This is the Judo blog of Lance Wicks. In this blog I cover mainly Judo and related topics. My Personal blog is over at where I cover more geeky topics. Please do leave comments on what you read or use the Contact Me form to send me an email with your thoughts and ideas.

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Balance development Judo. 

Get the Balance Right
I recently read an old paper on balance development in children ( ASSAIANTE, C. Development of locomotor balance control in healthy children. NEUROSCI BIOBEHAV REV 22(4) 527 – 532, 1998.) which got me thinking about how childrens balance develops during the time they are involved in Judo and how as coaches we must be aware of this and adjust how and what we teach accordingly.

The general message is that the way children maintain balance transitions around 6-7 years. They go from a method where the head and body are moved as one unit, to a state where the head and body move independantly. It also describes how EMG activity moves down the legs as children mature. So balance increasingly becomes ankle related.

This maters to us coaching Judo as we need to ensure that if working with young children we are not trying to get them to maintain balance whilst trying to get them to move their head independantly from their body.

We also need to ensure that we help them develop the strength, range of movement and proprioception to be able to execute throws that need good balance, for example Uchi Mata.

You could argue that for younger (and less experienced) Judo players, throws where both feet are on the floor and in stable positions should be taught. One footed throws being delayed until balance has developed further. This would rule out Uchi Mata, Osoto gari, tsuri komi ashi, etc.

When teaching techniques to young children, you may also modify your coaching methods to teach Judo throws in ways that allow the head to move as a unit with the body.

You may also want to incorprate drills/exercises/games that help children develop their balance, especially at the transitive stage (6-7 years of age).

Of course developing balance is always a good idea, especially after an injury such as an ankle sprain, where the ability of players to maintain balance will be degraded.

With this in mind here are two short videos showing balance development methods you can use in your Judo club.

The first is from the EXCELLENT website, which all Judo coaches should bookmark. This video shows some simple Judo specific balance games:

The second is from YouTube and is actually a Soccer/Football strength and balance development exercise done in a gym environment:

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Thoughts on voice for Judo coaches. 

One of the surprising things in Judo coaching is the lack of emphasis put on the basic coaching tools that allow you to run a class day in, day out.

106/365 Stop Whispering, Start Shouting

As a Judo coach, your voice is one of the most important tools you have at your disposal. Yet how many of us have had any training in how to use it effectively?

In this post I'll share some tricks I have picked up along the way, both from Judo and from elsewhere on how to use your voice effectively.

1. Stand in one sport for your Hajime/Matte.
When you call Matte or Hajime, do it from the same position on the mat each time. Say under the picture of Jigoro Kano for example.
People get used to you doing this so become very aware of commands coming from there. So much so that you can often save some volume as people become used to you calling from there.

2. Use that beer belly!
Use your diaphram when you speak and shout commands.In other words, take a deep breath before you speak, push that belly out and get all the air down there.

3. Talk to the person furthest away from you.
In drama circles this bit of advice is pretty common, they talk about "projection"and speaking to the exit sign at the end of the theatre.
In Judo, you can apply the same principle, whenever you speak, talk to the person furthest away from you, that way you will be helping ensure that those closer can hear you.

4. Open your mouth
Obvious, but often forgotten. Get used to opening your mouth more than you are used to. It'll help with the enunciation of words and also the projection of the sound.

5. Study up on pronounciation
This is a personal quirk, I hate the people how shout "Jimmy" to get a randori started. Learn the words properly.
Often much of the muffling in Judo I think is related to coaches who are not confident about the Japanese terminology they are using. This is a problem that is easy to solve. FInd a Japanese Judoka to ask about pronounciation and as a barre minimum, visit and listen to Paul Nogaki pronounce the common Japanese terms.

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Big vs. Little. How coaching players of different sizes changes what you must coach. 

Projection 2I am, or should I saw “was” a lightweight Judoka, I trained with a variety of coaches some dealt well with my size, some less so. Part of this had/has to do with coaches not changing what they taught to match me as a player. If you are coaching any group, you will have players of different sizes and will need to change the way you teach techniques.

A study published in 2007 identified the speed differences between heavy and light weight players (R. Almansba, 2007) and is a good example of how the dynamics of throwing alter based on size.
You might be not be surprised to find that they found that the light weights had more speed than the heavier players when using Seoi-nage, while the heavier Judoka have more speed when doing Uchi-mata. Basically they showed that throwing speed is related to the type of technique used and not weight category.

As a coach you need to be able to adjust the way you teach to match the player AND the techniques.

A common error is to adjust techniques to match big against small or vice versa. This is a bad idea as a heavyweight player is not going to meet a lightweight in competition. Ditto for coaching lightweights how to big the big boys. In running you sessions you will need to keep the weights apart, so that the players do not start adjusting/practising their techniques incorrectly for actual application against people of the right weight.

Size is also a key factor in deciding techniques your players should develop. As a young man I loved Uchi-Mata (and I still do), but sensible coaches made me focus on developing my Seoi Nage as I was very light and very short.

You must develop players carefully as a coach. Players may not wish to work on the throws that suite them according to the statistics and common sense. Players may wish to try different throws, especially if they are purely recreational players.

If you are coaching young people, you need to consider their eventual size and weight. You will want to meet Mum and Dad,brothers and sisters, etc. This will give you an idea of what size the child in your care is likely to become over time. You want to develop throws for this player for their future, not just for their short-term size and weight.

A comparative study of speed expressed by the number of throws between heavier and lighter categories in judo
Science & Sports, Volume 23, Issues 3-4, June-August 2008, Pages 186-188
R. Almansba, E. Franchini, S. Sterkowicz, R.T. Imamura, M. Calmet, S. Ahmaidi⁠
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Kesa Gatame Escape video from Mike at OKCDT. 

Mike over at has been at it again and gone and created a terrific coaching video with iMovie09 and posted it onto Youtube.

In this terrific video Mike demonstrates an escape from Kesa Gatame which transitions into him doing a Tate Shiho gatame or perhaps you might call it Tate Shiho Jime as it ends in a strangle.

The video is great as a bit on ne-waza, but also as an example of the quality of Judo you can get/put online via free tools like Youtube.

As I have said in my lectures about Coaching Digital Natives, as coaches you have to consider what is available online and if you don't think what is out there is up to your standard... post your own!

Mike is posting content that is useful to his students, are you?
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Teaching Judo via "Scratch" 

Below is an example Scratch project that might help you teach some elements of Judo to children.
Learn more about this project
If you can't see it try the url:

This little example application is created using a terrific project called "Scratch". Scratch is a very simple programming language and environment created by MIT. It makes it very easy to create games, animations, etc. It also makes it very easy to share and remix others creations.

Do take a look, you could easily take this small example and modify it to match your class syllabus. Then post it on your club website so that the children in your club can play it online and reinforce what they learn from you as the coach.

I am having brilliant fun teaching my kids (5 year olds) how to use Scratch themselves, so you do not have to be a computer guru to use Scratch.

CHeck it out at
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