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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Exploring as a coaching methodology 

This week has been an interesting one for me as a Judo coach.

This week at the club we started going through the Gokyo technique by technique once again (we have done it before in the club).

What is really interesting about going through the Gokyo in this way is that it forces me as a coach to re-examine each technique and work through them with the participants in the sessions.

As I have to do it with techniques I know it is interesting to discover new things from my preparations for each session. Specifically, exploring things like the exact wording in the Kodokan Judo book and getting everyone in the class to do it as the book describes it.

Doing this has really highlighted some of the "received knowledge" I have of waza. By which I mean, sometimes the way I do and or teach a technique does not match with the description in the book.

Judo is wonderful in the way that there are multiple different solutions to the "how do I throw" problem. Even when using the same "technique".

De ashi barai for example can be done with tori stepping forwards, or backwards. Then there is the rotating version. We can attack the front foot or the trailing foot. It has been really interesting to explore the variations.

On Wednesday evening, I had the chance to have a long and enjoyable evening exploring a variety of Judo topics at a colleagues home. We talked around a variety of topics and specifically elite programme creation, design, maintenance and measurement.

This was great as it's the sort of conversation I don't often get to have in the UK. I have them sometimes whilst away internationally but not often here, well at least not since I graduate University of Bath.

This Sunday, I started our club learning the Kaeshi no kata. Again this proved really educational. I have never formally studied this kata, so we are learning it together with me mainly guiding the practice rather than teaching how it should be done.

Preparing for the session was as educational as participating. I learnt a little about the history of this kata (non-kata in some descriptions) and even a little about the dissemination of Judo internationally as I discovered this very British kata in a video by a coach in my native New Zealand.

This upcoming week we shall continue to explore the Gokyo and Kaeshi no kata; as well as doing randori. At the moment it feels like the balance between practical learning by doing (randori) and technical learning (Gokyo and Kata) is about right.

I look forward to what I will learn this week as well as observing what the participants in the sessions learn.
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Over coaching in Judo 

This week at the club I was speaking with the students about how sometimes in Judo we coaches over coach.

What I meant was the idea that as a Judo coach, we spend a lot of time teaching people specific techniques. Where as maybe we should be spending more time helping people learn how to do Judo.

Specifically on Thursday we were doing ne-waza and turnovers from when your partner is defending in a facedown flat on the ground position. Rather than teach specific turnovers into specific osaekomi, kansetsu or shime waza; we talked about principles and strategies; then the group went off and practiced.

To give context, one example was simply to say that if you can get your opponents elbow away from their side you have a lever to work with. And then "Off you go....".

As coaches we can easily just show a specific turnover into a osae komi. Then get the participants to repeat. Then the coach can walk around and correct mistakes; then teach another waza and repeat the process.

However, this means that the participants learn only what I show. And I had better be teaching waza that works for everyone in the session. WHich is hugely unlikely given the physical differences and experience and ability levels.

The alternative is that we reduce our input and allow the participants to discover their own methods that work. This is something that is interesting as some will learn faster this way and may learn techniques better and techniques best suited to themselves.
Or... they may not if they don't discover methods that work for them. Equally, they may learn better, but it might start slower.

More generally, I feel like most of us Judo coaches are over doing the teaching and talking (I know I talk way too much). I suspect that we run the sessions two tightly. Perhaps a side effect of the very structured coaching methodologies taught by national federations?

Perhaps as coaches we need to start measuring the amount of time we spend coaching, teaching and talking. Then perhaps we can have an insight into if we have the balance right.

I say balance as I do think in Judo coaching we do need not just the open "learn by doing" with the instructing specifics. But what I am not so confident about is the percentages of how much of each we should be doing as coaches.

I'd be interested to hear your opinion, either as a player or coach. Do you think coaches are providing a balance? Have you noticed sessions that are open learning and others that are more instructor lead technique learning?

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Happy 2017 

Hello everyone and welcome to 2017!

2016 is over and what a mixed year it was. Both some highs some very low lows.

For me in 2016, we saw the BJA descend even lower after the loss of the European Judo Championships. It has continued to fail to address the serious governance issues suitably.

For those who have not been keeping up to date, the BritishJudo organisation made some terrible decisions in regard to sponsorship deals with the UFC for the European Championships. This caused the cancellation of the championships and was found via an independant report commissioned by BritishJudo and UKSport to be primarily the fault of the (now) former chair Kerrith Brown and the (still) CEO Andrew Scouler. The committee formed to oversee the event chaired by the (now acting) chair Ronnie Saez was also heavily criticized.

Since the loss in 2015, the BJA has steadfastly refused to communicate with the membership about the problems, nor to follow the recommendations given by the report.

In 2016 enough information was able to be shared that a number of clubs (approximately 30) formed along with a larger number of license holders an organisation that attempted to make the BJA respond to the clear issues.

