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 the UFC and BJA partnership. 

Today the BJA announced the UFC partnership that was hinted at earlier in the year. The BJA Facebook group is currently debating the heck out of it over at

I thought I would write a blog post to help me clarify my thinking on the partnership. So, below are my ramblings:

* A Big Sponsor.
It has been a stated objective of the BJA for more than a decade to secure a big name sponsor. This has been a massive failure until today. Finally the BJA has a big name sponsor.

* UFC and Judo.
The BJA is following the lead of USA Judo here. USA Judo has had a relationship with UFC for a while now. The USA Judo brand has appeared in the octagon and there has been advertising in UFC magazine etc.

But should Judo be involved in the UFC at all?

I am not sure it should. For me I have watched many (including the original UFCs) and can appreciate the combat. But although I can watch and appreciate UFC, I don't consider it something I want to be associated as it is a bloodsport.

It is impossible for me as an individual to remove the fact that the purpose of a UFC match is for two people to beat upon one another until one is unconscious, can't continue or is forced to submit to prevent being injured.

I don't like the fact that the UFC is basically a plot device from a whole sub genre of B Action movies. You know the ones where the hero ends up in an underground cage fighting ring.

It is a throw back to the days where we watched men kill one another for the entertainment of others. It is like the WWE in that it is entertainment NOT sport. The combat is real, but from that point on it is almost as scripted and dramatised as WWE. I might contend that WWE is more of a sport as the feats of agility they perform are incredible.

So for me, I don't like my sport being associated with a bloodsport.

Whats in it for the partners?
This is a tough one, especially as so far only the BJA have put anything on it's official website and that is a simple press release with few details.

If we look at the UFC we have a multi-million dollar, multi-national entertainment business. They have money, huge audience and are riding a wave of success.

If we look at the BJA we see a small niche Olympic sport NGB with shrinking membership and poor competition performance internationally. It struggles with marketing and promotion.

So on the face of it, people seem to see a cash injection and lots of free publicity for Judo.

I am more skeptical and don't see why UFC would invest large amounts of money into the BJA. The only asset mentioned in the BJA release is advertising UFC to the membership and via the BJAs social media channels.

This I suppose is worth the UFC investing some money in, but not much. Perhaps the BJA is giving the UFC access to the membership; which they might consider a target rich environment to see pay per view and tickets to live events.

It is conceivable that UFC see the BJA as a talent ID and development project. Unlike BJA or boxing; UFC fighters are salaried employees so you sould conceivably see them using Walsall as a place to identify fighters.
Of course this would skim the cream of the talent out of the BJA potentially... so I don't see that as a plus except for those individual athletes who suddenly find themselves with regular income and a more stable financial future.
But from a BJA perspective it is suicide as it's potentially depleting the talent pool for future Olympic cycles.
I would further suggest that the UFC really does not need to do this; the lure of money must be pretty gigh already for our players that are already forced to self-fund are being let down by the BJA and see the success of people like Ronda Rousey and see a new path potentially.

* Tieing our "Brand" to UFCs
Not that our brand is worth much, but we really have to consider the entity that is UFC. It is a business with the aim of making money for it's shareholders.

The UFC has finally started putting doping controls in place. But like most american sports they are not signed up with WADA. Doping has been and remain rife in the UFC.

Then there is the scandals. The BJA has had it's share but the UFC makes the BJA look pure as driven snow by comparision. It takes about a 5 minute google session to find lots of news reports about UFC scandals. Armed standoffs with the police does not really sound like a brand we necessarily want to be associated with to me.

* Confuding the Judo brand.
So, Judo has been a mainstay skill in UFC for years. Ronda is making it even more so. Yet a harai goshi is a "hip toss" and juji gatame is a "straight arm bar" still.
Although the word Judo perhaps is being used in UFC; it does not seem to be translating into any form of education about Judo to those in the UFC universe.

Judo is not UFC, we don't punch, we don't kick we don't aim to knock out our opponents. We are a sport and to quote the EJU we are "More than sport". We are not part of the "kicky punchy" crowd; parents looking for an activity for their kid can easily understand that Judo does not have kicking or punching.

But if Dad follows UFC and suddenly learns BJA is partnered with UFC; won't he rightfully expect what we do in the club to resemble whay he sees in the octagon?

Won't some parents like myself see the partnership and say "I don't want my son/daughter involved in cage fighting!"

So both sides of the coin are potentially end up with the key decision makers in our "market" deciding Judo is not for their child as potentially what Judo is is more confused than it was prior to the partnership.

