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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2012 up to July. Perspective in Coaching. 

In summary, my 2012 up to July has been... "whew!".

This year has been hectic and tough and rewarding all rolled up into a pile of awesome. Outside of Judo I have been really busy, mainly earning a living writing code in Perl (see ) for boring nerdy details there.

On the Judo side I continue to coach my little kids club and the University club (almost) every week. The Alresford Club (kids) has been a challenge with our move almost a year ago to a new venue. The dynamic is very different in the hall but we are still growing slowly.
The club is more stable than ever, thanks in no small part to the amazingly reliable second coach there. Cherie is a fantastic coaching student at Winchester University and she gets there early every week, has taken on the challenge of planning terms and sessions and done a great job. The kids are very lucky to have her and I am even more lucky to have a second coach to rely on. Reliability is a much undervalued virtue!

The Uni club has taken some twists and turns but continues to be very rewarding. Thanks in part to the continued support of our local development officer and the staff of the university.

One of the initiatives I/we have started for the Uni is a league competition for them to compete in. As the majority are novices, existing competitions are all but useless to us. People their age are generally experienced players, so not much fun to fight against.
So we have held 3 test events and have a 6 month schedule planned from October for a team based Hampshire competition. This has been well received and we are very lucky that the university, BJA Hampshire and Hampshire County Council have all been supportive.

On the younger side of things, I again helped organise the the Judo side of the Hampshire Games. This is the largest sporting event in Hampshire, with about 3000 kids involved across a wide variety of sports.
As in 2011, we held local participation events that made players eligible for the main event on June 16th. This means more work (including myself and another great reliable person Steve Lansley) running 6 or so local competitions. Then the two mat event in Aldershot. Just like last year we were lucky to have great volunteers helping and I can't thank them enough.

So thats 10 events I've run this year; before we get to my amazing role as part of the EJU and IJF computer teams.

As my last blog post said, I got to go to the Senior European championships and amazingly was trusted to run the live internet video streams for the biggest event the EJU put on. I am still rather in shock by the trust that people put in me. I have just returned from Montenegro where I was part of the team that delivered the Cadet European Championships. I was head of IT for the Commonwealth champs in January and spent two weeks working in Hyderabad, India (not Judo).
I travelled with fellow EJU Coach Danny Murphy to the Malta Open with a small Hampshire team and later this year I'll be going to Croatia for the Junior European Championships and probably the Rome World Cup too.

So thats another 6 weekends gone (two more at least planned). So thats if I work it out anywhere near accurately 16 out of 27 weeks so far I have been away. Phew!!! No wonder I am struggling to balance things and to find a window to do things like a BJA revalidation event. WHich I need to get done ASAP.

I do strongly believe that you need to give to receive, meaning that I don't believe I'd be as lucky and get to work at the bug events if I didn't pay it back (or pay it forward) with grass roots coaching and grass roots events. I guess it's a "karma" type of thing.

One of the things that being part of multiple levels of Judo teaches me is perpective. I see the highest level of my sport and the lowest level. In a week I might introduce a small kid to Judo, coach a talented university student and work at an elite level sporting event and watch in detail the very very best in Judo.

I am very very fortunate to have this perspective and I think it makes me a better coach for sure. I have the perspective to know that my kids class has to be fun, but that it has a place in the path to the elite level. I know that the grass root competition has to be run professionally and that it's important and serious to those players in it. But I also know that really it's a low level event for low level players and that it needs to be treated as such.

If I can be negative for a moment, I get very stressed and worried when I see coaches that don't see the the bigger picture. I've seen some shocking behaviours. Be it coaches turning blind eyes to teenage athletes starving and dehydrating themselves to make weight at local and even lower level international events. Or parents thinking that little johny/janey is an athlete when they are 8 years old. Or coaches who shout and holler and get worked up over a novice referee making mistakes at a kids tournament. Perspective is a wonderful thing and I am hugely lucky to have it forced upon me by my involvement in a wide variety of levels of the sport I love.

I wonder if we can teach perspective? I suppose it is possible. But I don't see it in the coaching courses and mindsets of my sport. I wonder if it's a likely project to try and put a workshop together that had as it;s "learning objective" the goal to give perspective to coaches.

