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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Emotional Content... not anger! 

Hi everyone,

This week has been great, Judo is back in full swing at the Alresford Judo Club and at the HMS Collingwood Judo Club. As I’ve mentioned before the cultures of both clubs are quite different. Alresford is Juniors only, with a focus on the wider elements of Judo; for example this week we covered Taio Toshi and the idea of emotional content within Judo matches/fights.

By this I am referring to the famous quote of Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon” where he is working with a student and says “Emotional content; not anger”. This is very true of Judo IMHO. We as Judoka have this great opportunity to release stress etc by fighting hard amongst ourselves. The anger of a hard day at work, annoyance from teachers or parents is fuel for the engine that drives us in Randori/Shiai. In the Monday session I was trying to express this to the kids, explaining that they were very lucky that in Judo they have a way of expelling the “cross feelings” that everyone gets sometimes.

I told them that I (unlike their teachers or parents) actually want them to bring that energy to the class and express it physically through their “fighting” on the mat… and only on the mat! Of course I didn’t encourage them to beat each other up. The message is that I wanted them during Randori to be using the “emotional content” to attack with energy and purpose, rather than limply moving about and sticking legs in the way.

Wednesday’s session with the Navy people at HMS Collingwood is a very different affair. They are all seniors/adults and due to being in the military all of good fitness (especially if we were to compare them to the general public I suspect). Also, they have a competition focus; which affects how I design the programme there. We spend less time on the history and cultural elements of Judo and most of our time on Judo as a Game/Sport.

At the end of May they are competing in a competition; so we are focussing on what they need to do to win at that event. This is quite different to helping people to perfect their technique, learn techniques or understand the culture of Judo; or try and develop people through Judo physically and mentally. Those are elements of Judo that presently at the club we are not working on; we are working on winning the fights at the end of May.

This is entirely different to trying to teach them great technique, strategy, tactics, etc. This is about preparing people to win. Sure, those things if you have them will/might result in a win, but they are not pre-requisites to winning in Judo necessarily. Winning is about scoring more points than your opponent… that’s it. To score points you need to throw your opponent, or hold them down or make them submit. You don’t need to have perfect technique to do this necessarily.

So the session focussed on the players own Judo, what they felt was their successful waza, when then worked backwards and looked at their kumi kata (grips) and how these need to integrate together to be successful. Rather than prescribing how they should do things, they worked on their own techniques and found their own solutions. I tried to help, but mainly it was the player and their partner working out what felt right and what worked.

Later in the session we had Randori in which we focussed on using what we had been working on. What often happens is that players start a fight following “the plan” then part way through start improvising and that can be disaster. So as coach, I tried to watch for this, then if they strayed off “the plan” I would encourage them back to what they had been working on.

This week I have been taking a break from “Judo Geekery”, by which I mean I am not writing any code this week on www.dojolist,org or (or anywhere else) as I have put quite a bit of time into the DojoList code recently and had a heavy blast getting the Planet Judo iPhone application completed and submitted to the App Store (still pending review from Apple).

I also knocked out my first 5 mile run in far too long this week, on Tuesday evening. It was nice to get back to a level that I haven’t been at for quite sometime. I know there are differing views on running for Judo; especially distance running. But personally I think running has a valuable place in Judo training… and lets not forget I am not a Judo athlete in peak fitness. Running for me is as much as calorie burn as cardio-vascular development. It has little to do with my Judo fitness, other than my general fitness.

Lastly, this weekend I am really looking forward to visiting my EJU Degree colleague Mark Conway’s new dojo! I’ll be taken a session I think along with some other guests. Mark has had a permanent dojo in/near Harlow for sometime and this is a new permanent place. I am hoping to learn about how it all works as I’d like to do similar things down here in Hampshire (see ). I’ll have my video camera and my audio recorder with me, so hopefully will post some stuff online afterwards.

If you are attending, please say hello! Be sure to check out their website too at


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My project hits 0.6.0. 


So, my little DojoList project is progressing along and today I finished my latest milestone, what I am calling 0.6.0.

In this version of the software I've added:

* Cleaner CDATA in the XML file.
* Ability to centre the map on your address/postcode.
* Fixed up a bug in the logo upload routine
* Added email notifications of modifications to dojo information.
* Started abstracting the XML processing out of the controller(s).
* Added the ability to delete or replace the logo from the edit screen.
* Modified the main club listing to be sorted alpha numerically on dojo name.