Given that 90%+ of the membership are kids under 12, we need to think about what parents reactions will be. I suspect there is a much smaller group of parents looking for a hobby for their kids that is cage fighting than are looking for something like what Judo really is.

* Incompatible markets
I don't feel that a partnership with the UFC is going to help grow Judo. Our key market demographic is not a UFC demographic. be that counting the actual members (kids under 12) or parents of those kids.

The UFCs market is guys in there late teens and above. Preferably single with lots of disposable income to spend. This is not the proven market of Judo in the UK.

So the partnership ties us top the UFC, excludes us from partnering with a compatible brand. I.e. a someone like McDonalds who target kids directly and their parents. I'm not suggesting we go with junk food companies either; merely highlighting that McDOnalds knows, markets to and gives access to our proven market better than the UFC.

* UFC Cage fighting is not compatible with Judo.
Where Judo aims to improve society and individuals; UFC aims to entertain people for profit.

Judo "fights" are controlled, safe and sport where the aim is to test yourself against others. UFC "fights" are brawls where the aim is to injure the other person to the point they can't continue; for the entertainmet and profit of others.

They punch and kick, we don't.

We try to avoid bloodshed and in fact avoid even televising blood injuries; they revel in it.

* Losing Judo.
Another problem I see whenever UFC comes up is the attracting of internet trolls. The BJJ/MMA/UFC trolls see no problem with basically saying Judo needs to be BJJ/MMA or it will die.

Judo on the other hand looks at it's long history and says, Karate came and we grew; Aikido came and we grew; Kung Fu came and we grew, Karate came and we grew; TKD came and we grew, BJJ and MMA has come and we are still growing (at least outside of the microcosm of the BJA).

For me, when I hear UFC announcers talk about Hip tosses and straight arm bars after years of Judo being in UFC I see that UFC does not draw in Judo culture it strips it out.

When I hear Judo people coaching in Judo clubs talking about "sweeping the guard" or being in the guard position I fear we are the creators of our own destruction.

We seem so focussed on the scary news kids on the block with their fancy octagon and tap out clothing brand that we forget that the eason that the UFC is popular is because the UFC organisation promoted UFC and had the timing and luck to catch the decline of boxing.

The BJA seems obsessed with selling everything except Judo. We have seem multiple projects like JudoFit and Gymnastics for Judo yet we still have no national competition structure.

We have staff who do all sorts of jobs, but no staff organising competitions locally around the country.

We have a NGB that sees the volunteer coaches as "work force". That has lost the engagement with the members so badly that a mere 30 (of approximately 800) clubs attend the AGM.

An NGB that does not even cover it's international athletes performances in real time.

The BJA is for me not focussed on Judo enough and I see the UFC partnership as another giant distraction from just helping people do Judo and enjoy doing!

What are your thoughts?


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On the format of Judo competitions.... 

As many readers will know I have an obsession with elite Judo and spend majority of my freetime working on projects related to that obsessions.

I travel to many international Judo competitions and administrate the Junior World Ranking List on behalf of the IJF.

And increasingly I ponder the format of Judo competitions and if we should be trying alternative formats.

The most visible evidence that this might be sensible and that others are thinking about this also is the introduction of IJF Team events at World level.

It is really a re-introduction in fact. British Judo has long had a team championships by area. Further back the Budokwai fought team events against other nations.
It is however a new format; 5 players rather than 7. It is exciting and great viewing. Hopefully it will soon be a fixture in the Olympic programme.

But for now, the format we use at most events is knockout with partial repecharge. What this means is that even if you face the eventual champion in the first round and lose, you are out and done for the day.

The old saying is that half the competitors go out in the first round. And there is a lot of truth to this idea. Maintaining the Junior WRL I estimate about 30% of all the athletes on the list have never made it out of round one.

So for them, it's an expensive event. 5 or less minutes of mat time and they are out. For the player, coach, team and nation it is saddening.

But what is the impact for the sport?

I would suggest that it is bad for us too. We are trying to make our sport presentable to the TV networks and spectators. Sport is one of the few types of content on TV that is popular with advertisers as being live matters.

But given that at most events half the players are out in the first round, what is the motivation to keep watching? be you a parent, club mate, countryman? Or just a member of the public watching?

If you are the BBC or any TV sports show producer, what do you show the local audience? Unless you are French, Russian or Japanese can you plan around having some good footage of the local player(s)? Probably not.

Judo is a niche sport, interesting but as yet not main event news. It's something that might get a few minutes at the end of a news broadcast. But if you are the BBC, will there be any British players to show? Any footage to cut together to to make a little news piece?

