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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Teaching using principles rather than techniques. 

Judo clubs all over the world are doing what you do, teaching people Ippon Seoi, O Goshi, O Soto Gari, etc. You'll have seen it, done it, got the tee shirt. But here is the thing, should we be teaching throws or should we be teaching USING throws?

Judo is fundamentally governed by mechanics right? Levers and all that good stuff, so do we teach how these things work in a Judo context, or, do we teach throws and hope the students learn the principles underlying?

Here is my practical example.

Tonight I was coaching at the HMS Collingwood Judo Club and what we covered was not any selection of throws. Tonight we worked on the idea that Many throws consist of stopping the lower body, whilst allowing and/or propelling uke's upper body onwards.

We started with some footsweeps. Moving forward, backwards, sideways, etc. Later we started doing some forwards and backwards throws.
Specifically we did Taio Toshi, Tsurikomi Ashi, Okuri Ashi Barai and O Uchi Gari.

But these were only methods of exploring the principle.

Yes, as we did Taio I helped them get the throw right. BUT... I was not focussed on the specifics of where the left foot goes or right hand goes. Rather, I tried to focus on if they understood that the the idea was that their partners upper body kept coming forward and they stopped the lower body from moving, bang!

When we worked on O Uchi Gari, I did not focus non the sweep or footwork. I watched to see if they tried/succeeded in stopping that leg going backwards and kept their partners body moving backwards.

The point here being that what I was really looking for was for the players to express physically their understanding of the principle.

In later classes I intend to explore other Judo principles. Of course we shall have sessions that are all about the specific techniques, but hopefully the players will have gained a personal understanding of the principles FIRST.

I'd be interested in your experiences, thoughts and opinions... Perhaps I am messing up these players? Please drop me an email to or pop a comment here on the blog.

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Reviewing Judo Performance. 

Hi all,
This week I had Judo to teach/coach at both Alresford Judo Club and at HMS Collingwood. Alresford was kids and we were lucky to have Ray Whitfield, Michael Pring and Steve Lainsley there. The classes are growing in size and the kids are adapting to the changes with me teaching there.

At the HMS Collingwood Judo Club, we had a light session.
The reason we started light is because we started by reviewing how one of the players there competed on the previous weekend. Sadly the battery on the video camera died, but we were able to go over how he fought and what worked and what did not.

This is what made me think about writing this post.

Judo coaching, is NOT about teaching people how to throw people; at least in my opinion. Judo "coaching" for me is about creating opportunities for Judo athletes to learn how to win at the sport of Judo and also give them opportunities to polish the required skills.

So, after a player competes I feel it is a good opportunity to help them learn. They learn from the event itself, reviewing it gives a second opportunity. If you have video, they may see things they did not feel on the day. You can rewind and watch the bits that matter to the player. Even if you don't, mental review is powerful too.

This review is a good opportunity to allow your players to share with you how they think the event went. Where they did well, where they did things wrong. You can take the opportunity to discover what your player's perception of their performance was/is. So you need to consider biting your tongue and listening to your player before sharing your perspective.

It is important that you look at the positives. I would tend to say that with most athletes you want to highlight what went well rather than what went wrong. Look for areas where the player did what you worked on in the Dojo.
Of course, you need to cover the errors, but positive feedback is normally better than negative.

Once you have watched and/or discussed the performance, get on the mat and do some Judo. Perhaps act out the match, and redo what they did right. Perhaps go to the point where it went wrong and get your athlete to do it the way you planned this time. Establish a good performance; so to speak.

In the longer term, you might want to use video analysis as a tool to help your player measure success. Video can be useful to give your player a visual library of their and their opponents Judo.

Start with your players training in the club. Pop a camera on a tripod and get your player to do their throw or ne-waza, a number of times. Do it regularly, preferably from the same angle and location. Then you can compare development overtime.

Next film them in competition, you can catalog the fights in a wide variety of ways. For a start, record the event (of course), date, location, record the name of the opponent.

Now you could start recording elements in the fights. For example, which way the players grip, what movement they show. What balance breaking occurs, what attacks/thows; what ne-waza.
If you can link (probably via software) the action to actual video and collate them by action, you have a great tool.

