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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Finding a club and a visit to Eston Grange Judo Club. 

Last night I had a great time visiting the Eston Grange Judo CLub in Middlesbrough (BJA Northern Area, England).

I have always loved visiting new clubs and it gives you an opportunity to see new things which is vital as a player and as a coach.

In Eston Grange I learned a nice new Ne-Waza turnover variation that I didn't know before. It was simple and effective, and something that would still now be on my radar had I not taken the time to visit a new club.

To the credit of the club, it was welcoming and friendly. If you are in the area I can recommend the club to you, they were very nice! If you are in Middlesbrough I can recommend you pop along to ESTON SPORTS ACADEMY on a Monday night and give it a go.

And now the bad news....

The BJA website is still a fail.
Here I am away from home, looking for a Judo club and it is still not easy enough to find a Judo club. Especially if you do not know the area.

I to be fair have a dreadful sense of direction and knowledge of geography, but I looked in the wrong "area" for a club before a friend corrected me and pointed me at the northern area section of the BJA club list.

And it got worse not better from that point. Once having got to a BJA area list of clubs, you can not narrow it down any further than that! So the only way I could find Middlesbrough clubs was to search through the list for Middlesbrough.

This is bad as I don't know what the surrounding towns/villages are called. Also the list has no info on where the club is I had to call/email the club to find out where they actually train.

The problem being that if the club had not called me back I would not have gone to Judo last night. And I am not your average person looking for a club. I was on a mission to visit a club. Would your average parent or player looking for a club have the extra time to contact a selection of clubs to find the closest one?

Also how do I tell what sort of club it is, no "Kitemark". No indication of level of training. No indication of prices etc.

Come on BJA, that website project of yours that we keep getting told is coming has so far delivered very little.


(P.s. I suppose I should disclose that I am actually working on an online Dojo listing system)
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Sir Martin Sorrell "The Digital Revolution" at IOC Congress. 

IOC Congress 2009
I have just finished watching Sir Martin Sorrell speak at the International Olympic Committee Congress in Copenhagen. His talk was on the digital revolution and is from his perspective as Chief Executive of a worldwide marketing company, WPP.

The talk itself is dry and very corporate, but the underlying message is one that we in sport need to understand and get ahead of the curve on. Especially we Judo people.

For me the talk was in a way great ego-boosting stuff.
Sir Martin Sorrell basically validated everything I shared in my "Coaching Digital Natives" talk.

The perspective was/is very different but the message is the same. The world has changed, young people are different and if you/we don't change; you are doomed to obscurity.

Since I gave the first Digital Natives talk back in March 2008 things have moved on a bit. For example, the BJA have started getting into the fray this year. They now have a facebook page (in fact that one in addition to my ORIGINAL BJA facebook group), BJA Youtube videos and a BJA twitter account.

They are taking babysteps, but every journey starts somewhere and to use another analogy its better to come to the party late than to miss it all together right?!

So, back to the IOC congress; I suggest you visit the IOC page and its videos. The talks are long, very dry and high level corporate... but if you have an interest in the future of sport, it is must see stuff.


P.s. Huge thanks to for giving me the "heads-up" on the IOC congress video stream.
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What a difference a a few weeks makes... 

Last weekend the British Judo Association (BJA) hosted the biggest event the hold, the GB World Cup. A mere few weeks after the 2009 World Judo Championships in Rotterdam.

And wow what a difference a few weeks can make.

I sit here contemplating the massive difference in internet based content the BJA created over the weekend and compare it to the complete lack from the further away, but more important World Championships.

Now, due to other commitments I could not attend the competition, but the BJA did a quite amazing job of keeping me up to date. Especially amazing given the way the world champs got covered.

The BJA was twittering ( ), updating the Facebook page ( ) and also updated the actual BJA website too ( )!!

Now... as any regular reader of this blog will know, I have been an outspoken critic of the BJA and especially of the BJA internet presence. In fact I get accused of "bashing them" on many occasions.

But this week I have nothing to complain about, scary I know, but true. The BJA did a really great job of sharing information from Birmingham on the web, pretty awe inspiring given the state of the BJA internet presence to date.

Which is why I sit here writing this web post. I felt the need to confess to being impressed by the efforts of the BJA, and given my constant berating when they get it wrong, it is only fait that I give them credit when credit is due, don't you think?

So, I hope you will all join me in applauding the BJA for the fine first steps into the modern internet!

I hope that the weekend exposes them to how todays internet works, about how tools like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and web pages can bring the membership closer to the association.

I hope the success of the weekend encourages the BJA to use Twitter more, to encourage the staff (and the association) to share more online. I'd hate for it to go quiet at BJA HQ now, for the weekend to be an anomaly rather than a new direction for them.

It was such a good effort on the weekend, build on it, bring us with you on the journey. If you bring us with you we'll follow you and support you. Leave us in the dark and expect the pitch forks and torches to come and eject you from your castle.

