Opportunity for Hampshire (UK) Judo Athletes.

Dear Judoka,

My name is Lance Wicks, owner of www.JudoAdvisor.com, www.Judocoach.com and www.Judometrics.com, etc. I am also a EJU Elite Performance Coach (Level 5) and involved with a coach mentoring programme with Brian Ashton (former head coach for ENgland Rugby Union).

I am currently looking for 6 Judo athletes to work with here in Hampshire, England (UK).

The aim is to find Judo athletes who would like to take their Judo to “the next level”, by working in partnership with myself, your coach and others. We will develop a training programme and work regularly together to improve your conditioning, technique and contest performance.

This opportunity would best suit a dedicated athlete, who is ready to work hard and work smart. You do not need to be at the elite level already. Most probably you are between 15 and 22, though you might be a masters athlete too.

You will live in Hampshire (UK) and be ready and able to fit extra training into your timetable. You will be ready and able to approach new ideas and new training methods. You will be ready and able to work with multiple coaches and other support people, such as strength coaches, physios, psychologists, etc. (not forgetting you present coaches).

This opportunity will cost you nothing, except blood sweat and tears!

I believe I have enough time and energy to work with at most 6 athletes, so please contact me as soon as you can if you are interested in improving your Judo.

Please email lw@judocoach.com for more information. Those interested in being involved as athletes or as part of the bigger team, please send through you CV too.


The 2010 IJF Rules and you.

Most of you will be aware that as of January 1st 2010, the new Judo rules of the IJF have come into effect. These rules will have a big effect on how Judo is played, even if you are not yet n the international stage. In this article I shall talk a little about the new rules and how they affect you as a Judo athlete and some of the strategies already becoming apparent to adjust to the changes.

Leg Grabs.

Taking the legAttacking below the belt with the hands is out! Don’t do it or you will be penalised by Hansoku Make!
This is the most radical of the new rules (argueably) and will impact the way Judo matches are played in ways that we can only speculate on, time will tell how players gain maximum benefit from these rules. We also don’t know yet how strictly they will be policed by referees in the longer term or how far the rule will be bent before an infraction is called.

Leg grabs are not banned IF, and only if, it is a continuation of a prior valid attack. meaning if you were to say attack with Ko Uchi Gari and then transitioned immediately into a leg grab that “should” be fine. This does depend on the referees opinion of your first attack, it has to be intended to throw your opponent, it can not just be a trick to make the leg easy to grab.

You are also supposed to be able to leg grab as part of defending an attack, say grabbing the leg (or between the legs) if you are attacked with Ippon Seoi Nage.

The problem for Judo athletes and coaches…

The problem here is that this is all subjective by the referees. The IJF posted online a selection of video clips of leg grabs showing Penalty or no Penalty. What that proved is that it is not clear! It is going to take a long while for the situation to stabilise and a consistent interpretation of the new rule be established. Till then, beware!

My suggestion for now…

For now, you need to exclude leg grabs from your arsenal, the risks outweigh the benefits too much! Leg grabs are a lottery, even if done from a prior attack. And the penalty (disqualification) is too much of a risk to be a good idea. If it was a Shido penalty, then it would be different, but for now avoid leg grabs like the plague in competition, it simply is not worth the risk!

The Future…

The rules are very new, and have yet to be tested fully by athletes. The interpretation of the rules will change with time and this will affect how you as a Judo athlete play your game. The rules may not even make it for all we know; there is a lot of negative feeling towards them out there.

But assuming they survive (and I suspect they will make it through to 2012), the way our game is played will change. The IJF wants this rule to encourage a more stand-up Japanese style of fighting. And this may happen… maybe. But, my suspicion is that it will not have the effect the IJF seem to desire.

More than one high level coach has said that Kumi Kata will become more important, especially for those without the style of Judo that the IJF wants to see. So I suspect we shall see these players get even better at grip fighting and spend more time negating the stand-up style fighters ability to throw with grips, strength and movement.

Players and coaches will work on combinations that allow them to transition into leg grabs and of course ways of throwing that previously have used the hands might be done without the hands to get around this new rule.

You will see also more strategic play from players. Perhaps just for a short period of time, but I think you will see players attempting to get the other player to leg grab for the hansoku make. For example, if you were to keep your opponent bent over and then attacked with an Uchi Mata or O Uchi Gari. Then the next time you just “twitch” your hips. There would be a good chance that your opponent will react and defend by grabbing your leg… easy hansoku make for you!

This is a really negative style of play, but I expect to see it happen, especially in the early days. It will also open doors for your throws. If you develop this twitch, your opponents will become wary of defending with the hands, which in turn will open an opportunity to attack.

The result may be that we have even more static Judo rather than active Judo. More cautious fighters taking less risks, fewer attacks, more defensive postures and movement… maybe.

To be honest, we and the IJF just don’t know what the result of this rule change will be.
What I know, is that all the rule changes between 1987 and 2008 had very little effect on the fundamental structure of a Judo match. I mean in terms of duration, number of attacks, number of scores, etc etc. So I predict that this rule will have a equally small effect on the grand scheme of the sport. You, the Judo Athlete, will find a way to make what throws you have work, no matter the rules. The IJF may have either helped your Judo or hindered it, depending on your style. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction and what helps you today I would expect to hinder later.

Again, we just don’t know what the result of this rule change will be, too little research has been done. Too little testing has been done. I wrote an article on my JudoCoach.com blog comparing the Judo rule changes to the Rugby Union rule changes and I invite you to read it as it highlights how rushed this rule change has been and how compared to Rugby how little thought and process has been put into play by the IJF.