Now imagine a world where we try round-robin (pools). Everyone fights everyone in the category?
If you are the BBC suddenly you have multiple fights to get your footage from, even if the player(s) lose in the first round.

If you are a fan, you can watch that first round contest, and look forward to the next round where your favorite comes on the mat again and again and again.

This is just a concept, an idea, not a comprehensive plan. A think piece.

Another area we need to think about is if we should let just anyone enter any competition. In Britain I can enter the British national championships simply by sending a cheque.
At the Junior worlds this week, players who have never attended a world ranking event can step onto the world championship tatami.

Do we need to look at other sports formats and have leagues where you get promoted or delegated from depending on your performance?
Drop too low on the list and you can't stay at that level, down to level 2. Do well and get back in the top league.

This would perhaps decrease the number of players in events? This might be a good thing especially if we went round-robin.

Smaller player numbers might mean less mats, smaller (cheaper) venues, less admin costs for organisers?

Smaller venues, with less tatami might be worth considering anyway. Just for the spectator value.

By this I mean, watching 4 (or more) tatami is a less than satisfying experience; even for the most dedicated Judo fan.
We have all experienced that moment where you decide to watch mat 1 for a while, just to miss the amazing Ippon on mat 4. So you watch mat 4, and miss the Ippon on mat 2.

Equally, perhaps we need to consider what information we make available to spectators in the hall and on TV.
In the hall we have all watched events and wondered what stage the event is at, has so and so player been on again yet? Is this the semi-final?
We need to explore how we can inform the spectators (and participants) as to what is going on.

You can see, even in these few paragraphs, that there are many areas that need exploring so that the growth of Judo can continue.

It has only been in Marius Vizer's time as IJF President that Juso has made real changes to grow the sport. In recent years Judo has grown bigger than ever before, the IJF has gone from organising just the World Championships every two years to running events almost every week of the year.

Judo is on TV in more countries and practiced in more countries than ever before. Large and small nations are winning medals. We have live video streaming of all the senior events and many of the junior and cadet events.

Never before in the history of Judo has the IJF been promoting it wider and the momentum I feel is growing.

So for me now is the perfect time for us all to explore ideas and experiment with new ideas locally and share those experiment results online so that the good ideas spread.

I feel very positive as I write this, with the IJF Junior Worlds footage playing live from the USA.

I feel like we are on the cusp of something, it can go forwards and grow or shrink backwards. And the people that decide that are not just the IJF senior officials. It is you and me, the rank and file members of clubs and federations.

You can run a club championships in this day and age and have a live internet stream. Your city championships can have a new and exciting format. Your national championships can have that new innovation that gets the crowd more engaged.

Please, if you read this, take your ideas and share them. Crazy has never been more possible in history; if you have an idea it might be the idea that changes everything.

Good luck and let me know what you think!

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Astana Grand Prix Day One Finals! 

After an exciting morning session the finals block is scheduled to start at 5pm stana time (12 Noon UK time).

Tune in and support your sport!
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Astana Judo Grand Prix 2014 Live Stream Day 1. 

Astana Judo Grand Prix 2014 Live Stream Day 1.
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Coaching styles... 

Recently, Bob posted an article reflecting on his coaching style. It resonated with me as did some articles from the every open AnnMaria De Mars. Then I attended the BJA "Matside Coach" training and this blog post is me processing all these things and sorting out my thinking on and around the topic(s).

Like Bob, I am not an autocratic "my way or the highway" type coach naturally. In Bob's article he mentions high profile examples of successful coaches that are. And he goes on to consider if his style needs to change.

That got me thinking near identically, do I need to be more of an autocratic style coach. Do I need more bluster and more fire. More "be there!" and less "will you be there?".

Maybe, there is something to be said for the "nice guys come last" quote?

I know outside of coaching that my tendency to try and work with people can be detrimental. Too few people in the Judo community seem to want to actually get on with doing and seem to prefer to form committees and sub-committees and "teams" as opposed to getting the job done. This is true beyond Judo circles.

In my history I have bent over backwards to try and find a path where the other people are happy. On occasion it has worked, but more often recently I have taken the hard-nosed approach and success has come from that. It makes me wonder if more of that is required.

I am not a naturally confrontational person, I don't enjoy the arguments that others seem to enjoy. I prefer to talk about something, define the problem, define some solutions, choose one, and get to work.

But back to my coaching style...

I teach in a university and I am currently wondering if in the new semester a harder more demanding approach might work?

We have a sports club mentality and a strong sport culture in the University. I wonder if taking it the next step and being more focussed on the team and performance is the right direction. Playing the game is what matters versus coming to the club.