Then, you could click a few buttons and get everytime your player fights a lefty. Or see every time they had been attacked by an Uchi Mata. Or see everyone of their Juji Gatame attacks.

Overtime you shall grow a powerful reference tool for your players to use to learn from.

Give it a go; please let me know what you try and what results you start to see.

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2012 here we come!!!! 

So this weekend the first event in the official qualification period for the London 2012 will be held, this is it, the big one!

The games start now for the Judoka of the world, from this weekend every result matters. Every point gained is another point towards being on the mat at the biggest Judo event the UK will probably ever see!

Now the rest of this post is political in nature, so turn off your eyes now if you don't want to hear my rant!



I live in the UK, I am a member of the BJA and I care about how British Judo does in 2012. The BJA has a big budget for this Olympics, huge by comparison to my native New Zelaland. There are 18 staff listed on the BJA's High Performance website including two of Britain's female World Champions (Jane Bridge and Kate Howey). They have a stunning dojo and all the rest.

The elephant in the room however is the level of disquiet in the BJA.

I, for example, have been a vocal critic of the BJA. I have asked questions publically about the past performances and the direction of the performance programme in British Judo. I have complained regularly about the BJA's approach to IT and the web in particular. And area they don't understand and are stumbling regularly in.

However, despite what some people think, I am a HUGE supporter of the BJA. That is why I have always voiced my concerns, because I support the idea of the BJA and want the organization to succeed.

So why do I bring this up?

I mention it, because this weekend is the "point of no return" for British Judo. Qualification begins and all bets are final. It is too late for the BJA to change direction, this is the situation and the opportunity to make changes is gone.

And it may also be a good thing.

Now that we are committed to this direction, the rank and file of the BJA need to forget the past and commit to the path chosen. The time is past to debate the direction and the time is past to suggest changes.

What "we" need to do is get 100% behind the BJPI programme and try and help each and every athlete in what ever little ways we might be able to.

Now, some might see what I am writing today and say it is contrary to what I have said in the past. And this is true. I am contradicting what I've written as I'd have liked to seen change... past tense.

Now, the reason I wrote the critiques in the past and that I write this post today is the same... I care about the athletes and what they are trying to achieve. I've not felt that the system is right, but as I have said above, the die is cast and now there is no point trying to make change, now we support what is there and the athletes who are the ones that matter!

So what should "we" do and what shall I be doing.

As of right now, the only thing that matters is the athletes.

Perhaps you and your club can adopt a player? You can write to them c are of the BJPI and say that you are supporting them. When they compete you can care about the result and put the wins on the noticeboard at the dojo. Put up pictures, posters.Maybe take a group of people to competitions and make as much noise as possible when your chosen player fights.

Perhaps this support might lead to a wealthy parent in your club donating to the cause. Maybe someone in your dojo has a skillset that the athlete needs? For example, maybe your athlete needs say... a website ;) and maybe someone within your club could help?

Maybe over the next two years you will build a relationship with the athlete your club has chosen. Maybe when that player is feeling the pressure of the struggle to be an Olympian they might think of all the members of your club and find it helps.

Maybe, you and your club could attend BJPI randori session regularly.

Maybe, you and your club could write to the BJPI and pledge your support and ask them how you can lend your support?

Me... well time will tell, I am starting with this blog post. I am publicly restating that I support the BJPI athletes. That should they need some "geek" stuff, I am happy to help. I've offered in the past and continue to offer to help, we have from now till 2012 to cover a huge amount of progress, and if some geek help from me makes that journey easier for a single athlete; then I am there!!

I've met some of the Olympic hopefuls, British and otherwise. I hope they knew it already, but in case they didn't... I support them 100%.

And so should you!

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Welcome to The Edge! 

The Edge @theedge on Twitpic
This weekend I attended the opening of The Edge's new Dojo at The Stow in Harlow. It was a great event and it was terrific to see one of my colleagues from the EJU Degree course in his new Dojo.

Mark Conway hosted a fun day which was attended by the club members, some local people and also several of the people from the EJU Degree. Bob Challis from Comberton Judo Club (and ARU) attended as did Nigel Thompson from Elite Strength and Conditioning and Norwich Premier Judo Club. Danny Murphy of the Budokwai and Hampshire Junior Squad manager was there too.

