Sunday, February 17, 2013

Freedom in continuous change

While all changes do not lead to improvement, all improvement requires change. The ability to develop, test, and implement changes is essential for any individual, group, or organization that wants to continuously improve. To quote Winston S. Churchill:

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
Recently I was lucky enough to attend the Paris Grand Slam, where I was able to observe first-hand the application of the recent IJF rule changes. The judo was magnificent, fast-paced, explosive and exciting. Over 500 players competed, and there was an increase on the number of ippons compared to the previous year. During the first day, there were only 2 fights that went to golden score. The statistics speak for themselves. The empirical evidence supports my subjective view that the rule changes are a big improvement.

I started to reflect on the concept of change.
With huge changes in the development of judo in Cambridge, UK, I was drawn to the thoughts of the famous Cambridge graduate, Charles Darwin:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
So the judoka that survived, and thrived in the London Olympics were the judoka that adapted best to the rule changes adopted in 2010, prior to the Olympic qualification period. Looking forward, the judoka that survive and thrive in the Rio Olympics will be the judoka and coaches that adapt best to these changes.

So as judo continues to evolve, there is a process of natural selection, where those coaches and players best able to adapt, survive.
For an excellent chronicle of the rule changes in judo, I recommend the article written by the judo legend, Syd Hoare:

Let’s not forget that the judoka that competed in London, were those that qualified. Those qualifiers had adapted to the new qualification process, based on the World Ranking List. When those changes were introduced, some people were resistant to the change. But those changes in the Olympic Qualification system meant that the best players in the world competed, and yet there was participation by 137 nations. Let us be under no illusion, had those changes not been made, judo could be facing the same fate as wrestling, dealing now with the threat of being removed from the Olympic programme, for the 2020 Olympics. Imagine the scenario that was averted. A potential Tokyo Olympic Games without the sport of judo!
There is a Japanese philosophy called “kaizen”. It refers to continuous incremental change, in order to improve quality and efficiency. As judoka we have to practice kaizen every time we put on a judogi, and throughout our lives. The challenge to the coach is to manage the process of kaizen with the athlete, to help them adapt, and to help them thrive in a changing world.

The coaches that resist change will not manage this. We need to welcome change, expect change, and embrace change.
Any coaches that are willing to adapt, and are looking to make incremental improvements to their coaching, could consider following the suite of coaching awards from the European Judo Union. See or to find out more.