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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Exclamation mark Blog by Lance Wicks



Run Forest Run! Or have you mapped your Judo training programme? 

Many of you who know me, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook or even know me in real life; know I am running a half marathon on February 13th, 2011.

I will be running to raise money for Mahana Clutha who is a young Judo athlete from my country, New Zealand. We are collecting your very kind donations at

I looked at the training I have done for this race and here are some of the numbers:

Started training: 19 October 2010.
Time training: 44 hours and 23 minutes.
Miles run: 239.1.

I have followed a thoughtful programme, I have rediscovered my own training limits and adjusted accordingly. I am completely prepared for this race. It is 13 miles and I know I can run it. I know this because I have trained for it and in my training I have run 239 miles and have run upwards of 16 miles in a training run more than once.

Looking and thinking about my training has had me thinking about Judo training.

I know precisely how many miles and hours that I have trained. I knew exactly what I was setting out to do on every run. I had a nice clear goal and I knew how long I had to train for it. I also had an understanding and belief that the programme I was following was going to get me ready to perform.

The question that I have in my mind is this:

"Do you have a detailed long-term training programme for your Judo which translates into a session by session plan?"

Can you quantify your training or your athletes training? Can you match what you had planned for a session against the training programme? Can you map the long-term goals against a plan and know that what you (or your athletes) are doing in this session matches what needs to be done?

In our world, we have a couple of variables:


We can tweak both and have to, you can't have both at 100%. We need to balance how much training we do (volume) against how hard we train (intensity).

You need both, so your training programme has to slide up and down the percentages. For example, near a competition you want to ramp up intensity perhaps to get players operating at a higher level.

If you are building base fitness, then maybe lower intensity and a lot more volume. Of course, the period immediately before the competition you might taper the intensity and volume.

The question then becomes, how do you know how and when to change the variables if you don't have a plan? So you need to plan, it's really key to going from being a Judo player and a Judo athlete.

As a coach; you are probably going to be the person who does the planning (at least initially). You need to think in the big picture/long term. You need to also consider the plans of every athlete under your care.

If you don't have a long-term, medium term, daily and session plan. You won't be giving your best to those under your care.


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Help an athlete out in 2011 

Hello everyone and welcome to a new year and a new decade! It’s one more year until London 2012 and the Olympic games. The Judo athletes around the world are ramping up for the biggest event in their careers. They are working harder and longer, fighting harder and harder for those few prized qualification spots and for the big shiny gold medal in August 2012.

It’s the biggest challenge any Judo athlete can face and takes superhuman effort to get there let along win there.

I am fortunate to have met Olympian Judo athletes past, present and future. Just today I was at the famous Camberley Judo Club for a mid day open Randori with some young Judo athletes who are all either trying to make 2012 or 2016 and beyond.

Being a Judo athlete is a tough job, tougher than being an office worker or some such. Not only do you have to train/work everyday you work weekends too. And “work” means physically and mentally torture... of your own choosing! You run, push weights, sweat and strain. You battle and fight and hurt yourself and others. You will get injured, you will get hurt, you will feel pain, lots of pain.

So, what I would like you to do as your new years resolution is find yourself a Judo athlete (or group of athletes) and look at what you might be able to help them a little bit. If each person that reads this blog helps one athlete a tiny bit, a whole lot of athletes will be better of, feel better for knowing people out there care and perhaps be able to train better, harder, more or make it one step higher on the podium in London 2012!

So, what can you do? For a start, you can go and meet one. Watch them at a competition and shout for them at the top of your lungs! You might have a skill that they or their team could use? Perhaps you are a nutritionist or run a gym or are a physio or accountant? They might need your direct help. Maybe you can support them financially? Put some money into the training fund, or travel fund, or pay for a competition entry fee.

For me, my focus is on Kiwi Judo athlete Mahana Clutha and her colleagues at the Camberley Judo Club; training under the watchful eye of coach Luke Preston. I have been trying to lend a hand here and there where I can both with Mahana and the club. This year I’ll be doing more hopefully, and it starts now!

In February, on the same day Mahana fights the World Cup in Austria, I shall be running a Half Marathon along the Portsmouth Coast (yes, there will be mud!). It’s 13 and a bit miles, and last month I ran over 60 miles in training.
Why do I bring this up? Because I have decided to use the half-marathon as an opportunity to raise some money for Mahana. Sadly, she receives zero funding, so her expensive competition and training schedule needs paying for out of her own pocket. Which given she has no income is somewhat of a problem, as you can imagine.