In the next iteration I plan to add proper data validation of input from form on create and edit screens. For the 0.7.0 milestone, I want to add the following:

* Data validation.
* Search function on Dojo name.
* Option for unformatted HTML list for embedding within another sites layout.
* Tweak formatting of club view page to work better on Google.

So thats what I added that was planned and what I have planned. During the 0.6.0 cycle I learned alot and added some things that were not planned. For example, I added a feature that imports data from the very cool site (which also licenses it data with a creative commons license).
I did quite a bit of structural change to the software. Moving things around between the controller to the model for example. I also started abstracting things better for later when I want to add more flexibility.

One of the things I have found hard, is the handling of XML data in more complicated situations. Specifically sorting the XML data file. WHich I have not actually done yet. Currently I am trying to find the best way to do this. I am swaying between using XSL transformations and pulling the SimpleXML Object into and array, sorting the array and then pushing it back out as XML. If you've got experience in this area, please let me know.
Having this issue is kinda self-inflicted from the design decision to use XML to store the data (as opposed to using a database like MySQL or SQLite; although I want to add them as a option later).

I Look forward to the next iteration, but it looks trickier! :-)

This post is cross-posted on

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Skiing and Judo, Apples and Oranges. 

In my last post I wrote about my thoughts on Judo, based on looking at it in comparison to Skiing. I've had more time to think about it and think about others feedback etc and thought I'd write a follow up post.

58/365 apple or orange?

The big issue people seemed to have with my previous post was that the idea of comparing Judo and Skiing. Which is in places valid and in other places completely invalid IMHO.

Judo is after all a combat sport and skiing a snow sport.
Judo is a fight where the forces being used/controlled are generated by the athletes themselves. Where as in Skiing Gravity and friction are the forces involved.

BUT... I think we can compare the two sports/activities and learn from the process.

The Snow Plow.
Since writing the previous post, I have discussed with a number of people on and offline, the Snow Plow used in Skiing. This includes discussing it with an experienced Ski Instructor.

My hypothesis (if you can call it that) was/is, that the snow plow perhaps need not be taught. This is becuase as the participant reaches a certain level, they cease to use the snow plow.
So why teach it?

It was interesting to learn that in some areas, the snow plow is not taught as much as it is in others. Namely in ski resorts where space is not limited, where skiers can use the "turn up hill" braking method to start with.

But on the whole, the snow plow is taught. The ski instructor I spoke with agreed with some people that emailed me, in saying that the principles of the snow plow maintain their validity with parallel turns etc. So teaching it should be helping learn more advanced methods.

I am still not convinced one way or the other if the snow plow is something that is right to teach or not. More likely it is different in each case. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not.

This is exactly like Judo, there is not often a "right answer". It is normally a spectrum of right answers.

Doing versus being taught
Judo is I contend often over taught, much like the first days on the slopes, we spend hours teaching technique, BEFORE letting the newcomer participate in the game; Randori or Shiai.

A comment from a ski instructor talking about teaching kids was "... the first two days are hell, then it clicks for them and from then on its great fun...".

Now, I wondered immediately if the same is true of Judo? Do kids coming into Judo have the same sort of delay before it clicks? Should we be planning around kids (and adults) not especally liking/enjoying Judo for about 8 hours of Judo? Which means that maybe a newbie needs 4-8 sessions? So perhaps we need to force newcomers to do 8 sessions before letting them on the mat?

Also I would suggest perhaps we need to look at the idea of allowing students of Judo to learn by doing, rather than by being taught.

After the first couple of days, skiers learn mainly by being taken out on the slopes and copying their instructors as they ski down the slopes. Some instruction is given and then a much longer period is spent skiing and trying the new skill(s).

Could we do this in Judo more? Outline a technique or principle, then allow the new Judoka learn by doing?

Should we be allowing our Judo students to play Judo for fun and spend very little time "teaching" them? Randori only sessions perhaps? Can it be done within existing club structures? Or is it a change so large that it could only be used within an entirely new culture?

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On Skiing and Judo. 

Ski panning (more photos on comments)My family likes to snow Ski, I don't. They love it, I have no desire to fall down a mountain on two planks of wood... for fun! ;-)

As my family plans for a skiing holiday I decided to watch some skiing and... as I do... relate it back to my passion, Judo.

This blog post is my impressions on both Judo and Skiing in terms pedagogy, experience and short versus long term effects of how yo learn to Ski or do Judo. Before I start, lets be clear, I don't ski, never have, never will. So yes I am biased and also it can be argued (mainly by my wife) that I have no right to talk about skiing unless I try it. She has a point and I'll try and keep that in mind whilst I write this.

