A definition of Elite Judo Players

What makes an Elite Judo player elite? Surely winning cannot be the measure of an elite player. Winning is nothing more an incidental by-product of being an elite player.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines elite as; “a powerful minority group”

I define Elite Judo players as the players in regular contention for the medal positions at the highest levels of competition.

Elite Traits

Research has shown that elite Judo players use gripping skills to control their opponents. When coming to grips Elite players take any small purchase that their opponent will allow and then improve on it. Research has also suggested that another trait of elite Judo players is knowing when and, more importantly, when not to engage the opponent in Ground Play.

The Research

In performing the research for the report “1992 Olympic Judo Newaza Analysis” I began the review of competition with the Men’s 78kg and Women’s 61kg divisions video tape. In my observations I admired the high level of skill and Tactical application with which Jason Morris used his Minor Foot Techniques, or Ashi Barai. As the competition progressed into the repecharge I realized that;

1) Certainly, no other player used his Ashi Barai to the effect of Jason Morris.

2) Not all players used Ashi Barai.

I wanted to know who used Ashi Barai!

Unfortunately, I was too far into the competition of the 78kg and 61kg divisions to establish any trend of the use of Ashi Barai in these divisions. I was however able to ascertain that;

1) All medalist in the Men’s 78kg division used Ashi Barai as a part of their personal attack systems.

2) None of the medalists in the Women’s 61kg used Ashi Barai.

Divisions remaining to be reviewed were Women’s 48kg, 52kg, 56kg and 66kg as-well-as Men’s 60kg, 65kg, 71kg and 86kg. For the remaining review of the video tapes of the 1992 Olympic Judo Competition I recorded which players used Ashi Barai.

72.5% of medalists used Ashi Barai. 56% of 1st through 7th place finishers used Ashi Barai.

A Demonstrated Trend

If you accept the definition of Elite players as being the players in regular contention for the medal positions at the highest levels of competition then this research shows a positive trend in the use of Ashi Barai by Elite players.

It is important to note that, in the Women’s divisions, three (3) former World Champions (Briggs, Schreiber and Arnaut) failed to earn medals. All three, however, were strong Ashi Barai users. Similarly, in the Men’s divisions several strong Ashi Barai users, all past World Meadlists, failed to earn a medal. I feel that this evidence supports the definition of Elite players as being in regular contention for the medals. These athletes may not have earned a medal in this particular competition but they were fighting into the late rounds and they will be forces to reckoned with in future World level events.

An aberration?

The Women’s 56kg and Men’s 71kg had ten (10) and fifteen (15) players using Ashi Barai, respectively. Why there should be such a high number of Ashi Barai users, as compared to an average of seven (7) female players using Ashi Barai and eight (8) male players using Ashi Barai per division, I don’t know. I do know that these division were the hardest fought of the Men’s and Women’s competition.


To date research has indicated evidence of three traits of Elite players.

1) The use of aggressive grips.

2) Selective, offensive, engagement against the Hands and Knees Ground Play Position.

3) The ability to use Ashi Barai as a part of the player’s Personal Attack System.

All of these traits are areas that are directly influenced by Coaching. If we want to develop Elite players we must know what traits Elite players have and train our players to use those same abilities.

Are Elite Judo players possesed of other special traits? Most definitely, YES! What those traits are will have to be discovered through careful research. It will take time but for now we can train our players to use the skills of the Elite as we know them.

See Weers “First Contact and Grip Domination”

See Weers “1992 Olympic Judo Newaza Analysis”

This page is provided by the author George Weers and published here by Neil Ohlenkamp, Encino Judo Club, California, USA.
Last modified July 20, 1997