Judo – More Than Sport Part 2

 

This year I have entered the EJU European Veterans Championships in Croatia. This may be seen by some as a bit strange – although the ‘masters’ scene is gathering momentum here in this country and is popular in Europe it’s not really seen as the ‘done’ thing – former Olympic players competing at this level.  But then again, I’ve never really been interested in the ‘done’ thing. I’ve been training and competing in judo since I was 6. Even during my mini break over in Thailand I did a judo competition, so I guess you could say it’s a part of me. Although my main priority now lies with coaching, I believe that promoting and taking part in the sport any way you want is a healthy way to continue enjoying being a part of it. I think judo really should be a sport for life and it can be with the right sort of attitude.

So this trip mainly came about because of my parents. People will remember them coming to watch at competitions, they’ve always enjoyed being around it, although I’m still not sure they understand what’s happening! I was happy to let them get on with it. It’s been a great excuse for them to travel round the world as well. The highlight (after Athens and London of course) was probably the 2011 World Championships where they were befriended by a lovely Japanese couple who they still keep in contact with. So although I was never intending to compete again, when I mentioned the Judo Festival in Croatia my mum’s little eyes lit up and the seeds of an idea were hatched. It would be ok for them to go on holiday and enjoy Croatia but wouldn’t it be much better if they were watching their daughter in a judo match? I pointed out that I had other priorities now i.e. looking after and supporting my family and that I couldn’t really justify ‘indulging’ just myself. But now the fires were lit so after some umming and ahhing, a level of financial support was offered and the whole family, mum and dad included, are off on holiday to Croatia for a week! Oh, and there’s a judo competition there…..

I bought my son his first gi for his first birthday, which he has promptly grown out of, but he may just be up to rolling on the mat at some of the family friendly training sessions. I know the organisers are really trying to promote the event with training camps before and after and I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about. I am very happy to have contacts through judo all across the world and, once you get past all the politics, it’s definitely not a bad community to be part of. In fact, on a brief family break in Spain just recently I was able to meet up with some of the guys from Valencia who had come to Kendal earlier this year. An old rival of mine Ana Carrascosa, a high level competitor for many years, was also there and we had a great evening.  I hope I have plenty more experiences like this in the future and my door will always be open to old friends.

I know judo clubs up and down the country are little hubs of community and it’s a really special thing when it’s done in the right way. I feel privileged to be a part of it.

Judo – More Than Sport: Part 1

Judo – More Than Sport: Part 1

  • A report from the Budo-Nord/Lugi Judo Club Training Camp

What is it?

A judo competition and training camp for all ages.

Where is it?

Lund, Sweden.

I was surprised when I got a call from Mike asking if I was availible to coach at the Lugi camp this year.

Apparently, one of our mutual judo pals Conny Peterson had re

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Me and Mike, Head coach at Kendal Judo Performance Centre

commended to the organisers tat I be on the coaching team this year. Mike has been going to the camp for years and a young group from Kendal Judo club (plus extras!) were already booked to go to the competition and camp so I was delighted to be able to join the group. I also knew that it would be a great opportunity for me to add to my coaching experience in a new setting and surrounded by expert coaches. So, after rearranging a few things, including my son’s first birthday (!) I was all set to go.

 

The structure of the comp and camp is this; competition for all age groups up to 21 years old on Thursday, followed by 4 training sessions per day on Friday and Saturday (2 for the youth and 2 for the Juniors), a ‘Kid’s Cup’ on Saturday for the younger children, and a training session altogether on the Sunday. My job as one of the instructors on the camp was to lead the technical part of the training for a different group each time. I was able to do any type of coaching I wanted and I tried to adapt the techniques and style I used to match each group based on their age/ability. I also watched what the other coached were doing so I didn’t repeat something they had already been shown.

