Friday, May 30, 2014

Reasons for Success

Everyone wants to know the reasons for success in judo. But few conduct serious research to try to find out. This guest blog is from the Judospace Psychological Advisor, Rebeka Tandaric MS. The picture shows Rebeka with the young players she coaches at Samobor Judo Klub, in Croatia.

Attributions are the explanations we use to explain the outcome of some event.

Attribution theory attempts to explain the purpose and consequences of different interpretations used for success and failure. Attributions can affect our future expectations, emotions, performance and effort. They also include beliefs about control we have over the events. They don’t have to be actual causes because they represent the perception of the one who makes them.

We make attributions because we want to explain, understand and predict our own as well as others' behavior or we are trying to justify, feel better or make a better impression. 

Understanding previous successes and failures allows us to better prepare for new challenges and increase the likelihood of successful outcomes in the future. That's why attributions are extremely important in the sporting context.  In order to develop and enhance the individual's ability as an athlete it is necessary to understand and explain their successes and failures in the past. The perception of athletes in this process is particularly important because it determines the way they will behave in future situations.

Recent research made on the Croatian athletes from three martial arts (judo, karate and taekwondo) explores the reasons which they think have led to their most successful and least successful performances in the competition. The study included 154 competitors who were between 16 and 33 years old. 

For the most successful performance in competition, 32 % of the reasons were related to good physical preparation. In addition, 10% of the reasons were related to happiness, having a good day, good rest or some other similar reason.

The rest of the reasons that have led to success ( 58 %) were related to the different components of mental preparation: 

  • 12 %  was related to motivation and desire to win
  • 20 % was self-confidence
  • 8 % relaxation
  • 6% concentration. 

In addition, 12 % of the reasons were simply  "psychological preparation ".

"58% attributed  their most successful performance in competition to components of mental preparation."

In case of the least successful performance, 18% of the reasons were related to poor physical preparation. Illness, having a bad day, injuries and underestimation of the opponents represented 13% of the reasons. Only one participant stated that the referee was responsible for his bad result. Fatigue was present in 6 % of the reasons.

All the rest ( 63 %) attributed reasons that can be considered as mental preparation:

  • 14 % lack of concentration
  • 13 % fear, nervousness and self-doubt
  • 11% lack of motivation
  • 6 % lack of self-confidence
  • 4 % negative mood and negative attitude
  • 4 % too high expectations.

In addition, 11 % of the reasons were “bad psychological preparation".

The reasons mentioned above gives us an insight into the attributions made by athletes which can be very useful in their preparation for competitions.  Specifically, when coaches have an insight into how athletes think and to what reasons they attribute their good or bad performances, it allows them to respond with proper feedback. 

Since attributions were associated with various psychological constructs that are known to be necessary for success in the sport (anxiety , emotion , expectation of success in the future , self-esteem , self-efficacy , emotion , effort ... ) it is very important to recognise them in time so they can be properly directed.

From these results we can conclude only one thing: 

"Athletes believe that psychological preparation is extremely important and greatly affects their performance."

This is especially true in the least successful performance situation. The question is: how much the athletes and their coaches work on this kind of preparation? Many coaches in their planning devote little or no time to psychological preparation. This might be due to ignorance, lack of time or consideration that this kind of preparation should be athlete’s responsibility. 

Physical preparation is certainly crucial on a daily basis because without fitness, technical and tactical preparation there can be no good results. However, on the day of the competition without adequate psychological preparation all this is not enough.  If an athlete who is physically in great shape  goes to the contest under pressure and concentrates on the wrong things it is unlikely that he will achieve a good result.

Athletes in our study indicated that the lack of concentration, anxiety, lack of self-confidence and motivation greatly contributed to their failure in the competition. These same constructs were important in the most of successful competition as well. 

Considering that we can conclude that it is very important to work on those aspects of psychological preparation. The only question is whether the athletes and coaches will continue to leave this part of the preparation to chance or will they actively start to work on it. Do athletes really know how to properly concentrate, reduce anxiety, increase motivation and self-confidence? All this falls under psychological preparation that can be easily trained. So really, there is no excuse and you should start to work on this immediately. 

"Will coaches continue to leave mental preparation to chance?"

So, is Rebeka right? As a coach, will you leave the mental preparation of your judoka to chance, and keep working hard on their physical and technical preparation?

Why not arrange for your judoka to have an Initial Needs Assessment with Rebeka and find out which areas she would be able to help. Read about the services offered on our Psychology page..

