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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Thoughts on Innovation and Coaching Judo. 

As Judo coaches you are faced with a choice, either continue to evolve and innovate or get out of the way of those who are.

In this post I want to raise a couple of issues surrounding the sport of Judo and also about coaching our sport. I am NOT talking about those who want to coach in clubs and do the work of teaching kids and recreational players, etc. That is a different subject and I don't want the two confused.

This post is about sport performance Judo, not participation Judo. The two are different, so please keep that in mind before commenting.


Sport evolves, Judo evolves, does Judo coaching evolve?

Well, the answer needs to be YES!!!

And I do mean evolve, not just change for the sake of change. I am not for one minute suggesting that what worked in the past should be thrown away and all new methods instituted.

But... the good methods should stay and the poor be removed and replaced with innovations. But how do we know what is good and what is bad? Well, that is a mix of science and "coaching magic". It is the mix of the art and science of coaching where innovation will come from.

The problem then is that we need scientific coaches, ones with a good educational background in sport and also the talent to coach athletes.

The one element I missed in that sentence is the aptitude to innovate and to question, to try new things.

As coaches, we need to know and appreciate the existing (and historical) training methods. We need to know what used to work, what is working and from that be able to make the creative leap to what will work.

We need to build environments where innovation occurs also. We must build situations where athletes, physios, scientists and of course other coaches feel empowered to try new things.

In my role in IT, I hear over and over that the key to success is failure. Rapid failures leading to success.

In Judo I want to see the same thing, we need to be trying new things, seeing what works, what fails and quickly and iteratively adjusting our coaching based on these successes and failures.

We need to be creating new methods for our athletes, not replicating what worked for John on Jane. What produced a world medal for a lightweight is not necessarily going to get a heavyweight gold. How can you change what you did for the lightweight to best suit the heavy weight?

Sometimes this is a planned and well researched process. You identify an issue or have an idea and research it thoroughly and then design a coaching process based on good science. Sometimes it is an intuitive decision. Sometimes it is a mix of both.

For example, some years back i coached the Royal Navy Judo team prior to the Inter-Services championships. I did a small amount of research, I watched video footage of the Navy players in action fighting. But it was genuinely just that, I watched the videos as diversion almost on a train from London to Southampton over a week or two.

But then when I was writing up my class plans for the week long training camp I decided to do something a little different. I wrote up a series of sessions that built up the process from Bowing on to the mat right up to the moment just before throwing. It included the Rei, gripping and moving.

It was an intuitive decision that his is what they needed.

Now in 2009, I have attended University of Bath and been exposed to more coaches and more research and my analytical mind can see the value in what I did based on intuition.

Judo coaches are now studying/teaching gripping patterns, movement. Coaches are developing psychological interventions around the entry to the contest area and how athletes compete.

There is now a evidence based approach to what I did "from my gut". My small innovation is an example of what I'd like to see more of in Judo.
It is more of what I would like to do in my Judo coaching.

At the moment I have two applictaions out there for involvement in programmes that will allow me to develop as a Judo coach. Two seperate but linked opportunities for me to learn and share and develop and innovate.

One is a practical applied opportunity, the other more educational though not entirely.

I have applied because I think I bring somethng interesting to both opportunities and also because both bring something unique to my continued development. And that is important to me.

I am hoping that both go well and in an ideal world I shall be accepted/selected for both. They are mutually beneficial to one another, and if I can do both I know it is the best thing for both activities.

Both these opportunities are going to drive me forward to innovate and to coach more and better.

What are YOU doing to improve your coaching? What are you doing (to paraphrase Brian Ashton) to create your own learning environment as a coach?
Are you applying for new challenges? For new educational opportunities? If so, good! If not, why not?


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Etiquette and Coach education. 

People have been talking about etiquette in Judo quite a bit lately. The British national coach has been publicly talking about it ( ). And there was the quite energetic discussion around this topic on and the BJA forum (and elsewhere) when the ruling to ban coaches from matside was announced.

So I wanted to add my two cents worth to the topic and see what people say.

At all levels in Judo there is discussion about behavior, specifically about behavior at competitions.

People bring up kids behavior, coaches behavior, parents behavior, elite coach behavior and elite players behavior.

Here is the thing, I personally think it is unfair to demand better behavior from any of these groups of people if they are not educated in what behavior is expected.

I have kids, and I can't tell them off for leaving the cap of the toothpaste (for example) if I have never told them to put the cap on the toothpaste. So when were these groups of Judo people told what was/wasn't acceptable behavior?

Never right?

Are their etiquette sessions for players? Are their etiquette sessions for coaches (so they can teach etiquette to players). Do you have sessions with parents to teach them what is or isn't acceptable in a Judo competition?

Does your national governing body, or the international governing body for that matter, provide you with guidelines on appropriate behavior? Do they hold training days? Do they have a booklet you can read?

So... assuming that the answer to the above question is "No", then how can they expect anyone to know how to behave?

