Mick’s Judo Blog

Random (& Reckless) Thoughts on Judo Coaching

Summary of changes made since my return from Japan

Here  is a summary of the changes made/being made since my coaching placement in Sagami High School, Tokai University, Japan – some are already showing good results, some will hopefully show results in the longer term!

  1. Starting the process of gaining more  quality mat time and training partners for students.
  2. Implemented a strategy of uke-training.
  3. Optimising the use of existing mat time – being more systematic in lesson planning, delivery and recording.
  4. Encouraging students to lead parts of the class and take responsibility for other tasks – the effects? Developing leadership skills and self-confidence.
  5. Less talk, more time spent on observing and reflection, more setting of challenges to students during classes.
  6. Developing relationships with other clubs and areas (in the UK and abroad) and running events that provide students with more opportunities to train with different partners.
  7. Encouraging promising students (and their parents!) to understand that process goals are as important as outcome-related goals.
  8.  Being more honest with students so that they understand the long road in front of them 
  9. More time understanding students motivations and what makes them tick and using brief contact interventions on a regular basis.
  10. Investigating how to develop and ignite talent in a more structured manner (hint – if you have not done so yet, read the Talent Code).
  11. Exploring new ways of promoting Vale Judo club activities and our results.
  12. Starting to put in place a long term system that will aim to identify and develop talented judoka in Rutland in partnership with local primary and secondary schools and colleges.

I will attempt to explore my thinking and experiences to date for each of the above over the coming weeks.

Changes made!

So been back in the uk for a while now and we have made a few changes at Vale Judo. Now starting to see the effect that they have been having. Will list some of the changes we have made later this week – keep an eye out for my next blog. Thanks for your patience.

Hmm – changes

In London after a very busy weekend in Oslo. Nice to see some of the recent changes to our training at vale judo paying off for the competitors.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Mill Rd,Buckden,United Kingdom

Back in uk

Ok so back in the Uk now and jet lag wearing off. Will do another post later this week on reflections on my trip to Japan.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Greetham Rd,Cottesmore,United Kingdom

Friday 11th February: Are we being honest with our judo players?

An email exchange with a judo colleague this week prompted me to think about the sort of life that high performance judo players in Japan have, their career experiences and the sort of expectations that are set for/by them.  I selected one of the senior students from Sagami HS as a mini case study.

The Sagami HS judoka in the picture is Naohisa Takato – he started his judo in a machi (community) dojo and continued doing judo in Sagami HS as a junior and a senior.  Last year he was the All Japan Senior HS Champion and entered only 2 events outside Japan – the Bremen u20 and World Junior Championships  in 2009 (u60kg) winning gold both times. He currently trains in the Sagami and Tokai University dojos for 25+ hours per week plus fitness training (runs everyday and weights). Takato is a product of the Japanese Judo Development System.

Tokai’s recent results are outstanding – no 1 in the All Japan University and High School Championships and they won the Kanagawa Junior HS Team Championships last weekend (49 five boys per team – straight knockout) – losing only one individual contest on the day. This is the strongest region in Japan so this result bodes well for the 2010 champs.  For those interested, there were also 32 Junior HS Girls Teams (3 girls per team) – a state funded school team won the comp.

In reviewing Takato’s judo career to date and his current training regime, I have been wrestling with a question that we rarely think about in the UK – how honest are we with our competition players when we help them set their judo aspirations? Three schools of thought spring to mind in response to this question:

1. We ask them to do their best and see how far they can go.
2. We tell them that they can go a long way and give them all of the support that we can.
3. We be honest with them and tell them about the training regimes/support in place in countries such as Japan and see how they react before asking them to commit to a judo career of a decade or more of serious training.

There are probably more options – these are the first 3 I thought of!

There are a number of factors at play here:

  • Self development – are we encouraging players to compete for self-improvement, developing confidence, for fame and fortune (not!), keeping fit, other purposes?
  • Financial – should we be financing some of these players (in any way) without them understanding what they are getting into/up against and committing for the long term?
  • Ethical – is it right for us to encourage players to go for a full competitive judo career if they have little chance of winning medals on the world stage (as the odds of them doing so are slim when you consider the judo development system in the UK compared with that in Japan)?

I favour the “being honest” approach.  Lets tell, show and help our players understand (at an early stage) what the competition is doing in terms of how and now much they train, what is expected of them (by coaches, peers, the organisation helping them) and how they are being supported.  Lets show them videos of the competition (major nations) training and competing.  Lets show them videos of the All Japn High School Championships.  Lets help them manage and set their own expectations – and understand what it takes to become a champion in this sport.

For those kids that are still keen having been shown this startk reality, it is then down to us – and here I am talking about governing bodies, schools, coaches of all levels, performance analysts, sports scientists – to put the right judo development system (funding, coaches, facilities, programmes, school/club/university links) in place that gives them a fighting chance of being successful.