Day Zero Experience.
So here we go, you are in a ski resort/Judo club for the first time. Ulp... whats going on, what do I do, where do I go.

In Skiing this is handled pretty well, you are probably there on a package via a tour operator and a rep will point you at the hotel, at the Ski hire store, at the ski lesson meeting place, etc.

In Judo, well you found the Dojo right? Hopefully someone greeted you when you arrived. Maybe someone told you what to do, what to wear, what to expect?

1-0 to Skiing. Skiing seems to know how to make sure you get to the right place and have the right kit. This is helped by a viable economy around skiing. Ski stores sell you the kit and tell you what you need. Ski hire makes sure you have the right size boots, skis etc.

Day One Experience

So, you are on the side of a mountain wearing all your new gear and ready to get started. You can see the experienced skiers flying down the mountain, looks good, you can't wait to do that!

You meet up with your ski instructor and are broken up into groups, based on experience/ability. As a total newbie, you start off being shown how to put your boots on, then how to slide on one ski, then on one ski (other foot), then the all important "Snow plow" position.

Then how to walk sideways up the hill. So you side step up the (very flat) hill and then slide down in the snow plow. Then you sidestep up again, then snow plow again. And thats about it for the day.

You probably have no new gear on, just some tracksuit trousers. Maybe you have a borrowed Judo suit (possibly cleaned occasionally). The class starts with a kneeling bow, then some running around to get warmed up. Then what? More than likely you are taken to the side and shown some basic moves. Probably your breakfalls, starting lieing on the ground hitting the ground with your hands.

Maybe a basic throw, probably O Soto Toshi in the UK at least.

Maybe you get to do some wrestling on the ground, maybe you get to do some wrestling standing up. Often you don't.

Summary of Day One:
Both sports IMHO, can give students a really bad first taste. Skiing day one looks duller than watching paint dry. Whilst Judo day one can be both dull and scary.

Judo clubs on the whole I think give a better first experience, in that I think most new comers get to participate in randori. If only in a very light form. They get a taste of the sport. We teach them dull basics often (breakfalls) and sometimes throws that are a handicap perhaps. My personal view is that O Soto (in any form) is a bad first throw for new Judoka as it is hared to get right and easy to get countered from. O Goshi, Taio, Seoi are much easier (two feet on the floor), and harder to counter. So the new player is not learning a throw that does not get them thrown against most people they fight.

Skiing on the other hand gives a really boring first experience (remembering here that I have never skiied ok). Side step for 2 minutes, slide slowly down the hill for 20 seconds, repeat. SNORE!

Now, of course the deeper immersion in Judo is scary and more dangerous. Skiing is being more cautious. That said, I have seen classes where new Judo students learn only Ukemi and practice a throw without any randori. Which to me is equally dull and equally safety focussed.

Other factors:
In skiing, you have most likely committed to a week of lessons, not to mention all the money you have spent on clothing, equipment hire, hotels etc. It is also a holiday activity (for most).
So you are going to attend those classes for the whole week, no matter what the first experience.

Judo on the otherhand is an evening activity, you have probably not spent any money on equipment or even on the lessons (first lesson free is common and session by session mat fees too are common).
So if that first class sux, you won't be back. You have no investment in the activity, so it is easier to let it go.

So Skiing does not need to worry so much about the first lesson experience. They know you'll be back day 2, day 3, etc. So as long as you get skiing near the end and enjoy it, they are fine. So perhaps the snow plow obsession (safety) is fine, they are going to keep you for a week, so they can let you be bored.

Judo on the other hand has you for maybe and hour and a half. If you are bored in that lesson you are out of there. You are not (and I generalise) committed to any more than that one session. So in Judo we need to make sure you enjoy that first lesson.

I think many clubs manage to make lesson one fun and enjoyable, some don't.

Which in part explains perhaps why Judo is a kids activity. Parents choose Judo and apply the kids go because Mum/Dad wants them to try Judo. Maybe it's just a term, as it fits in with other activities. But they are more likely to stay than free wheeling adult new comers.

What Judo can learn from skiing
Maybe Judo needs to have newbie weeks? Maybe we should make new students commit to a week of lessons. Commit to buying a Judo suit. Maybe Judo should start with a week camp?

Perhaps the financial and time commitment, prior to starting, would work like in skiing and mean that new Judo players start off having a longer experience, with more opportunity to be taught good basics without fear of them not coming back?

Could Judo be more of an experience than a regular activity?