I'm considering leaping in with both feet and forming a uni team and a city team. The CIty team I have this idea to "buy" some players (mainly from Camberley) to compete in a selection of events that will raise the team profile.

It will cost money obviously and it will require me approaching the whole process differently. I see the "City" team leading the student team and leading a culture of athletics rather than a culture of a martial arts society.

To do it, my persona and style will need to change. I'll need to be more whistle blowing baseball cap wearing coach and less instructor in judogi. Ideally I can get some coaches in to work on the mat so I can focus on the team elements.

I'll need to be pushier and more demanding. I'll need to set some rules and be ready to enforce them. It's not something that will come naturally, but perhaps it is good to force some change?

Whilst on the "Matside Coaching" course, I had plenty of food for thought. The instructor showed photos of leading coaches matside and having had a opportunity to watch these coaches in person I felt at times the images were in conflict with the message.

The message was clear, this is a BJA course telling you to shutup and behave matside. Be a good little coach and don't argue with the referees etc. Which is a good message and one I agree with... in part.

But when I watch the matside coaches of the world perform, they scream and shout. They are not impassive and quietly watching a well prepared athlete perform.

They are part of the players game, the top coaches are driving the players on. Influencing the outcome; changing the flow of a match.

So for me the message was mixed. And it needs to be I think as at the level of the coaches present mainly, the answer is shutup and behave.

I don't feel that any coach as a kids event (u18) in the UK should be shouting and screaming matside. The "supercoach" performances I see make me sick to the stomach sometimes.

We have such a weak competition structure here in the UK that every event is a little one. So treat them as such coaches. You have nothing riding on it, so chill and enjoy the day.

When we have something worth fighting for, then get excited, get animated. But there is so little at stake at even most national level events you just look silly. Take the suit off unless you are at an EJU/IJF event.
Lose the TeamGB tracksuit, this ain't the Olympics.

All that said, we should have events that matter to people in this country. And we should have events where it's appropriate that coaches wear suits and take it serious and engage fully in the players performance. For me it's tragic that we don't have this level of domestic competition in place.

Which brings me back to my coaching style, having said I want to be more autocratic. It will be hard as we have no events of value to take seriously. I created the Hampshire Team Championships to create a local competition that was enjoyable and tangible for my novice players to compete in.

At those events, I'm lucky to talk to my players let alone "supercoach" mode them. I'm normally running the computer and the event on the whole.

But this is good, at that level it's appropriate to keep the level of input low and to teach the players that they should relax by me being relaxed.

And that leads me back to the matside coaching course. I left worrying that the level 1 coaches got the wrong message.

There was a little worrying current of "we have to be professional". Which I felt was being interpreted as take it serious. Where as for the coaches in the room they need to be relaxing and letting the kids they coach enjoy playing the sport.

Which... will be another post in itself.
My thoughts on the lack of participation in competition in British Judo are becoming more and more fixed. In short, people seem to take the percentage figures of people that do Judo to people that do Judo and don't compete and interpret it wrong.

I.e. the number thrown around was 3% of people doing Judo and 97% not competing (yes I chose to express it that way intentionally).
Yet virtually every coach in that room had competed, especially the older, higher level ones. For me there is a direct link; I meet so few people involved in Judo that were not competing at some stage.

I find it so worrying that people hear the 3% figure and see that as a good reason to to make up terms like "competitive" and "recreational" players. I see people catering and encouraging doing Judo without competing at all.

For me the 3% figure is a blight and should be the otherway around. a small minority of people should not do Judo and just attend a club.

You don't join a golf club and not play golf. You don't join a gym and not workout. You don't join a cricket club and not play.

At this point people are normally turning red and going "but... but... but..."

And yes I know what you are going to say "some people don't want to compete". And right now a majority of people are in that category. And this is a despicable situation which makes me almost ashamed to be part of Judo.

The way I see this is that we have made Judo competitions so undesirable that a vast majority of people don't want to compete.

We desperately need to address this situation and change it. We need to get rid of the all day competitions where it's knockout, miles away and scary.

We need home court advantage, we need round-robin and team events. We need one of matches between people held in the club. We need more and different and we need things we have yet to discover.

We need to lose the coaches that think it is okay to have a majority of your club not playing Judo and just handing over mat fees.

We need to get into this for playing and improving those who come into Judo. We need to remember where we came from and what sport is all about at the core and how Judo was born into the period of history where the Olympic Games were born and athleticism as a social good was ingrained into Judo and the world.

Sorry... rambling.

So in summary, I think I will be a harder nosed coach this semester pushing players to be athletes more.

I shall let you know how it goes.


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