at the bigger picture; cause you to lose both time in training and decrease the quality and enjoyment of your training. And hopefully, you’ll consider putting a small first aid kit in your bag from now on and taking responsibility for your own injuries and minimising the impact they have on your dreams for gold medals.

Supplementary Training for Judo.


If you are a Judo athlete at some point you will need to consider supplementary training. This term refers to additional training you do that is not Judo. Generally it is such things as running, going to the gym, etc.

The first thing I would say is this, supplementary training is exactly that SUPPLEMENTARY. Your Judo training should be the number one priority with supplementary training being there to address areas in your training that can not be dealt with on the tatami.

As  Judo athlete, you need to have an understanding of the physiological demands of competing in the sport of Judo. You also need to understand your body and the reactions it will have to various types of supplementary training.

Judo is generally regarded as being a “power sport”, as opposed as to being an endurance sport such as distance running. Judo does however have an endurance element, so you need to get the balance right. Judo needs raw strength, coordination, balance, speed, suppleness and stamina and more. Judo training itself will help develop you where it is needed, but supplementary training can lead to bigger gains and/or balance areas that your Judo is not hitting. Supplementary training is also excellent for addressing physical issues unique to your body.

For example, you may have suffered an ankle injury in the past. This may have left that ankle weaker in terms of your ability to push through during your throwing action. Spending some extra time in the gym working on your lower legs may resolve this issue and help you deliver the power through your legs equally; improving your throwing technique.

So what supplementary training should a Judo athlete be doing?

What type of supplementary training to do for Judo depends on a variety of factors. Your age, your technical level (both in Judo and the Gym), your goals all need to be considered. You need to consider what demands Judo is placing on your body and what the type of training you are considering demands of you.

Running for example is a form of training that is both popular and controversial.
I ran when I was an athlete (I still do… sometimes). Most Judoka I have met run, road runs, hill runs, sprints. But I know that many people (including some researchers) don’t rate running as being relevant for Judo. I have a very middle of the road attitude to running, which is affected mainly by the level of the athlete I am working with.

I think most Judo athletes starting out could do with some running in their programmes. Distance running will help with your aerobic side and sprints can help with your anaerobic. Running is also good for calorie burn and  personally I think the most undervalued aspect of running is the mental side. Running can be mentally challenging and it can also be great relaxation, depending on what sort of run you go for.

Skipping / Jumping rope.
Boxers are famous for skipping, yet it is not as common in Judo circles. I think that skipping is a great exercise for Judo athletes. To skip well, you need to develop good posture and strong legs. Skipping also works the shoulders and back, whilst challenging the cardio vascular system. Skipping can be done inside or outside, it can be intense and short or gentle and longer.

Skipping is all about technique, I recommend  popping along to a boxing gym. Buy yourself a good rope, adjust it properly and learn the basics… then practise, practise, practise! You may also want to check out some online videos, like the one below by Buddy Lee for CrossFit.

Okay, this is probably the place where you’ll do most of your supplementary training, the gym. First things first, find a good gym, even if it is not the closest one. Find a gym with a good set of strength equipment and a smaller range of cardio gear and classes. As an athlete, the chances are you’ll be looking for free weights and a great work ethic.

You might consider a body building gym. They often have the hardest workers around; my one caveat would be to discuss with the management that you are not a bodybuilder and that you’ll need programmes that are not about muscle hypertrophy as much as most people in the gym.

Which brings me to the main consideration, the staff. You will want some experts to help develop your supplementary training programmes. This may include visits to a physio to identify physical weaknesses. You’ll need to find people who understand sport and ideally Judo, not just helping people get fit and lose weight. As well as a programme, ideally you’ll want access to a strength and conditioning coach / personal trainer. Just like on the mat, a coach at the gym will improve the quality of your training so that you get more from less time.

Get the balance right.

For me the most important thing is to ensure that you get the balance of Judo to supplementary training right. I would almost always say that a Judo athlete should spend a majority of their time doing Judo. Your supplementary training should be targeted and tied to your Judo training and performance goals.

You will need to plan your training as you do all your training. It needs to be scheduled to match your competition schedule and life.

As always, discuss it with your Judo coach and get the best advice that you can.

What Judo elements should you train on next?

If you have ever watched a post match interview you will have heard a team coach or team captain talk about how their team simply did the basics right. What is good for team sports like Rugby or Football is good for Judo too. In this article we’ll talk about what are good Judo basics and how you might test yourself and assess if your basics are ready for competition.

What are the basics of Judo?
There are a variety of ways to  define good basics. There is technical, tactical, physical elements. There is Judo techniques, there is strategy, there is conditioning and not to be missed psychological factors. But, what matters? How do you want to define your basics?

Here is a simple way for you to define what you think are the basics for Judo.

1. Choose three of your Judo legends, the great champions that you admire most.
2. Write down three things about each champion that made them amazing.
– Be that if they were physically strong, had amazing grips, an amazing throw, never say die attitude, etc.
3. For each of these 9 elements, give yourself a score out of 10 for your own level in that element. (10 being best)

Now you have a 9 point list of elements you consider important, choose one everyday and work on it.

The next step would be to talk to your coaches and get them to do the exercise above, you might want to keep your results private until they do their version, then compare and contrast.