The players on the camp were from a few different countries; Sweden, Britain, Norway, Denmark, Germany and Finland. It’s a brilliant opportunity for them to meet and mingle and obviously chance to get some quality training of the right level. It’s very difficult to get this level of training all the time so the players were encouraged to make the most of it.  The youngest from Kendal was 10, with most of the kids being 12-13. This was the age when I started travelling abroad for competitions and camps and started to gain that

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Danny and Danny giving the team talk

holistic experience so important for my later professional judo career. The two coaches travelling with the Kendal team, Danny (big) and Danny (bald) were always there looking out for the players, having a firm word if they stepped out of line but making sure they were have a good time as well. They took them out for a BBQ in the park after the comp, gave them team talks before and after each session and generally helped them conduct themselves in the right manner. This is exactly what Mike, and my coach Brian Moore, have done for many years – mentoring the next generation. You can see the knowledge and experience being passed down through the generations and is one of the many reasons why judo is more than a sport.

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Me and Danny mentoring the Bacup Judo youngsters

What was most striking about this camp was the genuinely friendly atmosphere in which everything was conducted. The host and the organisers worked extremely hard to make sure everyone was accommodated and the session ran smoothly. A few of the travelling teams stayed in the sports hall on blow up mattresses which helps to bring the costs down. I’ve definitely done my fair share of ‘jungle’ trips like this and was happy to take the hotel option this time around! It can get pretty hectic at times and you have to deal with being in this environment but it’s also great fun for a couple of days!

 

  • Some of the other coaches -Me and Hortense Diédhiou, current player from Senegal and heading to the Games in Rio; organiser and Gabbi; Me and Neil Eckersley, former Olympic Bronze medallist, Kendal boy and now coaching in Norway

I learnt a lot from this trip, from other coaches and also from reflecting on my own coaching practice. I got to try out a few new things in a different environment. I hope others were able to learn from me too! And that’s another way that judo is more than a sport; at this level it is often about community and sharing, with a healthy level of competition thrown in.

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Team looking good!

 

 

Giving Back

I think this is one of the best messages I’ve ever received!

Hi Sophie,
My name is Carolina and I’m the mum of Mateo from FS2 at Broadbent Fold School. Mateo was so impressed since you went to the school on friday we’ve been playing judo all weekend!

He told us that “to live in Olympian you have to practice every day and every night even on your birthday!”. He made a tatami on the living room floor with all the sofa cushions (he actually dismanteled the sofa) and he has been tugging his clothes and falling on the cushions.

His brother Noah is 3 years old and likes to be a cat but this weekend he was judo cat and he was loving it.

Mateo is delayed in some areas of development and he is not so confident physically so and I would like him to try some judo lessons locally since he is so motivated by you. I found a place but the lessons are too late for him starting at 7pm till 8.30. Can you please let me know if you know of any clubs near the school or dukinfield where we can take him?

Thank you and congratulations on an inspiring performance, my little red head Mateo thinks you’re judotastic!

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A Journey Through Judo: Part 3

A Journey Through Judo Part 3: The End Goal

In contest judo, you aim to win, ideally by ippon (a full point), by either throwing the other person on their back or by getting them to submit through the application of an armlock or a strangle. You can also hold or pin them on their back for a set length of time. Other than that you can win by getting smaller scores (the person doesn’t land squarely on their back with enough force) and by the other person receiving penalties. Judo as a sport has developed and evolved and as such has a set of rules and regulations which aim to make the sport safe, fair and spectator friendly. A judo contest now is certainly a very different prospect to what it was 100 years ago.

As a means of unarmed combat the end goals are the same: defeat the attacker by disabling them. Usually getting them on their back and finishing them with some strikes, kicks, a lock or a chokehold will do that.

The average spectator will watch a judo match today and may very well wonder what’s going on a lot of the time. It’s quite difficult to see or understand the intricacies involved in trying to throw someone on their back unless you have felt it or watched it a lot. With people of the same standard there are lots of opportunities for counters, combinations as well as direct ‘hits’. But it’s easily within everyone’s scope, especially during randori (free practice) to be able to throw cleanly and effectively.

For a beginner getting thrown for the first time can be quite daunting. Sometimes it is better for beginners to practice with higher grades who know how to throw cleanly and be thrown. Plenty of time should be given to learning ukemi (break falling techniques) to build confidence. It is quite common for beginners to be tense and stiff to start. To be able to throw and move effectively, a judoka learns how to be stiff and strong yet fluid and soft in equal measures.

When you throw cleanly for ippon, it’s like everything has just come into focus in an instant.

