This is the Judo blog of Lance Wicks. In this blog I cover mainly Judo and related topics. My Personal blog is over at LanceWicks.com 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.

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JudoCoach.com Blog by Lance Wicks

 

 


Paris Grand Slam 2016 TeamGB 


Well, Sunday ended very well indeed for the BJA. Sally Conway and Natalie Powell both securing medals.

As Bob points out; the BJA sent a decent sized team to this event.

The results are great compared to previous results; and given where we are in Olympic cycle promising for the women at least. The results were not as positive for the men.

That is not to say the performances were not good and/or improved. Performances and Results are not the same thing. Results are what the funding bodies and history remembers. Performances are what get you there along with luck and everything else.

As we close in on Rio2016, we get closer to knowing if the second attempt at a centralised system in a row will pay off. Nail biting time for the BJA which is already in trouble over the 2015 European Championships fiasco and the not yet published report into that event.

Good results in Rio2016 might save the current leadership. If the results are poor you have to hope heads will roll.
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2015 World Championships - TeamGB 


Well, the British involvement in the World Championships ended today. This blog post is not about the performances of the athletes; it is a repeated warning that the BJA is in trouble and ruining lives.

Back on August 11th, I wrote about the team selection. The lack of a full team, the worries I have for a “performance programme” this close to an Olympic games not sending a full team. The people and processes behind the BJA programme worry me as although creating champions is a puzzle; it is a puzzle where we actually know a lot about and the BJA is ignoring the knowledge and doing stupid things that are affecting not just the programmes chances of success; but screwing up lives also.

Back in March I wrote about the BJA managed to lose the hosting of the European Championships. I mention the loss of “home court advantage”. Looking at the medal table today, I see that Kazakhstan (hosts of the world championships) are in fourth place; not a position I recall seeing them in before. They were 26th on the medal table in 2014 at the Worlds.
So in the crucial final period leading up to the Rio Olympics, the BJA lost home advantage at a Europeans, then sent only half a team to the Worlds.

To me, this should be setting of massive alarm claxons.
We know that to win medals at Olympic Games you have to do the following:
1. Qualify
2. Be seeded.

To qualify and to be seeded is a simple mathematical problem. You have to get as many points on the IJF WRL as humanly possible. The Top 8 players in each category will have the best chance of winning a medal. If you are running a programme geared towards winning medals at Olympic Games your job is to get points.

And in Europe the two tournaments that matter are the Europeans and Worlds. So it is vital that you send all your Olympic contenders to these two events where maximum points are on offer. Unlike other events, there are points there just for showing up and stepping on the mat. A loss in first round gets you a few points and in the modern WRL driven world, 1 point can make all the difference.

Another key consideration is that the points you earn on the IJF WRL decrease in value after 12 months by 50%. So your results in this years Worlds count for far more than last years. This singl
e tournament is the most imprtant single event in qualification for Rio2016… and we had a mere 8 players attend.

This should be setting on massive alarm claxons for those who have seen the mission of the BJA programme. Their mission is to get medals in Olympic Games; yet at the single most important event in the run up to the games they sent half a team. So half the players have lost the chance to attend the single most important event in the 2 year qualification period. For me, this is a sign that the BJA programme is not correct and sadly; this is yet another Olympic Cycle being damaged at the athletes expense.

The BJA athletes have got at this stage to worry about their chances for Rio. Players like Danny Williams and Frazer Chamberlain (amongst others) may well have had their best chance to qualify taken away not by opponents beating them; but by the BJA's own performance programme.

Today I read Bob Challis' scathing blog post on the world championships and I think he is being very kind in how he describes the performance. He like me feels I sympathy for the athletes caught in the middle here. They all want to win gold; they all work as hard as they are able and compete at the best level they can.

Sadly, I think they are being handicapped by the BJA programme. Walsall as a centre is far from excellent. The programme itself has been hard wired to run along a course that nobody in the programme decided. We must remember that the centralised programme at Walsall was decided before the current performance director was put in place. He is a mere figurehead for a ship that had it's course set before he arrived.
Unfortunately, the culture of the BJA programme that existed before London2012 seems to have changed very little. Forced relocation to Walsall is part of the programme just as being ofced to live in Dartford was prior to London2012.

All that said, 2015 is actually an improvement on 2014; Sally Conway (Edinburgh based) managed to get a 7th place. Lifting GBR from 44th to 33rd in the world.