Judo Athletes have a turbulent year or two ahead, especially with the changes to repechage system, the leg grab hansoku make will potentially have a devastating effect on the results you can achieve. A simple mistake (grabbing the leg) will get you disqualified and out of the tournament most likely. A pistol grip mistakenly taken will give you the chance to make up for it and win, but leg grab is going to ruin your day.

As referees settle into a consistent (or at least consistent-ish) interpretation of the rules, you will have the opportunity to use this rule strategically to gain advantage against your opponents. Be that earning to use your leg grabs within the restrictions imposed on you or by inciting a leg grab from your opponent for the easiest of wins. Or using the fear of being penalised in your opponent to attack for Ippon.

What is important is that in the short term you allow others to be the guinea pigs, let them get caught by the new rules.
This in ways means that the IJF will win, at least in the short term; smart players will stop leg grabbing for now. But my prediction is that by the end of 2010/2011 those fighting regularly will have a good feel for how the rule impacts the game and will be using leg garbs and the new rule to their advantage.

So stay tuned and keep an eye on how the referees in your events are applying this rule, compare that to international events and try and see where the trend is heading. Then work out how you will apply th new rules effect to your best advantage.


[UPDATE: Neil Adams has just written a blog post on the new rules also, see it here: http://naeffectivefighting.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/the-new-ijf-rules-out-of-hand/ ]

Fitness testing for Judo athletes.

As a Judo athlete you need to be fit, that is obvious right?

What is not so obvious is how fit do you need to be, what sort of fitness you need, and how you measure it.

The Hammer Test Your StrengthIf you are a member of a national programme, then you may have access to this sort of testing, but the average Judo athlete looking to make it often does not. So in this post we’ll look at fitness in Judo and how you can start testing yourself without all the fancy equipment.

What is Judo fit?

If you have been doing Judo a while, you’ll know there is a difference between being “fit” and being “Judo Fit” or “Mat Fit” as some call it. You can run all the miles you like, or push and many weights as you like, and you will still get into a training session at the Dojo and be exhausted. And that is an important lesson to learn. Fitness is related to application. What matters is Judo fitness, not how far/fast you can run or how strong you are.

The reason for this is that the physiological demands of Judo are unique and rather complex. Unlike say a marathon runner, or their opposite the sprinter, Judo is not pure endurance or pure sprint. The demands of our sport are difficult for the body to cater for and as such your fitness testing will be complex too. A Judo fight is too long to be pure anaerobic effort, but too intense to be aerobic purely. We also have the issue of recovery and pacing to contend with. A fight could be a few seconds or upwards of 10 minutes, A fight is also broken into sections of action, interspersed with Matte breaks and gripping and other activities. So returning to running, it is not a simple activity of sprint or run long, it’s bursts of effort over time. With recovery required within and after matches.

So being fit for this is hard to get right and especially for those without access to experts in our sport and without access to sport scientists working within out sport.

What to measure?

There are some standard fitness tests in use today. Both across the general population, within sport and within Judo too.
Which one(s) to use is a tricky question to answer and will always be affected by your personal situation and requirements. Here we shall discuss some general fitness tests and also one Judo specific one.

We could talk about some of the more scientific fitness testing approaches, like VO2 max testing, lactic acid measurement etc. But these are tests beyond the scope of this article and beyond the access of a majority of Judo athletes. They are also impractical to apply yourself in your home or Dojo environment generally.

Aerobic, Anaerobic testing and recovery.

Your Aerobic fitness, Anaerobic fitness and your ability to recover are what you need to be able to measure. Judo is a mix of sprint and slow (aerobic and anaerobic) so you will want to know what levels of both you have the capacity for. Recovery is closely related to your capacity but given the importance recovering in Matte and between fights has in our sport, it is worth considering testing/monitoring specifically.

Breaking it down to bare bones (and this is far from the scientific perspective ok), your aerobic capacity is your ability to work in the heat of a fight. How long/hard can you fight in an intense burst? How long is it before you need to slow down and get your breath back? Aerobic is when you have your breath back, you’ll be puffing, but you are at a level where you can operate comfortably for a whole fight or night if need be. recovery it follows from this example is how long does it take you to get your breath back after a burst of activity, how long till you feel you could fight again at 100% after a fight?

For a Judo athlete with very few resources, your fitness testing could be as simple as timing how long you can fight at 100% effort, how long it takes to get your breath back and how long after a fight you feel ready to fight at 100% again. All you need is a clock or watch!

Popular Fitness tests

There are several popular tests you can do with very little or no equipment or assistance.

You might want to consider the multistage fitness test (Bleep test) or the 2.5km run test. Maybe step test and some strength tests like a pushup test for example. Maybe a sprint test, an ergo test or a recovery test?

Whatever tests you choose, the important thing is to try and understand what they are are showing and also how this applies to your Judo.

In terms of Judo specific tests, the one you probably want to look at is the SJFT created by Stanislaw Sterkowicz in Poland. This test is is the most popular and well researched fitness test for Judo athletes. You can visit my Judocoach.com website for normative data, excel spreadsheets and detailed instructions on how to conduct the test at http://www.judocoach.com/judo.html

The SJFT is pretty easy to conduct and only needs a mat area and a couple of other athletes to throw about really. That said, if you start trying to do that test you will discover that conducting testing needs more equipment and people than you might need. The SJFT is best done using a good stopwatch operated by a fourth person and a heart rate monitor.

Many of the other tests also need other hardware, the bleep test needs a CD (or MP3) and something to measure 20m of course.

Proper VO2 max testing or lactate testing needs a scientist and equipment, and there is no guarantee that they’ll give you useful results. The SJFT I can recommend as we know it has been used in a Judo context and you can measure yourself against other Judo athletes.

