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

 

 


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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Judoka Quarterly - A new Judo magazine for English speakers. 


If like me you are a English speaker, you are missing out on so much Judo! Speak or read French, German or Japanese for example and there are some amazing Judo magazines you can enjoy.

If you are an english speaker however, since the sad death of Bob Willingham's TWOJ there has been a void. But the void may soon be filled, and we can all make it happen!

David McFall and Rafal Burza have started a kickstarter campaign to produce an english language Judo magazine called "Judoka Quarterly"!!!!

David McFall lives in Japan and trains regularly at the home of Judo, the Kodokan. He also commentates for the IJF. Rafal is a respected Judo photographer and together they will be producing the magazine.

Here is a video from David explaining it:



Now... here is the exciting part. You (yes you!) are the one who determines if this magazine gets past the planning stage and into your hands.

The magazine is being launched via crowdfunding, so it's a case of if you want a Judo magazine become a financial supporter via Kickstarter.

If enough of us want it and support it, then the magazine gets produced. If you support and not enough people join you, then you get your money back. So it's win-win. You invest as little as $10 USD and help create something special for Judo.

Or you don't and... well lets not think about it!

The campaign is time limited, we only have till February 20th to invest. So please do, via the simple payment options on the kickstarter page.

Please also spread the word, tell everyone down at the club about it. Share the link with them, make a poster and put it on the bulletin board.

Together we can get this magazine produced, we can get quality Judo content in english in a glossy magazine format (as well as electronic versions).

So please, please consider investing at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/373732310/judoka-quarterly-an-international-judo-magazine

Thanks,

Lance.

P.s. Just in case you are wondering, I have no stake in the magazine other than know Rafal and David. My interest and enthusiasm is about my personal desire for a quality English language Judo magazine.


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2014: My year in review. 


As is common at this time of year, I want to look back at my 2014 and reflect on the highs and lows so it may influence my 2015.

In 2014 I had a somewhat restricted Judo schedule only making it to 8 events. :-( This is almost entirely due to commitments outside of Judo that I use to pay my bills, AKA a Job.

It did mean that I got to attend the European and World Championships as well as EJU Opens in Italy, Estonia and Glasgow. I also Attended the Jeju and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix events along with the EJU coach education (Judo Knowledge) meeting in Cambridge.

I continued to work with my colleagues in the EJU and IJF and Judobase.org and the live streams are better than ever. A new role for me this year was to administer the newly formed IJF Junior World Ranking List.

Given my financial position I expect to do approximately the same level of travel in 2015. :-( However I really want to push forward in different areas to try and engage even more with the Judo community.

Locally and personally, 2014 was a tough year Judo wise. Balancing a fulltime demanding job, a family, Judo coaching EJU and IJF roles means I end up spread very thin.

Too thin, unlike me. My health (primarily my weight) has suffered and I have to try and resolve that in 2015. Also, I had to in 2014 make some very tough calls in regard to Judo. My beloved Alresford Judo Club is now closed. After struggling to keep it afloat for a number of years this year I finally had to make the decision to close the club.

The Judo community for me has been interesting and challenging this year. Especially the local UK community.
For me, the UK Judo community is not healthy. Where I see growth and exciting times ahead the UK community is depressed, disenfranchised and worrying about MMA, BJJ and UFC when the rest of the world is focussing on Judo and going forward.

2014 marked I think the 6th year that I have administered the unofficial BJA facebook group. Which continues to be an open discussion area and I enjoy "most" of the interactions I have on there. This year I "bit back" at some of the trolls and those who misunderstand the purpose of the site. A couple of threats of physical violence from some not really Judo people and it settled down and the discussions regained the foreground.

My coaching at the Solent University continued. It was a tough year with my travel and other commitments when combined with some core members graduating away and a poor freshers intake affecting the clubs progress. I really enjoy coaching the club and we hosted some more events in the first part of the year.

Hampshire Judo has had a shaky year this year. But looks to be on the mend with the good folks at Fleming Park really stepping in and putting on some events. I genuinely hope they get back on an even keel and the innovation can restart soon as the problems have resulted in it slipping back to old models of operation that are far from ideal. Again, I think that hole may have been escaped and in 2015 I hope they are on the path forward.

British Judo has been interesting, it hosted two strong events (Commonwealth Games and Glasgow Open). And in 2015 will host the European Championships in Glasgow. The europeans will be good I am sure. It will be a challenge for the BJA to step up from opens but I am confident they will put on a good event.

