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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.

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!

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