Home testing

In the text above I basically said that scientific testing is probably too difficult to accomplish realistically for the Judo athlete outside of a national programme. Especially if you are just starting out or a journeyman hoping to make that step up to getting onto a squad, you may want to create your own testing regime. You can use generic tests to give you a broad perspective of your fitness, which won’t be as accurate or applicable perhaps, but will give you an objectve measure of where you are and something to measure against.

Below are a few you might want to try doing:

The Beep test:

The Beep test or multi-stage fitness test has been used since 1982 and is relatively easy to do yourself. It is also rather popular, so the results you get you should be able to compare against others in and out of your sport. It is used for example by the Royal Navy for all Navy personnel. The things you will need are an audio track for the beeps (you can download an MP3 one from the excellent Put me in Coach! blog). Then measure out 20m.

Now the work begins… you run the 20m  you’ve marked out  in tempo with the beeps, running back and forth along the 20m.
Every minute, the tempo increases and the beeps come closer together. Jjust keep getting from one end to the other before the beep (and how many runs you’ve done). Once you can no longer reach the 20m line before the beep you are done, stop and work out where you are at.

This test measures your aerobic endurance but research has shown correlalations with things as diverse as body fat percentage. What is or is nota good level is dependant on who is being tested, but some example levels to use as targets are as follows: Women want to hit at least 7-8, men 9-10; of course as a Judo athlete you’ll want to aim higher and you can test yourself several times a year and aim to improve each time.

The 500m Rowing Ergo

If you can get access to a rowing machine (ergo), the 500m test can give you a good snapshot of your anaerobic power and is easy to do, even on your own. Just get on there and row 500m as fast and hard as you can from start to finish, and see how long you took. Again, how you know a good score from a bad one depends on who is being tested. I have seen male rowers in the 1:50 range, but your time is reliant on your body. So I would say test yourself a few times a year and see how you go. Then worry about what others are getting.

This test I like, in part because for some reason I have always liked rowing as cross training for Judo. The pulling action for me is more sport specific to Judo than say riding a bike or running. So a fitness test like this I think has merit.

The simple Push up test.

This is a test of your upper body strength endurance and again is simple to do; ideally with a partner who will do the counting and ensure your form is correct. The test itself is simple, just do as many press-ups as you physically can without stopping, simplez!

A good test result would be in the region of 40-50,  obviously the more, the better. 🙂

Phosphate Recovery Test

This test is another sprinting test but this time is designed to give an indication of how you recover from anaerobic work. You do seven sprints, each lasting seven seconds, with 23 seconds recovery between each. The normal procedure involves cones being laid out along a 60m straight line course. 10 at each end, 2m apart, so you end up with a 20m gap between sets of cones.

Whomever is helping you calls go (hajime!) and you sprint as fast as you can till at 7 seconds they shout stop (matte). They record the last cone you ran past and you jog/walk to the end of the course, turn around and your next sprint starts 23 seconds after the matte. You then sprint as before, just in the opposite direction, again the last cone you pass is counted. jog to the end and turn around ready for the next sprint.

As you fatigue, you’ll pass fewer cones, this drop off distance between sprints is what matters. Obviously the less the drop-off the more fully your body is recovering from the exertion. Again, as with all these tests, you will want to start off by measuring yourself against your past results rather than against other people.


These four simple tests will give you an objective view of your fitness level. The Judo specific SJFT test is probably the most important one to do as you approach a level where comparing yourself to others matters. The others are not as specific and the normative data of results may not be entirely relevant as it is unlikely the tests were done of Judoka. for example the 1:50 time I used as an example for the rowing machine is a rowers time, you need to think that their technique and anatomical makeup might help them more than yours. Similarly the sprinting tests may be skewed by the fact runners were used to collect the data. The SJFT obviously has been tested on Judo athletes, so that variable is less important.

The other factors to consider are your age, your gender and your level. Don’t expect to beat a adult male push up test score if you are a young female athlete.

Most importantly, and I am repeating here, is to compare yourself to yourself. Look at your results over time and use this to decide if you are getting fitter. Then perhaps get some people you train with of similar level to do the tests with you and compare yourself with people you know. Last and least, compare yourself to normative data and higher level athletes.

The other important factor to consider is the learning effect. When you first start doing these tests you will see big jumps in results as you become familiar with the testing protocols. You’ll know what it feels like to complete a bleep test or a sprint, and be better able to pace yourself or endure the effort. You’ll be more familiar with how to be efficient in the tests and that will lead to better scores. Later, this will flatten out and you might think your fitness progress is slowing down, where in fact your fitness is improving at the same or better rate, but the learning effect makes it look like it is slowing. You also need to be prepared for the fact that fitness gains generally get harder and harder to gain after a certain point, you will plateau at a certain point and this may mean you have reached your optimal fitness or that you need to change your training.

I hope this is helpful to you. Fitness testing for a Judo athlete is something you will encounter eventually and if you have already been doing your own testing programme, you are a step ahead of the pack. It also gives you more data on your training and the more information you have the more informed your decisions will be. for example, if you aced the strength tests, but the endurance tests were not great, you can change your training to improve your endurance. You can also change the way you fight to match your strengths. If you have massive anaerobic capacity, then you may be able to fight harder for longer than your opponents, alternatively if your endurance or recovery ability is great, then maybe lots of consistent (but lower intensity) effort will win out against the opponents, death by a thousand cuts; so to speak.

As you progress, please email me any questions ( lw@judocoach.com ) or let me know what tests you are doing or how your experience of testing has been. You will of course reach a point where your area and or national coaches start testing your fitness, or even your Olympic training centre, I hope when this happens they use tests that by then you are familiar with.

