Paper 1/3 in the series Missing Links in Judo Coaching


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March 2003


1. Introduction

2. From instruction to construction

3. Ideal types of coaches and judoka�s

3.1 The god and the puzzle builder : opposite ideal types of judo coaches

3.2 The flamingo and the centipede : opposite ideal types of judoka�s

4. The puzzle model of the technique learning plan for judo competitors

4.1 Collective basic programme (instruction)

4.1.1 Classic techniques

4.1.2 Para techniques

4.1.3 Most used techniques in top competition

4.2 Individual programme (construction)

4.2.1 Natural executions

4.2.2 Own choices from basic programme

4.2.3 Technique opponents

4.2.4 Tips from other coaches and judoka�s, experiences of training camps, video�s�

5. Notes on the puzzle model

5.1 Think tactical

5.1.1 The judo game is a duel

5.1.2 Tactical variables

5.2 The puzzle model in time

5.2.1 The metaphor of the puzzle

5.2.2 Relationship basic programme � individual programme

5.3 Study attitude and technique development

5.3.1 Sotai renshyu

5.3.2 Work in progress

5.3.3 Trial technique

5.3.4 Score technique

6. Conclusion


Most coaches agree that the various judoka�s are using different executions or are using spontaneously different parts of the technique spectrum, although they are receiving the same tuition.� Every judoka is different!� The motive behind writing this essay is on the one hand to try to answer the question how can a coach� efficiently help the various competition judoka�s with their own technique development and on the other hand in the will to zeiryoku zenyo:� to get the maximum out of technique training.� The point of departure is the personal experience that technique training is more effective if it comes from the individual judoka.

There are not many types of sport with so many technical possibilities as is in judo.� The amount of tuition is literally enormous but therefore a careful chosen structuring is necessary.� The question is, how to sort out this chaos in a structured manner?� These are the questions why, what and when.� ( The �how� does not fall within this article).� To answer these questions most of the existing learning plans start from the didactic principles of the degree of difficulty and the security aspect of the techniques but also from the physical and psychological development of the youngsters.� They therefore do not take into account the choices, the talents and needs of the individual judoka as such.

This essay wants to create a model that incorporates and complements the existing working plans so that a new working plan is created which is more suitable for the individual needs of each competition judoka.� Coaching is not only leading.� Coaching consists mainly in letting the judoka�s discover themselves, and then stimulate them so that they can develop their own complex of techniques.

The acquisition of such an own complex of techniques, a consistent and cohesive web of techniques that can solve all the situations is a demanding job which requires a lot of time and a lot of research.� It can be compared to building a puzzle with a lot of pieces.

After this introduction I would like to reflect shortly on the evolution in the relationship between the coach and the athlete concerning the technique and the vision of technique by coaches in relation to the potential of the athlete.� Then I will present the model and will break it up into�the various components.� At the end I will formulate a few remarks.� In the course of the essay I will introduce a few new definitions to explain the judo reality.� Theoretical part of this essay has always as an objective to make the practice of judo more effective .� This forms an addition to the chapter �Coaching in technical and tactical skills� in my book Creatief Coachen (2000).


The relation between a coach and a judoka changes.� In the first phase, the start, when the judoka is still a child (under 14) the coach is definitely the leader.� In the second phase (under 17), the test period, the judoka must learn to think about his judo and must inform the coach about the physical and psychological feeling that the burden of� training may cause.� In the third phase (from junior) , the working period, the judoka becomes slowly a fully fledged� team partner who has a growing say in the plans of the training process.� While this applies to all domains of the training process, it is certainly important when coaching these technical and tactical aspects.

In order to develop an individual complex of techniques it appears important that on the technical side a process from instruction to construction must be put in motion.� In the first phase the coach chooses independently which techniques he teaches and which techniques the judokas must learn: this is one-way traffic.� During the test period the coach must leave room to let the judoka expand himself and to encourage him via creative instructions to think about the technique.� Such an emancipated judoka can in the working period� with the coach (construction) start to work on the development of his own complex of techniques.