So, what I would like to ask is that you click the Pledgie button below. This will take you to a easy donation system (using Paypal) that will allow you to donate a few pounds/dollars towards the many thousands of pounds that her 2011 budget requires and currently lacks!

Click here to lend your support to: Half-Marathon for NZ Judo and make a donation at <a href="" target="_blank" ></a> !

Please consider donating, every little donation will make a big difference!

So, in summary, I’d like you to help a Judo Athlete. Help in anyway you can, be it financially (say donate above to Mahana) or through what you do for a job. When 2012 rolls around and you are looking the medal winner you will be able to stand proud and be able to tell the person next to you that you helped that medallist!

The alternative of course is that when 2012 rolls around you might have some nagging guilt to live with. Not that I am pressuring you!! ;-)


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Reflection on my own coaching. 


Hi all,

I have been a busy coach, I have been introducing kids to Judo at the Alresford Judo Club, Perins School and students at the Southampton Solent University Judo Club. And of course coaching the sailors at HMS Collingwood Judo Club.

It is fascinating coaching these different groups and seeing what works consistently across them all and those ideas and techniques that only seem to "take" with one or another group.

With the kids classes, I have taken half a term focussing (almost) solely on the BJA Mon grade syllabus and the requirements the kids needed to pass the informal grading we held on the last session before the half-term break. The Grading was attended by Keith Adams (BJA Hampshire County Chairman) who kindly came along and played the "bad cop" examiner.

With the university students I have been trying to cover a broad spectrum of Judo in the beginners session, so they have started with ne-waza, done some self-defence, learnt some throws and even explored elite Judo techniques.

With the Navy, most of the sessions have been performance specific. In that we are working on things the players themselves want to work on. We have worked on preparation for the Navy Champs and then looking at how they performed and doing sessions purely working on specific areas for each player.

Mixed in with all of this, I attended a UK Athletics course and I think gained a lot from being exposed to some new ideas from outside of Judo. I run a Running club (Well I founded one and technically run one), so I am hoping to further explore coaching by doing some more road running training and coaching and seeing how that affects me as a coach.

Over the past months, I have really tried to increase my time actually coaching. As Bob would put it, I needed to increase and improve my "craft". The EJU coaching courses, the blogging and the research has all improved my understanding and knowledge but actually coaching is improving my coaching craft and has been helping me develop.

I have been watching more and more high level Judo and deciding what I can show to the different groups I coach. I have also been involved more than ever before with the "Elite" level of Judo. Recently I was fortunate enough to be able to be a Matside coach at the GB World Cup and have been exploring the UK performance Judo world more than ever before in both theoretical and practical ways. This has been interesting and has highlighted that performance is all about the people and the systems, not about "secret sauce". You can have the best facilities, resources, budgets, ideas and still mess things up and a single person can be enough to make up for a complete lack of money, resources, facilities etc etc etc.

A highlight of recent months, was the opportunity to attend the Judo club of Karen Briggs MBE, 4x World Champion, 5X European Champion. I participated in a fantastic session at the club in Hull (here in the UK) and then sat down and recorded an interview with her for the podcast.
It was a great highlight to be able to talk with her and I was struck by the quality of the session she and her husband Peter put on and by her story of course.

In January, I hope to start on the EJU Level 6 (Masters Degree) coaching qualification. Which I am really looking forward to as I see it as a great opportunity to continue improving myself as a coach. The focus of this course is very different to the EJU 4 and 5 courses I have completed already and being in Rome not the UK it should be very interesting indeed.

All in all, I think my plans to increase the amount and type of coaching I do have been successful. I certainly am coaching more and am coaching a variety of sessions. This I hope is improving me as a coach, time will tell.

My view is that if you are going to try and improve athletes by coaching them, you have an obligation to try and improve yourself as a coach. This is the core reason why I have made myself go through the effort of doing the FdSc and BSc (EJU 4 & 5) and will be doing the Masters/level 6. The podcast, blogs and research are all for the same reason. My increase in coaching hours and (hopeful) improvement in my coaching craft I think is key if I am going to stand before any group of athletes and have a clear conscience when I coach them.

Anyway... this has been a bit of a personal reflection which I wanted to put out there as I strongly believe in "living out loud" and hope it is of interest to someone else out there perhaps. Maybe a coach or athlete who is curious about the inner machinations of a Judo coach. :-)


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Royal Navy Judo Championships 2010 

Last week, the Royal Navy held their annual championships at HMS Temeraire in Portsmouth, England. As I coach one of the Royal Navy Judo clubs (HMS Collingwood Judo Club) I went along to observe the players in action.