To close, please watch this video of some EJU Level coaches performing the SJFT fitness test. The SJFT has been part of the EJU qualification since the course started in 2005. You can find out more about the EJU coaching qualification system at www.judospace.com where registrations for the level 3 course are open now (Disclosure: I am a director of JudSpace, who are the delivery partner for the EJU level 3 course).

Grip fighting / Kumi Kata – The start of our game.

Grip fighting (Kumi Kata) is the point at which in Judo we first make contact with the opponent. As such it is a vitally important section in a fight, one that needs to be assessed and developed by a Judo athlete to make your chances of victory as great as possible. In this post we shall discuss some of the elements of grip fighting in Judo and how you can improve your gripping.

rope climbs
Having a strong grip is a start, developing arm strength is important and can be achieved through dedicated grip fighting practice and also through strength building exercises in the gym. A popular exercise is rope climbing. Climbing rope is popular in many training venues worldwide as it is lo-tech and has some good parallels with Judo. The width of the rope is important as you would like it to mimic as closely as possible the width of the jacket you might hold in competition. Rope climbing will build up the strength and strength endurance in the forearms and also in your biceps, triceps, not to mention lats.

If done sensibly rope climbing is safe and effective. Be sure to try it and also be sure to try variations, such as not using your legs at all, climbing slowly downwards also (eccentric contractions are very powerful tools). And “jumping” up the rope, by releasing both hands at once and grabbing higher.

But grip fighting is not all about brute force, in fact it is far from it. As with all things in Judo, strength gives an advantage but technique is equally powerful. You grip pattern is also the start of your game of Judo.

In other words, the fight starts when you take your first grip. As such it is arguably the most important moment in the match. If you fail to get a good grip, you fight from a disadvantage, your opponent having their preferred grip is able to fight their game the way they have planned. So, by not training your gripping you are in effect handicapping yourself from the outset. To win you will have to do more than you should. This is against the spirit of our art, where we consider Maximum efficiency.

A good grip will give you the solid platform to start your attack from, without a good grip in Judo you will not be able to throw. This is easily demostrated, try and throw someone with no grip at all, then with one hand on your opponent, then with two hands. Obvious really.

The grip is a highly tactical and strategic moment in a fight, in part because so much rides on obtaining the dominant grip. It is interesting to note that in a majority of elite level matches the grips are kenka yotsu (right on left or left on right) rather than right handed versus right handed. Elite players are fighting against their natural hand preference to better establish a grip fight.

As a Judo athlete, you need to watch and understand kumi kata (grip fighting) and develop your preferred grip patterns to match both your own style and of course to negate the style of gripping and throwing your opponents have.

A good start is to look at other players who do the same throw as you. Especially elite players who throw with your throw. Now, rather than looking at the throw, rewind the tape and watch how they take their grips. Look at which hand they grip with first and where they grip. Look at the second hand grip. Consider also how their opponents are gripping, ask yourself what each player is trying to achieve.

You may want to consider the mechanics of your throw and look at your grip in that respect. For example, if you are a Taio Toshi thrower, where would be the best place to grip your opponent to create kuzushi? The traditional grip? Or perhaps a low sleeve grip and a high collar? or Vice Versa?

Work backwards from the grip you think is best for your throw and build steps to obtain that grip. Will you shoot straight for the high collar or grab the sleeve first, then go for the collar? Build a pattern and test it, see where opponents deflect your plan and adjust accordingly.

You will also want to consider what clues a players grips provide you, certain grips are effective for certain attacks. So you have a warning of the type of throw you can expect if you recognise a grip pattern. This is similar to the situation in chess, where certain openeings are well known and there are also well known counters to those openings. In Judo the same is true, there are a variety of well known grip patterns, and a variety of well known ways of beating those grips; now is the time to learn some of them.

As a Judo athlete, you can use strength to provide strong tools, however if you don’t know how, when and which to apply at the right time, you will not achieve all you might. Grip fighting in Judo is the same, you need to study, study, study! You need to learn the common “openings” and how to match and beat them.


Become a “Judo Executioner”. Mental preparation for the Judo athlete.

This week I wanted to write about mental preparation for Judo. Specifically I wanted to write about how mental preparation can help Judo athletes to go from a “Randori Player” to a “Competition Player“. What I mean by this is this; we have all met Judoka that are amazing in Randori, yet fail to performance in competition. They have all the fitness, skills, etc. And yet they lose in competition, even against people they “should” be able to beat. So often the answer is their mental skills are not as developed as their physical skills. It is the mental skills development I wanted to address this week.

The Executioner's Axe, Tower of LondonSo whats all this “Judo Executioner” stuff?

In preparing to write this article I was brushing up on a few Sport Psychology articles and sources. One of the articles that took my eye was by Sean McCann (USOC Sport Psychologist), who writes about what he calls “Execution Mode”. I really liked the term and the article and it does form a core part of this weeks article.

“Execution Mode” as Sean describes it is NOT the same as being “in the zone” or being in a “flow state” which is a term which is gaining in popularity. “Execution Mode” is perhaps the predecessor and perhaps the trigger to a flow state.

Sean describes it has have the following three characteristics:

  • Simplicity and Clarity of thoughts
  • Certainty regarding focus.
  • Confidence in approach

So it describes a state where a Judo athletes mind is clear of cluttered thoughts, they have a simple game plan in their head, which can be described in words not paragraphs. In Judo we might be thinking “ashi waza”, or “Grip and go” or “Pull and turn”. In strategy terms perhaps it is “protect the wazari” or “inside grip”. You should be certain that you are focussed on what you are doing, you know that where you are mentally is where you need to be. You are in the right state of arousal, not too sleepy nor too hyped up. And you are confident that what you are doing is going to win the match. You know that you are going to execute the simple plan you have in your mind and that it will work. You know that if you do what you should it will work, and you know you will do it.