Finally, good luck to you, your club, and your team in forthcoming, training and competition.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Principles of Judo

I share below some thoughts from a module entitled “Judo Technical Principles”, about some fundamental judo principles. In particular, the 3 principles of judo as outlined in the Illustrated Kodokan Judo, 1955 edition; the principle of softness, the principle of maximum efficiency, and the principle of mutual benefit. (I led this module as Visiting Senior Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, teaching the European Judo Union Coach Award).

Principle of softness

We see the concept of jū, [柔] in Ju-jutsu / ju-jitsu as one of the six martial arts, or Roku-bugei, the 6 compulsory martial arts for all samurai, these are; Kenjitsu (sword), Kyujitsu (archery), Bajitsu (horse), Sojitsu (spear), Hojitsu (gunnery), and Jujitsu (hand to hand).

柔, is also known as Yawara. Commonly translated as softness, yielding, pliable, as in the example of snow falling on the willow tree. 

In the year 700 there was a Chinese military code in Japan, Lao Tzu's "Three Strategies", the "San-Ryaku". In this code we find the four character phrase: "jū yoku sei gō”. Another way to say this is; jū yoku gō o seisu, 柔よく剛を制す, meaning "Softness subdues Hardness" meaning that flexibility overcomes rigidity.

As we all know the techniques of Judo enable a smaller person to utilise the opponent's own power to throw him in spectacular fashion. Thus demonstrating the principle that "Softness overcomes Hardness". Indeed it is this drive to show the spectacular throwing techniques of judo that motivates many of the rule changes to international competition judo, brought about by the IJF in recent years. It could be argued that the implementation of the IJF rule changes are in fact a desire to demonstrate the fundamental principle of softness overcoming hardness, the principle of jū, enshrined in the first kanji of the name judo.

Lao Tzu illustrates the point with the phrase; 

“Water is the softest thing, yet it can penetrate mountains and earth. This shows clearly the principle of softness overcoming hardness.”

In 1922 at the age of 62, Jigoro Kano founded the Kodokan Cultural Council, The Kodokan Bunkakai. This was the 40th anniversary of the Kodokan. He chose the founding of the Cultural Council to launch the two underpinning principles of judo. By considering the date of the launch we can understand that these principles were formulated after 40 years of reflection about the principles of judo. Each of them is expressed as four word phrase.

Principle of maximum efficiency

seiryoku zen'yō, 精力善用, the maximum efficient use of power, also described as; maximum efficiency, minimum effort, or maximum efficient use of physical and mental strength. 

Jigoro Kano realised that the principle of jū alone, did not encompass all of the techniques in judo, for example, armlocks, or atemi-waza. The answer was about applying your power in the most efficient way. This underlying principle for training in the techniques of judo, can be applied to all actions in daily life.

The judoka learns to be efficient with their training, to be efficient with their time, to fit all the training around other commitments of work, study and relationships. The ideas of “not too much, not too little” that underpin maximum efficiency can also be applied to daily tasks, such as cleaning. Trevor Leggett often gave the example of holding the pencil half way up, for more efficient writing. (I had the great fortune to study zen under Trevor Leggett in the 1980s.)

Principle of mutual benefit

jita kyōei 自他共栄, or mutual prosperity for self and others, often translated as mutual welfare and benefit.

At the opening of the Kodokan Bunkakai in 1922, Kano explained that seiryoku zen'yō  was required to provide the platform for jita kyōei.

For individuals, anger, worry and conflict, are not efficient uses of their power. In fact they are a waste of power. For a society, if many people are inefficient in their power, the society will fall into decline. The most efficient use of power for a group, relies on them supporting each other, providing mutual welfare, and then the whole society can benefit from that mutual application of maximum efficient use of power. In this way when seiryoku zen'yō is applied to society it becomes jita kyōei.

Examples of jita kyōei, include; respect for others, consideration to ukes, consideration to losers, helping people who need help, and helping the world to be peaceful. 

Often some of these ways to communicate jita kyōei in the dojo, is by encouraging young judoka to follow a version of the judo moral code.

I believe that a judo club can achieve great things, and make a significant contribution to their community, by the judo coaches and teacher taking efforts to apply the principles of judo into their daily classes.

If you would like to understand more about how to coach judo to build your club, improve your athletes, and improve society, then consider following the path of hundreds of successful coaches, by registering on the EJU Coach Awards.

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