Notes on Randori in Judo by Mark Lonsdale, Judo Training Development
Wisdom from Kyuzo Mifune, Kodokan 10th dan. “A chance to try your technique is in one instant never to be regained. So try it without hesitation.”
This speaks to the importance of using randori to hone and perfect your techniques. All too many students and judoka treat randori as a ‘life or death’ challenge match when, in actual fact, they should be attacking without fear of being countered or thrown. Fighting defensively for 3-5 minutes in each dojo randori is counter-productive.
Granted, one objective of randori is to win, but the greater goal is to practice your attacks and develop timing. A judoka could stiff-arm his or her opponent for 5 minutes without attacking, and then win by the slightest knock-down (yuko). This is not good judo and they have wasted the opportunity to practice their attacks and develop timing. The primary purpose of randori is free practice not winning. At the dojo level, I prefer to see my juniors attack relentlessly in randori, even if they get countered. This is especially true when matched up against a stronger opponent. Even though there may be no hope of winning, judoka should still attack with every technique they know and counter decisively when their opponent attacks.
One useful exercise is half randori where only one player attacks and the other must avoid the attacks. The defender (Uke) is permitted to step around the attack and hip check, but may not use strength or stiff-arming. This gives Tori the opportunity to work on attack techniques and timing without fear of counter. The coach or sensei may also require that Tori attack with a particular combination of techniques, again to give sufficient opportunity to find the timing.
The exception to the above is “hard randori” training in preparation for shiai or upcoming championships. With hard randori, as found in national squad training and international training camps, the focus is on physical conditioning and testing one’s skills against uncooperative opponents of various weight, height, strength and experience.