I am immensely proud to be a coach of a small village Judo club. I think It;s a wonderful thing to provide that opportunity to children. I do not see it as anything but a healthy positive activity for the kids. Some will come to love Judo, most will leave Judo. My hope is that all of them gain something positive from the experience at least. I hope that some will come to love the sport of Judo too. And of course it would be amazing to one day attend an Olympic games and see an athlete on the mat that I introduced to the sport.

But as much as elite level Judo is my fascination and passion, I do not confuse what I do every week at the clubs I coach at with elite Judo. It is not and can't be. So I do not fool myself or those around me into thinking that the Judo we have in our area is anything but area level Judo.
One day that will I hope change and we will have elite level Judo in Hampshire, but currently the only elite level Judo near us is living in Camberley. Thats the fact of the matter.
My hope is that things like the Hampshire Team Championships and the great support of Sport Solent will progressively raise the level in Hampshire and that we will have elite Judo in our county, but for now it's not there.
I have faith it will happen as I know JudoBob, and I am watching the level of Judo in Cambridge increase due to his vision and effort. I also see the wider world and countries the size of HAmpshire producing elite Judo and know that that too is proof that it is possible. Not easy, but possible.

As a coach, perspective is vital. I use it everytime I go on the mat to coach. I need to look at who I have to coach and treat them appropriately. When I have heavyweight novices doing Judo in the "off season" from their main sport. I need to coach differently to when I have a mat full of 8 year olds or as I have had through the fighting chance programme a bunch of beginner kids referred to me by the police.

When I watch the people I coach compete, I need to balance what my perspective of the level is and theirs. As a coach I need to be aware that the level may be super low, but that to the player it is perhaps the biggest competition they have ever fought in. I need to build it up to the right level for them, and not belittle it. Equally, I can't build it up too much. Players must have perspective too and know that winning a medal at a local event does not mean they are ready for "the big time".
As a coach, I need to try and understand where a player is in the spectrum of ability and help them find the place they should be on that spectrum today, tomorrow and at the end of their career.
I want to help them achieve everything they can, but I must be careful not to misled them and causing them to fail when the goal was unrealistic. I want them to find a place in that spectrum where they feel that they achieved what the should have achieved and are happy. That may be an Olympic Gold medal, a national tracksuit, a county badge, an local medal, a black belt, a yellow belt or just a fun experience one evening at a Judo club.

This for me is where perspective is vital and where we as real-life coaches need to be most aware. I don't think our current coach education does well at teaching coaches that day to day coaching is not all about periodised performance plans, technique and skill development, progression and all the rest. It fails to teach us and prepare us for the daily grind, of teaching the novice syllabus over and over. It does not teach us that this needs to be something we enjoy doing over and over or we are not going to stay sane.
If we lose perspective on what we do, we will create false ideas around what we do as coaches and start coaching in ways that are not right for our situations.
I actually think that coaching is a bit like anything, over time the calibration gets a bit wrong. We all start to veer from the correct path, I do it all the time. I know I do. But, we must not beat ourselves up about it or worse pretend that we don't. We must have courage and do something to get the calibration corrected, to set ourselves on a better path.

A personal example is my kids coaching I think has been a bit stale. I felt it vaguely and the second coach at the club felt it too. I think she actually felt it more but is too polite perhaps to take me to task over it. So I invited Chris Doherty to take a session. I was honest with him and said I thought the kids were bored. I didn't enjoy facing up to the fact I had been doing a poor job of coaching, but I take heart in the fact that I did eventually acknowledge it and took action to correct errors in myself.

So anyway... thats the rambling diatribe done. A bit of a splurge of ideas and ideas straight from my page to keyboard and website. Not overly coherent, but I hope interesting to you dear reader. I am a firm believer in the idea that I need to reflect as a coach and I find blogging a great way to do so. Perhaps the reaosn my coaching has been a bit stale as I described above and it took so long to find it out is because I have not been reflecting via this blog enough? Naughty me! I can do better!

If you have thoughts on any of what I have written please do leave a comment below and or drop me an email to

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On competitions, software and the future... 

