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.

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Judo: Play the d*mn game! 

Hi All,

I have not commented for a little while on my coaching, so I want to reflect on what I have been doing and also expand on something that has been running around in my head.

So the Navy Judo has been on a hiatus whilst some logistical details are worked out. So my coaching has been just at the Alresford Judo Club with Mr. Ray Whitfield.

The two classes are juniors (under and over 8 years), and we are working on both ensuring they learn the BJA syllabus and that they learn to play the game of Judo (thats my main aim).

What is apparent in the club and to be honest in my visits to other clubs and discussions with other coaches; is that in Judo clubs often the game of Judo is not played very much. We do alot of teaching, alot of drills, exercises, etc.

But often very little time is spent actually playing Judo. Be that in light simulation (Randori) or actually competing in some format. One of the interesting moments in my "Transformational Coaching" programme was being asked/told to coach some fundamental movement skils to youngsters in their Football (Soccer) lessons at University of Bath.

When we all reflected on the experience together, I think all the coaches said the same thing. All the kids kept asking "when are we playing a match?". It would appear that in that environment/culture they play a game every time they come to class.

In Judo I would say that we hardly ever let our kids/students play the game of Judo. Most clubs (and it's not all by any chance) do have Randori, generally at the end and maybe 1/2 hour of a say 1 and a half hour session.
Not many clubs (in my experience) have competitions weekly, within the club for example. An in-house ladder where there is a impact of winning or losing.

Why do I think we need to play the game more?
So, this is a big question and the answers will annoy many; you have been warned. ;-)

If (and it's a big IF), you think that Judo is a sport (or at least there is a sport element that matters in Judo), then part of our role as coaches is to give our students the experience of doing Judo as a game. Also, we need to make our players the best Judo players we can.

Now if we don't let students play the game of Judo, how can we expect them to be able to play the game of Judo??
We need to allow them to learn through practice of playing the game. The theory goes that if we let them play the game of Judo more, they will learn from each experience, becoming better players of the game.

If we have our students spending most of their time listening to instruction, or practising individual techniques in isolation; they will get better at learning techniques, right? (and yes I am simplifying).

So if, our job is to get kids good at learning throws, the common lots of Judo instruction model is correct right. BUT, if our role is about competition (and that is a debatable subject of course, though I contend that the sport element of Judo is vital to all other elements of Judo) then is the standard model of teaching throws in isolation perhaps is not good. And perhaps we need to explore a different model where students spend more time competing inside their club and being coached loosely from matside, after matches or in different sesisons based around what they did when actually playing the game of Judo.

Part two: What do they love about Judo?
The second reason I am proposing we should have kids in Judo compete/play the game more in Judo is to do with why kids want to do Judo.

I know lots of Judo games, this website in fact started life like that and my list of Judo games I know has been used by many many coaches (in fact it even ended up uncredited in a book of Judo games: Creative Judo Teaching: The Essential Coaches Guide to Methods and Lesson Planning for the Teaching of Judo in Schools, Colleges and Clubs).

And games are good tools for kids Judo. I appreciate also that often Judo classes struggle for members and keeping kids in the club. And often the solution is to keep it "fun" to play more games (and not juts ones that have Judo content).

In fact if you watch the IJF's own "IJF Coaching Series - Coaching Judo to Juniors" DVD, there are lots of great ideas on how to make Judo fun for kids.

And it was a segment in this DVD that originally got me thinking about what Kids Judo should be, and how that might affect Judo clubs and the experience kids have in Judo.

In the DVD there is a young French Girl who answers the question "What do you like most about Judo?" and her answer?

"Playing football at the beginning"

To me that is a really bad answer and one I would not have put on a DVD! To me, that young lady is a future footballer, not a future Judo champ. To me, that child does not enjoy playing the game of Judo as much as she likes playing the game of football.

Now, it is a few seconds on a DVD, I don't know if she has gone on to be a great Judoka and now loves Judo becuase she stayed in the club thanks to the football.