When a coach and a judoka are working in a constructive relationship on techniques, they must be aware of their own and each others position in relation to judo technique.� For the athlete this means: which type of judoka am I on the technical side?� For the coach this means: what are my prejudices against technique?� You can define your own place by plotting the extremes (see figure 1).� Those extremes or ideal types do not exist in reality in their pure form. The point of crossing between the type of coach and the type of judoka (A,B,C,D) can help to define to what degree a constructive technical relationship can be successful.�

3.1�The god and the puzzle builder : opposite ideal types of coaches


In Genesis one can read that God created man just like him.� Some coaches also show these �godlike urges� and try to create judokas like their own image.� This is the type of coach that only teaches and stimulates what he can do or apply.� Taking into account the success� of their own complex of techniques the ex-topjudokas sometimes fall in the beginning of their coach career into this trap.

Puzzle-building coaches

On the opposite site you will find the puzzle builder.� This type of coach is open for the full technique offer.� He does not start by taking himself as an example, but for every situation he tries to find the right solution for each judoka.� He is not ashamed to ask for suggestions from his colleagues.

3.2The flamingo and the centipede : opposite ideal competitive judoka types


This type of judoka has a very limited, but extremely efficient complex of techniques.� His complex of techniques stands �on one leg�.� All situations are solved with one strong technique, eventually supplemented with one complementary technique.


Centipedes have got the ability to use for every situation, kumi kata or direction another technique.

Ideal types OF judoka�s










Puzzle builder



Figure 1. ideal types coaches and judokas






Based on:

1.Classical techniques

2.Para techniques

3.Most used techniques in competition


Based on:

1.Automatic executions

2.Own choice from basic programme

3.Techniques of opponents

4.Tips from other coaches, experiences from training clinics�

Figure 2.� puzzle model for the technique learning plan for judo competitors

A learning plan for judo competitors that will suit the uniqueness of every individual judoka can be based on two pillars: a common basic program and an individual program ( see figure 2).� The basic program for all judoka�s from a coach/club/team is basically the same and forms part of the instruction.� It is a learning curve that spans for many years and must be based in my opinion on the classical technique spreads, on para techniques and on the most used techniques in a competition.� The individual program complements the basic program.� It is different for every individual judoka and comes to existence through construction.� Both these pillars are not next two each other, but must fit into each other as a type of jigsaw puzzle. They must complement each other.

����������� 4.1 Common basic program (instruction)

The common program answers the question : what is the minimum training any judo competitor must do?�� It consists of the following main subsections :

����������� 4.1.1 Classical techniques

This part consists in the first instance of the go kyo, the throws outside the go kyo, the �competition techniques�, all groundwork�� The past decades new techniques were added to tachi waza.� Where tachi waza originally consisted of throws, links and take-overs, an extension came with movements forwards and backwards.� Before the actual throws, comes the kumi kata fight with all its evasion, and breaking techniques. (see my article �Kumi Kata as a play situation).� After a successful throw ukemi followed in the past.� The kake phase of the throw, the fall, was seen by uke as an acceptable fact due to a fault made during the tachi waza.� This fatalistic approach has disappeared.� Tachi waza ends only when contact is made with the ground.� Uke will during the kake phase of the throw try everything to avoid touching the mat with a part of his body that results in a score.� (see my article Non-fall training).

4.1.2 Para techniques

Para techniques have got nothing to do with para commando�s and the techniques that would be used by fighting units.� Para techniques (para means �looking like�) are situated between pure techniques (how to execute a movement) and tactic (in which situation to execute a movement or how to execute a technique adapted to the situation).� Often a judoka can execute a technique correctly but does not succeed in doing it in a randori situation.� Para techniques form the glue.�

They are a way of doing things: important points of attention in certain situations.� In the classical coaching not much time is devoted to this and the development of the para technique is left to coincidence.� In my teaching and coaching para techniques are fixed ways of handling situations, basic options where you only deviate from a known choice and with a fixed objective.� It is not the place to discuss this� matter in details.� It is a challenge for the coach to develop training types for each para technique.

Examples of para techniques : taking kumi kata in equilibrium jigotai (migi or hidari only with a specific purpose), the breaking of kumi kata happens with two hands against one (other techniques must be the exceptions), �.


