Just how well are we doing?

Inevitably with the recent wins at IJF Grand Prix and Grand Slam event medal hauls the BJA media machine will be getting pumped to inform us all how great the British team are now doing, I thought it might be a good idea to have a none biased look at how we’re doing in this Olympic qualification period. I thought one way to consider our progress was by comparing our performance in the first year of Olympic qualification for London to the first year of Olympic qualification to Rio. We have a new regime, not every one agrees with it but it is better than before? Here are some results…

The Olympic qualification period is the two years prior the games (May to May) so we’ll be considering May 2010 to May 2011 and May 2014-May 2015 (I know, very timely!). So, just comparing Grand prix and Grand slam events this is what it looks like –


GP Tunisi May 2010 – nil

GP Rotterdam 2010 – nil

GP Abu Dhabi 2010 – nil

GP Quingdao 2011 – nil

GP Dusseldorf 2011 – nil

GP Baku 2011 – nil

GS Rio de Janeiro 2010 – nil

GS Moscow 2010 – nil

GS Tokyo  2010- 1 (Euan Burton, Bronze)

GS Paris 2011 – nil


GP Havana 2014 – 2 (McKenzie bronze, Sherrington silver)

GP Budapest 2014 – 1 (Powell bronze)

GP Ulaanbaatar 2014- nil

GP Zargreb 2014 – 2 (Powell and Howell bronze)

GP Astana 2014 – 2 (Powell gold, Davis Bronze)

GP Tashkent 2014 – 2 (Powell bronze, Adlington bronze)

GP Quindao 2014 – nil

GP Jeju 2014 – 1 (Oates, bronze)

GP Dusseldorf 2015 – 1 (Schlesinger, gold)

GP Tbilisi 2015 – nil

GP Samsun 2015 – 4 (Powell silver, Conway, Davis and Howell bronze)

GP Zargreb 2015 – 2 (Davis gold and Conway silver)

GS Baku 2014 – 2 (Oates gold, Conway, silver)

GS Tyumen 2014 – nil

GS Abu Dhabi 2014 – nil

GS Tokyo 2014 – nil

GS Baku 2015 – 3 (Oates silver, Davis silver, Conway gold, Schlesinger bronze)

For those of you frantically calculating a summary that is

2010-11 = 1 bronze
2014-15 = 12 bronzes, 5 silvers and 5 golds
I would suggest that is an outstanding improvement! I would like to add a few caveats to this before we all run out buying Rio tickets though….
  1. This is a pretty crude analysis, GP and GS events change and as you can see there are a lot more in the current Olympic cycle. It might have been fairer to include world cups/continental opens especially as under the current system athletes cannot self-fund to grand slams.
  2. If including world cups/continental opens then it might have also been fairer to analyse total world ranking points won rather than just medals
  3. I would also suggest that the truest measure of our improvement is world championship medals. We were a country that won a medal and almost every world championships up until that last Olympic cycle and we haven’t managed one yet in this Olympic cycle, however there is still Kazakstan 😉

I am sure there will still be critics of the current system, of course I have my own opinions about it, but the fact of the matter is we do seem to be improving in performance. I am sure some of those critics would also happily point out that few of these medals were won by athletes at Walsall, i’ll save you the counting…

Camberley 1 (Ashley)

Ratho 9 (Colin, Sally, Chris and Sarah)

Welsh Institute of sport 5 (Natalie)

Walsall 5 (I am assuming Nekoda and Alice are both training there but not sure, happy to be corrected)

Bath 2 (Gemma H)

I think considering the main aim of Walsall is the Tokyo 2024 games 5 of the medals is pretty good.

My overall opinion?? Well I am still not 100% convinced by centralisation, I hate that Camberley, Bath and Ratho players are often forced to feel like second class citizens and I personally would like to see this addressed, I think we would actually do much better for it. Having said that, the questions was “How are we doing?” and the answer has to be – a lot better than we were!

Please feel free to comment below 🙂



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Anglia Ruskin University announced as England Performance Pathway Centre

In 2015 British Judo will launch a new look Performance Pathway, how this will work in England is that there will be eight Performance Pathway Centres that will be the main hubs of activity above Club level. The Anglia Ruskin England Performance Pathway Centre will train both on campus and at the Comberton Judo Club dojo.

Each Performance Pathway Centre will run the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) programme alongside weekly Randori. AASE is a programme that combines Judo and Education, giving you the opportunity to increase the quality and quantity of training whilst achieving an NVQ Diploma in Sports Performance.

The Anglia Ruskin University England Performance Pathway Centre will run a variety of sessions throughout the year. This will include weekly randori (every Wednesday 7-930pm), regular day training sessions (technical and randori) and allow athletes to progress into full-time training either via AASE or as a university student. We also aim to work with coaches who support the England Performance Pathway Centre to develop their coaching with information from our European Judo Union coach education courses and our Judo Research group.

