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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On Critical Analysis and being a Judo coach. 

One of the most important skills any Judoka and in particular any Judo coach can have is the ability to look at things critically and assess the value of what they read, see or hear. In this post I shall briefly outline what I mean by this and why it matters, as well as covering a little about how to develop this skill.


When I was a young Judo player, my coach always told me to practice every technique I was shown, then AFTER learning it properly decide if it was “for me”. It was my first exposure to critical analysis. Later when I watched videos and competitions I learnt to identify the techniques that I could try to incorporate into my Judo. Later I learnt about the tactics players employed and if they would work in my situation.

As a coach, I have learned to listen to what other coaches say and teach, and to ignore the chaff and keep what I think is useful. I have also learned that Judo is not just about throwing or groundwork. There is preparation and tactics to consider too. As a coach I need to decide what my opinion on weight lifting is, or more specifically what I think it is in the context i might be at the time. I need to decide if a Judo throw is valuable to teach to a player, or if it is above their level, below their level or just plain not something I want them to learn.

I need to read books, journal articles, watch videos, competitions and training sessions. I need to take all this information and decide what is worthwhile and what I can afford to ignore. This is the essence of what I call critical analysis.

Critical analysis for Judo and Judo coaches matters, and here is why. We have limited time to work with Judoka to improve and prepare them for competition or for recreation for that matter. No matter what our goal as a coach, kids classes or national squad, we need to be able to assess new ideas and methods and make a decision about there worth to us.

Here is an example that outlines the difficulties and the importance of critical analysis:
Children have limited attention spans, they are also easily distracted. I might read a (hypothetical) journal article that suggests that banning parents increases concentration in children by 10%. Do I ban parents from watching my sessions?

What I need to do is consider this information along with other information I know and also look at the information and decide how important it is. In this example we shall say that the study was done by a club coach in say... the UK. It was based on one night he had no parents watch and he “felt” the kids concentrated more.

I bet at this point you are saying, this is a rubbish study, not worth the paper it was printed on right? Well what if that coach happened to be Jigoro Kano himself? Would that influence your opinion? Yes, it would right? And so it should, one of the things you need to consider when assessing new information is the source and Kano is a good source.
of course you also need to consider the size of the study. In this hypothetical study the size of the sample is tiny, so this is a negative for the study. It could well outweigh the source. This is an important point, just because a piece of information comes from a trusted source like a high grade or a senior coach, it is not necessarily good information. you need to look at more variables than just the source. Where did the person give this information? Was it at the pub? Or in a peer reviewed journal? On a forum or on a respected website?

Now... what about Judo stuff you ask, this scientific stuff is all well and good but if Koga shows me a Seoi Nage, then that is how I am going to teach it... he was awesome!
I, as a coach need to look at what Koga does and assess if it is appropriate in my situation, if I have a club full of 12 year old kyu grades then Koga's Seoi is not perhaps relevant to me. His use of Kuzushi, or Kumi Kata may be right, but the actual throw might be beyond my students.

You need to look at your club and assess what you are trying to achieve and what you are doing as a coach. For example, if you are teaching a competition session, you may wish to re-consider teaching sutemi waza as it is often countered and what I would call a “high risk” technique. Everytime you put your back on the ground in a competition you take a risk that it will go horribly wrong and you shall be scored against. So as a coach you need to critically assess if a technique is suitable to be taught even if it is a valid throw that some of your students could score with. Is the risk outweighed by the opportunity?

The same goes for exercises, dills and games. Have you looked at them in your context and made a conscious decision that the drill is suitable for your club. In my own experience, I taught Capoeira, where one of the fundamental movements/techniques is a full squat, with the knee going beyond 90 degrees. From my education in the gym I knew that this places considerable (excess) strain on the knees and that the rule of thumb was/is to never go down below 90 degrees.
But, the move (cocorinha) is a fundamental defensive move in Capoeira, if our students did not learn it, their progression and participation in Capoeira would be hampered considerably. After much consideration and debate amongst colleagues I/we decided to continue to teach the technique regardless of the risks as it was essential to the art of Capoeira. We did however, ensure that we treated the move as a risky exercise and informed all our students that we knee the risks to the knee and gave them the choice not to participate in that exercise.

In Judo, we have parallels, do you teach drop seoi and similar dropping techniques? Do you take the “safety first” approach and decide to protect knees by not doing it? Or do you look at it as an effective technique and teach it as your students will find it a throw they can use?

The question is have you collected and analysed the information surrounding you and made informed conscious decisions based on the information and your experience?

This is the art of coaching, the ability to merge science with experience and insight. Anyone can learn the knowledge and skills of coaching, but applying them appropriately is where the “coaching magic” occurs. It is where coaching goes from a science to an art.