����������� 4.1.3 Most used techniques in top competitions

This is a scientific element in the model of the puzzle.� Various scientists are keeping themselves busy with the question which techniques score the most during competition.� For a top judoka in making, it is not so important for him to use those throws, but what is important is that he starts paying attention in his multiyear plan how to defend against these techniques.� Just like the other subtitles of this learning plan those statistics are not cast in concrete but change all the time.� It is important for a coach to follow the evolutions of these stats by keeping in touch with the latest analysis.�

����������� 4.2 Individual program (construction)

4.2.1 Spontaneous executions (animal trainer method)

To help an experienced judoka in developing his own complex of techniques I found� the �animal trainer method� the most successful.� Trained circus animals are actually not doing anything that they cannot do themselves, the trainer only teaches them to do it at a certain moment.� Talented judokas can often be very creative in randori or competition.� Spontaneously, they will combine trained techniques or once, without knowing, they will execute them in a new situation or form.�� As a coach I try to see this and I try to push this spontaneous execution from the unknown to the known level.� Conditions for this way of working is multiple observation of a judoka by the coach during randori trainings and competitions.� An example: Leen Dom (vice-world champion �48 juniors 2002) wins in May 2002 the A-tournament in LyonFrance.� I was not there but while watching the video tape I saw her using a new chain of techniques while scoring a yuko in the semi final.� Leen attacked with a strong o uchi gake (hand on the leg) but this was blocked by her opponent.� From the low position Leen came right under her partner and executed te guruma.� When I asked her how did she score (Leen had not seen the video yet) she could not answer.� The next months we have included this link (we call it a judo chain) in the technique training.� At the European Championships for juniors in November 2002 Leen throws the Dutch Janien Lubben with an ippon with this same chain.

The animal trainer method does not only apply on real executed techniques.� Also the techniques that I bring in for my judoka�s on the basis of observation of their way of moving, their attitude, and the technical potential of that attitude belongs to, according to me,� the animal training method.

The animal training method is the chaos element in this model.� The coach must wait to see what is going to happen.� Judokas that are coached this way develop according to my experience a positive attitude towards �new� elements in their judo.

4.2.2� Own choices from the basic program

The basic program is very broad.� Judo competitors must take cognisance of the whole range, but will make choices together with their coach on the basis of preferences and morphology.� The coach must stimulate the judokas to puzzle, to emancipate; for example by presenting a lot of alternatives in sotai renshyu, (for example different ways to attack juji gatame), out of which one choice will be made by the judoka and this will be the only one to be drilled.

4.2.3Techniques of opponents

A judoka must take into account in the building up of his complex of techniques one external factor: the techniques of his opponents.� How can he defend himself against them ?�� It is the duty of the coach and the athlete to process this data in the technique training schedule.� The scouting by coaches and the experiences of the judoka in training and at clinics will lead to a detailed list of the opponents with a description of their various techniques.

4.2.4Tips from other coaches and judoka�s, experiences from training clinics, video�s�

The puzzle model is not a closed learning plan.� This subsection creates for �new blood�.� A judoka with a correct learning attitude must try and investigate all the tips and technical advise he receives from coaches (other than his own coach).� Maybe one tip might well be the missing piece of the puzzle of his complex of techniques.�� A judo competitor must also value his own randori attitude and note the problems and situations with which he struggles.

To the youngsters the task can be given to bring back one new technique from each clinic and to demonstrate this at the club training.� For juniors and seniors an evaluation training must follow after each clinic where the tips and own experiences must be discussed so that these can eventually be built in the technique training.


5.1Think tactically

A judo technique is only useful if he can be used in a competition situation.� Therefore a technique after the sota renshyu must be drilled in tactical situations.

5.1.1� The game of judo is a duel

The primary tactical situation is the interactive way of judo techniques.� Uke reacts at every moment whereby tori continuously has to adapt.� Douwe Boersma says: judo is duo.� I want to elaborate: judo is a duel.� The word duel refers to the competition element that is typical of judo on the one hand and�to the rules on the other hand.� The competition element and the rules have tactical implications.

5.1.2Tactical variables

Next to the primary tactical situations �judo is a duel� there are a series of tactical variables that can influence the technique (see figure 3).� The coach must develop forms of training that allow , where possible, to exercise those tactical situations.



