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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The traveling Judo experience. 

Hi all,
so I have not had much to write on the blog as Judo-wise it has been quiet. Half-term break here in the UK along with "issues" with Dojo/Mat space at HMS Collingwood have meant I've not been coaching. Also, I have been away ALOT with work.

So on Monday I attended another club up near Manchester; the Wilmslow Judo Club.

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It is good for a Judo coach to observe another coach in action, something I think we do too infrequently. As I had little else to do (except be bored in the hotel), I went along early and watched the Junior session, before participating in the Adult session.

The Junior session had somewhere in the region of 40 kids and the adults 20 or so. Good numbers. Watching the kids session i made a note that there was very little actual playing of Judo being done. There was mainly instruction and practising of these techniques.

Now my initial reaction was that I felt there should be more actual playing of the game that is Judo. The train of thought being, if we want kids to like doing Judo, we need to let them play Judo. If kids play Judo and love it, then they'll continue. If we have them not playing Judo and they love it, then what happens when they get older and need to play Judo more?


the club was obviously popular. And the kids seemed to be enjoying it well enough. So, is playing Judo needed for Kids Judo? The session I watched was mainly tuition, not games or things like that. Literally, technique for almost the entire session.

So, not just the, whole session of games babysitting action we get in Judo sometimes. Which is another style of kids Judo. Anyway... so these kids were getting intense learning/instruction, little fun and games, and little or no time playing at Judo. But the class was full and energetic.

Now, Wilmslow is a very well off neighbourhood, the Aston Martin garage there sells the largest number of vehicles of any in the UK and lots of celebs and footballers live there I gather.
So, is this class successful because of the socio-economic situation of the families? Presumably the kids attend good schools and get good grades, so are used to concentrating, learning, rehearsing, etc.

I am guessing and trying to find meaning here, I would be interested in your perspectives on this.

If we propose that Judo classes need to be different to match the socio-economic (or other variable); then perhaps Judo coach education and Judo syllabus needs to factor this in.

Marc ( ) and I have discussed this before. He teaches at a leading private school here in the UK and that has been the topic of talks we have had. I think there is a valid point to be considered; if we teach in different scenarios, I suggest we need to teach in different ways.

This idea is not one that flashed up at me in Wilmslow I confess.
I coach presently at HMS Collingwood, where I have only adults who are all fit. They have to have annual fitness tests to stay in the Navy. I coach these sessions very differently to the kids only session I teach on a Monday at Alresford Judo Club.

I also obsess over elite Judo, which again is a different context. In that scenario all the "students" are above average fitness, they are also all focussed on the sport aspect of Judo. They want to win and train more than most Judo people. They are (and this is a key difference) ofen performing at a higher level than their coaches can perform. Be that the coach has never been at that level, or are no longer at that level.

George Kerr, some years ago at a session at Edinburgh University Judo club, spoke about how the Judo athletes of today would in his opinion wipe the floor with athletes of his time. He highlighted the higher levels of fitness, strength, preparation, support etc. athletes have now. Also Judo has evolved considerably over the years in terms of technique and style of fighting.

What this means as a coach is that you need to have respect for players. You need to accept the fact that they are better than you are/were. That your role is not to make them as good as you, but to make them better than you.

As coaches we need to avoid the temptation to turn those in our sessions into younger versions of ourselves. I think most coaches have seen examples of players being trained by a coach and seeing the player fight more and more like the coach.

What we see less often, is coaches helping develop unique players. To help the player create themselves rather than drilling them into an image for them that the coach has.

As coaches, we need to allow our players understand what we are trying to impart to them. We need to help them cherry pick the ideas and principles that work and work for them, rather than just making them parrot what we know to be good Judo.

Going full circle, is it good that a kids class be entirely instruction? Coaches telling kids what Judo should be. Perhaps at this level too, we need to respect the kids and allow them to learn good Judo in a similar way to elite athletes?

Can someone do a long-term study and tell me please.

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One on, one off. 

This weeks coaching summary will be a short one, mainly because only one of the clubs I coach at was on this week.

The Royal Navy Judo Club at HMS Collingwood did not have a session this Wednesday due to the building where we have been training being busy hosting a Boxing event.

Mondays sessions at Alresford Judo Club were good however. It was good to see a good number of kids in both sessions and to see them progress on from O Soto Gari/O Soto Toshi and try De Ashi Barai.

For those of you wondering about my odd selection of throws to use with young newbie Judo players, let me explain. UK based coaches won't be asking this question, as it has to do with the BJA (British Judo Association) Mon grade syllabus.

The "new" syllabus has these two throws at the beginning along with simple hold downs and (and I think this is important) transitioning between the throw and hold downs. The syllabus is the work of many people, but can i think be attributed to Mr. Andrew Moshanov.