Finally, well done to the athletes of the GBR team of course!
Their fine performances of course gave the BJA something positive to talk about. I wish I could have been there to shout for you, but as it turns out you did well without me! ;-)

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On the community of Judo... 

The last post about the World's and the BJA got a fair bit of traffic (Hi everyone). Some was negative, some positive.

This evening, I have catching up with the various things I am supposed to be reading; books, journal articles, blogs, etc. In my reading I came across a quote from the creator of the PHP programming language.

PHP, for those less geeky than me is a programming language really popular on the web; this blog runs on software written in PHP. As do many many of the sites you visit everyday, including the BJA website,, etc.

Rasmus Lerdorf created the language and was recently interviewed and the following leapt out at me:

"...When they felt that they now owned a slice of PHP, they started getting defensive. Instead of complaining to me about things – once they got ownership, and power, the whole atmosphere changed. And it got a lot more fun as well, because I didn't feel like it was just me against the world any more; now it was a real team effort...."
(from ... ?artc_pg=2 via ... h-php.html )

This struck home to me, given some of the discussions that have arisen as a result of my blog post. If you replace "PHP" with "JUDO", it pretty much sums up my reaction to some of what I see in the Judo world everyday.

An issue that the BJA has in my view is this; the community is pretty negative about them. By which I mean the grassroots clubs (and yes I am generalising here) don't feel they have "ownership" or "power" in their own organisation. They do not feel (and again this is just my opinion) that they "own a slice" of the BJA.

This extends to the performance programme.
There are a small minority I suggest that feel they are part of the BJAs performance programme. Which as Rasmus' quote suggests may be the cause of a lot of problems.

Today I watched a motorcross display from a professional motorcross team, the number of times I heard the rider commentating saying that without us they could not do the tricks was quite amazing. We were just watching, but they took the time and effort to try and make us feel like we were part of the team. They are partly right, would any of those guys do those stunts if everyone was booing or just not there?

Now, what about in a Judo context? Do the British (substitute your nation here) Judo Association make a genuine effort to make the average Joe feel like they are part of the performance team? A part of the administrative team ? If you are reading this, do you think your NGB makes the club coach in the back of beyond feel like he/she is an integral part of the Olympic team programme? Do they even try?

I am going to presume the answer to the above is no from here on in ok. So if we accept that getting the general public onboard with your programme has value, how do you do it?

That of course is the million dollar question!

So, in an effort to provide some solutions as well as finding flaws, here are two ideas I think are worth considering.

1. Start Conversations.
You want to start talking to people about what they think. Start creating ways of helping people b*tch and moan at you. And don't ignore it, listen and reply.

The Judo community is fascinated with Judo. Talk to them, find out what they want to know, what they know. What do they think? Do they agree or disagree with you?

If you disagree, then make sure both your perspectives are voiced, listened to, understood. Identify where and why you disagree, identify where you agree, build on the areas where you agree.

2. Don't Broadcast, Share.
Press releases are a necessary evil, suitable for trying to get your story on the radio, TV or in the paper. They are NOT suitable for talking to your community, your members.

Don't blast a corporate message at people, share the goals, the plans, the people. Share the day to day grind, get people on your side by letting them share the experiences you are going through.

Don't hide bad news, don't succumb to the temptation to only tell people about the good things, to try and "spin" everything. It is dishonest and people hate that.

Please do let me know what you think of these two simple ideas. I reply (eventually) to all emails people send me ( ). So agree or disagree, let me know.


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The 2009 World Judo Championships and the British team. 

This year I was able to attend the World Judo Championships in Rotterdam, Holland; in this post I want to talk a little about the event and the British teams performance there.

So... the event.
The 2009 World Judo Championships were fantastic! I sadly only managed to stay for two days, but enjoyed my time there. I attended the research symposium the day before and watched the competition with interest.

The Judo on display was, as you would expect, of the highest quality. The skill of the Judo athletes was amazing, the physical condition was amazing too. There were many many Ippons, especially in the earlier rounds where there is a bit more of a mismatch in level. But even the final block had many Ippons and wonderful throws.

The atmosphere was great (and seemingly got better on the weekend), the Dutch organisers put on a good show and it ran smoothly and the extras around the venue were good. Flags on streets advertising the event, posters all over town, big deal for a big deal.

It was good to see the event manager for the Judo at the London 2012 Olympics in attendance, I hope some ideas were gained.

The British Team.
First up, Karina Bryant won Silver! This is her 7th World medal ( see ... rotterdam/ for more ), which is an amazing feat!

Sally Conway gave UK, the next best result.

And there were some good performances amongst the team, despite the result.

And here is my issue...
Margaret Hicks (performance director), is quoted on the BJA website as saying that the team is '...“on the right track” in the build-up to the London Olympics...' which is a scary thought don't you think?

The BJA website also states that the target for the World Championships was two athletes in the top 8. Now at the last worlds in 2007, Britain got 7 athletes in the top 8, and 2 medals. Prior to that in 2005 Britain got 4 athletes top 8, and 3 medals.
So the question is what has changed that required such a drastic lowering of expectations?