As a member of this group, I popped my head above the parapet and even ended up attending a meeting with the BJA board to try and get some action. This meeting came after repeated less serious attempts; and following a decision by a group of clubs to propose resolutions for the AGM to remove all the board members of the association as they felt that the association deserved the opportunity to discuss the issues and decide if the board members had done enough.

Unfortunately, the result of the meeting was very negative. After what was initially a very combative start, the real discussion started. This ended in a positive reaction; however ended negatively when the chair rather than carrying on the positive; decided to revert to form and posted a report on the meeting in which several inaccurate statements were made. And the one resolution actually put forward was not accepted for the AGM.

Obviously this was infuriating for me and resulted in my decision that unless the CEO and Chair go I shan't be able to work with the BJA.

Since then, little has changed. Their is some governance changes coming; forced upon the BJA by UKSport. Hopefully UKSport is able to extricate the BJA from the mess the BJA leadership has created and extended for so long.

To date, the BJA has only ever said that all is well, that they did no wrong and has yet to acknowledge the damage they have done to the lives, dreams and careers of too many. The board sit in their isolation and have yet to as much as apologise let alone take any responsibility for their failings.

But hey... why worry about little things like integrity when you can be a board member and sit on a board that damages the association whilst being under the misunderstanding it is part of the solution.

As we go into 2017, the BJA persists with it's performance programme that insists that athletes relocate to Walsall. Where they have no record of success and away from places like Camberley and Edinburgh where Olympic success has come from.

Funding in 2016 was a joke and we can expect despite the continued amazing funding from UKSport that the BJA will plead poverty due to spending money on everything except the talent.
More investment is flawed and proven to fail programmes and procedures and staff and continued failing to listen to the athletes and their coaches.

But 2017 is not a year for pessimism.

2017 is the year where the athletes, coaches, license holders and clubs I hope will realise that the BJA needs them... not the other way around.

My sincere hope is that players have the courage to do what is best for them NOT what is best for the BJA board.

I hope that clubs will realise that the BJA is there to serve them, not to command them. That they are the owners of the BJA; not "workforce". That they realise that membership is optional and that they consider seriously if the BJA is worth the time, energy and money they pour into it.

I hope everyone realises that Walsall and Loughborough are NOT the BJA. They are "BritishJudo" and they should be replaced. That the BJA is the clubs and license holders that should have been served by BritishJudo.

I hope that the area and county organisations wake up and realise they have power to act properly and do not have to tow the company line. Too many in 2016 followed the BJA lead and did nothing or accepted the BJA position with no investigation let alone real explanation.

Clubs need to appreciate that they own the association and that the board and the staff report ultimately to them. That their club voice is important. That they should and in fact have an obligation to ensure the BritishJudo acts in the interests of Judo.

The athletes I hope manage to succeed despite the system as they have done to date. I hope as they are now outside of qualification they use that effectively to decrease the leverage the BritishJudo programmes have on them and that they are able to get their situations improved prior to Olympic qualification starting.

Most of all I hope that a virus of caring spreads through the BJA.

This year I hope that I shall have the energy to work in the EJU and IJF more than in 2016 where the internal struggles in the BJA had a detrimental effect on my life in so many ways.

The IJF and EJU are hugely positive groups of people. It frustrates me immensely that BritishJudo is so different and disconnected from these organisations. At times it has actively been working against them and that is ridiculous. Perhaps 2017 is the year when the BJA starts to learn from the EJU and IJF and to grow in the way the EJU and IJF have.

We shall see...
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Paris Grand Slam 2016 TeamGB 

Well, Sunday ended very well indeed for the BJA. Sally Conway and Natalie Powell both securing medals.

As Bob points out; the BJA sent a decent sized team to this event.

The results are great compared to previous results; and given where we are in Olympic cycle promising for the women at least. The results were not as positive for the men.

That is not to say the performances were not good and/or improved. Performances and Results are not the same thing. Results are what the funding bodies and history remembers. Performances are what get you there along with luck and everything else.

As we close in on Rio2016, we get closer to knowing if the second attempt at a centralised system in a row will pay off. Nail biting time for the BJA which is already in trouble over the 2015 European Championships fiasco and the not yet published report into that event.

Good results in Rio2016 might save the current leadership. If the results are poor you have to hope heads will roll.
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2015 World Championships - TeamGB 

Well, the British involvement in the World Championships ended today. This blog post is not about the performances of the athletes; it is a repeated warning that the BJA is in trouble and ruining lives.

Back on August 11th, I wrote about the team selection. The lack of a full team, the worries I have for a “performance programme” this close to an Olympic games not sending a full team. The people and processes behind the BJA programme worry me as although creating champions is a puzzle; it is a puzzle where we actually know a lot about and the BJA is ignoring the knowledge and doing stupid things that are affecting not just the programmes chances of success; but screwing up lives also.