The syllabus has been the subject of much debate here in the UK, and having listened and spoken with Mr. Moshanov about the syllabus I think I understand the intention behind it. And that sold it for me and I have to say that I have had positive feelings about it. De Ashi Barai I have found kids pick up pretty easily... if we don't impose our experienced adult perspectives on it being hard. I don't agree with all of it but thats just me.

The big issue with the syllabus now is that the Judo world has been rocked by the new IJF rules. The rules are designed to fundamentally change the way Judo is played, and makes me wonder if the syllabus now needs revisiting with this in mind.

Of course, it is early days, perhaps we should see how much (more) the IJF will back pedal and also how much Judo actually changes as a result of the rule changes. My suspicion is that as with all the changes of the rules in the past, these new ones may in the longer term have very little actual effect and the evolution of Judo may continue in the direction it was heading anyway. In which case, if we agree that the new syllabus was designed to prepare people for that direction; it remains valid.

I leave it to you to ponder all this, please do post your views in the comments or via email to

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Mike Newton, Digital Judo Coach. :-) 

Right now, in Japan an English Judo coach is doing something never done before and it is awesome!

Mike Newton of Vale Judo club, is in Japan observing how the #1 High School in Japan trains. This in itself is pretty cool, but what is really ground breaking is that fact he is sharing the experience with all of us online via his blog, his tweets and his YouTube channel.

He is genuinely doing something amazing and we all should thanks him and benefit from his efforts.

I know from my small involvement running that he is influencing thousands of Judo people who read his posts there. I don't know how many are reading his site direct.

A couple of years ago I gave a talk (that Mike references in his latest post) about coaching digital natives. Mike, is now embracing that idea and in a way that is important. His students in the UK are I am sure following the blog, seeing how their coach is learning and sharing and growing as a Judoka. That has to be good for them. But so are other coaches, like myself. His ideas on application of what he sees in Japan in the UK are particularly interesting.

Mikes use of Social Media is an example of what I strongly believe we shall see more and more of. So get over to and enjoy what is a world first in the Judo world (as far as I know).

Well done Mike, talk to you when you get back to the UK !

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Judo experiences for the week. 

Hi all,
so this week I did less coaching than last week and more observing both at Alresford Judo Club and at the HMS Collingwood Judo Club.

Monday night is Alresford Judo Club (Sun Hill Junior School, Sun Lane, Alresford). This week Mr. Ray Whitfield (the main coach for many years at the club) did most of the teaching, especially in the younger childrens class.

It is always good to watch someone else coach and see how the same set of students react to a different person. I learnt alot by watching Ray's experience shine. He knows the kids really well and they know him. I took more of the older age group class, but Ray and I worked on the same core ideas.

The classes developed on last weeks area of focus, O Soto.
The main tool we used was working in four directions, using O Soto (done on the same side). The idea being to allow the kids to learn that doing a throw whilst moving in different directions requires adjustment to the throw.
With the older kids, whilst I was coaching them, Ray identified that their rhythm moving sideways was not strong. So we spent some time trying to develop rhythm, using the Uke's elbow a bit like a pendulum.

The other thing that I loved about Monday was learning a new game/exercise. Ray did this GREAT "The Force" game, like in Star Wars. Basically he stood at the end of a crash mat and each child would walk up to him (often twirling imaginary light sabers). Once they got to him he would point/wave his hand and the kid would fall backwards (from the force you see).
I thought it was a great exercise for helping kids get comfortable falling backwards (Ukemi).

On Wednesday, I was at the HMS Collingwood Judo Club near Fareham. Due to some double booking of the Dojo at the SARC, we were sharing the tatami with the JuJitsu club. Their Sensei suggested rather than a normal session we deliver a "Mini-seminar" of Judo and JuJitsu.
This was quite rewarding, as exploring "traditional Jujitsu" and Judo at the same time shows us alot about Judo I think.

The main comment I would make is that Judo is the natural evolution of Jujitsu when influenced by practical application under pressure.

We of course don't do the strikes and wrist locks, but I think this is more than made up for by the fact that the techniques we do are all tested in competition. Unlike Jujitsu, our techniques are able to be practised and perfected with resistance and near 100% effort. We don't need to "pull our punches".

Good examples of this were apparent in the session, where for example Taio toshi was shown by the Jujitsu Sensei, preceeded by a block to a strike and several strikes. The throw itself would never have worked on a Judo mat. I will be generous and say that they don't need to have as effective a throw as the Uke has already been struck several times before the throw is made.
I am not 100% convinced this theory holds water. For example, one of the strikes they used was a strike to the side/rear of the head/neck. This I was informed would make the throw work as the person would be "out of it". But as a Judoka Ihave lost count of the times I have been clubbed around the side/back of the head by someone taking an "over the top" grip. Yet, I managed to defend myself from throws... at least most of the time.
Perhaps a "real" strike would be harder than the "strike" of someone taking the over the top grip.

