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?


Administrator (Lance Wicks) 

the general outline for the 5 day camp was this:
1. Bow at edge
2. Bow at the mark
3. Step Forward
4. Raise hands to shoulder height, ready to grip
5. Left hand grip
6. Right hand grip
7. Left hand grip
8. Move
9. Throw

It has been validated partially through what Patrick Roux is promoting now in the UK. The grip pattern is the basic grip pattern I learnt via repetition in Japan. Grab low on lapel, feed the lapel grip, grasp the sleeve, move and throw.

The intention was to give the players a structure and plan for the start of the match. So they knew what to do from the get go. No indecision. Firm strong positive start.

It was not related to etiquette or anything like that. Psychological really, just give them a structure so they are not thinking about what to do. No fears caused by not knowing what to do etc.

It came from watching video of the players and noticing indecision, mainly from being inexperienced I suspect. Long time ago now so I can't be accurate of course.

Tristan Greaves 

Nice article. Out of interest, what did your session plans regarding bowing onto the mat etc cover? What was the intention?


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