Sunday, November 21, 2010

Be a lucky judo coach

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." (Darrel Royal)

When your player goes off to the competition, often his friends or family will wish him "Good Luck!". As the coach you know that the luck is dependent on the preparation you have done as a team, both player and coach. The player puts in the effort to complete the sessions, the coach puts in the effort to ensure that the content and volume of those sessions is correct.

Great coaches study hard to ensure that the meal they are seving to the player is made up of the right ingredients. They want to know it's right, not just guess that it's right. They want to leave no stone unturned in their quest to provide their player with the best preparation.

The European Judo Union are helping coaches to do that, by providing a range of study opportunities for coaches, so that they can create their own luck.

Show me a champion judoka, and I'll show you a coach who studied hard to ensure the player had the best preparation.

Good Luck!

The EJU is working with the Judospace Educational Institute to offer the Level 3 Advanced Coach Award. Visit

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Yoyogi Stadium, Row 10, Seat 14, 10 am on the 9th September... Hajime. The start of the World Judo Championships Tokyo 2010. The first time the World Championships had returned to its spiritual home for 58 years. So began a five day judofest, an extravaganza of waza, a whirling of judogi, a battering of tatami, and an explosion of ippon.

Ippon was the theme of the competition, from the calligraphy in the opening ceremony, to the spellbinding Oguruma by Junpei Morishita to win the 66kg.

Congratulations to coach Kenzo Nakamura for that result. Kenzo has been a guest lecturer on the European Judo Union Level 4 Performance Coach Award, where great coaches learn to make great players.

Can you imagine coaching your player in the final of the World Championship? An epic journey begins with the first step. Go to and enrol on the EJU Level 3 Advanced Coach Award online. A small step to take to be the best coach you can be.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Breaking Balance

Kuzushi. Syd Hoare suggests it "is still the undiscovered secret of judo". I thought I'd try to discover a little more.

Over the years I've come to realise that people are so much easier to throw if their balance is broken. As I mature I find that I seek out any possible way to be more efficient with my efforts. It seems to me that practicing with partners
who are in a state of unbalance would be much more efficient. So how do I achieve that?
Murata Sensei, of the Kodokan, discussed with me the idea that kuzushi is an integral part of tsukuri.
Moshanov suggests that five of the most basic methods of kuzushi are to be found in the Itsutsu-no-kata, the Forms of Five. If kuzushi is so fundamental to the application of waza, then why is
itsutsu-no-kata so rarely taught? Perhaps if it was taught more then kuzushi wouldn't be such an undiscovered secret.
Leggett and Watanabe suggest that "the idea of judo is not to smash an opponents strongest point, but to get him off balance and keep him off balance...", applying less force to his weak point.
Kano states "Even if your opponent has two or three times your power, if you can execute your move at the precise moment he is off balance, you can easily throw him by something as simple as tripping him."
Sounds to me like the idea of maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Best use of energy. Seiryoku saizen katsuyo.
Hmmm... So it seems that the application of kuzushi is the manifestation of seiryoku Zenyo. There's a thought.
If you are interested in finding out more about the application of kuzushi, why not enrol on the Advanced Coach Award with the European Judo Union. Visit to find out more.
Hoare. S., (2002) Judo Strategies. pp 48-49. Ippon Books.
Leggett. T. & Watanabe. K., (1964) Championship Judo. Foulsham.
Moshanov. A., (2004) Judo from a russian perspective. Ipa-Verlag.
Kano. J., (2005) Mind over muscle. Kodansha.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Judo Practice

When I am going to judo, I say I am going to practice. When I return, my wife asks me “how was the practice?” I started to reflect on what do we mean by practice.

Some say practice makes perfect, other say, no, practice just makes permanent.

So what does the thesaurus tell us about practice?; habit, process, exercise, application, discipline, preparation, rehearsal, repetition, study, training, work-out, drill, hone, polish, sharpen, pursue, apply, accomplish, create, develop, persevere, persist, form.

One definition of the verb to practice is: To do something repeatedly in order to acquire or polish a skill.

So the concept of repetition is important. I would suggest that guided practice is important. Imagine your player has a taiotoshi which is technically poor, biomechanically incorrect, then when they practice it, repeatedly polish it, they will get very good at doing taiotoshi badly. If they practice hard enough, they could indeed become expert at doing a bad taiotoshi.

So as a coach you need to be sure that your technical correction is accurate, then encourage repetition. Repetition in uchikomi, in nage komi, in tandoku renshu, in kakari geiko, in shiai. Give your players every opportunity to practice. Every opportunity to study and create their judo. Every opportunity to persevere, to develop and polish their judo.

