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

 

 


World Championships season. 


It's that time of year, World Championships time!
This time next week I shall be attending the World Cadet Championships and then later in August the Senior World Championships.

For someone like me with a self-confessed obsession with elite level Judo this is the most interesting time of the year. How athletes perform at continental opens, grand slams, grand prix and continental championships is fascinating... but nothing is bigger each year than the World Championships!

It is an interesting time. The first World championships season after the Olympic games. Qualification has yet to start, but teams are still maintaining ranking list positions so to get seeding right for when qualification does start.

Then there are the big names that are out or have been out. If you are one of the big guns, you might be ok without this world champs in the mix. But for many athletes just being there is important as the points on offer are substantial and can really help... though again that is often more of a consideration within the qualification period.

What is also interesting are the host nations/cities. The cadets are in Miami, USA. USA has really come a long way in recent years and have strong athletes and athletes coming through. It is interesting to see that matching up with hosting large events, coincidence?

The Seniors are in Rio, Brazil. Obviously with the Olympics in 2016 it's not a huge surprise that Rio is getting some practice in. Brazil has hosted some big Judo events so it should be good. The only wrinkle is the recent protests around large sporting events. I don't keep up on Brazilian politics and intentionally so, so I have no opinion on the situation; I just hope it runs well.

As a UK resident I will of course be watching the British team performance closely and it will be interesting to see what results they get and to see how reactions from the British Judo population go post event.
It's a new performance team in place now, and this is the first big test they face. With the BJA (in fact the whole country) in "one year since..." mode, it may be interesting for the new team.

The new performance team is still pretty unknown within the BJA. There has been very little education as to who is running the show and what the programme's plan is. The BJA has never been good at communicating and especially communicating around elite level. It's a mystery to most British Judo people as to who is involved, what the plan is and how it is progressing. I hold out a small amount of hope that during and perhaps after the Worlds in Rio the BJA will start being more open and engaged genuine social sharing on the internet. They are in desperate need of some two way communication (as opposed to the one way broadcast style they have now) and perhaps Rio will spur a change.

Anyway... in a few days I shall be on my way to see it all unfold in front of me and to help make it run smoothly for the athletes and for you the fans and Judo Junkies.
I'll be there working on the IJF IT team, helping run the events and more specifically helping make sure you can watch all the action live and for free online ( http://ippon.tv ) as well as getting the results via http://ippon.org and via twitter ate http://twitter.com/judoticker

Wish me luck, and stay tuned!
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What level do you coach? 


In sport we have levels, beginners through to Elite. There are an infinite number of levels between the top and the start. This post is about the definition of these levels and what it means to me (and you the reader) in terms of competing and coaching.

The British Judo Association has just published a new competition pathway for example. In a recent conversation with a coach we discussed the definition of an elite athlete.

So... lets start by looking at the BJA definitions. They break them into two categories encompassing five levels.

Category One: Development/Recreational
1. Beginner
2. Intermediate
3. Experienced

Category Two: Performance/Elite
4. Aspiring
5. Performance

I broadly like these levels and categories and look forward to seeing the BJA roll out events at all these levels countrywide. If they can do this; then I think we are in a great position going forward. If they leave it to or demand that local volunteers do it without financial and logistical support then it's a wasted effort... but thats a different subject!

So these categories are interesting and for me quite well defined. Better than many I have seen and realistic. For example, although they mention elite, they don't refer to any British events as elite. That makes me happy as for me "Elite" is a tiny group of players who medal at IJF events.

My only real issue with these BJA standards is that they are written solely from the perspective of kids Judo leading to adult. This I know is the majority of the Judo population. But as someone who runs a club full of adult beginners the pathway is not great as it is not written for them.

What level do you coach?
OK... so if you answered elite, I dispute it. If you answered performance I question it. I run two clubs and I although I work at elite level events, I certainly don't coach at those levels. I coach at beginner and intermediate level.

Knowing this is fantastic, it gives me perspective. I don't try and transplant what I learn at events directly into my club sessions. I understand where my coaching is aimed and I tailor my sessions accordingly. This does not mean that the people in my sessions don't learn about the new rules for example; it just means that it is an interesting aside; not key training content.

Sadly, I suspect lots of people think they are coaching at a much higher level than they really are. They are ruining their coaching by trying to coach "elite/performance" when they should be doing recreational/developmental coaching.

They two categories and all the levels are linked and not necessarily in easy to follow linear paths. And your coaching absolutely needs to include aspects of all levels. But that said, at the levels I coach at there is no need for me to scream technical advice from matside in competitions. I do talk to them in sessions about the new rules and the strategies that are relevant. It drives me made when I see coaches at developmental events doing much more than this. By the same token, the refereeing and officiating needs to be at a lower level than at elite level events. I certainly don't want to go to BJA events in a suit and tie!








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Continental Championships season. 


This weekend marked the start of what I'm going to call the "Continental Judo Championships Season", it is the time of year when all the IJF continental unions hold their respective championships. It's a big deal as the points you earn at a continental championships are considerable and especially for the "weaker" unions valuable.