If you would like more information on the weekly randori sessions, AASE or training full-time and studying at Anglia Ruskin University please email judo@anglia.ac.uk

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The importance of failure – Underground Athletics

An interesting blog post on the need to allow athletes to fail in order to learn…..

The importance of failure – Underground Athletics.

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Autonomy supportive coaching in judo…..

I haven’t posted for a while so I thought I would write a quick post about a topic I have been teaching at university this week, autonomy supportive coaching, and relate this to judo.

What is Autonomy supportive coaching?

Autonomy supportive coaching has been described by many authors including Gillet et al., 2010; Alvarez et al. 2009; Conroy & Coatsworth 2007; Amorose & Anderson-Butcher, 2007. A lighter yet informative read can be found here written by Australian Sports Commission. I would describe it as “a coaching pedagogy that is underpinned by a desire to develop athletes as self-thinking, personally motivated and innovative individuals” (Something like that anyway!)

Why is this important?

I think it is important for athletes to be autonomous for several reasons, at the end of the day when they go out to compete they’re by themselves. Their task is to win medals and if they can operate autonomously then our support is enhancing an individual who is far more advanced and therefore you can dedicate time to higher level support. Consider it this way, as coaches we have all worked with athletes who constantly need support with really basic things on competition day – nutrition, warm up, they lose their kit (especially belts), they’re always the one who has a kit that doesn’t fit etc etc Then you look across the hall and there is this uber organised athlete, he/she knows where everything is in their bag, they have appropriate food and fluids for immediately after the weigh in, they’re taped up and ready to warm up early, they have kit to stay warm after the warm up, they check the draw themselves, they know what colour  kit to where, it always passes judogi control, the back patch is always sewn on properly – you get my drift! The point is you can be checking they have their belt etc or you can be focussing on higher level support.

What can judo coaches do to make their athletes more autonomous?

I think it is important within coaching sessions to empower athletes and allow them to make mistakes and reflect upon what they’re doing. It is also important to not intervene too much and when they need support in learning or planning to turn the help into a discussion rather than a straight forward answer. This takes patients and often means they do not progress as quickly as others initially but eventually they develop a much deeper understanding. Here are some examples of the strategies I use to try and develop more autonomous athletes:

  • After competition we watch the videos, this is either done with me and the athlete so we can discuss the contest or (more often than not) the whole group. We sit as a group, watch each persons fights, the players and coaches make notes and then the player in the video is asked to make any comments, then the other athletes are asked for their opinions and then the coaches. This is very time consuming but very effective. One important point to note though is that this can be quite daunting for new players in the group so I normally do theirs one on one.
  • Have you ever been to a judo session, its coach led, he does whatever technique he wants that week, then maybe some randori and you think “I really want to practice x” We do a lot of this, I just pair the players off and let them work on whatever they want, I just walk round observing, asking questions and making suggestions. This is a kind of experimental learning and is much better for developing a deeper understanding.
  • When giving feedback `i also try to use questions….. this is not easy to begin with. So a simple example might be that you notice someone is not pulling high enough with their hike-te  grip and thus not breaking balance correctly. Rather than dive in and tell them it is wrong just ask them how it feels, they’ll probably say not strong enough or something like that and then you ask “what could you do differently?” if they don’t know ask the partner… try to always get them to find solutions rather than give them too them. It will make them much more reflective and critical in their understanding.

I think judo is a sport full of tradition and this is a good thing but equally we shouldn’t be scared to progress and develop. I often see very regimented classes, coach demonstrates, athletes copy, coach corrects etc etc and this kind of coach centred approach to developing athletes can be vastly improved.

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World judo Championships 2014 – Organisation

This post about the world championships is more about the event itself, I have been to every world championships since 1999 and I have to say this is probably the most organised one i have been too. Japan in 2003 and 2010 were obviously well run, Paris in 2011 too butt his was different, very different.


Fan zone

There was an entire street (like a shopping street with no cars) set up as a fan zone. This was a little way from the stadium but was a great idea. There were cafés etc all along the street, a stool selling official merchandise, a large screen showing the medal fights, all the shops had world champs branding on the windows and there was free wifi set up in most of the places there. Was a pretty good idea, made you feel like you were in a kind of safe zone.


Judo Park

At the venue was a judo park, this was the area immediately outside, yiu didn’t need a ticket to get in because you could download a poster from their free app, screen shot it on your phone and get in. There was a food court, judo stools and a kids area as well as some entertainment stuff.

The arena wasn’t as big as some I have been to but was very clean, very organised, security was quick, there was food on sale etc Generally the area was very good but could have been bigger and my biggest bug bear, no free wifi inside, I have yet to go to a world champs that has free wifi set up, for me this is a very basic need.

