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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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