Back in March I wrote about the BJA managed to lose the hosting of the European Championships. I mention the loss of “home court advantage”. Looking at the medal table today, I see that Kazakhstan (hosts of the world championships) are in fourth place; not a position I recall seeing them in before. They were 26th on the medal table in 2014 at the Worlds.
So in the crucial final period leading up to the Rio Olympics, the BJA lost home advantage at a Europeans, then sent only half a team to the Worlds.

To me, this should be setting of massive alarm claxons.
We know that to win medals at Olympic Games you have to do the following:
1. Qualify
2. Be seeded.

To qualify and to be seeded is a simple mathematical problem. You have to get as many points on the IJF WRL as humanly possible. The Top 8 players in each category will have the best chance of winning a medal. If you are running a programme geared towards winning medals at Olympic Games your job is to get points.

And in Europe the two tournaments that matter are the Europeans and Worlds. So it is vital that you send all your Olympic contenders to these two events where maximum points are on offer. Unlike other events, there are points there just for showing up and stepping on the mat. A loss in first round gets you a few points and in the modern WRL driven world, 1 point can make all the difference.

Another key consideration is that the points you earn on the IJF WRL decrease in value after 12 months by 50%. So your results in this years Worlds count for far more than last years. This singl
e tournament is the most imprtant single event in qualification for Rio2016… and we had a mere 8 players attend.

This should be setting on massive alarm claxons for those who have seen the mission of the BJA programme. Their mission is to get medals in Olympic Games; yet at the single most important event in the run up to the games they sent half a team. So half the players have lost the chance to attend the single most important event in the 2 year qualification period. For me, this is a sign that the BJA programme is not correct and sadly; this is yet another Olympic Cycle being damaged at the athletes expense.

The BJA athletes have got at this stage to worry about their chances for Rio. Players like Danny Williams and Frazer Chamberlain (amongst others) may well have had their best chance to qualify taken away not by opponents beating them; but by the BJA's own performance programme.

Today I read Bob Challis' scathing blog post on the world championships and I think he is being very kind in how he describes the performance. He like me feels I sympathy for the athletes caught in the middle here. They all want to win gold; they all work as hard as they are able and compete at the best level they can.

Sadly, I think they are being handicapped by the BJA programme. Walsall as a centre is far from excellent. The programme itself has been hard wired to run along a course that nobody in the programme decided. We must remember that the centralised programme at Walsall was decided before the current performance director was put in place. He is a mere figurehead for a ship that had it's course set before he arrived.
Unfortunately, the culture of the BJA programme that existed before London2012 seems to have changed very little. Forced relocation to Walsall is part of the programme just as being ofced to live in Dartford was prior to London2012.

All that said, 2015 is actually an improvement on 2014; Sally Conway (Edinburgh based) managed to get a 7th place. Lifting GBR from 44th to 33rd in the world.

But one 7th place one year from the Olympics is a disaster and I hope the BJA know it. I may only be a “keyboard warrior” but seemingly unlike the BJA I know how the modern game is played. I may not know how to prepare an athlete; let alone be an elite athlete; but I do know how an athlete gets to go to Rio2016. I know what the key performance indicators for a modern elite programme are. And it's not hard. You go to the IJF website, click on the link to the World Ranking List.

I do not know what I want to happen next.
Where as before London2012 I wanted the performance directors and lead coaching staff gone; I am not sure that is the right thing atthis time. I am not sure what the athletes want or need. And I am bltently not alone. The BJA obviously has no clue; or if they do they are either evil or incompetant otherwise the talented athletes we have would be doing better than they are.

If incompetant; then maybe the results from Astana might wake them up and get them off their pedestals and get them to make serious changes. If evil, this has not all be incompetance and they are intentionally ruining lives of athletes… I genuinely hope this is just people doing a piss poor job of serving the athletes and not intentional.

In a wider look at the event; the champions all fell except for Teddy Riner. To me this indicates that the medalists for Rio2016 are not going to be as easy to predict. It indicates to me that perhaps some of the senior members of the IJF circuit are perhaps on the downwards slide. That there is a re-arrangement of dominance happening. That if the BJA players stand any chance to medalling in Rio, then this is the time to make real and meaningful changes to the programme.

British players can and have won medals at World Championships and at the Olympic Games. Right now; Rio2016 is looking like a games where we will not bring back a medal. We don't have Karina anymore and Gemma does not have home advantage. We did not send any new blood to Astana; I think we should have. Now in the last 12 months before Rio it is time to get serious and stop pretending that if we build “systems” and “facilities” then medals will fall into the players laps.

Now is the time to stop getting in the players way and start serving them. The Walsall experiment has failed and now is not the time to hold onto a failed idea. Now is the time to accept that as it stands we will be walking off the Copacabana with nothing but sand. Now is the time to restart, the time to actually build champions not centres, to support athletes not programmes. This is the time to stop being mediocore and allow the elite players to excel and not drag them down to the level of the BJA organisation.

Please, for the sake of the young people in your care; be the best servants to them that you can.

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