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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Exploring the Itsutsu no kata 

For the past few weeks in the club I teach at we have been exploring the Itsutsu no kata.

I do not know the kata, so the process of teaching it has been one of joint exploration. What do I mean?

What I mean is that in each session, we delve a little deeper into the kata together. Rather than having an expert tell us what to do, as a group we are discovering what to do.

We are getting the movements and mechanics now, and each week we understand a little more and read a little more. So as well as the footwork, we learn a little of the history.

As well as the angles, we discuss the application and interpretation of what we are doing.

Having a small narrow dojo, we are adjusting and that makes it more difficult but also easier in other ways; as we physically can't do it perfectly. So we don't worry about "perfect"; we focus on better than last time.

As we dig deeper we watch more video; both people doing the kata and people teaching the kata. Again, as we don't know the kata well we are identifying the differences between how others do the kata.

We see timing differences, directional differences, "emotional" differences. The emotional side has been interesting for me to observe; each pairing puts emphasis on different movements.

As ever kata is proving educational and enjoyable. If you are not doing kata in your club you really should give it a go. In our club we all do kata, not just high grades. Exploring Judo via kata for me is key not just for experienced judoka.

Give it a go!
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Tokyo2020 Judo QUalification starts soon!! 

May 25th 2018, is a key date that every national programme has a huge red entry on the calendar.


Because the 25th of May 2018 is the day that qualification begins for the Tokyo2020 Olympic Judo competition.

The qualification period then ends on May 24th 2020, at which point we will know who will be competing at the biggest Judo event in history.

Qualification is also being used for the new Olympic Judo Team event, so teams wanting to win a medal in that will need to ensure they have enough athletes qualified to make a team entry viable.

There will be a little under 400 Judo athletes in Tokyo and as we have seen in previous games; the ranking list position is key.

Unlike previous years, the top 18 men and top 18 women are direct qualified, then the continental quotas, then "wildcards".

And again, the host nation Japan gets 14 athletes. The past three Olympics have different dynamics for the qualification as a result.

For London2012, the hosts benefited immensely by the 14 host spots in terms of getting athletes into the event. Brazil for the Rio2016 games were a strong Judo nation, but not as much of a powerhouse as Japan.

Japan will be able to enter 14 athletes, no matter where they rank. So it will be interesting to see what athletes compete where and how often in the qualification period.

As with other cycles, it will be a fascinating 2 years, with every win being vital and positioning around that 18th spot hotly contested as we get closer and closer to the games.

For Judo addicts like us (if you are reading this, I'm assuming your are a voracious Judo reader) this is a special time, every event has importance and can be hotly debated and explored.

To all the athletes is the WRL, I want to wish you all the best of luck! I look forward to watching all of you in the run up to Tokyo2020.


Extra reading:

Tokyo 2020 Qualification Rules via the new IJF website.
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The online Judo community is growing! 

Recently the Judo community gained not one; but two podcasts! Which is pretty awesome as my podcast (started in 2006) faded out.
So two new podcasts have come into existence and that is amazing. And they are both different and special (and far better produced) than mine ever was.

So Go and listen to


What has also been interesting is seeing the support these two new members of the Judo online community have gained. Hans from for example has joined the fun and sent some "merch" to Dave Roman.

In the plain text universe, has joined the ranks over at and apparently it has really helped grow his audience!
I for one have been loving the "scoops" the site is giving the English speaking world from Japan.

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Exploring as a coaching methodology 

This week has been an interesting one for me as a Judo coach.

This week at the club we started going through the Gokyo technique by technique once again (we have done it before in the club).

What is really interesting about going through the Gokyo in this way is that it forces me as a coach to re-examine each technique and work through them with the participants in the sessions.

As I have to do it with techniques I know it is interesting to discover new things from my preparations for each session. Specifically, exploring things like the exact wording in the Kodokan Judo book and getting everyone in the class to do it as the book describes it.

Doing this has really highlighted some of the "received knowledge" I have of waza. By which I mean, sometimes the way I do and or teach a technique does not match with the description in the book.

Judo is wonderful in the way that there are multiple different solutions to the "how do I throw" problem. Even when using the same "technique".

De ashi barai for example can be done with tori stepping forwards, or backwards. Then there is the rotating version. We can attack the front foot or the trailing foot. It has been really interesting to explore the variations.

On Wednesday evening, I had the chance to have a long and enjoyable evening exploring a variety of Judo topics at a colleagues home. We talked around a variety of topics and specifically elite programme creation, design, maintenance and measurement.

This was great as it's the sort of conversation I don't often get to have in the UK. I have them sometimes whilst away internationally but not often here, well at least not since I graduate University of Bath.

This Sunday, I started our club learning the Kaeshi no kata. Again this proved really educational. I have never formally studied this kata, so we are learning it together with me mainly guiding the practice rather than teaching how it should be done.

Preparing for the session was as educational as participating. I learnt a little about the history of this kata (non-kata in some descriptions) and even a little about the dissemination of Judo internationally as I discovered this very British kata in a video by a coach in my native New Zealand.

This upcoming week we shall continue to explore the Gokyo and Kaeshi no kata; as well as doing randori. At the moment it feels like the balance between practical learning by doing (randori) and technical learning (Gokyo and Kata) is about right.

I look forward to what I will learn this week as well as observing what the participants in the sessions learn.
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Over coaching in Judo 

This week at the club I was speaking with the students about how sometimes in Judo we coaches over coach.

What I meant was the idea that as a Judo coach, we spend a lot of time teaching people specific techniques. Where as maybe we should be spending more time helping people learn how to do Judo.

Specifically on Thursday we were doing ne-waza and turnovers from when your partner is defending in a facedown flat on the ground position. Rather than teach specific turnovers into specific osaekomi, kansetsu or shime waza; we talked about principles and strategies; then the group went off and practiced.

To give context, one example was simply to say that if you can get your opponents elbow away from their side you have a lever to work with. And then "Off you go....".

As coaches we can easily just show a specific turnover into a osae komi. Then get the participants to repeat. Then the coach can walk around and correct mistakes; then teach another waza and repeat the process.

However, this means that the participants learn only what I show. And I had better be teaching waza that works for everyone in the session. WHich is hugely unlikely given the physical differences and experience and ability levels.

The alternative is that we reduce our input and allow the participants to discover their own methods that work. This is something that is interesting as some will learn faster this way and may learn techniques better and techniques best suited to themselves.
Or... they may not if they don't discover methods that work for them. Equally, they may learn better, but it might start slower.

More generally, I feel like most of us Judo coaches are over doing the teaching and talking (I know I talk way too much). I suspect that we run the sessions two tightly. Perhaps a side effect of the very structured coaching methodologies taught by national federations?

Perhaps as coaches we need to start measuring the amount of time we spend coaching, teaching and talking. Then perhaps we can have an insight into if we have the balance right.

I say balance as I do think in Judo coaching we do need not just the open "learn by doing" with the instructing specifics. But what I am not so confident about is the percentages of how much of each we should be doing as coaches.

I'd be interested to hear your opinion, either as a player or coach. Do you think coaches are providing a balance? Have you noticed sessions that are open learning and others that are more instructor lead technique learning?

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