If we reflect on the international "no coaches matside" decision. Made the IJF states because of the bad behavior of some coaches, can the IJF show what guidance/training was in place for the coaches to let them know what was acceptable?

If we look at parents at competitions with their kids, is their guidance on what is and is not acceptable? I don't think it is fair to say parents behave badly if you have not specified what good (or bad) behavior is properly and done everything you can to ensure that the parents have been educated on it.

The same is true of coaches. The common complaint is that they shout, wave their arms, call scores and generally give the referee grief. Often this is true, I've done it myself on occasion. Again I have to ask, where is the education to tell me what is the right way to behave towards a referee? Or am I expected to learn by osmosis or luck? We don't expect players to learn throws without instruction and practice so why should behavior be any different?

In a slightly different view, I would like some guidance on what acceptable referee behavior is also. Is ignoring an experienced and knowledgeable coach acceptable behavior? Just because you happen to be wearing a blazer? Just because you are the referee? Is it acceptable behavior for a referee to not speak to the athletes? Why is it okay for the referee to give penalties without giving input before, during and after the offence? If I raised my kids the way that referees referee a fight social services would come a knockin.

For me, I would like to see the behavior of all people at Judo competitions improve. I'd like the coaches to coach the players from matside, maturely and intelligently. Maintaining respect for their player, the opponent, the referee and for the sport. I would like to see the players behave appropriately, and confidently know what is expected of them. I'd like to see referees behave better and with more respect for the players. I'd like mums and dads to support their kids, without being a negative.

But none of this can happen through "hope" or "wishing". What it takes is definitions and education.

It would be a good project to look at the competition behavior of all parties and document what happens, then define what is good and what is bad. Then write up a training programme for each of the groups of people.

Anyone want to volunteer?


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On not being perfect... 

As a Judo coach one of the biggest traps we fall into is forgetting that we are not perfect or more to the point forgetting that people do not expect us to be perfect.

Every Judo coach makes mistakes, as does every player we work with. And it is normal and to be expected.

A bad habit that I observe in coaches is when we forget to acknowledge that we might be wrong, or that there are alternative approaches.

We tend to teach "the right way" of doing techniques. But there is (IMHO) no pure right way, there are a variety of right ways depending on the player, the opponent, the fight and so on.

Is Taio Toshi done with both legs straight or one leg bent? Where does the elbow go? What is the direction of the Kuzushi? Is it Taio Toshi or Tai Otoshi?

More to the point does it matter right now?

Don't get me wrong, the details do matter. Understanding matters, knowledge matters.

But this is very different to being perfect and worse worrying about being perfect. Worrying about being perfect is a really negative habit that will kill you as a coach.
The master coaches if you watch them make mistakes all the time, they get words wrong, they get names wrong, they break the rules and all sorts of other things. Does it bother them? No. Does it make them less of a coach? No.

What it shows is a level of maturity about their coaching that most of us lack. Perhaps they just know that it takes more than one exposure to virtually anything to learn it, so getting it wrong slightly when you teach is not going to have a huge impact.

As a Judo coach, I embrace my errors. My quirks, my slips of the tongue, my mistakes with left and right, my loses of balance etc. I embrace it and make it part of "the show". I make my errors something that players expect, they know I am not perfect and I don't want them to ever think I am.

Pobody is Nerfect! - as they say.

So when you go on the mat this week to coach, keep this post in mind. Be that as a player or coach. There is nothing wrong with mistakes, just move on and enjoy.


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Nothing to do with Judo... 

Okay, this post has nothing to do with Judo... directly. I do however run a podcast about Judo ( ) and the short video blog I have embedded below (about Rugby Union) certainly grabbed my attention and may be the model for future Judo related projects.

Oh... whilst I am talking about the podcast, here is a little advert for the next "episode" that I shall be posting on Friday 23 April.

On Friday I shall be posting a podcast entitled "Interview with 3 world champions" which features Kosei Inoue, Jane Bridge and Loretta Cusack discussing their careers.

It was a keynote lecture at the University of Bath on the Level 4/Foundation degree course. Which as I have mentioned before is a unique and wonderful opportunity for anyone serious about their Judo. Applictaions for next years intake are open now. There are students from all over the globe, so there is no excuse not to apply!


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Eating disorders in Judo and our responsibilities as Judo coaches. 

In Judo we compete in weight classes and this according to the medical profession places the athletes under our care at increased risk of eating disorders and the associated health risks. As Judo coaches we have a responsibility to be aware of these risks and do everything we can to prevent our Judo athletes from suffering from the damage that these conditions can cause.

Judo players we all know will lose weight to make it into their weight category, the “dirty little secret” in Judo has always been that we turn a blind eye to weight cycling, and the unhealthy methods of weight control we allow athletes (especially young athletes) to use. This is not helped by the fact that many of the big names in world Judo have or are doing it.