Execution mode is a simple mode of operation, where you as a Judo athlete have simplified everything and are operating with less “overhead”, so not worrying about all the details rather about the key concepts. So rather than worrying about the intricacies of your grip pattern against your opponents, you have switched to a state where that is handled sub-consciously. You have prepared well and know that your gripping can overcome theres, you don’t need to “sweat the details” you’ve done that in training and in preparation for the fight. In “Keep Them Out of Your Head: The Psychology of Fighting”, Dr. Randy Borum describes similar factors, specifically confidence and focus.

So, I decided to coin a new term, that of a “Judo Executioner” as I like the ominous overtones whilst it includes the “execution mode” core. As  Judo athlete, I want you to be a player that executes on demand. You want to be the player that on the big stage “gets to job done”, the player that follows a simple plan and executes that plan simple and effeciently; no stress, no dramatics, just get the job done.

How to become a Judo Executioner?

The simple answer is hard work followed by more hard work. What I would like you to include in the “work” is some mental preparation, you need to develop the ability to switch into “Execution mode” on demand. And just like a Ippon Seoi Nage, you need to learn how, practice and practice some more!

Step one is to decide that you need to make mental preparation part of your training routine and also part of your competition routine. You need to rehearse the steps in the process and experience it working and experience when you get it wrong, so you can adapt, improve and switch into execution mode on demand.

In terms of the specifics of “Execution Mode” here is the chart describing the three steps required to entire the mode according to Sean McCann:

As you can see, the steps build upon one another and in terms of mental state, it gets simpler and simpler as you go through the steps.

So in a Judo context, I am going to suggest you try the full three steps before each match in the day. The chart is not specifically designed for a sport like Judo where we have multiple “games” in one day. So consider using the three steps before each match. Obviously, this can put time contraints on how long you can spend mentally preparing, so your mileage may vary here.

Step one:

You need to understand the objectives, the opponent and how it all relates to you. You want to work with your coach and make sure you understand your opponents Judo. You need to know their grip patterns, their throws, there styles and their quirks. So you need to have done your homework. At this stage you can discuss how you will fight and how what you will do will overcome the opponent and ensure you win. You will discuss the grip battle, the movement patterns, the feints, the attacks, the transitions and the ne-waza that both you and your opponent use and how your Judo is going to beat their Judo.

What may seem silly, but is essential, is to discuss and have plans for where to stay before the event, where and when you are going to eat, when and where you will change, use the bathroom, warmup, rest, chat, watch video, etc etc etc.

Step one is the time to discuss and deal with all the distractions, get it cleared away.


At this stage you want to identify how you are going to win this match specifically. So map out from the first Hajime to the Sore Made how you as the player are going to do. You will again be working with your coach to define a simple clear plan for the fight. You will focus in on the specific grip patterns you will use. The throws you will use, the ne waza you will use.

t this stage you have stopped talking about all the variables, you are talking and thinking about how YOU will perform. How you are going to move, how you are going to grip, how you are going to break the opponents balance and how YOU are going to throw them for Ippon.

Although the focus is on YOU, you need to plan for your opponent, there is no point planning to throw with Uchi Mata Sukashi, if your opponent is a drop seoi exponent. You will have a selection of plans to contend with a variety of situations you expect to encounter.

Step Three: Execution Mode engaged!

At this point, you will be inside yourself. You will know what to do and how to do it. All the worries and concerns are gone. You have a simple simple plan for the match and you are ready to do it. You know precisely what you will do and both you and your coach have the same plan and you have keywords that reinforce the plan. You will know what to do and you will be confident that it will all work as planned.

You are ready for the mat, you walk on and you follow through on the plan.

Your coach may remain you of the plan if during the match you deviate. For example they may shout “tempo”, if your oppoenent for example has started slowing your movement down when you planned to pull them all over the mat. They may call “post the shoulder” if your oppoenent is taking an over the shoulder grip and you have stopped protecting against that grip.

The process of going through these steps will take time and effort to perfect, you will need to get advice and assistance in developing your mental skills for Judo. This Execution Mode is in ways the end result, there are tools you can use to acieve it. For example, a common tool youcan use is mental imagery. This is when you picture in your mind yourself performing your Judo.

In moving to execution mode, you may want to use imagery to “see” yourself performing your plan(s). Athletes like the British Javelin thrower Steve Backley; have used imagery successfully to reach the highest levels. You want to be able to see and feel yourself bowing on the mat, taking your grip (and defeating your opponents grip pattern). You want to feel your oppoenent in your mind as you see yourself moving them and breaking their balance. You feel their Gi on your back as you turn in for that perfect Seoi and hear the bang as they go over for Ippon.

When you fight and execute your Judo, when it works, it is what you expected, not a suprise.

So, you challenge for this week is to decide to be a Judo Executioner. Don’t be a player that attends a competition and improvises on the mat. Be the guy or girl who walks out there and gets the job done. It should be visible to anyone watching that you are 100% sure of what you are doing.

As with all things on the site, I recommend you talk with your coach and others and make it a team effort.

You are of course welcome to ask me question via the comments on the site or email me at lw@judocoach.com



http://coaching.usolympicteam.com/coaching/kpub.nsf/v/5feb09 –

By Sean McCann, USOC Sport Psychologist- Strength and Power


Image by John Morris on Flickr

Judo vs. Conditioning.

In this article I want to talk about conditioning training and Judo training and give some thoughts on both and how the relate to one another and to you as a Judo athlete.

