This is the Judo blog of Lance Wicks. In this blog I cover mainly Judo and related topics. My Personal blog is over at where I cover more geeky topics. Please do leave comments on what you read or use the Contact Me form to send me an email with your thoughts and ideas.

Paying the bills

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FDSC Year 3, Block 2, Day 2. 

Today was sunny! Brilliant change of weather given the recent rubbish rain and flooding etc here in the UK. So I spent almost the entire day indoors in lectures!

Today started with Kate Eddy on mental skills development (sport psychology). It was a good session which I enjoyed. We did quite a bit of group work in threes and fours, discussing the topics around mental skills for Judo athletes. About the demands on a Judoka mentally speaking. Really interesting topic, with great discussion.

An interesting area we discussed and perhaps it was off topic was dieting and eating disorders in Judo. It was around this thing that we talk a lot about how crash dieting and losing weight through dehydration etc is bad. Yet, as one person said "..I've never met an Olympic medalist who has not lost weight (crash dieted) to make weight...".

The train of thought it led me along was, that perhaps we (judo generally) talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. In that we (again speaking generally here) say that crash dieting and weight cycling is bad and invite nutritionists etc to tell our athletes not to do it. Yet, it would appear that A)its not working as athletes are still doing it and B)The elite players do it and succeed.

So... What to do? Do we do more to tackle the problem and change this? Or do we perhaps classify it as a risk of the sport and educate and monitor our athletes as to how to do it with the minimum of risk?

If we are going to stop it, then perhaps we need to get rid of weight categories? Or have several weigh ins over a period of days/weeks/months to ensure that athletes are not losing excess amounts of weight.

or...And I don't suggest that this is the right thing to do.
Do we accept and develop our weight management strategies with our athletes? Do we be honest about the situation and tackle it openly, perhaps embrace it?

I don't have a clue how you might go about this alternative approach, personally I think it's better to change the way the sport is structured to prevent the need/urge to diet.

So after that we had Sara Hale again, who continued our lectures on Notational analysis. Specifically covering some notation systems for Hockey and Rugby. Fortunately for me (or perhaps not) I knew much of what she was covering as I had done lots of reading last year before doing my notation research at the commonwealths. So perhaps I found it a bit dryer and harder to stay focussed on than perhaps everyone else.

After lunch the day continued with an interesting session with Tommy Mortenson about fight analysis. He had some really interesting things to talk about and I really enjoyed speaking with him afterwards as we were able to talk in a little detail about what sort of data he had examined and what he thought was useful. Which again fitted well with my interests in statistics for Judo. Unfortunately he was not able to share some of the spreadsheets and the data he had collected in the past as at some point in the past his computer had been infected and it was all lost! :(

Finally, Steve Gawthorpe took a Ne-Waza session, which was excellent (although I decided to stay off the mat as I am trying to let my ankle recover from the sprain I received during the Winchester 5KM last week).

Steve, is one energetic guy and his ne-waza looked scary! Glad I was not his Uke! :) It would be excellent to see more of his work and to prise more of his thoughts out of him.

This evening I am trying to stay in the room and get some work done on my assignments, it's pretty darn crowded, our first piece of work is due in on Friday, then we have assignments due in everyday next week!!!! :(

My brain may expire!

Lance Wicks 

P.s. you might want to listen to "one liners" over at

In this podcast, Mike Darter talks to Dr. Ann Maria DeMars and Ronda Rousey. Rhonda at on point speaks pretty candidly about her having to fight to make weight whilst over here in the UK and having a miserable time doing so. It's a really interesting listen.
Lance Wicks 

Hi again lardy,
you are I suspect right, crash dieting has to be in some large way driven by the people doing the dieting, the players themselves. However, part (and quite a large part) of a coaches role is to prevent players from doing things that are to their detriment.

For example, ensuring athletes are not out drinking and smoking. Also, ensuring that players do not over train (or of course under train). We ensure our athletes rest and recover from training and from injuries.

So the argument is that it is also part of the coaches role to ensure they do not crash diet, as there are big risks.

The counter argument is that it is a risk that needs to be taken to reach the highest levels. Much like there is a risk in hard Randori that we must assess and decide if the benefit outweighs the risk.

What I suggest/suggested is that at present coaches (and players) are deciding that the risks associated with crash dieting do not outweigh the benefits and are acting accordingly. However, they are not saying that they have decided to crash diet and know the risks. People are still saying elite players must not crash diet.

It is this disconnect between what is being promoted as best practice and what is occuring at the elite level that I am thinking about. We accept the risk of getting an arm broken in an arm lock, we say "it's a risk and the player can tap out". But we never say "players must crash diet, there is a risk but you must do it" at least in public.

What I wonder about is if that conversation needs to be had and publically stated?

Thanks for the comments, keep them coming!

Thanks for your response. Do we care more about results than athletes? My perception is that in judo it is largely driven by the athletes themselves rather than coaches or anyone else. We always think that everyone at the higher weight will be too strong! And, if it really doesn't affect performance, then 66kgs here I come! (If I ever get over this injury.)
Lance Wicks 

I'll throw the feelers out and see what people say.
One of the big problems is that a heck of a lot of the research is done in endurance sports, so has limited applicability in a power sport like Judo (maybe).

For example, the standard performance loss due to hydration figure of 20% has I gather been challenged by research in power athletes. The majority of the research is done with runners, cyclists, etc. So is it valid to compare us (Judo athletes) diredctly??

I think there is anecdoctal evidence that our evil crash dieting and dehydrating ways are not affecting performance perhaps as detrimentally as it might do if we were running a marathon.

It is an interesting area of study/research, and one that needs the research. I shall see what I can dig up.

To address your question directly, the "received opinion" would be that crash dieting is bad for performance. However, we can easily argue that crash dieting is the norm for our sport and that we do not have scientific evidence to support the hypothesis that dieting lowers performance. We do however have anecdotal eveidence that supports the idea that it is NOT affecting performance. That being the number of champions that lost huge amounts of weight to make their weight and went on to win the event.

The bigger question is, I suppose; Is competition results more important to us than the risks to health that crash dieting incurs? Do we care more about results than about our athletes? If we care more about the athlete, why is crash dieting still prevalent? If we beleive performance is what matters, why do we pretend that we don't want athletes to crash diet?

Personally, I believe an athlete should always go up a weight rather than crash diet or weight cycle. then again, I have never had to make rthis decision with an athlete who was realistically a potential Olympic gold medalist? Perhaps my view would be different then? Also I am from a small nation, so I am all too aware of the fact that no matter the result a Kiwi Judo athlete will need to work and prosper after their Judo career is over. This is notAmerical football or basketball, where perhaps it is worth taking some health risks to make the level to get the financial security. This is Judo where gold medals do not guarantee golden lifestyle.


The weight loss thing - maybe someone at your Uni could let us know whether there is any research comparing athletic performance in an indvidual crash dieting to make their weight as opposed to, say, the same individual at their natural fighting weight. Obviously one would want to relate it closely to Judo but I can't see how you could do a controlled test in a competition situation. What I'm getting at is does a judoka really help himself by going to extremes to make a weight or would he do better to go up a category?


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