As I was there I took along my camera and filmed the fights (mainly so the performances of the guys I coach could be reviewed by them), and I threw together a highlights reel and have posted it on YouTube.

So, without further delay:

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Attacking the "Participation leads to Performance" myth. 

Please look at the picture below:

Scott Dixon

It is a photo of Scott Dixon, one of the top sports people in the world today. He is a driver in the US based Indy Car Series, and regarded one of the best drivers there is. Scott started racing cars at 13 years of age, he was racing salon and single seater cars with adults and performing admirably.

What is interesting about Scott when we talk about Judo and performance vs participation Judo is that Scott never “participated” in driving cars until he raced them (performance).

In New Zealand he could not participate in driving cars until he was 15. I.e. he could not get a drivers license until he was 15. He in fact had to get special permission to get his racing license at 13, and despite being allowed to drive on the track could not drive on the roads.

Scott is the best example I can think of to show that performance comes from doing performance (and performance training) NOT from participation in an activity. Scott had never “participated” in “recreational” driving. All he had done was race (perform). Initially in go Karts then in cars and now in some of the fastest vehicles in the world against the best in the world.

He never drove in recreational manner (like you and I would do, say going to work or on a Sunday) until after he became a high level performer. He won his first car racing title (against adults) before he could drive on the roads.

So why bring that up on a Judo Blog?

I bring up Scott Dixon because I regularly see and hear the discussions in Judo about the pyramid model. About how we need more people participating at “grass roots” if we want more medals. That more participation leads to more medals. That participation leads to performance.

Sure, some people go from recreational participation to performance Judo; but how many? And did they really do recreational Judo, or were they just performers trapped in recreational Judo until somehow they found a way out to performance Judo.

It is interesting to pose the question, would Scott have become the driver he is, had he started his driving in a participational manner. If rather than starting his driving in a competitive environment he’d simply gone to a driving instructor and learnt how to do parallel parking and 3 point turns would he have become a great racing driver?

I suspect the answer is no. Scott grew up around motorsport, his family were heavily involved in the sport and he started competing young. His love of racing was fuelled by racing and he got better and better until he became a world beater. Would driving around the suburbs obeying the road rules have fueled the passion for racing, would it have developed the skills needed to be the best? Or would he have become what the rest of us are, merely people driving cars to and from locations.

How does this relate to Judo?
In Judo are we providing environments where the passion to and for competiting is being fueled? Are our new members being taught to be Scott or to be a Bus driver or everyday commuter?

I personally feel that outside of a few small locations, we are producing bus drivers not racing drivers. And if we want success at the performance level (especially elite level), we need to address this issue and not always be about participation.

The top Judo nations and centres, do not provide recreational Judo. Japanese Judo (and I generalise) is about throwing and being a champion. The performance centres producing medals here in the UK (Scotland, Camberley, Bath, etc) are not recreational, participation clubs. Some provide recreational Judo as well, but they provide real competitive environments and a focus on the sport of Judo, not on participating in Judo as a hobby.

For me, I do not see a link between Participation and Performance. I see people stepping between the two different activities. Driving to the shops will NOT lead you to a career as a racing driver. Equally, Scott does not leap in his single seater race car and drive to the shops at top speed.

In Judo, attending a Judo club and doing Ukemi and a technique and some randori is not going to make you a champion. It is unlikely to develop the passion and the skills needed to make you a performer. At some point you will have to leave participation Judo and start performance Judo; if you want to become a performance Judoka.

We also need to consider the aptitude of the people coming to participation Judo and performance Judo. If someone enjoys participation Judo, it means they like doing Judo like that. If they enter into performance Judo and stay and like it they like competing.
It is very likely that the person who enters recreational Judo will not like performance Judo and vice versa. There will be those who enjoy both (me for example) and many enjoy both today, because that is simply what Judo is like. But, there are those who do Judo for winning competitions, so building performance programmes based on building participation is not a guaranteed winner. And is pretty much guaranteed to be a inefficient method of finding more performers.

As a sport, we need to acknowledge this and create ways that a young person can become a performer from day one. Then we may find the next Scott Dixon and from a early age they will develop the passion and skills to be a world beating Judo player.

National Governing Bodies and all the way down to clubs need to consider how we might break from the traditional club structures and build opportunities to build programmes that are purely about competition and not participation.

These programmes could develop young athletes faster and retain them better. Of course we do care about participation Judo, so we need to provide both. But currently, I would argue we provide solely participation Judo (especially for younger people) and don’t have any performance Judo programmes that start with absolute beginners.

My homework, and yours if you choose to try, is to think about how you might change the way you coach Judo to create a performance only programme in your environment.


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