My point is, do we want the next generation of Judoka to be in Judo becuase they like playing football, or playing bulldogs, or being able to learn a throw and get the next colour belt?

Or do we want the next generation of Judoka to be in Judo becuase they love fighting and competing and learning through playing Judo? Do we want people in Judo who love competing or who love practising breakfalls and turnovers in the club to get that next belt.

Do we want people who will Randori all night with a smile on their face, or people who can't fight but can do wonderful demonstrations of individual throws with their willing Uke?

Do we want people in Judo who love competing and will stretch themselves to be the best they can be, or people who want to play non-Judo games?

I am generalising of course, but the core question is this:

If our clubs do not provide the "game of Judo" then those that stay in sport are less likely to be those that are going to stay in the game? If we provide club sessions that allow people to play the game of Judo, then the membership would be of people who like to play Judo?

So... if we want Judo competition and all the great positives that it brings, then do our clubs provide that opportunity? Or are our clubs providing a type of Judo experience that does not lead to competition but to staying in the club and being happy learning throws and other elements of Judo?

Is this why we struggle? Is this why we have big drop-offs? Do we get kids into Judo on the "Olympic Sport" ticket, then lose them because they never get to play the game of Judo?

Is it vice versa?

My personal view is that Judo clubs need to foster competition, we need to give the kids in the classes the game of Judo. If they like it great if not, we are not the only hobby in town.

For me this is important as I do not think that we can reach the higher levels of Judo involvement; without FIRST having competed to the highest level we as individuals can achieve. Competing makes us improve ourselves as individuals. We master ourselves and from there we can progress beyond competition Judo into the more important Judo factors that make Judo a way of life, not just a sport.

BUT... I feel strongly that we need to compete first to experience that learning in the flames of competition and that testing of ourselves. Once our competition days are over (or at least perhaps peaked) we can then develop our Judo in different areas, to improve others and our societies. But I don't feel we can skip that first step.

I am not proposing that every club needs to be aiming for Olympians! Nor that clubs should not teach technique, history, kata, culture. WHat I am saying is that we need to be careful to ensure that our clubs are developing Shiai Judoka.

A player may love competing but be very poor at doing it, perhaps their highest level is coming second at your club. But if your club has no internal competition that person will never reach their highest potential. And if that happens as a coach/club we have failed that person!

I, for example, was not good enough at playing the game of Judo to compete at Olympic level. But I loved (and still love) fighting. I trained and trained and fought and fought and loved it. Then I stopped, I took to coaching; later I took to creating Judo websites. Then I got my academic Judo education at University of Bath. Then I competed at the World Masters, not I continue to learn (from coaches outside of Judo), I still do the web thing, I do Judo research and I try and help others to learn via the we and of course JudoSpace.

It is not about producing Olympians, it is about producing people who make Judo part of their Life. And competing is key to doing that. I know many many many Judoka and those most addicted to Judo are those that competed. I don't think that is coincidence, I think it is a feature of competing in the game of Judo.

So returning to the topic of this post, is the experience you see in your Judo, in your club, in your area, in your nation delivering competition for all? So they too can become addicted to Judo like I have?

And... if playing the game of Judo is what addicts us, then is the format of the Judo being delivered right?

Thanks for your time,


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British Judo Association (BJA) VodCast #1 

As you know, I am a HUGE believer in social media for sport. Obviously, I consume and produce a lot of social media. I Blog (your are reading social media people), I podcast, I tweet, etc etc etc.

And people are coming around to this way of communicating in the wider Judo world. Specifically, the national governing body for Judo in the United Kingdom; the BJA is trying to use these mediums more.

Their latest contribution is a vodcast on YouTube, which I shall embed below. It features Head Coach Patrick Roux talking about "The Plan" for British Judo leading up to London 2012.

Now, I think that the vodcast is a good move, the BJA has got to communicate with the wider community more to retain their support. Only today I received an email from Neil Adams (yes that Neil Adams) about an organisation called the UKJA. Which is some governing body play that I don't know enough to comment on properly... yet.