Later this week I depart for Chelyabinsk for the 2012 European Senior Judo Championships. I have the great privilege of attending as part of the European Judo Union's Internet TV team. We shall be streaming all four mats live on the web as well as a commentated stream covering all the action live, for free!

This is the third event I've been streaming live this year. It started with the 2012 Commonwealth Judo Championships, where to be honest I was doing more of the general IT for the event. The second event was the 2012 Oxford v Cambridge match. This was just me, a camera, a microphone, and a laptop. Very different to the size and quality of the EJU and IJF level events like Chelyabinsk will be.

Whilst I am away, I will be emailing madly trying to get details for the second Hampshire Team Championships test event arranged (I did not stream it, but did record and put a youtube video up for the first one). I'll also be trying to get local Hampshire clubs working together to put on small local competitions as part of the Hampshire Games project.

This leads me onto the subject of software.

Earlier in the year I attended the BUCS Judo Championships and was to be frank shocked that it was basically running on excel and paper, with clunky electronic scoreboards. In this day and age where there is great software scoreboards (more than one) and draw software it is a shame that this low/no cost technology is not filtering down to BUCS level and down to clubs.

I think this year I will be making a push to spread the high standards that software solutions provide. So please contact me if you would like to talk about me helping you run a Judo competition (anywhere, I'll travel!).

I'm happy to come to events large or small and setup the computerized scoreboards, the computerized draw, the video streaming and cameras. I'll even give you a CARE video refereeing system too if you want it.

Just let me know.

And to the future....
I'd love to work on a solution that provides a tournament "in a box". Maybe thats a CD-ROM which you run on all the laptops you have that temporarily sets each one up as a scoreboard, or a fight order display, or a CARE system, or a draw server.

I'm also looking at building a club management system, in part for my own poor paperwork habits. And in part to help some friends who want something that does not exist out there. It may or may not link to my project.

Lastly, come September the research project I've been running since 2010 ( ) will come to a close and I'll be pouring many many hours into writing up the project as an academic report and hoping to have it published in a journal somewhere.

So my future is a busy one, please drop me an email and make it busier!

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Oxford Vs. Cambridge 2012 

I have been offered the honour of being able to attend one of the oldest Judo competitions in the world; the Oxford versus Cambridge match. This event has been held annually since the 1930s and like the annual boat race is a grand tradition.

As well as watching the event, I shall also be streaming video from the event live over the internet via ustream.

Live broadcast by Ustream

The competition runs from 2pm till 4pm UK time and I invite you all to join me via the video stream if you can't attend in person at the Oxford Town Hall on March 11th 2012.

Please note, we will be using the free ustream service on the day. So yes there will be adverts in the stream and I have no control over the timing of these. Please be patient and appreciate that we are doing this for free with no budget. :-)
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2012: Claim your 1 percent! 

Hi everyone and welcome to 2012!

This post is inspired by Bob Challis' post today ( ... ho-counts/ ).

Bob points out that we are a mere 207 days from the start of the London 2012 Judo event. With 207 days to go, he asks us all to consider how we are contributing to the Olympic effort.

He quotes Kate Howey as basically being able to sleep easy if at the end of the games she feels she has provided 1% to the Olympic effort. Bob asks us to decide how we are going to contribute to the effort.

I like his suggestions; I like the idea of those of us physically capable of being a training body; showing up for a 7 months at one of the centres with Olympic players. For me; thats the might Camberley Judo Club.
There, open evening Randori is on a Tuesday and Thursday evening; with a Wednesday morning Randori in the middle of the two.
I used to go on a Wednesday and the odd evening, but maybe for the next months I can go along (probably a Tuesday) and try and at least be a body to throw. Maybe I can persuade some of the people around me to go also.

I don't like Bob's quote that much; I prefer to paraphrase this one I found reading Jonny WIlkinson's latest book (the Autobiography).

‘When you’ve worked so hard that you feel you may pass out and your body and mind seem to have been stretched to breaking point, and momentarily you think you’ve no more left to give, hear a voice remind you that there’s something far more important than anyone’s susceptibility to pain. It is the great tradition, belief and respect of what it takes to be a true Judoka. It is then you will become a legendary Judoka.’

