Lesson: Words that Count!


Words are audio and/or visual symbols used to communicate thoughts. Sometimes they can represent numbers as well. Numbers represent quantity or lack there of, like 0. Together in the right order, in the right place and time, they can have quite an affect on us. Like, the number of people living on this planet, 7.59 billion. The following words are used in USJF coaching and were selected to help us to look at coaching our athletes in a more systematic manner. First let’s look at how coaching usually occurs.

A sensei while watching a student will comment that the reason the haraigoshi Jack was trying didn’t work was he didn’t pull his larger opponent off balance prior to entering into the throw. Or that Alfred wasn’t bending at the ankle, knees, and hips, enough to get his hips and body under Tony, a shorter stouter boy.

While the sensei is correct in his or her observations they are usually given in the context of the correctness of execution under ideal conditions as in a kata demo. The judo coach, who may also be a sensei, now has to consider the above situations under stressful conditions of competition. In doing so he has to consider for his athlete the variables and how to adjust to them for competition success. For example, in Jack’s case his opponent is larger, which might mean Jack is having to use more energy to move his opponent around. Is he in shape to do that, or does he tire easily and doesn’t have enough energy by the time he tries to pull his opponent over by haraigoshi? Maybe it’s not his aerobic conditioning but he doesn’t have enough trained muscle power. A need for uchikomi practice maybe? Or what of Alfred’s not getting under the shorter, stouter Tony. What of a different selection of technique for 6 foot Alfred when he fights 5 foot 9 inchTony? Maybe an osotagari rather than a morote seoinage, hmmm–.?

The main idea here is that a coach must have a plan and needs to be observant and suggest alternative possibilities for his athletes success at competition. To do this of course takes time to get the knowledge and experience, and a good system. Here are a few important concepts and words that will act as guides.

  • Historical data mining and organon: An organon is a cognitive device made to collect information. You as a coach will be using one soon. Like it or not, the era of “Big Brother is watching” is here. Our government and even NGO’s like Google, data mine us everyday. By sophisticated algorithms you now get advertising pop-ups on your computer based on your incoming and outgoing e-mail. Information like this is used by companies to profit their company, just as we will do our organon to profit our athletes. Do you think information like what your next opponents favorite throw is, and that he used it to win 6 out of the last seven 7 match’s would help? If he or she is right or left handed? If they win their matches in the first part of the match or second part of the match? More on this topic will be explained later when we look at the “competitive profile” sheet. 
  • Athletes Inventory: An athletes inventory is just that. All the information you may want on your athlete. Of course his or her name, address, phone, e-mail, date, height, weight, flexibility, strength, favorite techniques, left and right, aerobic ability, etc. an example is provided in the addendum. Yes, this is an example of an organon. It should be dated and needs to be updated from time to time as you see progress or significant change in your athlete. The inventory will be important in determining what needs to be improved upon, as well as showing what has been accomplished. More information on this important organon is found in the addendum. 
  • Competitive profile: This organon is used to record actual matches. It is best done with a camera and device that can show slow motion and stop action on a screen, in addition to the profile sheet that is also to be found in the addendum in the back is a must see, must do activity. These do take time to record and note, so it should be remembered that they are usually reserved for your best athletes use. Special attention should be given to grips, interesting habits, techniques, quirks, etc. The best use of this profile is during private sessions and with a screen. Be sure to have your important sections marked off and include drills to counter act or attacks. certain moments of weaknesses in the opponent. 
  • Timelines and Markers: Oftentimes in judo we engage in “forever judo,” that’s where there is no concept of an ending or middle to the practicing of judo. Maybe there is a start date but it is often forgotten in the mire of practicing judo. This was how judo was practiced in the old days when there was no rush to do other things. Today, with the emphasis on not just practicing judo for its own sake and enjoyment, we have competitive judo, and not just to see who is better than the other. Now the idea of excellence extends far beyond the individual or local dojo or organization, its competition results represents National pride and what one Nations’ efforts can accomplish over that of another, and there is a time limit now.

The stakes are high and the effort is life straining intense. So intense that today it is estimated to cost about a million dollars to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games. Judo is an intense activity as a sport. James Michener in his book ‘Sports in America’ rated it almost as high in intensity as the Tour-de-France, an activity that lasts 23 days riding a bicycle for about 2,200 miles. With such intensity you know it’s a young mans sport and that the body has a limited time to survive in that type of environment. Remember, the Olympic caliber years for judo are between 16 and 35 years of age.

So, for judo there is a 15 to 20 year span in which to succeed in making a senior champion, be they local, regional, state, national, or international. That may seem like plenty of time, but it’s really not. Much is dependent on the judo environment; what kind of competition, coaching,  support, and desire to excel everyone has in an organization. Assuming you have an athlete who wants to be among the best, so now what?  What are your plans?

Timelines and mini-markers now need to be considered. A timeline is like a deadline. Let’s say that you feel your judoka is at a place where he is pretty good at judo, and while he may feel he is capable of fighting with the big boys, you know as a coach and by his performance in practice and at the last tournament you saw him in, he would probably not even place 5th in the local invitational being held at the end of next month. The Nationals are in December it’s now March 1st, and he wants you to coach him so that he can enter them. He just made nikyu at 16 years of age weighing 160 lbs at 5’ 8” tall. You are the coach. What’s the plan?