I was fortunate to be able to spend some time showing the junior members of The Edge some "Cowboy Judo" direct from OKCDT. ;-)

It was a pleasure and a great privilege to attend the opening and to be allowed to coach the players there.

So thanks to everyone involved and good luck with the new home!
If you live in Harlow (UK) or are passing by, pop your head in the door and say hello.

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Emotional Content... not anger! 

Hi everyone,

This week has been great, Judo is back in full swing at the Alresford Judo Club and at the HMS Collingwood Judo Club. As I’ve mentioned before the cultures of both clubs are quite different. Alresford is Juniors only, with a focus on the wider elements of Judo; for example this week we covered Taio Toshi and the idea of emotional content within Judo matches/fights.

By this I am referring to the famous quote of Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon” where he is working with a student and says “Emotional content; not anger”. This is very true of Judo IMHO. We as Judoka have this great opportunity to release stress etc by fighting hard amongst ourselves. The anger of a hard day at work, annoyance from teachers or parents is fuel for the engine that drives us in Randori/Shiai. In the Monday session I was trying to express this to the kids, explaining that they were very lucky that in Judo they have a way of expelling the “cross feelings” that everyone gets sometimes.

I told them that I (unlike their teachers or parents) actually want them to bring that energy to the class and express it physically through their “fighting” on the mat… and only on the mat! Of course I didn’t encourage them to beat each other up. The message is that I wanted them during Randori to be using the “emotional content” to attack with energy and purpose, rather than limply moving about and sticking legs in the way.

Wednesday’s session with the Navy people at HMS Collingwood is a very different affair. They are all seniors/adults and due to being in the military all of good fitness (especially if we were to compare them to the general public I suspect). Also, they have a competition focus; which affects how I design the programme there. We spend less time on the history and cultural elements of Judo and most of our time on Judo as a Game/Sport.

At the end of May they are competing in a competition; so we are focussing on what they need to do to win at that event. This is quite different to helping people to perfect their technique, learn techniques or understand the culture of Judo; or try and develop people through Judo physically and mentally. Those are elements of Judo that presently at the club we are not working on; we are working on winning the fights at the end of May.

This is entirely different to trying to teach them great technique, strategy, tactics, etc. This is about preparing people to win. Sure, those things if you have them will/might result in a win, but they are not pre-requisites to winning in Judo necessarily. Winning is about scoring more points than your opponent… that’s it. To score points you need to throw your opponent, or hold them down or make them submit. You don’t need to have perfect technique to do this necessarily.

So the session focussed on the players own Judo, what they felt was their successful waza, when then worked backwards and looked at their kumi kata (grips) and how these need to integrate together to be successful. Rather than prescribing how they should do things, they worked on their own techniques and found their own solutions. I tried to help, but mainly it was the player and their partner working out what felt right and what worked.

Later in the session we had Randori in which we focussed on using what we had been working on. What often happens is that players start a fight following “the plan” then part way through start improvising and that can be disaster. So as coach, I tried to watch for this, then if they strayed off “the plan” I would encourage them back to what they had been working on.

This week I have been taking a break from “Judo Geekery”, by which I mean I am not writing any code this week on www.dojolist,org or (or anywhere else) as I have put quite a bit of time into the DojoList code recently and had a heavy blast getting the Planet Judo iPhone application completed and submitted to the App Store (still pending review from Apple).

I also knocked out my first 5 mile run in far too long this week, on Tuesday evening. It was nice to get back to a level that I haven’t been at for quite sometime. I know there are differing views on running for Judo; especially distance running. But personally I think running has a valuable place in Judo training… and lets not forget I am not a Judo athlete in peak fitness. Running for me is as much as calorie burn as cardio-vascular development. It has little to do with my Judo fitness, other than my general fitness.

Lastly, this weekend I am really looking forward to visiting my EJU Degree colleague Mark Conway’s new dojo! I’ll be taken a session I think along with some other guests. Mark has had a permanent dojo in/near Harlow for sometime and this is a new permanent place. I am hoping to learn about how it all works as I’d like to do similar things down here in Hampshire (see ). I’ll have my video camera and my audio recorder with me, so hopefully will post some stuff online afterwards.

If you are attending, please say hello! Be sure to check out their website too at


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