At the moment, in my view, a few areas that we need to improve upon in the UK include:

  • Helping all judoka better master the fundamental principles of our sport I am not just talking about using the right terminology here) – better grassroots coach education in this area is critical.  See uchi-komi video clip below.
  • Talent ID – we need to improve these processes to include an assessment of the fundamental principles and characters of potential GB squad/supported candidates.
  • Providing more “on the mat” and”off the mat” training time – in my view the only way to do this in the UK is to have 5-10 regional secondary schools around the UK providing an integrated judo and education programme (a bit like the French judo development system) – they should be running a judo coaching programme set by the BJA National Coach and should undertake regular assessments of players.  These schools could also be delivering judo classes to local secondary and primary school students and have links with regional squads/local clubs.
  • Scholarships – why are we not offering scholarships for judoka with the most potential to attend (part-board at) the secondary schools mentioned above?

From what I see at the moment we are just tinkering with the current GB – largely club-led – judo development system.  Should we really leave the fate of our olympic/world medal record to volunteer coaches running (competitive) community clubs (don’t get me wrong here – I am one of these coaches and we do sterling work!)? Maybe the time has come to adopt a different approach that embraces the value of being honest with ourselves and our players and the obvious need for our judo development system to be overhauled by working closely with the UK’s education system.

Comments welcome.

Friday 11th February: On my wanders

OK, for you guys and gals out there are less interested in judo and more interested in Japan, here is a weird and wonderful gallery of photos that I have taken whilst on walkabout recently.

The pictures were all taken within a 30 min walk of my hotel in Sagami – see if you can spot the following – entrance to the local shrine, lotto kiosk (loads of them around), a foot (no jokes about monkey feet Craig), menus (eh?), mini motorbike (for you Lucy), new Kawasaki GPRZ400 (Noel), station ticket place (work that one out!), my local newspaper kiosk (nice lady!).

Off for a chinese meal and visit to a Japanese spa later!

Thursday 11th February: Judo Factories

OK, so this will be my one of my last few posts from Japan – I will probably do one or two more tomorrow as I shall be getting ready to fly back to the UK and aim to write a summative one after I have been back to the UK for a while.

I thought that I might let you know (a brain bump of my observations!) how the Japanese coaches/dojos encourage self-reliance, an understanding of mutual welfare and a team spirit amongst there young judoka on a daily basis. I have observed Sagami HS judoka doing the following on repeated occasions:

  • Banging the Taiko drum at a start/end of lessons
  • Emptying bins
  • Sharpening pencils
  • Bringing in new toilet rolls
  • Cleaning mats (cloths and brooms)
  • Dusting
  • Operating countdown timers
  • Dusting
  • Washing and drying their judogi
  • Maintaining and discussing training diaries
  • Mopping changing rooms, entrance ways, showers, office
  • Helping others with weights and rehab exercises
  • Protecting other judoka who have just sustained injuries on the tatami
  • Making sure that their judogi is clean
  • Distributing belts (see below)
  • Arriving at the dojo dressed in team kit
  • Encouraging others to put effort into their training (battle chants)
  • Taking part in the optional extra phase of the lesson (fitness)
  • Leading the warm-ups/cool-downs (coaches never do this)
  • Getting on with set fitness routines – rarely observed/supervised

In case any of you have been wondering, you may have seen in the videos judoka wearing red, yellow or blue sashes (then belts) over their own – blue signifies those that are leading the session (encouraging effort etc), yellow signifies that those students are new (freshmen) and blue signifies the junior HS students (less experienced).

I believe that the key to the above activities being undertaken is that there is a routine to every lesson start, end, activities, rest breaks etc are all governed by the 2 count down timers – e.g. after rest periods students are expected to clean the mats, before the lesson starts students are expected to fill in the weight charts, check the lesson plan(s) on the whiteboard(s), tape-up injuries and hand in training diaries, after the start a standard warm-up, uchikomi routine is performed. Every student knows what to do and when to do it – coaches simply provide technical input, set the training atmosphere and provide encouragement – most of the time things run like clockwork (like the Japanese Rail system). Classes start and finish on time (I could definitely learn from that!)

One of my judo colleagues recently called this type of set-up a judoka producing factory – imagine if we had some of these types of factories in the UK? Would they work do you think?

Thursday 11th February: The Ideal Dojo?

I have been working in the Sagami HS dojo now for 3 weeks and thought I would summarise all of the aspects of the dojo to help those that are thinking about setting up their own (ideal) dojo:

The Sagami HS main dojo has the following rooms/areas adjacent to it:

  • Dojo office (heater, desk, table, fridge, coaches changing area, kit storage area)
  • Changing rooms (with scales), showers, toilets
  • Spectator area
  • Laundry and drying room
  • Medical room (with freezer for ice packs)
  • Weights room

Sagami HS main dojo:

  • Sprung floor
  • Wall padding
  • High ceiling
  • Well heated and ventilated
  • Good lighting – ceiling and windows
  • 3 contest mat areas
  • 3 scoreboards (wall mounted)
  • 2 countdown timers (wall-mounted)
  • 2 clocks
  • AV equipment – flatscreen or projector
  • 3 noticeboards
  • 3 whiteboards
  • wall mirrors (covered by sliding doors)
  • Impact (crash) mats
  • Taiko drum
  • Belts rack (red, yellow, blue)
  • Fitness equipment – weights, bands, medicine balls, swiss balls, skipping ropes
  • Rope gantry
  • Bin containing scissors, tape etc
  • Storage area for catalogues, paperwork etc
  • 2 bins – one for clean rags, one for dirty rags – for cleaning mats
  • Wall mounted pull-up bar
  • Picture of Jigaro Kano
  • Judoka Weights folder/book
  • Toilet rolls and bins
  • Folding seats for coaches/visitors
  • Bamboo stick (optional!)

This post is as much a memory jogger for me as it is to help all of you out there!

Thursday 11th February: National Foundation Day

Woke up to discover that it is a national holiday today.  Today is Japan’s National Foundation Day – it is celebrated on 11th February annually.  Japanese celebrate the founding of the nation and the imperial line by its legendary first emperor, Jimmu, who established his capital in Yamato.

Still going down the Sagami HS dojo for another 3 hours training from 10am-1pm though – might go and explore a different part of Tokyo later if I have the energy left!

Tuesday 9th February: Standard Class Structure?

Since I have been watching the students at Sagami HS, they have used a similar lesson structure and exact same warm-up for every session – this is led by one of the senior high school students each time. A typical 2.5-3 hour session comprises the following phases (the mat has 3 contest areas down the length of the mat) – phases 1-3 are standard for every session that I have observed.  You may find this lesson structure useful if you are considering reviewing your own lesson plans – you will need to wrestle with the problem that  the lesson below is for 3 hrs judo training – not the more typical 60-90 min club judo sessions we have in the UK.

Phase 1: Warm-up (see videos in previous posts)

  • Breakfalls the length of the mat – 4 reps
  • Front drags half way (arms only) & back pushes (legs only) for the other half – 1 rep
  • On back feet forward, pulling/bouncing down the mat half way & sideways bouncing for the rest – 1 rep
  • Neck rolls – Feet wide facing floor, rest forehead on the floor (support with arms if necessary) – roll head slowly backwards and forwards 10 times – 3-4 reps – different players count to 10 each time
  • Bridge – head on mat (support with arm if necessary) – roll head slowly backwards and forwards 10 times – 3-4 reps – different players count to 10 each time
  • Handstand to bridge – turn on front and repeat (without collapsing) each time – 10 reps

Phase 2: Uchikomi

  • 5-10 mins uchikomi – moving partners across the mat – three sets of 10 each at least – foot patterns for forward and rear throws – e.g. o-uchi-gari, o-soto-gari, morote-seoi-nage. Focus on accracy of foot and hand movements – not speed yet.
  • 5-10 mins uchikomi – pushing partners down the full length of the mat – 4 reps each
  • 5-10 mins uchikomi – pulling partners down the full length of the mat – 4 reps each
  • 5-10 mins uchikomi – across the mat – focus upon speed and favourite throws – 4 reps each

Phase 3: Drills and Experimental Randori

  • 30 mins (6×5 min changes) of standing co-operative randori – experimenting with different grips; or
  • 30 mins (6×5 min changes) of newaza co-operative randori – experimenting with uke flat out, on all 4s, trapping toris leg

6 min rest

Phase 4: Various

  • Either (30 mins): Newaza randori – no jackets but belts are left on, power uchikomi, situational randori (specific grips/stances)

Rest & mat cleaning.

Phase 5: Randori

  • 60 mins randori (10 x6min changes) including a 6 min rest after the first 60 mins
  • 30 mins randori (5 x 6min changes)

6 min rest

Phase 6: Stretch off

  • 5 mins stretching
  • 5 mins rolling breakfalls

Class bow-off

Phase 7: Optional

  • Rope climbing/power balls/medicine ball work

Points of note:

  • No newaza randoris ever start with players back to back
  • No ukes are ever standing still (static) in uchikomi
  • I have not witnessed any front or back breakfalls being practised – only rolling breakfalls back and front
  • In all of the randori phases – particularly the earlier phases – players are very co-operative (it is almost like play fighting earlier in the class) and both uke and tori are not goinf full out to attack or defend with power.
  • Players seem to be drilling 2-3 or three main turnovers in newaza (a couple of interesting ones will be introduced to Vale Judo players!)
  • The uchikomi steps are much used in randori in all phases of the class.
  • Lots of different grips are used in randori – many from extreme stances.
  • The countdown clock on the wall regulates the 6min rest periods.
  • A lot less time is spent in warm-ups than in the UK – no games – all judo related activities.

I hope that you have found the above useful – maybe you wish to consider changing the duration and structure of your lessons plans a bit?  Please remember when you are considering your own lesson plans that the above lesson structure is directed at fit 14-18 year old Japanese High School Students who are involved in 20-25 hours judo training every week.