If you look at my home continent of Oceania, winning the OJU championships is probably almost enough to put you on the top of the pile for Olympic berths. It certainly was one of the key elements of the OJU athletes plans for London 2012.

I am fortunate that this year I will attend two of the championships (Asia and Europe). These are probably the two toughest events and in ways that makes them the least valuable for players. By this I mean that the players winning points at the EJU or JUA champs are likely to be winning points at continental opens (formerly world cups) and Grand Slam and Grand Prix events.
It is much less likely that the points winners at OJU or AJU are in the same ballpark at the other events. So the continental championship points are more valuable in effect for them. If you follow my train of thought.

I am really looking forward to seeing what the Asian championships is like, I have never been before. I live and attend more events in Europe; so my awareness of players and styles is greater in this area. So it will be very educational for me.

The EJU championships will be interesting in a different way. Will we see the Russian women take lots of medals no Gamba is at the helm? Will GBR have more success as it has enjoyed recently? Will the big names be there? Will the big names perform? Will the big names who have been fighting in higher weight categories be back in their "normal" category or are they staying up... for now.

Of course, the other interesting thing will be to see more of the new IJF rules in action. This will be the first time we see some of these players under the new rules. The top ranked athletes have gained some experience; so I am interested to see if the players who have not been at recent events are fully up to speed with the changes in the sport.
Equally, if the smaller/weaker nations are adapting as well/fast as the larger/stronger nations. I don't expect to see many problems from say the Russian men, but what about the Thai women? Has the IJF education efforts made it to all levels yet?

The downside of this amazing opportunity to see the Asian and European Judo Championships is that I will be away from home for quite a lot of the time. Away from my family and from my Judo clubs and players. They are being looked after by good people, but it is tough on them and me all the disruption.

Speaking of which; if you are a coach (Judo or otherwise) and live in or near Southampton and Winchester (U.K.) and are interested in coaching at either/both the clubs I coach at please please contact me ( lw@judocoach.com ) as I am in desperate need of coaches to help realise the vision I have for the clubs and players.

I will try and write up some of my impressions of the events I am attending in one or more blog posts as my trip progresses.

Lance
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Rules of the Game. 


In this post I want to talk about the "Rules of the Game" in relation to the sport of Judo. In 2013 we see big changes in the IJF rules being trialled.

How this happens and the reasons for the changes is not however what I want to discuss. WHat I want to explore in this post is the rules of the British Judo Association and how that affects me as a coach in Great Britain.

The genesis I guess for this post was in January this year after the British Cadet Championships; regular readers will remember the post I wrote on January 18th about refereeing. And this past weekend I took a small team of players to the British Universities Judo Championships. Some of the occurrences at that event lead me to start a discussion on Facebook which spurred over 100 comments.

The discussion and my concerns are focussed not on specific rules, rather the importance of the Rules as a document. That is what I want to explore today.


Back in my days studying for the EJU Level 5 coaching qualification we examined the structure of sport, ethics and cheating. The short version is that all sport consists of artificial constructs in which sport is played and cheating being when we step outside that defined (and inferred) construct.

The construct is a product of the rules of the game. I.e. the written rules define what we believe the values and beliefs of the sport are and provide the structure within which our sport is played.

The rules also tell us the specifics of how the sport is played and the inferred standards our sport is played to.


From a coaching perspective, the rules provide us the contraints within which we innovate. Every player coach and team is looking for the best way to play within the rules. The rules give us hard boundaries for us to stay within. They inform our behavior and set the stage for not only the way we play the sport but also how we coach it and how we conduct ourselves whilst involved.


So why this post?

At the BUCS event a couple of referees were strictly enforcing the the "co coaching matside, except during the period between Matte and Hajime." rule. This is a IJF initiative to decrease the excessive shouting and gesticulation that the powers that be feel is occurring.

The problem I, and some of my fellow coaches had on the weekend is that this is not a rule in the BJA.

Don't believe me, and trust me the referees on the day certainly thought this rule exists, well take a look at the BJA rules: http://www.britishjudo.org.uk/bja-conte ... tober-2012

This document is the foundation upon which all Judo competitions in the BJA are based. It tells us how to play the game and should tell us all we need to comply with the referees one would think. Unfortunately, it apparently is not. Seeing as referees were commanding coaches to stop coaching their players.

If you read the rules you will not find anything saying that the referees are empowered to do this, no where, so for me it should not happen and I am concerned that it is happening. Much like the incidents I have seen of match decisions being changed after referees have left the contest area. There is no part of the official rules of the BJA that allows this to happen.

As I did in January, we can look at other sports and compare. A quick look at the FIFA rules and I found this:

from Law 5:
* takes disciplinary action against players guilty of cautionable
and sending-off offences. He is not obliged to take this action immediately but must do so when the ball next goes out of play

* takes action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may, at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds

So in football there is a clear rule stating the referee can and should take action against inappropriate behavior. The BJA has no similar directive.

