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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Big vs. Little. How coaching players of different sizes changes what you must coach. 

Projection 2I am, or should I saw “was” a lightweight Judoka, I trained with a variety of coaches some dealt well with my size, some less so. Part of this had/has to do with coaches not changing what they taught to match me as a player. If you are coaching any group, you will have players of different sizes and will need to change the way you teach techniques.

A study published in 2007 identified the speed differences between heavy and light weight players (R. Almansba, 2007) and is a good example of how the dynamics of throwing alter based on size.
You might be not be surprised to find that they found that the light weights had more speed than the heavier players when using Seoi-nage, while the heavier Judoka have more speed when doing Uchi-mata. Basically they showed that throwing speed is related to the type of technique used and not weight category.

As a coach you need to be able to adjust the way you teach to match the player AND the techniques.

A common error is to adjust techniques to match big against small or vice versa. This is a bad idea as a heavyweight player is not going to meet a lightweight in competition. Ditto for coaching lightweights how to big the big boys. In running you sessions you will need to keep the weights apart, so that the players do not start adjusting/practising their techniques incorrectly for actual application against people of the right weight.

Size is also a key factor in deciding techniques your players should develop. As a young man I loved Uchi-Mata (and I still do), but sensible coaches made me focus on developing my Seoi Nage as I was very light and very short.

You must develop players carefully as a coach. Players may not wish to work on the throws that suite them according to the statistics and common sense. Players may wish to try different throws, especially if they are purely recreational players.

If you are coaching young people, you need to consider their eventual size and weight. You will want to meet Mum and Dad,brothers and sisters, etc. This will give you an idea of what size the child in your care is likely to become over time. You want to develop throws for this player for their future, not just for their short-term size and weight.

A comparative study of speed expressed by the number of throws between heavier and lighter categories in judo
Science & Sports, Volume 23, Issues 3-4, June-August 2008, Pages 186-188
R. Almansba, E. Franchini, S. Sterkowicz, R.T. Imamura, M. Calmet, S. Ahmaidi⁠
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Kesa Gatame Escape video from Mike at OKCDT. 

Mike over at has been at it again and gone and created a terrific coaching video with iMovie09 and posted it onto Youtube.

In this terrific video Mike demonstrates an escape from Kesa Gatame which transitions into him doing a Tate Shiho gatame or perhaps you might call it Tate Shiho Jime as it ends in a strangle.

The video is great as a bit on ne-waza, but also as an example of the quality of Judo you can get/put online via free tools like Youtube.

As I have said in my lectures about Coaching Digital Natives, as coaches you have to consider what is available online and if you don't think what is out there is up to your standard... post your own!

Mike is posting content that is useful to his students, are you?
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Teaching Judo via "Scratch" 

Below is an example Scratch project that might help you teach some elements of Judo to children.
Learn more about this project
If you can't see it try the url:

This little example application is created using a terrific project called "Scratch". Scratch is a very simple programming language and environment created by MIT. It makes it very easy to create games, animations, etc. It also makes it very easy to share and remix others creations.

Do take a look, you could easily take this small example and modify it to match your class syllabus. Then post it on your club website so that the children in your club can play it online and reinforce what they learn from you as the coach.

I am having brilliant fun teaching my kids (5 year olds) how to use Scratch themselves, so you do not have to be a computer guru to use Scratch.

CHeck it out at
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Player assessment and developing a coaching plan. 

Each week as a Judo coach you decide what to teach the students who attend your classes. But how do you decide what to teach/coach? In this post I'll look at this area and the issues relating to selecting what to teach.

There are two primary methods of deciding what to teach. The first is to pre-plan your classes as a programme, with little if any variation. Each session is part of the larger programme and as such there is no customisation of session content. This method is common on short-term courses and is used extensively in corporate training such as in my professional field of I.T. Each time a course is run, the content remains for all intensive purposes the same, no matter who the students are.

The second method is to tailor the lessons to the students. Your sessions deliver content that is matched closely to your students. This method provides your students with training that matches their needs most closely, maximising the learning opportunity for your students. However, the effort required is considerably larger than with the first method. The other issue is that you need to have a good methodology determine what your students need from you.

To decide what to teach; you need to know what your students need to learn.
A method of achieving this is to assess their abilities in the various areas of Judo skills. In Sport Skill Instruction for Coaches, Craig Wrisberg identifies 24 areas that skill demands that you can use as a guide to assess your students requirements. They are broken down into 3 commonly identified skill areas: Technical, Tactical and Mental skills.

Wrisberg suggests identifying for each area both the importance and the proficiency level of the athlete(s). Once you have identified the area that your players need to work upon, you can plan you classes accordingly.

In a Judo context you might expand this also to include Judo specific assessment, such as Kumi kata, Tachi Waza, Ne Waza, etc.

You might want to give each category a score out of 5 for the proficiency and importance. After you have made these assessment you will have a clear picture of the areas where your players should work.

You can apply the “work on weaknesses” approach, or the “build on your strengths” theories of training based on these assessments. Although it seems most appropriate for the first approach.

This level of assessment and session planning is probably most appropriate for those coaches working with players in competition, rather than those coaches teaching in schools or club contexts. In these situations a standard format syllabus might be the best plan.

If you have an up and coming player in the club/class you might consider this level of assessment to help the player identify their strengths and weaknesses. This may help empower the player to develop their own training programme or at least be more aware of themselves as athletes.

Knowledge is Power.


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Playing Smart.... 

Ura Nage
Tristan wrote a great post this weekend ( ... -stronger/ ) that I just had to comment on and extend on the part of it that grabbed my attention. In the post Tristan talks about teaching people good sutemi waza as opposed to just telling people not to do it.

Which is a great idea and I applaud the effort.

The problem is this, too often we see Judo players doing techniques that will end up getting them into trouble. Bad technique is one reason, and this is what Tris was addressing I think. However, the problem is bigger than that and an area I see that I do not see coaches doing is addressing the fact that some techniques no matter how well done are risky. Statistically they are a bad idea, and if you are coaching players to win matches you might need to consider just plain banning some techniques.

So here is the problem, some techniques are just risky to try in competition and the classic example of this is Ura Nage, or as most people do it the drag-back counter. If you get it or do it wrong, your back hits the floor and there is a damn good chance the referee is going to score against you.

The same is true of Tomoe Nage, and to be frank most sutemi waza. If your back his going on the floor then you run a risk of getting pinged for it. You need to be aware of this as a coach and if you are coaching Judo as a sport, you need to decide if you let your players do these sorts of techniques.

Whilst we are at it, you may want to take a good long look at O Soto Gari, it is quite risky. As are all foots executed on one foot. I am not saying that they are bad waza nor are they techniques that should be avoided. What I am suggesting is that as a coach (or player) you need to make a risk assessment.

You need to look at what you are teaching/coaching and consider if it is to risky for the player. Sutemi waza are pretty darn risky, you need to assess if the players probability of executing the technique successfully is higher than the probability that they do it wrong and they get penalised or scored against.

What are your players' safest throws? The ones that score regularly and do not put them at much risk? Is it perhaps a drop seoi? Ashi waza? It may not be a throw that results in a high score, perhaps it only gets kokas... sorry yuko now. But does it score regularly and safely?

Day 5 - Lay-up
In other sports they do this all the time, in Judo we do it poorly if at all. In basketball for example the “lay up” is considered a high percentage shot and favoured over the higher scoring 3-pointer. It is an easier shot, safer and it increases the chance of a defensive foul. The “lay up” keeps the scoreboard ticking over. What throws keep your players scoreboard ticking over?

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