We stayed in one of the budget hotels on the official list. All of the official hotel had these volunteers in the reception areas, they all wore these red and white judo t-shirts and all spoke English. This was very helpful, they help sort hotel issues, transport, taxis etc I think there was also a policeman in every hotel, there certainly was in ours.

Also every day in the reception of every hotel was a newspaper about the judo the day before. These were actually quite a nice touch. The PDFs are below.

At all world there is transport between the official hotels and the venue (certainly the main hotels) but in Chelyabinsk there was a large minibus every half our to and from the venue and our hotel, I assume more regularly from the bigger hotels. All of these had world champs graphics all over them and were free to use.
Generally very friendly!

I have never been to Russia before, I don’t know what I expected but I have to say it was very friendly and generally very easy to get around and do stuff. Overall I was pretty impressed.

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World championships 2014 – Technical observations

2014-08-29 11.08.35

This post is about the observations myself and Glenn made during our trip to the world championships in Chelyabinsk. On the last day we sat in a cafe and discussed our observation and what we feel needs to be worked on within our training group (obviously some of these have not been included). Later that day we saw a blog post by Oon Yeoh that basically said pretty much exactly the same as what we had said, non-the-less here are our observations.

Edge play

Without a doubt there were a lot of shido’s given out by players not understanding the edge rule or not being able to use the edge to their advantage. I think years ago players could hugely use the edge to their advantage and eventually this will start happening again. There has been cries by coaches and officials to “fight int he middle” and i personally think this is a little naive, what athletes should do is understand the rule and use it to gain advantages, this doesn’t necessarily mean by forcing shido, the edge is a powerful tool for gaining the correct reaction to throw your opponent.


There were a lot of ura-nage variations, this happened across both genders and all weight groups. There is no evidence as to why this is happening more frequently but my guess would be that because of the new rules players are turning in for an attack when slightly more compromised than before because it is hard to dominate with the kumi-kata but this is just a guess. Obviously there is also the removal of leg grabs and maybe techniques such as te-gurma  might have been used before.


This was a very common technique, not really sure why but personally i think it is because of the new rules around kumi-kata and not being able to break the grip with two hands thus athletes are breaking the grip by turning in or have the sleeve already pinned.

Uchimata sukashi

A lot of the tradition kind of uchimata sukashi where the opponent avoids the uchimata and then steps across for a harai-goshi  or  tai-otoshi  type technique. There was also a lot of what might be described as the “ride and roll” technique. I would argue this is possibly due tot he reasons outlined above.

Completing the armlock when the opponent stands up

Despite the rule changes allowing the application of a ne-waza  technique once the defender has got to their feet and ippon rarely happened once they did. I feel this is generally because athletes hadn’t really figured out yet how to maintain the ne-waza  or how to get the opponent back to the floor once they got to their feet rather than the referees not giving enough time. This was most obvious in kansetstu-waza  and in particular juji-gatame. 

Shido game

Shido has pretty much always been the highest scoring technique in modern competitive judo and the rule changes do not seem to have changed this. Obviously there are now a lot more reasons to be given shido and some players have a great understanding of the “shido game’ and can really manipulate the contest. I would say possible the best player at this is Pavia (FRA) and this is not to say she doesn’t throw big, because she does! In fact i would argue she uses the shido game to make sure she can achieve the big throws.

Referees not as strict?

I am going to get some videos to highlight this point because i think it is very important. Although the referees are strict they are nowhere as strict as many of the referees in the UK, maybe somethings are simply missed but actually a lot of the time they basing their decisions on the philosophy of the rules rather than a black and white statement in the rule book. This is a big problem for us, we do not have referees operating at this higher level and therefore the manner in which the rules are being applied is not being filtered down to the national refereeing structure. This failure by British judo to get referees at this level is affecting the entire performance of judo in the UK and our international players often end up fighting a completely different type of contest here in the UK. The rules are about creating better judo not just using shido’s  and hansoku-make  all the time.

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Quick note from Chelyabinks…

Just a quick post from Chelyabinks, the world championships starts tomorrow and today was the draw. It was a very lively event, very well run throughout. One thing that stood out for me though was the number of Brazilian players that were seeded for this event. They had at least one player in every weight category and the only two categories without a Brazilian player seeded were the -90kg and the -70kg. The vast majority of their athletes were top four seeds.

I did a quick search of Brazilian players on the WRL and there are only two groups that do not have Brazilian players in the top 10 in the world (-63kg Barros is 11th and -70kg Timo is 20th). That’s a pretty impressive preparation for a home Olympics in two years time. A huge difference to the preparation of the British team in the run up to London 2012.

There has been a lot of chat recently about the British only taking 4 players to this world championships, I niether agree nor disagree with this to be honest, I think it has it’s merits and pitfalls either way. I will try to blog on this at a later date.

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