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 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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Judo: Play the d*mn game! 

Hi All,

I have not commented for a little while on my coaching, so I want to reflect on what I have been doing and also expand on something that has been running around in my head.

So the Navy Judo has been on a hiatus whilst some logistical details are worked out. So my coaching has been just at the Alresford Judo Club with Mr. Ray Whitfield.

The two classes are juniors (under and over 8 years), and we are working on both ensuring they learn the BJA syllabus and that they learn to play the game of Judo (thats my main aim).

What is apparent in the club and to be honest in my visits to other clubs and discussions with other coaches; is that in Judo clubs often the game of Judo is not played very much. We do alot of teaching, alot of drills, exercises, etc.

But often very little time is spent actually playing Judo. Be that in light simulation (Randori) or actually competing in some format. One of the interesting moments in my "Transformational Coaching" programme was being asked/told to coach some fundamental movement skils to youngsters in their Football (Soccer) lessons at University of Bath.

When we all reflected on the experience together, I think all the coaches said the same thing. All the kids kept asking "when are we playing a match?". It would appear that in that environment/culture they play a game every time they come to class.

In Judo I would say that we hardly ever let our kids/students play the game of Judo. Most clubs (and it's not all by any chance) do have Randori, generally at the end and maybe 1/2 hour of a say 1 and a half hour session.
Not many clubs (in my experience) have competitions weekly, within the club for example. An in-house ladder where there is a impact of winning or losing.

Why do I think we need to play the game more?
So, this is a big question and the answers will annoy many; you have been warned. ;-)

If (and it's a big IF), you think that Judo is a sport (or at least there is a sport element that matters in Judo), then part of our role as coaches is to give our students the experience of doing Judo as a game. Also, we need to make our players the best Judo players we can.

Now if we don't let students play the game of Judo, how can we expect them to be able to play the game of Judo??
We need to allow them to learn through practice of playing the game. The theory goes that if we let them play the game of Judo more, they will learn from each experience, becoming better players of the game.

If we have our students spending most of their time listening to instruction, or practising individual techniques in isolation; they will get better at learning techniques, right? (and yes I am simplifying).

So if, our job is to get kids good at learning throws, the common lots of Judo instruction model is correct right. BUT, if our role is about competition (and that is a debatable subject of course, though I contend that the sport element of Judo is vital to all other elements of Judo) then is the standard model of teaching throws in isolation perhaps is not good. And perhaps we need to explore a different model where students spend more time competing inside their club and being coached loosely from matside, after matches or in different sesisons based around what they did when actually playing the game of Judo.

Part two: What do they love about Judo?
The second reason I am proposing we should have kids in Judo compete/play the game more in Judo is to do with why kids want to do Judo.

I know lots of Judo games, this website in fact started life like that and my list of Judo games I know has been used by many many coaches (in fact it even ended up uncredited in a book of Judo games: Creative Judo Teaching: The Essential Coaches Guide to Methods and Lesson Planning for the Teaching of Judo in Schools, Colleges and Clubs).

And games are good tools for kids Judo. I appreciate also that often Judo classes struggle for members and keeping kids in the club. And often the solution is to keep it "fun" to play more games (and not juts ones that have Judo content).

In fact if you watch the IJF's own "IJF Coaching Series - Coaching Judo to Juniors" DVD, there are lots of great ideas on how to make Judo fun for kids.

And it was a segment in this DVD that originally got me thinking about what Kids Judo should be, and how that might affect Judo clubs and the experience kids have in Judo.

In the DVD there is a young French Girl who answers the question "What do you like most about Judo?" and her answer?

"Playing football at the beginning"

To me that is a really bad answer and one I would not have put on a DVD! To me, that young lady is a future footballer, not a future Judo champ. To me, that child does not enjoy playing the game of Judo as much as she likes playing the game of football.

Now, it is a few seconds on a DVD, I don't know if she has gone on to be a great Judoka and now loves Judo becuase she stayed in the club thanks to the football.

My point is, do we want the next generation of Judoka to be in Judo becuase they like playing football, or playing bulldogs, or being able to learn a throw and get the next colour belt?

Or do we want the next generation of Judoka to be in Judo becuase they love fighting and competing and learning through playing Judo? Do we want people in Judo who love competing or who love practising breakfalls and turnovers in the club to get that next belt.

Do we want people who will Randori all night with a smile on their face, or people who can't fight but can do wonderful demonstrations of individual throws with their willing Uke?

