Sunday, December 29, 2013

Trees on a judo mountain

“Looking at the poems of Basho (one of the most famous Japanese poets), one finds that the concepts of Immutability and Change are very much at the centre of his thought.

The immutable backbone of Judo is the aim of human perfection through judo training, the ideal being the peak of universal morality.

In judo this high ideal is accepted as the aim, but in the practice of the technique (jutsu) itself it is made clear that the ideal is always to be kept before the mind, and this I think is the immutable aspect of Kodokan Judo.”

Kano, R., 1953. Immutability and Change. Judo Quarterly Bulletin, July, IX(2), pp. 14-15.

These are some of the words of Resei Kano. The former President of the Kodokan and the International Judo Federation, written in April 1953, in the Kodokan magazine, Judo. (The reference is for the English Translation in the Budokwai Quarterly Bulletin).

That took me to research a little more about Basho. Born in 1644, near Ueno, now part of Tokyo, he is famous as a writer of haiku poetry. Then I came across this haiku by Shoji Kumano. It seemed rather topical at the moment;

Enjoying three bowls of zoni 
At the New Year's breakfast;
Millionaire as he is!

三椀の 雑煮かゆるや 長者ぶり  (Sanwan no zoni kayuru ya chojya buri)

 ( year's day)

Background: 'Zoni' is a soup containing mochi (rice cakes), vegetables and other ingredients. To cook zoni was very expensive for the common people in the Edo period(1603-1868). 

Earlier in my career, I was lucky enough to be employed as a manager by Syd Hoare. Syd is a legendary judoka, who competed in the Tokyo Olympic Games. His company was called Yamagi Ltd. Hi told me that the company name was drawn from a traditional poem about a secret principle of judo;

The trees on Mount Tsukuba are extremely thick but from time to time a moonbeam penetrates.

(Tsukubayama ha yamashige yamashige keredo
Konoma konoma ni tsukikage zo moru)

This is article 171 in Syd’s book “Judo Strategies”.

Earlier this month I had the privilege of giving a lecture at Tsukuba University. It was formerly known as Tokyo Higher Normal College, and the Principal for 25 years was Professor Jigoro Kano.

I was talking to around 200 undergraduates. Discussing matters related to violence and bullying in sport.  I reminded them that they are the generation to deliver the legacy of Tokyo 2020, and that one legacy could be the eradication of violence from the Japanese sporting society, far more lasting than any bricks and mortar.

Hopefully some of you reading this will have athletes with aspirations to compete with distinction at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Judo Competition. As they eat like millionaires to celebrate this new year, they will dedicate themselves to another year of hardship and hard work. They are trying to create a personal legacy.

I have chosen to dedicate the rest of my career to supporting the athletes, coaches and federations who choose that journey of hardship and hard work. I founded Judospace Ltd, so named as S.P.A.C.E. (supporting player and coach education). I work with a remarkable team of people, committed particularly to helping coaches transform their athletes into judoka.

As we step into another year, another step along the way, we would like to thank everyone that we have worked with in 2013, and re-commit ourselves to having even greater impact in the coming 12 months.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The art of judo

One of the coaches furthering their education at Anglia Ruskin University on the EJU level 4 Performance Coach Award is Danny Williams. Danny is still an active player, and as part of his self-reflection as a coach he has blog at:

In his recent post he put forward some of his views on whether coaching is a scientific or artistic process.

I read his post whilst I was having breakfast at the Tokyo Dome Hotel, during a recent lecture tour to Japan. His post prompted me to reflect on my own views on the topic, and inspired, I wrote the majority of this post there and then at the breakfast table.

“When I think of an artist, I think of the artist with their tools, their easel, oils, brushes, palette, model etc.

But tools are not enough, they have to have technique, knowledge of anatomy, art history, composition, the skills and knowledge of the trade.

Those tools, skills and knowledge are the science that is required for a judo coach. The nutrition, periodization, technical and tactical understanding.

The artist then adds style, their own spin on things. It’s how art historians and forgery experts can tell the difference between a master and apprentice.

That’s what the artist judo coach does with their tools and expertise, spins them into something unique, something special for each athlete.

It’s why I love judo. To see two artist coaches pitched against each other. Picasso and Manet, seated just metres apart, battling with their canvases.

Best regards from Tokyo.”

As a judo coach have you studied enough to have the skills, tools and knowledge required?  How much do you reflect on your coaching to be able to add your own spin? To turn your coaching from a science into an art? Unfortunately too many players are poorly served by coaches who have not studied to better themselves, who do not have the skills, tools and knowledge required. Help ensure that your players are better served. Make 2014 the year that you learn the science and turn it into art.

To all the judo family who have taken time to read this blog over the years Good luck in 2014 with all your endeavours. Thanks from all at

The image for this blog post is a woodcut by Jane Veveris Callan. Check out her website

Her judo images are available as greetings cards from