Can you meet them before work, before school? Can you get in the dojo at 6 am? Can you remove excuses? Give them technically correct instruction, and help motivate them to practice. If they normally practice for an hour, for 60 minutes, could you extend it by 6 minutes? You would be increasing their opportunity to practice by 10%.

As a coach, can you improve yourself so you can give the players the very best guidance, the best instruction? Imagine the total possible knowledge in judo can be put in a cup, then ask how full is your cup? Now you can follow judo coach education online, at times that suit you, and interact with other coaches and coach educators. All accredited by the European Judo Union. Find out how at

Enjoy your practice.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

10,000 hours of judo

I have spent many years studying how you go about creating an environment which will allow a judo player to develop who is capable of medalling at Senior World Championships and Olympic Games.

One of the most compelling theories for me is the work by Ericsson et al (1993) which suggests the 10,000 hour rule. Ie, that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become expert at something. This concept is popularised in Gladwell’s excellent book, Outliers (Gladwell, 2008).

So let’s think about training volumes achievable for a judo player. And let’s also think about ‘deliberate practice’. Training at club level in the UK, in a mixed ability group of average motivation, one might have a 90 minute session, of which 15 -30 minutes, is the time spent by the player intently focussed on technical improvement, or hard randori where they are technically challenged. The rest is warming up, resting, talking, acting as uke, helping lower grades or younger players, and playing games. Of course it is possible with the right attitude to get some benefits from these activities, but often I see that is not the case. Let’s be generous and say that there is 30 minutes of deliberate practice achieved. At a rate of 2 sessions per week, that gives you one of the required 10,000 hours.

Assume the player has good attendance and manages to attend the club for 50 weeks per year. Then they will achieve 50 hours towards their goal that year. It will only take them 200 years to become expert.

Most players are past their best by then!

So they clearly need to do more volume of deliberate practice. What if they could be in a well motivated training group, with a more experienced expert coach, who can keep them on task. And what if the sessions were lengthened to 150 minutes, of which, 2 hrs was deliberate practice. Could they do more than 2 sessions per week? How about 5 sessions per week? How about also doing a morning session with them? Could the coach keep them on task for 2hrs each weekday morning? They would probably have smaller numbers, so the coach would have to work harder to keep the sessions fresh.

But then they would have 4 hrs deliberate practice per day. Five days per week, That’s 20 hrs a week. In the earlier regime it would take our player 20 weeks, or 5 months to cover the same ground. Imagine our second player does this for 50 weeks per year. Then they can fit in 1000 hours per year. So they can feasibly become expert in 10 years.

So if we create a training environment where they can do 20 hrs per week deliberate practice, and we start when they are 16 years old, then by the time they are 26 perhaps they will be capable of winning at World level.

Could we start earlier? Gymnasts and swimmers start their deliberate practice much earlier. But in judo the best players are usually a bit older. Exceptionally they are 20 or 21 years old. Usually 23 – 28.

Do you have a talented payer you are working with as a coach? Are they doing deliberate practice? If so, work out for how many hours per week, and by what age they will have completed 10,000 hours.

For further reading on this topic try the references below.

To become that experienced, expert coach that can keep them on task, enrol on the Advanced Coach Award with the European Judo Union. Visit to find out more.

Ericsson, K. A., (2000). Expert Performance and Deliberate Practice - An updated excerpt from Ericsson (2000). Accessed on 2nd May 2010 at:

Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R., and Tesch-Romer, C., (1993). The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Psychological Review, Vol. 100. No. 3, 363-406. Accessed on 2nd May 2010 at:

Gladwell, M., (2008). Outliers – The story of success. Allen Lane. London.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Swedish Gold in front of Putin

This picture shows Sweden's first ever European Champion, Marcus Nyman, recieving his gold medal from former President of the Swedish Judo Federation, Johnny Kullenberg.

Marcus is coached by a graduate of the EJU Level 4 Performance Coach Award, Robert Erikkson. A project fully supported by Johnny in his role as President, and by EJU Vice President Daniel Lascau whilst he was Sports Director in Sweden.

Sincere congratulations to Marcus, Johnny, Robert and Daniel on this historical achievement.
They were applauded here in the stadium by the most famous judoka in the world, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. A man who is making a tremendous contribution to the development and recognition of world judo.

Who wil be the next graduate from an EJU Coach Award to win a European Championship with their player, the challenge is set.

To improve your coaching, and make a difference to your players visit to find out how.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Research Clouds

Hopefully heading off tommorrow to sunny Vienna, to judge the Second European Science of Judo Symposium Poster Competition. The Symposium will be held in the Ferry Dusika Stadium, the venue for the European Senior Championships. If you are in Vienna on Wednesday 21 April
2010, come along to have a look at some of Europes latest research into judo.