Do we want people in Judo who love competing and will stretch themselves to be the best they can be, or people who want to play non-Judo games?

I am generalising of course, but the core question is this:

If our clubs do not provide the "game of Judo" then those that stay in sport are less likely to be those that are going to stay in the game? If we provide club sessions that allow people to play the game of Judo, then the membership would be of people who like to play Judo?

So... if we want Judo competition and all the great positives that it brings, then do our clubs provide that opportunity? Or are our clubs providing a type of Judo experience that does not lead to competition but to staying in the club and being happy learning throws and other elements of Judo?

Is this why we struggle? Is this why we have big drop-offs? Do we get kids into Judo on the "Olympic Sport" ticket, then lose them because they never get to play the game of Judo?

Is it vice versa?

My personal view is that Judo clubs need to foster competition, we need to give the kids in the classes the game of Judo. If they like it great if not, we are not the only hobby in town.

For me this is important as I do not think that we can reach the higher levels of Judo involvement; without FIRST having competed to the highest level we as individuals can achieve. Competing makes us improve ourselves as individuals. We master ourselves and from there we can progress beyond competition Judo into the more important Judo factors that make Judo a way of life, not just a sport.

BUT... I feel strongly that we need to compete first to experience that learning in the flames of competition and that testing of ourselves. Once our competition days are over (or at least perhaps peaked) we can then develop our Judo in different areas, to improve others and our societies. But I don't feel we can skip that first step.

I am not proposing that every club needs to be aiming for Olympians! Nor that clubs should not teach technique, history, kata, culture. WHat I am saying is that we need to be careful to ensure that our clubs are developing Shiai Judoka.

A player may love competing but be very poor at doing it, perhaps their highest level is coming second at your club. But if your club has no internal competition that person will never reach their highest potential. And if that happens as a coach/club we have failed that person!

I, for example, was not good enough at playing the game of Judo to compete at Olympic level. But I loved (and still love) fighting. I trained and trained and fought and fought and loved it. Then I stopped, I took to coaching; later I took to creating Judo websites. Then I got my academic Judo education at University of Bath. Then I competed at the World Masters, not I continue to learn (from coaches outside of Judo), I still do the web thing, I do Judo research and I try and help others to learn via the we and of course JudoSpace.

It is not about producing Olympians, it is about producing people who make Judo part of their Life. And competing is key to doing that. I know many many many Judoka and those most addicted to Judo are those that competed. I don't think that is coincidence, I think it is a feature of competing in the game of Judo.

So returning to the topic of this post, is the experience you see in your Judo, in your club, in your area, in your nation delivering competition for all? So they too can become addicted to Judo like I have?

And... if playing the game of Judo is what addicts us, then is the format of the Judo being delivered right?

Thanks for your time,


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British Judo Association (BJA) VodCast #1 

As you know, I am a HUGE believer in social media for sport. Obviously, I consume and produce a lot of social media. I Blog (your are reading social media people), I podcast, I tweet, etc etc etc.

And people are coming around to this way of communicating in the wider Judo world. Specifically, the national governing body for Judo in the United Kingdom; the BJA is trying to use these mediums more.

Their latest contribution is a vodcast on YouTube, which I shall embed below. It features Head Coach Patrick Roux talking about "The Plan" for British Judo leading up to London 2012.

Now, I think that the vodcast is a good move, the BJA has got to communicate with the wider community more to retain their support. Only today I received an email from Neil Adams (yes that Neil Adams) about an organisation called the UKJA. Which is some governing body play that I don't know enough to comment on properly... yet.

What it does show is that not everything in the UK Judo world is smiles. There is real disagreement about what is happening and the BJA has to work hard/harder to communicate with Judo people in the UK.

One of the big issues has (IMHO) been that the community knows that the BJA has many many staff. But does not see or hear what they are doing for them... the members.

I hope that the vodcast and other social media attempts by the BJA help the BJA to share with the community. My hope is that they are doing good work and the social media tools help them get that message across.

I also hope they realise that social media is not traditional media. That it is about user generated content, not content produced by communications managers and PR departments.

It would be nice to see a more raw view of the inner workings of the BJA... and not just the BJPI. How about Loughborough too? I'd like to see the BJA post regular little looks into the day to day work of all the staff at BJA HQ. The boring, but essential tasks that have to be done to keep the clubs open.

The Vodcast is a good first episode, and I hope it leads to more. I also hope that the BJA communicates, not broadcasts using these new tools.

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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.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

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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