Have a golden 2012 everyone!

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On Judo clubs and Judo societies. 

Judo Societies or Judo clubs?

Today I want to try and articulate a series of recurring thoughts I have been having lately. These thoughts have consumed quite a few cycles in my brain and I wanted to put them "out there" for your consideration, contemplation and recommendations. This is really a case of me trying to crystalize my thinking in words, so do comment on them, but be gentle.

So, here we go…

Judo is a sport, it is more than sport. In fact "More than sport" is the slogan of the European Judo Union. And they are right, Judo so fantastic, it is an exciting sport. It is a sport that tests the body, mind and spirit of all that play it. Be they great olympic champions or novices in their first match.

Judo gives those who do it all the great things that sport offers. Areas like personal enjoyment, personal growth, social integration, and social change (M. Csikszentmihalyi. 1982). That is not to exclude the physical benefits of sport.

Judo offers, as the EJU slogan says, "More than sport". Judo's culture promotes self-discipline, respect, honor and much much more.


Is Judo a sport everywhere? I would argue no; not everywhere. I compare Judo to other sports and notice some oddities. Lets start with the British Judo Association.

The BJA offers no inter-club competition structure. It does encourage individual participation in events, but there is no effort put into encouraging clubs form competing against one another.

Equally, if I look at my local area Hampshire, it offers only 4 competitions per year usually. And not all of those happen or are suitable for all Judoka in Hampshire.

Part of the reason for this I guess is because many clubs don't participate in the events on offer. This is partly because the events are too far away or not appropriate for the players in the clubs.

The lack of events is I suspect a symptom rather than anything else.

However, part of it is also that the clubs are not offering the sport of Judo. Many are solely there for the training. Clubs teach Judo techniques, but how many compete against other ?

This for me is where the real problems/concerns start.

In Judo we use terms like "Club" and "Coach" and "Player". Club is a pretty generic term which covers sports clubs and of course poetry clubs, etc. Universities have had this issue of definition for some time and they have done quite well at deciding that clubs and societies are different things. CLubs being sports related, having matches, competition, etc. Societies being groups of people who do an activity that does not include competition.

So for me, many "Judo Clubs" are by this point of view "Judo Societies". Which is fine, but they don't call themselves societies, or I suspect think of themselves as such. Equally, there are Judo Coaches who do nothing but teach techniques. And Judo players who do not play the game of Judo… i.e. do not compete.

So why does this matter?

Returning to the EJU slogan, Judo is "More than sport". However, if Judo is not done for sport, then it becomes less than sport.

It remains beneficial and positive, but it goes from being more than sport to being less.Of course there is an argument that we are better off without sport in Judo… it's a point of view that some have, but I don't want to argue about it as I don't agree with it and I think it lessens Judo. It also ignores the reality that Judo is a sport. It may not have started that way, but it is one now. Perhaps that is not right, but that is the reality of the situation.

For me sport is a hugely powerful force for good and for the development of people. Competition and the need to prepare creates better people. Winning and losing teaches people about… well winning and losing and how to cope with both situations. Competition brings different things out of people and tests us in different ways than practicing or randori. You learn different things.

If you attend a Judo club, or run one. Take a close look at yourself and your club. And decide if you are a coach of a sports club or the instructor at a Judo Society. Do you train people and give them opportunities to compete? Or do you teach throws and other techniques that are not tested in competition?

And consider the percentage of participants in your club/society that compete. If it's not a majority then you are not a sports club. Having one player who competes and 20 who don't means that you are not a sports club. You are a society with a member who participates in sport.

Consider the local gym. A vast majority of members in most gyms are there or recreation and physical fitness. There may be one or two who play sport. Just because they play sport the gym does not get to call itself a sports club, its a gym. Equally, if only a minority of members of a Judo club compete, the club does not get to call itself a sports club either.

These are just my random thoughts on the matter, but I wanted to push them out there to see what people thought.

For me Judo is more than sport, it is a way of life and a life to live. But for me at least, if you take the sport out of Judo it devolves into something less than it is today. Just another hobby, just another "martial art". No more and no less than going to the gym. It's still good for you and a great way to spend your time, but it's not Judo for me.

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