The Purpose of Conditioning training.

About to jerkLets put this out there right now, all your conditioning training as a Judo athlete MUST be designed to improve your Judo performance. If your time spent running, or in the gym, is not helping with a specific Judo goal, then stop it right now. If this is a programme that has been precribed to you by someone else, now is the time to talk to them about what exactly the conditioning is designed to achieve and how it relates to your Judo and your Judo performance.

In basic terms, I consider there to be three types of objectives that your conditioning training should be designed to achieve.

  • Injury Prevention
  • Injury recovery
  • Sport Specific development

Injury Recovery & Prevention

The first two you could do worse than to consider the most important. If you are physically weak in an area, then you run the risk of injury in that area. For example, knee injuries are pretty common in Judo. Much is unavoidable, but a conditioning programme designed to ensure that the quadriceps and hamstring muscles are balanced may help lessen the injuries. The same may be appropriate for your shoulders, especially for a Seoi Nage player. Some exercises designed to strengthen the shoulder stabilizers may save you an injury and ensure you are able to train on, and also that you don’t end up off the mat or with a serious (career threatening) injury.

Equally, if you have already been injured, conditioning training may be prescribed post injury to aid recover and to ensure that the affected area does not become injured again later. We see this often with ankle injuries. An athlete returning from such an injury may be seen balancing on wobble boards or doing one legged squats to build the area back up both in terms of muscles but also in terms of connective tissues and neurological function.

So, if we consider this an important aspect of conditioning training then it would make sense to visit an experienced sports physiotherapist and ask them to assess your physical condition and identify any areas that are of concern. Then you can seek advice from them and from a strength and conditioning coach to develop a conditioning programme that develops your body in the right way to avoid/recover from injury.

This will require that the physio and the strength and conditioning coach are experienced in sport and preferably in Judo.

Sport Specific (Judo) Development

There is little/no point in doing conditioning training if it is not designed to improve your performance in Judo. For example, following a marathon running programme will probably have detrimental effects on a Judo athlete’s performance on the mat. This is because it will develop your body in ways designed to propel a human body for long distances; not allow a human body to fight against another body and throw someone to the floor. The energy systems and muscular development will be different to what you require.

This is not to say that running is a bad exercise for a Judo athlete, far from it. A running programme designed for Judo will help you considerably. It also depends on what stage in your preparation you are; and where you need to develop. I for example have a naturally low lung capacity, so running was often a good choice for me as I was disadvantaged compared to my opponents as I could not inhale and exhale as much air as they could naturally. So running training improved my cardio vascular efficiency and allowed me to equal the stakes.

Your conditioning training needs to be designed with Judo in mind and specific techniques and fighting styles in mind. This takes an experienced and skilled strength and conditioning coach and one that has preferably worked in Judo. They (and you) need to understand that the physical requirements of a lightweight Judo athlete and a Heavyweight Judo athlete are very different. Also even within a weight class, each athlete will have different requirements depending on the way they fight, their grip pattern, their opponents and their throws and ne waza.

A simple example might be a player who does a very low Ippon Seoi Nage throw. In this hypothetical example the player is finding that they are able to enter the throw but not execute the throw. By watching video footage of their competitions and training with their Judo coach, physio and strength and conditioning coach they might identify that the player has a weak “core” and is unable to maintain good posture. Between them they might design a conditioning programme designed to improve this area and this would give the player a better throw.

Alternatively, they might identify that the players left ankle is buckling under load, and design a programme to try and improve the proprioception in that area. It also could be an upper body weakness preventing the athlete from executing the kake component of the throw properly, a weights programme might help here.

A simpler example might be that an athlete is finding themselves losing fights near the end of the match as their “fitness goes”. This might be addressed with a running programme to improve cardio vascular systems genrally. Then once general aerobic fitness was improved, some Judo specific drill training might be employed to ensure they are still fighting strong at 4:55 into the fight.

Generic programmes vs. Athlete Specific programmes.

If you are an elite athlete already, then I would hope that you are working with skilled experts with Judo specific knowledge, who are designing conditioning programmes that are unique to you.

Sadly for a vast majority of Judo athletes this is not the case. Which raises the issue of generic programmes versus expert Judo athlete specific programmes. Generic programmes are not evil, they serve a purpose and if you do no conditioning work, you should consider starting off with a generic full body conditioning programme. One form the local gym will do to start with.

In fact, I would prefer you to go to the local gym for your programme than to borrow a programme from “the guy down the dojo”. The reason being that the gym instructor will be qualified to prescribe prgrammes, and will also be careful to not give you exercises that might injure you. The guy in the dojo (unless of course they are a strength and conditioning professional and are qualified to do so), is more than likely going to give you something beyond your physical capabilities and sadly often based on old knowledge. Or it may be based on watching high level Judo athletes prepare and again is likely to be physically too challenging and could easily do more harm than good.

If you have not done much strength and conditioning training, then a generic programme will start the anatomical adaption process. You will also start to develop the technique to do exercises properly.  I’d say for a complete newbie, 4-6 months spent in a generic gym doing a simple full body programme is a good start. Once you have this base training under your belt, then it is time to go and get that expert conditioning coaching.

If you are based in the UK (specifically Norwich, Norfolk) I can heartily recommend contacting Elite Strength and Conditioning USA based players might consider contacting Dr. Rhadi Ferguson. Of course, the first person to speak to is your Judo coach or coaches. They probably know people or if your level is right, put you in contact with your national teams conditioning experts.



Image from

Jon Tunnell on Flickr

Engaged Training vs. Attending Training.