But one 7th place one year from the Olympics is a disaster and I hope the BJA know it. I may only be a “keyboard warrior” but seemingly unlike the BJA I know how the modern game is played. I may not know how to prepare an athlete; let alone be an elite athlete; but I do know how an athlete gets to go to Rio2016. I know what the key performance indicators for a modern elite programme are. And it's not hard. You go to the IJF website, click on the link to the World Ranking List.

I do not know what I want to happen next.
Where as before London2012 I wanted the performance directors and lead coaching staff gone; I am not sure that is the right thing atthis time. I am not sure what the athletes want or need. And I am bltently not alone. The BJA obviously has no clue; or if they do they are either evil or incompetant otherwise the talented athletes we have would be doing better than they are.

If incompetant; then maybe the results from Astana might wake them up and get them off their pedestals and get them to make serious changes. If evil, this has not all be incompetance and they are intentionally ruining lives of athletes… I genuinely hope this is just people doing a piss poor job of serving the athletes and not intentional.

In a wider look at the event; the champions all fell except for Teddy Riner. To me this indicates that the medalists for Rio2016 are not going to be as easy to predict. It indicates to me that perhaps some of the senior members of the IJF circuit are perhaps on the downwards slide. That there is a re-arrangement of dominance happening. That if the BJA players stand any chance to medalling in Rio, then this is the time to make real and meaningful changes to the programme.

British players can and have won medals at World Championships and at the Olympic Games. Right now; Rio2016 is looking like a games where we will not bring back a medal. We don't have Karina anymore and Gemma does not have home advantage. We did not send any new blood to Astana; I think we should have. Now in the last 12 months before Rio it is time to get serious and stop pretending that if we build “systems” and “facilities” then medals will fall into the players laps.

Now is the time to stop getting in the players way and start serving them. The Walsall experiment has failed and now is not the time to hold onto a failed idea. Now is the time to accept that as it stands we will be walking off the Copacabana with nothing but sand. Now is the time to restart, the time to actually build champions not centres, to support athletes not programmes. This is the time to stop being mediocore and allow the elite players to excel and not drag them down to the level of the BJA organisation.

Please, for the sake of the young people in your care; be the best servants to them that you can.

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British Judo team to World Championships. 


So I have been quiet recently, in part because I have felt that perhaps my criticisms of the BJA performance programme were proving inaccurate.

However, this week I feel more like myself. Today I feel like I am stuck in some weird groundhog day nightmare, where the BJA does insane sh!t just before the Olympic Games.

This week, the BJA announced the nine strong team for the senior world championships. That is nine out of the maximum of 18.

Here we are at the closing stages of Olympic qualification and the BJA is not sending a full team. Meaning, that despite a minimum of 72 points being available to the BJA; the performance programme is choosing to handicap it's own players.

As I write this, the BJA has 9 players who are in qualification positions. One of which is a continental quota position. The players selected for Astana will collect a minimum of 4 points. The players not selected are in effect giving away 4 points.

For the athletes not selected, the BJA is hamstringing it's own athletes. Not only do they have to fight against other nations; now their own association is working against them.

The BJA fielded a full team of top level players to the low level British Open; but is not sending a full team to the most important event of the year; I don't understand it.

We have a centre of excellence, but one that sends it's top players to a low level local event and not the top level events. This is not excellence; this is textbook mediocrity for me.

I am absolutely at a loss as to how the BJA programme works, there are seemingly intelligent people involved. Yet, when decisions are being made... it seems that the worst option is the one chosen.

As for we the rank and file members. We are being asked to support the team and proclaim that #WeAreGBJudo yet the BJA sends half a team to the biggest event of the year!

The last thing I want to close with is that I am utterly gutted for those athletes who have not been selected especially those who so desperately need the points. Those athletes who have and are dedicating their lives to their dreams deserve better than this; they really do.

Sorry, you deserve an association that understands what you are trying to achieve and one that is working with and for you rather than against you!
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The #JudoWindowChallenge 


This weekend, an idea germinated on the BJA facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/50714858472/) which I've dubbed the #JudoWindowChallenge.

The idea is that if everyone one of the over 4000 members of the group printed a "Try Judo" poster and put it in their car window we would get more people seeing Judo and hopefully joining.

It's a simple, low-cost idea that anyone should be able to do.