What it does show is that not everything in the UK Judo world is smiles. There is real disagreement about what is happening and the BJA has to work hard/harder to communicate with Judo people in the UK.

One of the big issues has (IMHO) been that the community knows that the BJA has many many staff. But does not see or hear what they are doing for them... the members.

I hope that the vodcast and other social media attempts by the BJA help the BJA to share with the community. My hope is that they are doing good work and the social media tools help them get that message across.

I also hope they realise that social media is not traditional media. That it is about user generated content, not content produced by communications managers and PR departments.

It would be nice to see a more raw view of the inner workings of the BJA... and not just the BJPI. How about Loughborough too? I'd like to see the BJA post regular little looks into the day to day work of all the staff at BJA HQ. The boring, but essential tasks that have to be done to keep the clubs open.

The Vodcast is a good first episode, and I hope it leads to more. I also hope that the BJA communicates, not broadcasts using these new tools.

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The traveling Judo experience. 

Hi all,
so I have not had much to write on the blog as Judo-wise it has been quiet. Half-term break here in the UK along with "issues" with Dojo/Mat space at HMS Collingwood have meant I've not been coaching. Also, I have been away ALOT with work.

So on Monday I attended another club up near Manchester; the Wilmslow Judo Club.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

It is good for a Judo coach to observe another coach in action, something I think we do too infrequently. As I had little else to do (except be bored in the hotel), I went along early and watched the Junior session, before participating in the Adult session.

The Junior session had somewhere in the region of 40 kids and the adults 20 or so. Good numbers. Watching the kids session i made a note that there was very little actual playing of Judo being done. There was mainly instruction and practising of these techniques.

Now my initial reaction was that I felt there should be more actual playing of the game that is Judo. The train of thought being, if we want kids to like doing Judo, we need to let them play Judo. If kids play Judo and love it, then they'll continue. If we have them not playing Judo and they love it, then what happens when they get older and need to play Judo more?


the club was obviously popular. And the kids seemed to be enjoying it well enough. So, is playing Judo needed for Kids Judo? The session I watched was mainly tuition, not games or things like that. Literally, technique for almost the entire session.

So, not just the, whole session of games babysitting action we get in Judo sometimes. Which is another style of kids Judo. Anyway... so these kids were getting intense learning/instruction, little fun and games, and little or no time playing at Judo. But the class was full and energetic.

Now, Wilmslow is a very well off neighbourhood, the Aston Martin garage there sells the largest number of vehicles of any in the UK and lots of celebs and footballers live there I gather.
So, is this class successful because of the socio-economic situation of the families? Presumably the kids attend good schools and get good grades, so are used to concentrating, learning, rehearsing, etc.

I am guessing and trying to find meaning here, I would be interested in your perspectives on this.

If we propose that Judo classes need to be different to match the socio-economic (or other variable); then perhaps Judo coach education and Judo syllabus needs to factor this in.

Marc ( ) and I have discussed this before. He teaches at a leading private school here in the UK and that has been the topic of talks we have had. I think there is a valid point to be considered; if we teach in different scenarios, I suggest we need to teach in different ways.

This idea is not one that flashed up at me in Wilmslow I confess.
I coach presently at HMS Collingwood, where I have only adults who are all fit. They have to have annual fitness tests to stay in the Navy. I coach these sessions very differently to the kids only session I teach on a Monday at Alresford Judo Club.

I also obsess over elite Judo, which again is a different context. In that scenario all the "students" are above average fitness, they are also all focussed on the sport aspect of Judo. They want to win and train more than most Judo people. They are (and this is a key difference) ofen performing at a higher level than their coaches can perform. Be that the coach has never been at that level, or are no longer at that level.

George Kerr, some years ago at a session at Edinburgh University Judo club, spoke about how the Judo athletes of today would in his opinion wipe the floor with athletes of his time. He highlighted the higher levels of fitness, strength, preparation, support etc. athletes have now. Also Judo has evolved considerably over the years in terms of technique and style of fighting.