Judo players will use methods such as starving themselves, not drinking, self-induce vomiting, sauna and use diuretics to name a few methods. All these methods are associated with eating disorders. Judo athletes attitudes towards eating have also been shown to be unhealthy.

A study in 2007 sadly identified that coaches and athletes were big pressures on athletes to lose/control their weight (as opposed to the normal population who feel more pressure from society, tv etc.). So my take on this is that we as coaches need to do all we can to ensure that our athletes do not feel pressure from us or from the other athletes you are involved with.

Of course the catch 22 is that there is a valid reason for the pressure, missing your weight will mean you miss the tournament. Being in a heavy weight category puts you at a weight disadvantage. There is also old wives tales about power to weight ratios that ignore the negative effects of radical weight loss.

We should all be aware of the dangers of eating disorders, I have put some links at the bottom of this article, that will get you started. If you want to be chilled to the bone contact a professional who works with patients with eating disorders and let them scare you witless. The mortality rate in eating disorders is pretty darn high, not to forget the non-terminal health issues eating disorders cause in the short and long term.

So what can we do as coaches?

For a start, you can make a pledge right now to never encourage athletes in your care to lose weight. You must not forget that radical weight loss in obese people can be dangerous as well as in thinner people. Perhaps you can find a health professional to come to the dojo and advise athletes on how they might healthily change their weight? Perhaps if you are weighing athletes anyway for category decisions institute a rule that young players can never go down in weight? Perhaps as well as monitoring weight you can monitor BMI and body fat to ensure that they stay at healthy levels.

You need to talk to your athletes and explain that the unhealthy weight loss methods of the last are not to be done by them. No starving themselves, no saunas to lose the weight, none of that stuff.

You could get in experts to advise athletes as to what weight category they will be able to be in with healthy eating. Get professionals to advise young athletes what size and weight they can expect to be when they are fully mature, then plan for your athletes to go up the weights to this target, making going up weight classes part of the plan.

What else needs to be done?

Here is a radical suggestion that I have discussed with a few people and would like your opinion on.

I propose we ban weight classes for players under 18 years of age.

Of course there are risks in letting the 100kg monster on with your 60kg player, so we need to find an alternative way of matching players. Perhaps we weight everyone on the day and then group the heaviest 12 players and call this category 1, then repeat with the next 12 heaviest all the way to the lightest player? Maybe we institute a proper ranking system that means that only players of similar ability fight one another? It is something we need to think through and come up with something new.

So this is our mission as coaches, protect the players as best we can in the environment we have today. Try to prevent athletes in your care from developing unhealthy attitudes and behaviours around weight and eating. The second part is to lobby our national and international governing bodies to address the issue and come up with a solution for the young athletes.


(“Anorexia & bulimia,” n.d.; “Anorexia - Eating Disorders in Athletes - Anorexia Nervosa,” n.d.; Byrne & McLean, 2001; “Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine,” n.d.; “CSA,” n.d.; “Eating disorders among male and female elite athletes,” 1999; Herzog et al., 2000; Johnson, Powers, & Dick, 1999; Pompili, Mancinelli, Girardi, Ruberto, & Tatarelli, 2004; Rouveix, Bouget, Pannafieux, Champely, & Filaire, 2007)

Anorexia & bulimia. (n.d.). . Retrieved April 22, 2009, from ... imia.aspx.
Anorexia - Eating Disorders in Athletes - Anorexia Nervosa. (n.d.). . Retrieved April 22, 2009, from ... rexia.htm.
Byrne, S., & McLean, N. (2001). Eating disorders in athletes: A review of the literature. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 4(2), 145-159. doi: 10.1016/S1440-2440(01)80025-6.
Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. (n.d.). . Retrieved April 22, 2009, from ... =abstract.
CSA. (n.d.). . Retrieved April 22, 2009, from ... ookie=yes.
Eating disorders among male and female elite athletes. (1999, December 1). . Retrieved April 22, 2009, from
Herzog, D. B., Greenwood, D. N., Dorer, D. J., Flores, A. T., Ekeblad, E. R., Richards, A., et al. (2000). Mortality in eating disorders: A descriptive study. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 28(1), 20–26. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-108X(200007)28:1<20::AID-EAT3>3.0.CO;2-X.
Johnson, C., Powers, P. S., & Dick, R. (1999). Athletes and eating disorders: The national collegiate athletic association study. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 26(2), 179-188. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-108X(199909)26:2<179::AID-EAT7>3.0.CO;2-Z.
Pompili, M., Mancinelli, I., Girardi, P., Ruberto, A., & Tatarelli, R. (2004). Suicide in anorexia nervosa: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 36(1), 99–103. doi: 10.1002/eat.20011.
Rouveix, M., Bouget, M., Pannafieux, C., Champely, S., & Filaire, E. (2007). Eating Attitudes, Body Esteem, Perfectionism and Anxiety of Judo Athletes and Nonathletes. Int J Sports Med, 28(4), 340-5.

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