In 2014 I continued to be a open voice of opinion in the BJA. Where as many are hesitant/afraid to speak out I have no problem in doing so. I have no elite player I am coaching and have nothing to lose; so have a more free voice than my colleagues.

There have been some really positive signs coming from the BJA. Kerrith Brown and the Board do appear to be at least trying to get the BJA back on track. It can be hit and miss, but there are signs that they are trying to clean house and catch back up with the rest of the world.
Unfortunately it has not all been positive. They persist with Walsall which is a project that even after spending a day trying to persuade me by the Chairman and Performance Director I do not feel is the most effective direction for the BJA. It is not a disaster and to be fair they have little choice as the piss poor performances of the past mean that they have weak positions against the funding partners who are dictating what they do to a large degree in the performance programme. Rod Carr (and his board) I would contend has more influence on the direction of the BJA performance programme than the BJA does; which is sad and not I think good when we need radical change to escape the culture and status quo that persists in the BJA.

The BJA and British Judo community has proven a bit out of step with the rest of the world of Judo. We are isolated some what and have made some moves that raise eye brows.
The BJA signed a partnership deal with the UFC; the former Chairman took a CEO position with a MMA orgabisation. Quite a vocal proportion of the BJA community are obsessed with BJJ, MMA and UFC and it's cage fighting lesser orgainsations.
All at a time when the IJF is pushing hard to distance Judo from the world of MMA. The IJF, EJU and most of the wider international Judo community is from the perspective I have been fortunate to have been focussed on growing Judo and it's working. For me it hurts to see the BJA community of which I am a member of getting it so wrong and wanting to go down a path that the rest of the Judo community has looked at and went "no thats not for us".

Judo is (despite what people keep saying) not dieing. It is not getting smaller or worse. It is getting larger and more popular and better. It is gaining in fans and events and athletes.

A big issue we need to overcome is this idea of recreational and competitive Judo players. Of technical and competition dan grades.
The reality is that they are one in the same. One of the reasons that Judo is struggling in this country is because of this weird differentiation I feel. All Judoka should compete, not at the Olympics or with a "at all costs" approach. But we should all be enjoying the sport we have. To have a football club where 90%+ of the members never played a match is unthinkable, yet this is the norm in the BJA.
There is no seperation between competition player and kata exponent. There is no difference and we need to stop creating these artificial barriers.
Especially as when compared to the rest of the world, all but a few players in the UK are competition players and if the rest of the world had our perspective we would all be "mere recreational" players.
Of course the rest of the world does not have this warped perspective (on the whole); they see the 6 year old who comes to run around on the mats with his older sister as a Judoka. They see the 18 year old sister who competes at county level as a Judoka. They see the father who does kata and helps coach as a Judoka. All are equal and just in different places in the art of Judo. None of which are inferior to the other, just different.

We now have a large international circuit. 2014 saw the expansion of this circuit to include Junior and Cadet athletes. The team format continues to grow in popularity and significance. It is now a popular fixture in continental and world championships and the EJU leads the way in club based team events.

I saw first hand in 2013/2014 that our small local team based circuit was popular and successful. It has been an experiment that proved what is possible with little financial investment and only a small core of supporters.

I have been researching competitions formats in and outside of Judo and plan to contribute a document that outlines some ideas on how a BJA structure could be formulated.

We need to push hard to catch up with Europe and the world. Britain "was" the world leader in Judo and has a history of success both in Shiai and in the other important areas of Judo. But today we have lost that position. The BJA no longer performs well in competitions internationally and local competition is unstructured and low level at best.

We need to learn from our European Judo neighbours and learn fast. We also need to learn from other sports.

Mainly I think we (the British Judo community) need to re-learn what Judo is about. That it is about doing Judo at all levels. That the striving for competition is part of the path to improving yourself and to having the understanding to be a better person. That the technical skills you learn in competition assist your kata and vice versa.

We need to re-learn the meaning of sport, the meaning of it that existed in the late 1800s and early 1900s when our founder was active. That sport is more than just physical activity, that it is a way of life. That through sport we make ourselves better and our community.

We need to realise that only by competing do we learn and that our lack of competition success is a direct result of our lack of learning. We all need to compete against one another to learn and to improve and to make ourselves and the British Judo community better.

Alternatively, we can invent technical/competitive pathways; partner with cage fighting entertainment companies and continue to have no national competition structure and no international reputation.

We can continue to isolate the clubs and the coaches and continue to fester whilst the rest of the Judo world expands and shines.

I know which vision I want to be part of and what vision I want the Judoka I am involved with to share.


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