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.
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 mini–markers? 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:
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.
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.