In recent months I have been giving lots of thought to, and discussed in depth the area of performance Judo and “elite” training. The thoughts and discussions have revolved around “What is elite” and “What does elite training look like”.  My favorite part of this discussion and the subject for this post is around what elite training “feels” like and the difference between attending training and being engaged in your training.

RIMG1271To make it as a Judo athlete, you face many many challenges, these challenges you overcome in two ways. You overcome your challenges through training and through performance. So time spent preparing and your actual fights on the mat, on the day. Obviously, on the day there is little you can do if the preparation has not got you to the right place at the right time. So lets focus on training.

I am fortunate to have attended training sessions at all levels, from international training camps, through to local club sessions. Something you notice about the better players immediately is their level of engagement in their own training. The better players know what they need to be working on and get on with the job. They might start early, or finish up a session working on something specific.  They are also the ones during a training session who know what they are doing and sometimes are even doing something slightly different to the rest of the session, they are following their own plan.

Two examples, outside of Judo, who get referenced all the time are Rugby Union’s Johnny Wilkinson and Football’s David Beckham. The story you hear over and over with both characters is that they are often found out there practising their kicking on their own before or after training.

Now, this helps in three basic ways. Firstly, this increases the amount of training time you are doing. And extra 5-10 minutes after every session accumulates to quite a bit of additional training over a training macro cycle. Secondly, you are following a plan, your training is not controlled by an outside force (the club coach), you are building the tools you need to overcome your challenges.

Thirdly and in my opinion most importantly you are changing the “feel” of the training you do. You are doing “deliberate practice”, you are altering the way you engage in your training and also changing the attitude and culture of your/the training environment. This is key!

I have attended club sessions that felt like a elite training session, and (so called) elite training sessions that felt like a kids participation Judo session. If your aim is to be a Judo athlete, you need good training environments. And key to this is not necessarily the facilities, the coach or even the level of the players you have to train with. The “feel” of the training is so important, if everyone there is there to work and build, then it can be a terrific session for you even if you are training with yellow belts.

Alternatively, you could be on the mat with 50 black belts and still have a “bad” training session if the attitudes are not right for what you need to achieve. The classic example of both the good and the bad is middle aged dan grades. These guys can make or break your training, especially if you are a light weight, young and/or female. It is easy as a larger, older, heavier, experienced Dan grade to “spoil” a session, being negative, and preventing you from doing nice Judo. They might not have the fitness you do, so can drag the ace down to suit their desire for a “scrap”. By the same token, a experienced older black belt can raise the level and change the session for the better. An experienced dan grade can help hone your techniques and also help give just the right amount of resistance to take a throw from something you are learning to something you can do under pressure. Experience gives them that “feel” for what you need.

As a Judo athlete you will need to develop a “sense” for what a session/club/environment feels like and be able to assess if the training is right for you.

How to be Engaged in your Judo training.

Above we discussed why being engaged matters, it is the difference between productive progress towards your goals and going with the flow. You “may” happen to flow to the right place, but much like rowing a boat, the rowing is what gives you direction and gets you to the right place at the right time. The next question is how do we engaged with our training to maximise the effectiveness of what we do.

1. Plan!

The first and most important thing to do is plan your training in the greatest detail you can. The more detail the better the plan. Check the plan before every session, review it after every session. Amend you plan everyday to reflect the progress you make and set backs you encounter.

2. Liaise with the coaches.

This refers both to the planning and execution of your planned training. Make sure you coaches know you have  aplan, involve them in the development and management of your plan. You will also need to make sure that coaches know what you are working on, why and how they can help you train. This may or may not be possible within the confines of the sessions planned by the coach, so in which case you and your coaches need to decide if that session is right for you or should you train elsewhere?

3. Work the plan.

Make sure you follow your plan, it is a living document that you should know forwards, backwards and upside down. You need to follow it and make sure that it is exactly what you do. If changes need to be made, then make them. If a session does not go as you planned, then alter your next session(s) to match.

This plan is what will take you from where you are to where you want to be, so commit to the plan and hold it dear to you. Go everywhere with it and work it hard.

4. You are an elite athlete… act like it.

If you are, or want to be, an elite athlete then today you have to act like it.
You need to train like a elite professional athlete, talk like an elite player, fight like an elite player, think like and elite player… in short you have to be an elite player today, to be an elite player in the future. You can not train like a recreational player today and expect to make the elite level tomorrow. You need to start thinking and feeling like an elite player today.

Feeling like an elite player is important, you need to be so involved in your preparation that even if you are preparing for the local area tournament, people from outside of the sport would think you were off to the London 2012 Olympic Games on the weekend.

Engaged Training.

So by now you hopefully have grasped what I mean by “engaged training”. No longer do you pop along to Judo bag in hand wondering what the night will bring. You don’t do Uchi Mata because that is what the coach is showing. You don’t do long Randori when you are working on your speed. You don’t just attend and participate.

Now you go to training with your bag and in that bag is your training diary and plan. You get changed knowing what you are going to do in this session, what goals you have set for this one. You speak with the coach before the session about a small change in your training from last night. Your coach asks you how that relates to todays planned lesson, you know it fits ok because you know what the coming class will cover and it fits your needs. You bow on and you warm up (you know how you warm up don’t you?). When the coach starts the session you are ready to go, when they say go, you are already going. You train hard and sweat harder, you work with people you trust and rely on, they work you as hard as they can, they know what you need to work on. They are your team, you know it, they know it, everyone sees it. When the time for uchi komi, or nage komi arrives, you go immediately into training your throws, the ones you know you need to work on. The coach calls throws that you have planned on working on… why? Because the coach and you worked it out in advance. After training you and your team work through some things to hit some targets you have set yourself. Then you bow off and shower, smiling and chatting about how well the session went. You thank your partners and the coach, shower and get changed. Then you sit down with your diary and record your training and revise the plan to match the improvements you made today.