To get it started people thought we could borrow from the Ice Bucket challenge of 2014 and make a social media challenge of it. So the idea is that we challenge three Judo friends to put a poster in their car window and then post about it on Twitter or on their Facebook page (and or Blog) too.

So it's just starting today.
A great conversation has sprung up about what sort of images to use and where to get posters. Nicola Fairbrother has some great free to use ones on her KokaKids site (like this one for example: http://www.kokakids.co.uk/product/new-b ... osterflyer ).

So, join the challenge. Design or download a poster. Print it out and stick it in your car window. Take a photo and share it online and challenge your friends to do the same.

It was/is for Judo in the UK. But already it's spreading out internationally; so join in and lets see how this works out!

Lance

p.s. Try and use the hashtag #JudoWindowChallenge so it's easier for us to see all the awesome photos!

Facebook #JudoWindowChallenge

Twitter #JudoWindowChallenge

Google Search: #judowindowchallenge




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February 2015 update. 


So.... what a month!

Lets start with the big news, the European Championships have moved from Glasgow to Baku.

The story goes like this, the EJU cancelled the event (for the first time in 59 years, and that was for a revolution!). The reason given by the EJU was "...The European Judo Union has come to the realisation that the British Judo Association does not fit the EJU criteria to host the EJU flagship event...".
This is based on the incredibly devisive sponsorship deals between BJA and UFC.

Later the event was moved to Baku, which is a sane decision as Baku is probably the only place that could pick up the event at short notice. They were already in progress with the European Games, so have things in place to run the event (not to forget they run IJF events already).

For me, it is a right kick in the guts!
I have worked the past two Glasgow Opens; last years in particular was a test drive for the Europeans. I was asked specifically to report back in reference to how it went and of course how it fitted in with the readiness for European Championships. I was also on the roster to work Glasgow, so thats two years of commitment by EJU as much as for the events team of the BJA.

The BJA Leadership have since "lawyered up" as one of the many many commenters on the BJA Facebook page coined it. We after more than two weeks have not heard a peep from the chair and only the statement from 19th.

For me it was obviously a poor partnership, from the start. The majority of the membership was I feel against it; those who were on the fence did not like the way it has caused conflict.

Worse it has been obvious to all that the IJF and EJU are totally against the UFC forays into the Judo community.

After the initial UFC deal in November, the IJF general secretary followed by the IJF president himself spoke out about the topic. This was above and beyond the more private opposition to this direction from the wider community towards the BJA.

The newer UFC deal was a shock to me, I could not believe the BJA had done it. Then as the story unfolded I was shocked further that the EJU followed through and cancelled the event taking it away from the BJA. Shocked, yet impressed.

The BJA leadership maintains it acted "professionally and diligently"; this I find an embarrassment as their actions caused the loss of the event from British shores. Their pursuing a bad partnership against the views of the the wiser and more experienced opinions of the EJU and IJF is stupid to me. The actions that lead to a situation where the parent organisation not only cancels the event but describes a national governing body for Judo decisions as not being compatible with the values of our sport is far from professional to me.

As I write this, the BJA are negotiating insurance and legal. They have yet to apologise to the EJU, IJF let alone the membership.
This again is unforgivably unprofessional and far from diligent. A carefully worded statementy from the chair would have been such a simple way of regaining some relationship with EJU, IJF and the BJA membership.

Their are those who are pushing for answers, we want to know how the board of directors approved such a partnership given the obvious opposition from the EJU and IJF.
People also want clarification on the relationships between the UFC and the BJA leadership. Questions are not being answered about an organisation called CSF which has been reported as the broker between UFC and BJA. This CSF organisation I am lead to believe is a business of the the BJA chairman.

The BJA has long had a loose attitude to conflicts of interest in my view. But if this disastrous UFC partnership was done with any financial benefit to the chairman via this CSF; then the "professional and diligent" statement is terribly inaccurate or the BJA definition of these terms is hugely different to my own.

Personally, I don't feel the current BJA leadership have any solution that does not include very public apologies and without something special, people have to leave. The most obvious candidates being the chair and the CEO who from the outside seem the main players within the BJA involved in the fiasco.

So stay tuned, but don't hold your breath as I don't expect the BJA to suddenly change their approach and start communicating with their members. But, they will be forced soon to start talking even if it is very limited.

It is a disaster, which even if it was all done in good faith I think is of such a scale that people need to do the honorable thing.