A Journey Through Judo: Part 2

Getting the basics right – 3 steps to maximum efficient efficiency

Readiness:- Stance, posture, balance, awareness.
Action:- Falling, turning, sweeping, circling, lifting, blocking.
Efficiency:- Coordination, anticipation, speed, power, reaction.

1. The first step to learning a technique is having a good posture and being ready and willing to learn. If you’re facing an ‘opponent’, before engaging in contact you have to have an awareness, both of your position and of your opponents. They way you stand and your posture can have a big impact on both your mental state and theirs. Do you look prepared and confident? Are you relaxed and poised?
For judo, the ready stance is one foot slightly in front of the other, knees slightly bent, legs apart. Hands should be slightly raised, fingers spread, ready to take a grip or block an attack. Back is flat, shoulders down and relaxed. At first, when practicing techniques, you’ll often stand square on to your partner so they can turn in but this should be developed quickly into having to move your partner into the best position to throw.

2. The next basics are the ‘action’ basics. Falling correctly is essential for practise but also a useful skill to have in daily life. Being aware of your body in space and time is an integral part of judo. When learning and practicing techniques you will use your body in different ways. You will learn to twist and turn, be both flexible and stiff depending on the technique, and use your body to lift, throw, move and hold the other persons.

3. The 3rd step to good technique and efficient judo is combining all the elements by coordinating moments and getting the timing right. You start to perform techniques based on your opponents movements and reactions, and learn when to move and react. You develop a feel for combining the right grip with the right movement at the right time. You learn to use your body and your strength to it’s maximum capacity and to its maximum efficiency so even if you are smaller than your opponent you have a chance to beat them.

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A Journey Through Judo: part 1

A journey through JUDO. Part 1.

Thoughts, ideas, tips, tricks.

There is a lot of information out there about judo:- history, philosophy, techniques, training methods etc. so my aim here is to give a personal insight, answer any common questions and focus on things that are somewhat overlooked.

  1. Why judo?

Movement, power, strength, flexibility, speed, fitness, skill, timing, focus, control: judo as a martial art and a sport has it all, more than any other I think. And it can be APPLIED as well, especially if it taught in a realistic manner. There’s always something new to learn in judo. It can be very complex and technical. It can also be very simple. A good coach, some decent training partners and some enthusiasm will see you progress. The ‘feel’ for judo can take time, but when it feels right it feels good!

  1. Why not judo?

On the flip side:- personally I think judo can be for everyone, from every age, background, size, shape, literally everyone, but so much can depend on how it is taught. Obviously, with some people it’s going to be very different to others, and teachers/coaches have to have the time, patience and facilities to be able to deliver in an effective way. It can be dangerous; there’s a lot of contact. It’s complicated. But hey, that’s life! Quite often the better Judokas are not necessarily the ones who can perform a technique with clinical perfection, but those who can adapt and ‘feel’ the best way to win or use their techniques to their advantage.

  1. Learning Judo

The underlying principle of Judo is “maximum efficient use of power”. This takes time to develop and technique has a major part to play, but just having an awareness of body and mind can increase a persons chance of success. One reason why judo has popularised into a world-wide sport is it’s emphasis on ‘randori’ or free practice, as opposed to strict kata form. Some clubs/coaches prefer kata based training, others prefer randori based training. I’ve been lucky enough to experience both although because of my competitive career it’s been heavily randori and competitive judo training that I’ve done. If you look at the way the Japanese learn, 99% percent of their technique training is done through school and by the time they reach 16 it is 99% randori training with nagewaza (throwing practice). When I’m teaching to younger children I mix and match as most children here in Britain do not have the patience, discipline or concentration span for hours and hours of technique training.

  1. Tips and tricks

If you’re just starting out: watch a class or two. Speak to the coach and other players. And remember, it’s not as scary as it looks! Be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them. Even doing a breakfall can be a little tricky at first, but patience pays off.

If you’re already doing it: where do you want to go? What do you want to achieve? Every class should be a mini ‘journey’ in itself, and all part of the bigger picture. Work on old techniques, new techniques, help others, push your fitness limits, and try to achieve ‘flow’ when doing it. Work on your weaknesses especially. If you’re big and strong, work on timing and technique. Once you master a technique, work on power and speed. And if you’re small like me play to your strengths!

Any questions please feel free to post. Keep it relevant though!

All views are my own.

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