More instructors! Ski slopes are swamped with instructors. 10 students to a instructor seems about the norm. In Judo, I think we run at much lower ratios.

More facilities: Ski slopes provide nursery slopes, bars, restaurants, green runs, red runs, black runs. Snow boarding areas. Trips to other slopes, ski lifts, gondolas, etc etc.

In Judo we provide very little. Often not even as much as a chair for mum or dad to sit on so they can watch; let alone a coffee machine or TV to watch. Even in the class what do we provide? What does you club provide? Just a mat? What about a crash mat? What about trips to other clubs? Different types of Judo? Do you offer Kata nights? Technique nights? Ne Waza only nights? Freesyle Judo sessions? Wrestling lessons?

What Skiing could learn from Judo
First experiences matter, side step + snow plow = dullness. So maybe skiers could start off by just going down a slope headlong? Maybe a special learners slope that goes down, then upwards slightly (to bleed speed off) then a flat so they can stop.

I also wonder about snow plow, it seems to be something done by beginners and not by experienced skiers; who use have parallel skis and turn in a different way to noobs.

Should snow plow be taught? I don't know enough about skiing to say, but my gut says that it is a dead end skill that perhaps retards learning later. I have watched video of those trying to progress from newbie skiers to experienced, who are held back by a reliance on the snow plow to slow down and turn.

Is it like the underhand serve in volleyball, something that if not un-learned prevents you learning the skill actually required in normal participation post the initial learning phase.


Perhaps Skiing could learn about thrift, skiing costs and arm and a leg. Maybe it could be cheaper... maybe that would be a bad thing? Judo is cheap, often really really cheap. Perhaps that is a bad thing? Maybe Judo needs to increase the cost. Maybe we should all be charging club memberships, monthly fees (in advance), selling more merchandise (say for example saying that all students must have the club Judogi, not any old suit). Maybe if there was more money flowing we'd be able to pay coaches, have permanent dojo, provide better facilities and experiences?

Maybe the increase in the cost of Judo would just put the last nail in the coffin? Perhaps if skiing was cheaper it would not survive, would not be successful.

Snow Plow or no Snow Plow?
For me this is an interesting analogy to the Breakfalls in Judo. And in Judo there is a debate about the value of teaching breakfalls. Some (most perhaps) believe that they are essential for the safe learning of Judo.
Others argue that most Judoka (especially at competition level) do not breakfall, that it should not be taught in the traditional way. The snow plow seems a little used skill amongst experienced skiers and possibly a extra hurdle to jump to reach the experienced level.
So perhaps it should not be taught at all? Or taught later in the process?

In Judo I look at O Soto in the same light, it is infrequent in mid level Judo. The occasional elite athlete uses it. Most low level players I have observed fail to throw with it, and very often get thrown as a result of trying it. So should it be taught to new Judo players? In the UK (BJA), O Soto Gari has been replaced by O Soto Toshi and is the first throw taught to children.
At a recent tournament I watched the red belts kids fight, and it was the sole throw attempted by virtually all the kids. It was ugly and ineffective and did result in success mainly via brute force. Mainly it resulted in the initiator being thrown. (I hope to quantify this via video analysis... eventually).

Conclusions... summary...
My family love skiing, despite the slow start process. They also love Judo with our more immediate deep immersion process. Kids I think can do ne-waza randori from day one and enjoy it immensely!

I think the average Judo coach is a more skilled teacher than a ski instructor. We seem to do more teaching than ski instructors. Which may or may not be a good thing.

Skiing appears (again from a purely observational perspective) to be alot about developing kinetic awareness of how the forces of gravity, momentum and friction work. But I also suspect that Judo is the same.

Skiing perhaps could be more immediately immersive, and perhaps judo less so?

I do think that Judo could benefit from trying a while week of lessons for newcomers, committed to in advance. Perhaps once a month your club could have "New to Judo Week"?

That is my thoughts on skiing and Judo for now, I hope to read up on Skiing and try and find a good ski instructor or two online and pick their brains... anyone know one?
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Hants vs. Herts Judo Match 2010 

Today, Hampshire Judo Association hosted Hertfordshire in a series of team matches. Danny Murphy the Hampshire Junior Manager organised the great event and I took some video.

Below is the first rough highlights reel for your enjoyment, I hope you like it!

The video is currently on the front page of for those following this blog via newsreaders that remove the video.

Congratulations to all those who competed, and thanks to all those who volunteered their time. Specifically Nikki & Paul.


P.s. Congrats to the OKCDT who fought this weekend also, over in the USA! I have seen some nice videos of throws from them already!
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