That is engaged training, that is what you want to be creating if you wish to make it to the next level in your Judo career.

Photo from Martin Robertson from a club I used to train at and on occasion coach at Edinburgh University Judo Club.

Excellent training and learning opportunity for UK based players.

One of my colleagues from the University of Bath is hosting what will I expect to be an awesome training event, which may be ideal for your child and for your child depending on their stage in Judo (and assuming you are in Cambridge in the UK on June 21st, 2009).

To save energy I shall cut and paste from the flyer, here is what the day will consist of:

Training Session for Teenagers, June 21, 2009

Publish at Scribd or explore others: Brochures & Catalogs Judo

I thoroughly recommend trying to get along to this if you can. The three sessions on the day are excellent for you are competing. Spaces are limited to 20 players, so make sure you don’t miss out. The session session on Strategy I am looking forward to and the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) session  The final session is a High intensity training session designed to help player prepare for the Kent International Judo Tournament.

It is aimed at teen Judo athletes, but the sessions would be a good learning opportunity for older players also.

Bob, who is running this training is one of the few Level 5 coaches in the European Union and teaches Coaching Science for a living, so knows his stuff. The LTAD subject is something he has a high level of knowledge in and I think that session would be worth attending for all parents. It will help you understand Judo beyond the mere physical act of throwing.

If you wish to attend, please email Bob at combertonjudoclub@yahoo.com

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 ( lw@judocoach.com ) and ask any questions.


Coping with Injuries as a Judo Athlete.

Sports Injuries: No Referral Needed!

Photo by Trevor Haldenby

Judo is a tough sport, you are going to get hurt. You are going to get sprains, bruises, strains and often worse. The higher up the performance ladder you climb, the higher the probability that you get injured. Why? because to make it to the top of the sport of Judo you have to push yourself hard, you need to push the boundaries of your physical capabilities and eventually you will probably push too hard and get hurt. And lets not forget the injuries that you can’t control, like when a partner throws you awkwardly.

If you are going to be a Judo athlete, you will need to learn to cope with injuries.

You can probably break down injuries into two broad categories, over-use injuries and trauma injuries. Over-use injuries are when you push it too hard and something gives. You train too hard and don’t recover properly, then you pull a muscle or your knee gives out. This is an over-use injury.

Alternatively, the club heavyweight falls on the side of your leg and suddenly you are on the floor in agony. Alternatively, your partner bangs heads with you and you split your eyebrow open and start to bleed. These are trauma injuries.

With both type you need to do two things, deal with the immediate injury appropriately and also recover over the longer term.

The immediate actions or first aid is really important and can have a huge impact on your recovery. The  R.I.C.E. treatment methodolgy should be implemented as soon as possible. You should hopefully have access to a qualified medical person in your club, you should have Ice available at the dojo and the injury should be treated seriously. Judo is pretty bad at times for ignoring injuries, often to the longer term detriment of the athlete as training is impacted because they might be sore (that bruise on your shin for example) or for worse injuries you may prolong the weakness in the affected area. Get you injuries treated, get them treated right, get it done right away.

Both types of injury should be treated with R.I.C.E. and will often occur in the Dojo.

Trauma injuries are often just unavoidable accidents, sometimes they could have been avoided. So if you are serious about your Judo career you need to minimise the risks to injury that you can. Fix ripped mats, make sure there are no gaps between mats, things like that. Also make sure you are doing sensible training with sensible partners of the right size and type.

Over-use injuries are often the result of errors in your training affecting weaknesses in your body. You want to do two things, firstly know where the weaknesses in your body are. To do this you may need to consult with a doctor and/or physiotherapist and get a thorough assessment of your body. You must also do everything in your power to ensure you train within your bodies limitations using sensible training. Importantly you should ensure you are recovering properly between training. Mike & Gene on www.theJudoPodcast.com recently discussed this with Dr. Calvin Johnson, M.D.

Once you’ve gotten over the initial injury you will need to recover, if it is a minor injury you may be able to train normally. But if it is more serious it may require modification or complete cancellation of your regular training. Rest is often good, and perhaps you might need to do recoperative exercises. Dave over at the Advanced Apprenticeship Judo Blog has recently posted a video of one of his apprentices doing recovery training, you should take a look.

This covers the physical side (basically at least), what you also need to address is the emotional side and the logistical side.

Emotionally, you may find that you struggle. This might be the time when you find yourself “down in the dumps” or your confidence might take a hit. These are normal emotional responses and  things you need to be prepared for. It will happen and you need to be ready for it. If you have access to a sports psychologist, try and talk to them about this topic, preferably before it happens, but during recover also.

Logistical issues are also a big problem to overcome. If you get hurt, your training will be affected, you might not be healthy for competitions. You might have to spend your budget on physiotherapy rather than on dojo mat fees. You may have to cancel a trip in favour of getting x-rays. All your training cycles may now require alteration to ensure you peak at the right time.

Hopefully, this post will achieve one thing, it will forewarn you of what will eventually occur. You will get hurt, you will have to deal with an injury and the impact that has on your training. One of the best ways to cope with injuries and the impact on your training and life; is to be aware that they will occur and to be prepared for that eventuality.

You don’t want an injury to be something you are not prepared for, you need to have a plan for entering an injured state. It is like any other element of your training as a Judo athlete, you need to plan for it.

As always, the best approach is to discuss this with your coaches and advisors. Talk to your coach, your doctor, your physio, your psychologist, your nutritionist, etc, etc.