We must not forget the simple facts, the last time the European Championships was cancelled was approximately 60 years ago, where it was scheduled I believe to be in Hungary, but the revolution prevented it going ahead.

The BJA lost the European Championships, along with the Olympic Qualification opportunity it gave. London2012 and Glasgow2014 have proved that Brits do better at home than away; so the loss is likely to impact the Rio2016 games (and funding associated with it) in a negative way.

Not only did the BJA lose the championships, they lost them in an embarrassing way. It has caused damage to the reputation of the BJA, EJU and Judo generally.


Other stuff...

So this month in Judo terms has included things other than the BJA/UFC fiasco.

I was in Austria for the Oberwart Continental Open for women. It was a good event, my first time in Austria and I very much enjoyed the smooth operation and being with my EJU family once again.

The BJA performance programme has adopted Alice Schlesinger this month. And suddenly we have a medal contender. She has fought well and got results.
Regular readers will know my opinions on the performance programme. And "airlifting" in an already elite level player was a bit of a surprise. But I am not looking this gift horse in the mouth. Israels loss is the BJAs gain.
I do feel for the other -63kg women in the BJA; it would have been so much better if we could have adopted a +100kg male for example where we no longer have an active athlete. But, it's a hard puzzle elite performance programmes; and the BJA had an opportunity to bring in a world level athlete and her coach. I hope they take full advantage. I really hope that once the athletes in -63kg (and other categories) get over the shock they see Alice as the leader she could be and that they can follow the example whe has given already to grow and excel in her slipstream; ready to overtake her once her time is past. To support her now; so that she can be a strong leader for the BJA athletes attack on Rio2016.


My club has been struggling somewhat this term; and this month it hurt not to field a team for the British Universities Championships for the first time since the clubs creation in 2010.

I see this as a challenge and I have started some changes to address the "rot". Not least of all is re-assessing our venue and training times and being re-invigorated to work on software systems to automate and "gamify" attendance and attainment for the club members (stay tuned).

On the plus side, we did something new and it worked well. We dedicated ourselves over 5/6 weeks to exploring the Kodokan go-kyo. This was a great experience as a coach and I hope as students of Judo.

We explored the gokyo one set at a time, not to perfect it; but to experience it. We not only did the techniques, we studied them. We used resources like the the Anton Geesink book and Kodokan book as well as youtube to explore different version of throws and discussed these differrences. We were also fortunate to have input from people around the world including from the Kodokan itself!

It reminded me that my role as a coach is not to teach, rather to create a learning environment. And despite the fact I was leading the sessions; I enjoyed watching the "students" teaching one another. To observe two white belts explore the more advanced waza in the fifth set was inspiring.

On a county level, the Hampshire Closed was today. It has been good to see the Fleming Park Judo Club pick up running events. And I was really happy to help them shift mats on Saturday night. And to sit in the hall on Sunday and see a venue that is probably the closest to EJU standard as I have seen in the UK was very rewarding. In recent years I have run quite a few events in Hampshire and I know firsthand how hard it is and how little support their is; so to see the work Roland and co put in makes me very happy!

It was great also to hear good things about some of the young people I coached in Alresford who are now training in Winchester. Both the coaches and one of the peers mentioned them in positive ways. I am always saddened when I think of closing the club; but reassured that they have continued in Judo.

On that note, perhaps it is only other coaches that appreciate the amazing feeling that comes from hearing from people that have passed through your club and continue in Judo, sport and other good things.

Two students who started Judo with me and have since graduated university and the club have recently won medals and that makes me so happy. The medals are great, but what makes me so happy is that they are still in love with sport and Judo and living better lives.

Judo is "more than sport" and despite the depressing state of affairs with BJA pursuing UFC money when it should be supporting and following the EJU and IJF in growing people; I am optimistic.

Judo will continue to grow both as a sport and a way of improving people and society. It is doing that outside of the UK already. The EJU and IJF have grown the sport and put more effort into the non-sport side of Judo than the BJA has.

Outside of the UK, Judo is on the rise. My hope is that from the darkness of the BJA losing the championships; a change will be forced and new leadership will rise and Judo here will grow towards it's potential.

It can happen and I believe it will happen. I don't think that the BJA can continue in the direction it has been going.

It will move towards promoting the sport of Judo and the social benefits of Judo as a sport and activity for all.


So there you have it, some random ramblings to mark the end of the second month on 2015. Good things are coming; I'm sure of it. After the storm, the sun will return.

Lance.
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