Especially when you look at the 2012 target, how can the BJA have a target of 2 athletes in top 8, especially when Karina Byant is a multiple medalist at World level?? Also on the team was Peter Cousins, who in 2005 made the second round and in 2007 got a silver medal!

Lets talk also about Sarah Clark, who has been the top performing Brit this year (until Karina's medal on the last day). She was on the team and without going into deep analysis won silver at the Europeans this year.

When you have three athletes there alone that one would have expected to make top 8. Then there is Sally Conway who won the German Open in July, got 5th at the Tornoi de Paris. Ashley McKenzie got second at the German Open too. Colin Oates got 5th at both the German Open and Tiblisi World Cup. Winston Gordon got 7th at the last worlds, and 5th at this years German Open.

To me I would have expected a target to be a little more than 2 athletes in top 8! To me, that target was far too low, to the point of insult.

As it turns out, the target was only just achieved thanks to Sally Conway and Karina Bryant. I worry about this also, as I don't think it is a lack of talent or ability.

My first warning sign was observing the GB team arrive on the first day. I saw two memebers (not athletes) arrive by Taxi and walk around the building. A few minutes later a gaggle (maybe 7-10 people) of GB team members walked back around that corner and into the venue building. A few minutes later, they all trapsed back again.

Now... I am not privy to the inner working of the GB team, but to me I saw two people arrive on their own (late??). Then I saw a team that did not know where they were supposed to be, or what they were supposed to be doing, or when.
Now, this is just what I saw, I am biased and it may have been all good and fine.

This was in stark contrast to the Japanese team that were slickly managed and organised. They had a lady who seemed to appear magically 5 minutes before the team. She was obviously the team manager/administrator/logistics person.

Next we have (and I have argued this one on the BJA forum) the complete disaster which was the BJA coverage of the event... or lack of coverage.

Basically, they did not have anyone updating the website. They had one two day update on Friday, then another today on Tuesday (after the bank holiday weekend); which was basically only about Karina.

The BJA was one of the few major countries that did not update their website. My feeling is that the BJA should have had at least one person in Rotterdam whose sole role was to update the website so the membership, press, etc could get some darn info!

Whilst I sent some updates and met the lady from USA Judo who was updating their website with pictures, updates. She posted realtime info
via Twitter too.

Returning to the team performance...
It is worth considering the status of GB Judo. We have moved to a centralised system based at Dartford under Patrick Roux and Jane Bridge.

Now consider that the two people who managed to get GB the result they needed (for funding as the BJA website states), are from Edinburgh and Camberley. These are two areas that have performance programmes that have been in conflict with the BJA plan. Scotland have basically told the BJA that they are not going to Dartford. Todays web story does mention the TWO training centres. Since when was two centres part of the plan? Has it changed?
If so, what about Camberley? Camberley being home to 3 members of the Worlds team, perhaps it should be the third training centre?

Now. I am not saying I think Dartford is bad, nor that the team in Dartford is bad. I have all the respect in the world for Jane and Patrick. Some of the support staff I have alot of time for them too. I might have respect for others too, if the BJA ever told us who they are hiring.

But... is Dartford right for British Judo right now? For a team that needs to be ready for the 2012 games?

Other Sports and Judo?
In recent weeks, we have seen the World Championships in Swimming, Athletics and Judo. The GB teams in both Swimming and Athletics had great success and had young players who really looked like they might be good for 2012. British and even world records fell like skittles. Personal bests seemed to be set by every member of the GB teams.

And in Judo we had.... one big performance, Karina equalling her silver world medal against one of the best players in her generation. The rest of the team failed to medal and a majority failed to win a fight.

I am not having a go at the athletes, I am having a go at the performance management team.

The British teams performance has been poor, not just in this event but at Beijing and prior to that. We have been given excuses and talk of foundations etc. Which may well be the case, but the harsh reality of sport is winning is everything and British Judo is not winning.

What worries me is that British Judo is on a path, one that is failing to show signs of light. It is getting worse, performing at lower levels than in the past. Remember those stats from above, this is the worst performing team in the last 3 world championships.

In other sports I think we would have seen heads roll after Beijing, we would have seen heads roll after the europeans, we would be seeing them now... but we won't I don't think.

We are now scarily close to 2012, and I can see a painful week of Judo in August 2012. Do we want a week like we have had in Rotterdam? Will Karina be there to save British Judo?

Time is running out and yet there does not seem to be any accountability in British Judo for the failures. The centralised system in Dartford is unpopular amongst many people, big and small.

Is now the time for GB Judo to take a good long look in the mirror and decide if they genuinely think that they are going to get success in 2012 under the present regime? Or is it time for a last minute change of course, it is possibly too late already, but a radical change I think is still possible and possibly could bring success.

Is it time for GB Judo to give up on the Dartford experiment and invest its precious resources in Camberley and Edinburgh? Is it time to allow those two centres to dictate the direction?

If not, what changes need to happen within the programmes to turn things around and to get the increasingly disillusioned membership back onboard?

Time will tell.

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