The FIFA rules also have the section on the "Technical area" which is interesting and relevant:

The technical area relates to matches played in stadiums with a designated seated area for technical staff and substitutes as described below.
While the size and position of technical areas may differ between stadiums, the following notes are issued for general guidance:
• the technical area extends 1 m (1 yd) on either side of the designated seated area and extends forward up to a distance of 1 m (1 yd) from the touch line
• it is recommended that markings are used to define this area
• the number of persons permitted to occupy the technical area is defined by
the competition rules
• the occupants of the technical area are identified before the beginning of
the match in accordance with the competition rules
• only one person at a time is authorised to convey tactical instructions from
the technical area
• the coach and other officials must remain within its confines except in
special circumstances, e.g. a physiotherapist or doctor entering the field of
play, with the referee’s permission, to assess an injured player
• the coach and other occupants of the technical area must behave in a
responsible manner

Again the BJA (and IJF for that matter) do not have such a clear description.


Why does this matter?

We have a situation in the BJA (and to a degree in the IJF), that the rules of our sport are not being obeyed by referees. They are applying rules that don't exist in the rules. This past weekend coaches were reprimanded for coaching form matside, despite there being no rule saying they can't do it.

That is simply wrong I feel. They are breaking the construct of our sport.

It was disturbingly difficult at times to explain to referees and online to people why I felt this was wrong. The coaching matside thing was only one of several instances I have observed this year where things are being applied as rules that don't exist in the rule book.

Referees are being told to apply this rule in their pre competition meeting and referees are blindly doing so. They should be questioning it as I would hope they know the pages of our rules better than I as a coach do. I worry about the environment within the refereeing community that leads to a situation where referees will apply things that are not in the rules.

This is not a case of interpretation. This is not the difference between Ippon and Wazari; this is a more objective call. Is the rule in the book, no, then it should not be applied.

Referees reading this, have you told a coach to be quiet? Is that written in your copy of the rules anywhere? If not, then why did you apply it?

I am genuinely interested in the reality of how and why referees are adopting unwritten rules and how and why they can do that.


Solutions?

personally, I have grave concerns over the quality of the the BJA and IJF rules. The BJA rules are basically carbon copied from the IJF rules. The IJF rules I do not feel are very well written, the english used needs revising by a native english speaker and I also think that the core concepts are blurred and could benefit from a serious revision.

Perhaps we could engage with law/rule writers from other sports?

And I do not feel it is acceptable for the BJA to say they can't do anything because the they are using the IJF rules as their base. I think they could be leaders in the sport and rewrite the rules and encourage the IJF to consider using revisions based on the British version of the rules.

Even if the IJF do not take up the BJA re-write, the BJA can have a well crafted modern version of the rules that are clearer, and encompass the full range of situations and intentions that our sport requires.

What do you think?


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Coaching versus Instructing. A little example from my weekend. 


Regular readers will know that over the years I have developed a belief that in Judo we have many people instructing Judo and a much smaller number coaching Judo.

So today I thought I would highlight what my train of thought is by looking at an example... me. Why me, because this weekend I had a great experience of seeing coaching pay off.

The tale starts like this... in the previous Hampshire Team Championships, several members of the team submitted to strangles. So as the coach I watched in horror as matches were lost as they tapped out.

So for the past month or two at the club I have been doing regular drills around strangles. Mainly getting players to lie on their front and allow their partner to place their arm under their chin and around their throat. On Hajime, the person underneath must defend the strangle. We did several variations, such as quickly turning away from the strangle or popping the chin under the arm (read Dr Annmaria HERE for more thoughts on this ).

I did very little instructing on how to defend a strangle or even how to apply one. I was more basic, put them in the position and shout Hajime; then Matte. repeat, repeat, repeat and yes you guessed it repeat again.

This past weekend, the team again took to the mat and fought in the next round of the team championships. And not one of the players tapped out to a strangle. This despite several pretty good attempts by their opponents, purple abrasions galore afterwards.
But none of the people in my club got caught; the reaosn? Mainly they were comfortable knowing when they were in trouble. They knew the point where they were going to go to sleep. They knew how to defend via experiencing it in the club in training.

What I did not do was spend long periods of time showing variations and tricks around defending strangles. What I did was put the players in competitions, observe the players in action and identify areas needing improvement. Having identified areas I spoke to the players and then did specific training to address the weakness over a two month period or so.

The players learned in training and when they were attacked in the competition with strangles they had taught themselves what to do.

This is an example of coaching. I did not instruct the players what to do; rather put them in situations where they could learn for themselves. This is coaching for me. Using my eye, knowledge and experience I created a series of situations where players learnt.

I didi not instruct them on how to defend from position "X" or from specific strangulation techniques from books or form competitions. A majority of my exercises were just player one face down on their front with their partners arm under their chin holding the jacket on the far side. I just called Hajime, counted the time and called Matte, got them to swap over or swap partners and called Hajime again.

The result, the team learned how to defend a strangle.

Having watched this weekends action we have more to focus on and that is what the role of a coach is, to observe and adapt. To keep tuning the training to help the players get better and better week on week.
It is not my job to instruct them on how to do everything they need to do. I can not teach fast enough or well enough for this to work past the novice levels (if that).

I hope this little example helps to express what I mean when I argue about coaching versus instructing in a Judo context.

Let me know what you think.

Lance
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