Basically, your timeline includes the specific little steps to be taken to do what needs to be done to prepare your athlete to compete in about nine months time (your deadline), let’s say the first weekend in December. So what are minimarkers? Mini-markers are little goals that the coach sets up for the athlete to accomplish so that he will know he is making progress. These mini goals can be interspersed throughout the nine months or can be bunched up more in the beginning month, middle or end. Here are a few mini markers:

  1. By the end of two weeks be able to do 50 sit-ups and 50 push-ups consecutively within two minutes.
  2. By the end of the month be able to do 50 ippon seoinage uchikomi correctly in one minute. 55 sit-ups and push-up in two minutes.
  3. Lift 180 pounds over your head 3 times consecutively in a minute by week 6.
  4. By week 8 piggy back carry your 160 lb. partner 25 yards up and back in 10 seconds. Execute 60 ippon seoinage uchikomi in one minute.
  5. At randori session’s during your 5 and 6th week execute and throw your partners with at least 20 ashiwaza technique. Thus you should have done at least 40 ashiwaza throws recorded by the end of week 6. You might need to attend more than the regular twice a week to get the 40 in.
  6. Week 7, be able to execute ten throws spread over a 5 minute practice session. This means you have to deliberately time your attacks about 20 to 30 seconds apart, and they must at least stumble your opponent.
  7. Week 8 There is a local tournament. Enter it. At least one of your wins, should you get one, should be with a left sided throw. I’ll be there coaching you all the way. You are not to go to the ground for any reason. Just tachiwawa this time.
  8. Week 9 New assignments and drills will be issued after the video lecture on the tournament held on last Sunday. The lecture is an extra day Private lesson. Have the competitive profiles for each of your opponents filled out and be ready to discus matches 1, 2, 3, and 4. Expect to be there a couple of hours.
  9. Week 10 Your athletes training pays off. He places third. This is a major marker, He also succeeded in throwing his first opponent with a left sided okuriashibarai for a wazari win. His next two matches were also decision wins. His semifinal match was going to an overtime when he stumbled his opponent and both hit the floor. Rather than trying to stand up, tired and confused, he continued on the ground, He got into a kesagatame, but was overturned and pinned by a wrestler turned judoka.
  10. Still week 10 the video critique session; The coach starts out with his first neutral words, “ Well, what did you think about performance? I think I did okay, but could have done better. I don’t know why I went into mat-work when you had told me not to do any groundwork. Coach smiles, I think you did fine yesterday. You’ve been diligent in your assignments and have completed nearly 90% of all that has been assigned you. Do you think all the assignments given you helped? “Yes, of course.” The drills got me in good physical shape and I was able to outlast my opponents. They got tired and kept running from me. Its just the last guy got to me.” Coach asks, “What do you think you need to work on next?” John answers, “ I think I need a good technique.” Good answer, here,s your next assignment. It’s a combination move in four directions. You are going to get sick of this move because you will be doing it so much. You’ll twitch the move as you are about to go to sleep, You’ll be doing it as you wake up in the morning.”

The numbers are fictitious in the example above; it’s the concept that matters here. Each athlete has different abilities to finish different over time. More weights, less time to do the task in, increase number of repetition, etc. Mini-markers should be constructed so that the objective sought is just outside of the reach of your athlete. In reaching for them it is means to improve his or her performance. Once these little steps are accomplished, it should be sighted. It’s a “mini marker.”

Remember the “ judo glasses that needed to be filled in chapter 1, e.g. cardio and strength conditioning, techniques, tactics, etc. Here is where you select your athletes glasses that need filling. It may take three or four small paper cups to fill a big glass. A big glass full would be the equivalent of a “regular marker.” The small paper cups are mini-markers. 

  • Logging It: If you are serious about your athletes progress you both need to keep a log of your progress. For the coach’s log book names and start dates, general condition of the athlete, weekly or daily progress, assignments, noteworthy entries, critiques should all be dated and kept. Depending on situations it might be advisable to even keep your log book in a secure place away from curious eyes that do not need to see it. The basic idea is to remember needed details you may need to speak to your athlete about in helping him or her achieve his or her goals. For sure, record start dates, desired outcomes, agreed upon behaviors, markers and mini markers. It needn’t be detailed, brief notes are better than none.

The athlete’s log book should have a start date and what the coach and he or she is hoping to accomplish with the help of the coach. Coach’s assignments should be written down. Also, how the athlete felt as he or she went to complete the assignment. Did the task seem impossible, was it to easy. Was there difficulty in completing the task? If the task was completed did they feel more accomplished and confident after? If the task was not accomplished what thoughts came to mind?  Was there a follow up session with the coach, if not, why not? Inform the athlete that these notebooks may be collected from time to time, but only with the athletes consent to review them so some discretion should be used in writing them, but do write and keep notes.

In writing things down, one keeps a record of their progress. It is usually difficult to see if one is making progress or not when in the midst of it all. Often athletes may feel a “slump” in progress. In Japan its called a “surampu,” because they didn’t have a for word to illustrate this down turn of events before the up-turn. Usually this is due to the fact that as one gets better there is less progress to be had therefore a feeling that one is not making any progress. It can also be a result of practicing with tougher opponents. However, if you are keeping a record of the numbers you started with, and later can actually see an increase in the numbers of throws on even tougher opponents than before or differences in increased weight you can lift , well- – -there’s your proof of an increase in ability over time and practices. Additionally, writing a log allows one time to talk to the secret invisible homuncules on your shoulder, your inner self, your alter ego. Maybe it’s time for a talk.

In leaving this section lets remember that all of organons are in some ways new but useful tools. It is an effort to keep a running record of progress by using numbers that indicate a direction that should be taken. For example if an opponent has won all five matches with an osaekomi what do you train to do? If time permits, get better at matwork, at least defensively, train to stay on your feet, train to throw him for ippon, train to throw near the edge and keep rolling out. Avoid the mat.