Hopefully, this blog post will encourage you to review all the information available and to analyse it on many levels from many angles to become a better coach.

To close, I like to bring up Leonardo Da Vinci in this context. He was an amazing artist, he create great works of art. However, he was also a great student of art and of the subjects he painted/drew. He studied the human body in great detail, sketching the anatomy of humans, learning the bio mechanics of how the human body worked. He then used this science to create art, he applied his knowledge with insight and that is what made him the genius he was.

* Image from Wikipedia

To me we should all be aiming to be the Leonardo Da Vinci of Judo coaching, studying every aspect of Judo and then creating beautiful Judo by understanding Judo at a level only possible by building on layers and layers of knowledge that has been assessed, analysed and applied in just the right places.

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Training for coach player communication in competition. 

mr. grumpy-pants

There was recently a long (and at times heated) discussion on the BJA forum and also on about the Judo coaching matside changes and how this affects the nature of the game that is Judo.

I personally am opposed to the idea of coaches being removed from matside and also the idea that coaches are of no use to players other than for moral support.

My view is that matside coaching is valuable and that the value depends on the quality of information transfer between coach and player.

One or two well chosen words can have an effect on a match, we have all seen it. This ability of a coach to affect a player depends IMHO on the following factors:

Expertise and Experience of the coach.
The coach has to know what they are talking about, they also need to know and understand how to communicate in a competition situation. They need to learn how to apply themselves in communication to a player in competition.

Proper training
The player and the coach must develop a shared vocabulary and practice using it. They must understand one another and the coach in particular needs to know what the player needs to hear.

As a coach, no matter what level you work at, you need to consider developing your communication skills and the use of your voice to assist your player in competition.

Your role matside is multi-faceted. You are there to encourage AND inform your player.

Informing your player.
As well as encouraging and supporting your player, you must pass important information to your player also.

As coach, you must keep yourself detached from the emotions of the fight and watch objectively. You must be able to see the situations in the fight from an external perspective.

This is where you bring value to the match, your player is in the heat of the match, they can't see from your perspective. Your job is to give insight and to give it clearly.

In the future, more teams will hire video (and other) analysts and they will convey their perspectives to the coach; who will convey it to the player. The French we know have been trying this in some degree as the matside coaches at the 2008 World Championship apparently wore earpieces.

This is the future to Judo coaching matside, despite what the IJF seems to think I feel. We the Judo coaches will eventually learn from our colleagues in Rugby, American Football, Soccer, etc and learn that our role at competition is not to provide emotional support. Nor is it to command players what to do.

It is our role to give information to players so that they can use that information to change their performance to win the fight.

Communicating does not, as is suggested by some, create players who can not think for themselves. Communication expands the inputs that players have at their disposal. It makes the game of Judo more sophisticated for the players and for you as coaches.

Your homework is to learn how to understand a match whilst underway and to convey useful information to your player during the fight. This will be different for each match, for each player and each coach; and for every combination of match, players and coach.

And you thought coaching was easy huh?!

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Neil Adams to go to Belgium. 

News just in....

Neil Adams (Welsh Coach, and Superstar on British Judo) has announced via the BJA forum that he is going to Belgium.


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Why do people visit continental union websites? 

Hi everyone,
well Karma has done it's thing and having abused the BJA website for so long I am now in a position where they'll have more opportunity to abuse me.

This week I agreed to redesign the Oceania Judo Union website ( ).

Having put a lot of thought and effort into what a site for a national federation should be like, I find myself in a position where I have not considered... why do people visit continental union websites?

Have you ever visited your union's website?
If so please leave a comment or email me and tell me why you visited, what you were looking to do, were you able to do so, etc.

On the OJU website a large priority is creating a presence for the World Cup to be held in Samoa this year. So I am planning all the good stuff like online registration and payment, live updates of results, video/audio streams too. Of course much of that is limited by the location and people in attendance. I may have to try and talk my wife into us taking a holiday in Samoa this year eh?!

But the question remains, what is the purpose of the website? Why would people visit it, what would they be looking to do on the site?

I'd appreciate any input folks.



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Judo refereeing, why is it as it is? 

Judo is (in art at least) a sport. We have referees and they affect the result of competitions. In fact, I would argue that the referees are the single most influential element in Judo today. Personally I think that this is wrong and would like to see Judo experiment with new concepts in refereeing

Explains A Lot
The problem
In Judo, there are 5 people on the mat, 6 or 7 people involved in the "game" if you include the scoreboard and clock officials. So of these only two are players. That's less than 30% of the people involved are actually playing the "game"!

Lets compare that to Rugby Union. 30 players on the field, 1 referee, 2 linesmen and a video ref. 4 officials to 30 players. In Rugby a cast majority of the people involved in the game are playing the game.