1.Mat position : middle of the mat, on the red zone, in the corner�

2.Scoreboard : tori is ahead, uke is ahead, same score in the last minute, unfair scores�.

3.Coach : present, absent, personal coach, national coach�

4.Competition rules : sono mama, yoshi, hadjime�

5.Passing of the time : beginning of the competition, end of the competition, golden score�.

6.Opponent : build, attacking, defending, strong on the ground, uses unacceptable tactics�


figure 3.� tactical factors that can influence the outcome of a match

5.2The puzzle model in time

It is not my aim in this article to develop a multiyear program or to go into the minimum technical objectives per phase (start, test period, work period).� I however give two inputs concerning the use of time regarding the technical learning plan for judo competitors.

5.2.1 The metaphor of the puzzle

My father was an avid puzzle builder.� He always used to start laying the pieces at the corners and then towards the middle.� First the corners and then the sides gave more stability to the puzzle and framed the more difficult part of the puzzle in the centre.� ( because there were no more straight sides on the pieces of the puzzle).� This is the same way a judoka should start by the common basic program.� This will later frame the individual program.

5.2.2 Relationship basic program � individual program (see figure 4)

During the multiyear plan� and the year plan (in the period of relative rest or in the preparation phase 1) of a top judoka the basic program is still of importance as a from of recycling or to emphasise the forgotten elements� of a technique.

5.3 Study attitude and technique development

In order to get the maximum out of technique training, the young judoka must be encouraged to learn and train.� It must be one of the most important targets to learn young judoka�s how to learn differently.� Learning and making mistakes belong together.� Judoka�s must try and make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.� The person that does not acquire this learning conduct, is not fit for the topsport.�� Nevertheless this is not an evident attitude.� Also experienced judokas want to succeed in everything immediately.� It is of importance that they realise that it is not always the case or could be the case.� One technique (-chain) goes in the best of cases through the following phases : sotai renshyu, work in progress, trial technique, score technique.


Figure 4.� relationship between basic programme� and individual programme

5.3.1 Sotai renshyu����

This is to acquaint oneself with a technique from one of the parts of the puzzle model and trying it out for the first time .

5.3.2 Work in progress

After the sotai reshyu a technique must be exercised, automated and drilled.� The term �work in progress� is derived from the world of arts where you are looking at ballet performances which are not yet finalised and where some finishing touches must still be done.� Also a painter or a writer must leave his work at night knowing that it is not finalised yet.� The same way a judoka must treat his technique development : training, knowing that it is not yet perfect and continuing working the next training session.� He must want to invest in his job which will bring him the success later on.

5.3.3 Trial technique

When the work in progress is already far advanced, it becomes a trial technique. The new technique is tested in randori via instructions (see my article Periodising of types of randori) and shiai.

5.3.4 Scoring technique

The moment a judoka scores for the first time in a competition with� a certain technique, then this technique changes from a trial technique to a score technique.� The technique is now� a full subdivision of the individual complex of techniques of the judoka.� Unfortunately one cannot always� say : once a scoring technique always a scoring technique.� Experience teaches us that during the career of a judoka there will be an evolution of techniques with which he scores.�� Some techniques at a certain time do not work anymore while new techniques come to the fore.


The puzzle model does not have the pretension to be universal and must never be followed literally.� A model is a guide.� Compare it to a fashion show.� The creations that are shown on the catwalk, are not made to be worn in the street.� They however form an inspiration for ready to wear clothes.�

The departure from a model when studying technique has got a big advantage: new techniques or technical problems do not fall into a chaotic situation, but can be fitted in a structure.

If the reader can be helped to build the� puzzle by this learning plan then this plan has served its purpose.� To actually explain what has been discussed here (the �how�) and to go into details, we must go on the mat together!

Article provided by and copyrighted © by Raf Tits, March 2003. Mr. Tits is a member of the Pedagogical Commitee of the V.J.F. (Flemish Judo Federation, part of the Belgian Judo Federation), Headcoach of Judoteam Duffel (4 national champions 2003) , and personal coach of 6 international competitiors. All rights reserved.