The EJU will use the occasion of the Championships to launch the Level 3 Award delivered in partnership with the Judospace Educational Institute, the Level 4 and Level 5 Awards in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, and the Level 6 Award in partnership with the University of Tor Vergata in Rome.

The poster marketing the Level 3 Award is seen here. Fantastic image is courtesy of Dr Bob Willingham.

Of course I am concerned that my journey will be halted by the icelandic ash cloud, but I am remaining optimistic that those in charge of the cloud will understand the importance of my trip.
Whether I make it or not, my very good wishes to all the players and their coaches attending the championships.

Congratulations to all those club coaches where the players started their judo careers. How many of you have future international competitors in your dojos right now, but don't yet know it. Coach Education is the key to helping you make the right decisions for those players. Decisions about what you teach when. Which drills to do that session. How much randori, how much technique. Which events should they enter, what advice should you give?

The EJU are taking great strides in coach education in working with their three partners to create these awards. Take great strides in your own coaching and enrol today.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Proud Tradition

Last week I attended the 80th Oxford vs Cambridge University Varsity Judo match. The oldest judo team match in the world. First started in 1930, the event returned this year to the fabulous venue of Oxford Town Hall.

There is something about a team match which is far more exciting than individual tournaments. With the greatest respect to the participants, it would be fair to say that the level was not the standard of the World Championships, yet I found myself as enthralled as I had been in the Ahoy Stadium in Rotterdam last year.

Keeping to the traditional format the Men’s Team match is fought over 8 matches. This year it ended in a draw with 4 ippons each. It was decided by a random draw of 3 re-matches, with Oxford winning the fight-off by 2 matches to 1, to reclaim the Matsudaira Trophy. Congratulations to all the players involved in all the teams.

I have pasted above a photograph of the 1926 Oxford University Team with the Metropolitan Police Team. History buffs among you will identify Yukio Tani and Gunji Koizumi. The other photo is the interior of Oxford Town Hall, fantastic.

I got me thinking that we should always have judo events in iconic venues. As a sport we should try to avoid the faceless sports centre, and ply our trade in great, memorable venues. What is the most iconic venue in your town. Could you organise a judo event there?

The two Oxford Coaches, Chris and Carol Doherty have both studied the EJU Level 4 programme, with Chris graduating as an EJU Level 5 High Performance Coach. These programmes will shortly be re-launched at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. The EJU Level 3 Advanced Coach Award is attracting many new students and can be accessed through the Official EJU delivery partner, The Judospace Educational Institute.

Good luck to all the judo coaches working with their players in tournaments across the world this weekend, yours is an honourable profession, and you follow a proud tradition.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Circle of Judo Success

Today I attended the South West Regional Training Session. The standard was high, yet the mat was open to all. It got me thinking about something I’d like to call the “circle of judo success”.

The circle starts with Great Coaching. Great Coaching leads to Competence. Competence leads to Confidence. Competence and Confidence lead to Success. Success increases faith in the Great Coaching.

Great Coaching, is both an art and a science. Some people make great coaching look easy. But when you look under the surface, you realise that they can make it look easy because they work so hard at trying to be great coaches. They study, they steal ideas, they create, they apply, they make mistakes, they reflect, they learn, they try again. You show me a great coach, and I’ll show you someone who’ll tell you they are still learning.

The studying and stealing ideas gives the expertise. Applying, and learning from the mistakes gives the experience. You can’t fast track that. To get the badge saying “Experience” you have to do the hard yards, and take the long route. I believe that the formula to create wisdom is Expertise x Experience.

Great Coaches will help the players gain Competence. The players will score more in randori. Have success with the slight variations that the coach suggests, and get more pleasure from their judo. They will feel they are doing it well, and gain an internal motivation.

The feeling of competence will lead to greater levels of Confidence. What I saw today were great levels of Confidence. This allowed the players to attack freely, to stay relaxed, to maintain concentration, to rise above any minor successes from their partner. I saw this confidence in a group once before, in the GB Women’s team during the 80s, and I saw it today again within the TeamBath Judo group.

The Competence and Confidence increase the chances of Success. Of course there will be things outside the players’ control. These can be minimised but not eliminated. But by instilling Competence and Confidence the Great Coach gives the players the greatest chances of Success.
When that Success comes, either in a randori or a contest, the player’s faith in the coach is increased, so they believe even more what the coach tells them. They become more coachable. That makes it easier for the Great Coach to do their job, and so the circle begins again.

I’m proud to be working with the European Judo Union and the Judospace Educational Institute to make a small contribution to the development of Great Coaches. To join them visit and enrol on the EJU Level 3 Advanced Coach Award.

PS. Thanks to Klinger Sensei and the TeamBath and Welsh players for a great afternoon.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Judo Mastermind

How's your judo knowledge? Test yourself against this Celebrity Mastermind.

Happy New Year.