What this means as a coach is that you need to have respect for players. You need to accept the fact that they are better than you are/were. That your role is not to make them as good as you, but to make them better than you.

As coaches we need to avoid the temptation to turn those in our sessions into younger versions of ourselves. I think most coaches have seen examples of players being trained by a coach and seeing the player fight more and more like the coach.

What we see less often, is coaches helping develop unique players. To help the player create themselves rather than drilling them into an image for them that the coach has.

As coaches, we need to allow our players understand what we are trying to impart to them. We need to help them cherry pick the ideas and principles that work and work for them, rather than just making them parrot what we know to be good Judo.

Going full circle, is it good that a kids class be entirely instruction? Coaches telling kids what Judo should be. Perhaps at this level too, we need to respect the kids and allow them to learn good Judo in a similar way to elite athletes?

Can someone do a long-term study and tell me please.

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One on, one off. 

This weeks coaching summary will be a short one, mainly because only one of the clubs I coach at was on this week.

The Royal Navy Judo Club at HMS Collingwood did not have a session this Wednesday due to the building where we have been training being busy hosting a Boxing event.

Mondays sessions at Alresford Judo Club were good however. It was good to see a good number of kids in both sessions and to see them progress on from O Soto Gari/O Soto Toshi and try De Ashi Barai.

For those of you wondering about my odd selection of throws to use with young newbie Judo players, let me explain. UK based coaches won't be asking this question, as it has to do with the BJA (British Judo Association) Mon grade syllabus.

The "new" syllabus has these two throws at the beginning along with simple hold downs and (and I think this is important) transitioning between the throw and hold downs. The syllabus is the work of many people, but can i think be attributed to Mr. Andrew Moshanov.

The syllabus has been the subject of much debate here in the UK, and having listened and spoken with Mr. Moshanov about the syllabus I think I understand the intention behind it. And that sold it for me and I have to say that I have had positive feelings about it. De Ashi Barai I have found kids pick up pretty easily... if we don't impose our experienced adult perspectives on it being hard. I don't agree with all of it but thats just me.

The big issue with the syllabus now is that the Judo world has been rocked by the new IJF rules. The rules are designed to fundamentally change the way Judo is played, and makes me wonder if the syllabus now needs revisiting with this in mind.

Of course, it is early days, perhaps we should see how much (more) the IJF will back pedal and also how much Judo actually changes as a result of the rule changes. My suspicion is that as with all the changes of the rules in the past, these new ones may in the longer term have very little actual effect and the evolution of Judo may continue in the direction it was heading anyway. In which case, if we agree that the new syllabus was designed to prepare people for that direction; it remains valid.

I leave it to you to ponder all this, please do post your views in the comments or via email to

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Mike Newton, Digital Judo Coach. :-) 

Right now, in Japan an English Judo coach is doing something never done before and it is awesome!

Mike Newton of Vale Judo club, is in Japan observing how the #1 High School in Japan trains. This in itself is pretty cool, but what is really ground breaking is that fact he is sharing the experience with all of us online via his blog, his tweets and his YouTube channel.

He is genuinely doing something amazing and we all should thanks him and benefit from his efforts.

I know from my small involvement running that he is influencing thousands of Judo people who read his posts there. I don't know how many are reading his site direct.

A couple of years ago I gave a talk (that Mike references in his latest post) about coaching digital natives. Mike, is now embracing that idea and in a way that is important. His students in the UK are I am sure following the blog, seeing how their coach is learning and sharing and growing as a Judoka. That has to be good for them. But so are other coaches, like myself. His ideas on application of what he sees in Japan in the UK are particularly interesting.

Mikes use of Social Media is an example of what I strongly believe we shall see more and more of. So get over to and enjoy what is a world first in the Judo world (as far as I know).

Well done Mike, talk to you when you get back to the UK !

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