Another example was their version of Juji gatame. It showed the lack of real testing against a resisting opponent. Things we did in out version were not done as they'd never had to do it on a person who was using every muscle to prevent their arm being locked like we do in Judo week in, week out.
Their initial version was not too bad, just loose and lacking in some of the key points most Judoka would apply. Their second variation was, from a Judo perspective, completely un-usable. Basically they did the lock with one leg over the chest and the other leg near the head bent (think a traditional Judo Juji Gatame with the legs the wrong way around).
The reasoning behind this was they were kicking the person in the head prior to application of the throw. But, having never kicked someone in the head they did the Juji Gatame from a position where Uke's body was not moved and all that really happened was Uke tucked their chin in, or head on Tori's leg.
As Judo people we know that Uke would simply sit up and be between your legs. But the Jujitsuka never having tested their techniques in competition simply don't know how people defend.

This is not me saying that Judo is better than Jujitsu, it is me saying that Judo is the evolution of Jujitsu. That Judo has shed strikes and such and focused on a smaller set of techniques and raised the level far beyond where Jujitsu does them today.

Because Judo is done with serious resistance and we can practise near and at 100% our level of refinement and ability to actually apply techniques is simply beyond what they are able to do. They simply can't strike at 100%, they don't have the opportunity to develop the application of their techniques.

I suspect that everything the Jujitsu sensei said about the effectiveness of his techniques was true... once. When they were developed, when they were done in the heat of battle. In rougher times.

Perhaps in Kano's time this was already apparent back when the legendary contest between Judo and Jujitsu to teach the Tokyo Ploice took place or so the story goes. perhaps even then, Kano's selection of techniques coupled the development of things like Randori were what made the difference??

It was good to explore "our roots" and I have to say I think I walked away with a Jujitsu technique we should be able to apply in kumi kata.
I also learned a fun new warmup.

It was all in all a great experience and I hope that the Jujitsuka and Judoka alike learned from the night.


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A summary of my coaching for the week. 

Hi all,

well in an attempt at some reflective practice I want to post a little about what happened in the sessions I took this week.

In the adult session at HMS Collingwood, we are working on a more sport oriented style of session (and coaching style). We are trying to work via playing rather than via learning technique.

By this I mean, I encourage more play of the game of Judo. I.e. Randori like practice, more larning by doing rather than by talk.

We started after the warm-up with ne-waza randori. Short repetitions, quickly rotating around the players on the mat. This was followed by drilling a basic ne-waza maneuver.

The technique we used is where your opponent is on all fours, you grab their wrist (threading your arm under their armpit between body and arm). You then rotate/spin around uke's head 270+ degrees, which allows you to bring the opponents elbow up.

After this we did this from a weak Ippon Seoi Nage attack as a transition from uke's attack. Once we got the hang of this exercise, we upped the realism and put a bit of movement and energy into the seoi and the application of the maneuver.

After this we returned to the floor and took the maneuver to the next stage, either turning uke over into a hold, or into a shime or kansetsu waza depending on the situation and of course peoples preference.

Next, we switched back upstairs and worked on finding the "sweet spot" in our Ippon Seoi Nage. By this I mean the ideal body position for you versus your partner. Which is different for each of us. I think everyone found the "sweet spot" and got the idea that in our training we want to identify the "sweet spot" and over time we will zero in on that place.

We then worked on our throw with movement as the precursor to the attack. First trying it lightly with traditional front, back (action, reaction) movement. But also exploring sideways and movement in other directions.

Then into Randori.

This is quite different to the kids sessions I took earlier in the week at Alresford Judo Club.

In that session, I was looking for a more "martial" aspect to the Judo classes. With both sessions I basically worked the same waza, O Soto Gari / O Soto Otoshi.

In the Junior session we played some games around the idea of playing with balance. Sumo whilst crouched and a game where each child holds one leg of the other. We also did an exercise where tori hooks on the O Soto Gari, both kids hop 3 times (Uke backwards), then tori throws/rolls uke over.

I also had them do very traditional uchi komi of O soto gari, rotating down the rows so that everyone did 5 uchi komi on each other person.

With the older kids, again it was only O Soto Gari.

What I was doing was trying to establish a little more "traditional" feel than adult session I took at the Navy.

It has been an interesting week of coaching, next week at Alresford Judo Club, Sensei Ray Whitfield will take the sessions (change is good, but consistency and comfortable style is really important too). I am looking forwarding to understanding the culture and style of the club and feeling out how I need to adapt.

The HMS Collingwood Judo Club will hopefully have some new players, attracted by the "freshers fair" held this week. Also, hopefully after a couple of weeks of training, the word is spreading to the other players hiding in the wood work that the club is back and the training is happening every Wednesday evening.

Looking forward to it.

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