So, the basic argument is this, each person involved influences the outcome of the game. Do you want a sport that the outcome is influenced mainly by referees (as in Judo) or by the players (as in Rugby)?

Sure, the referees/table officials are not as important as the players and in ways serve teh players, but the fact remains that there are more of them than players and that seems wrong.

One mistake by any one of those officials can change the result of the match, potentially changing the result from if just the players were involved.

What I am talking about here is Risk Management. The risk of an official changing the result of a Judo match is considerably higher than that same risk in other sports like Rugby.

So what to do?
If you/we accept the idea that officials are a risk to the true outcome of a match being lost, then we must change the shape of Judo to remove the influence that officials have on matches.

To do this, we need to change the rules of the game to remove the officials from the equation.

Ideas for new Judo refereeing.
The following are a number of ideas on how we might change Judo competition to address the idea that officials have too greater influence in the final result and should have this infleunce curtailed. These ideas are also ideas that might just change the sport of Judo to make it more interesting or increase Ippons, etc.

Finally, none of these ideas are well thought out proposals, they are the mad ramblings of a Judo coach with a blog. :-)

. 1 referee, 3 scorers/judges
Borrowing from boxing, we could remove the job of scoring points from the referee. Make their job simpler, make it solely to control the match and ensure a safe match.
Scoring would be done by judges off the mat, possibly 3 keeping score independantly with the final result being decided at the end of the match by averaging the scoresheets.
Alternatively all three must call every score and a recorder writes down the averaged score.
Penalties perhaps are given in scores only, without Matte.

This approach does two things, it simplifies the role of the referee. It also balances the scoring across three poeple and by having them all score all throws perhaps it ensures that a more consistent scoring is given.

. Seismic scoring
Again we take the socring job away from the referee. This tijme we give it to a machine. We place sensors under the mat and then record the shock of impact of throws to score them.
Would take calibration and might not work at all, but a scoring system based on impact force is appealing.
This would potentially mean that Ippon becomes a objective measurement finally. You slam someone hard you get the score you deserve.
This might encourage bigger throws and the visuals would be appealing for TV too.
Of course, it might not work and the costs might be prohibitive, but given my laptop can act as a seismograph device, it is not "that" crazy this idea.

. Playing "advantage"
Taken direct from Rugby Union this one, when a player breaks a rule in Rugby, the referee can call "advantage" and indicates which team has was penalised against. The play continues and the referee makes a decision at some stage as to if the team penalised against has gain and advantage. If so, play continues. If not, the whistle is blown and the team gets a free kick, to ensure a tactical advantage is given.

Rather than give a score, in rugby they give a tactical advantage.

In Judo we could try this approach, you take a illegal grip perhaps. rather than Matte and a shido, the referee simply shouts "ADVANTAGE".
At this point you lose the ability to score, so your opponent can attack without fear of counters. Also you can't take a attacking position on the floor perhaps. So in effect, your opponent gets a free attack.
The referee perhaps lets play continue for a few seconds and then calls "ADVANTAGE OVER" if your oppoenent makes that attack or if things have returned to a equal state. (Of course you'd have had to stop penalising).

This approach could decrease the number of Matte calls and also give a tactical advantage to the player offended against. I think this is better than dishing out result changing points to players. The referee goes from changing the score directly to simply giving a player an advantage (after we should add, they have lost the advantage due to illegal methods from their opponent). This balances the match and leaves the actual scoring in the control of the players not the coach.

. No referees at all.
Do we need them? Maybe we should scrap them, maybe other players in the event should score the fights? Maybe the players on the mat decide when they have had enough?
In some "Extreme Sports", the scoring is done by the other competitors; in golf players score for themselves.

. Rounds
Rather than one fight, make players fight one another 3,4,5...8 times in a row. This decreases the risk of a "fluke" deciding the result or of course the referee. This would average out the result over several rounds.
Multiple rounds might also mean more strategic Judo, conditioning becomes more of a factor. Equally, it allows for "come backs" in the later rounds. Imagine Ali in the Rumble in the Jungle if it was all decided in the first round?

It may also be an opportunity to alter the format of Judo competition. Three rounds perhaps, one tachi waza, one ne waza, one with both? that would give "specialists a better chance to shine". Maybe bring in a Kata round (somehow?).

This also raises the idea of cummulative scoring, which people have discussed in the past.

If we agree with the idea that referees have too much of an influence on the outcome of a Judo competition/match then the ideas presented here may be ways of decreasing this influence and returning the control over who wins and loses to the players in the event.

Of course those are some big "ifs" and "buts", all the above needs exploring more fully and testing in experiemental conditions. The results of those tests needs discussing and a rational discussion had based on the ideas and evidence from tests.

So for now, these are just ideas to spark more thought, enjoy!


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