Mark Lonsdale, Judo Training Development

Goal setting is a critical component of most endeavors in life, including athletic development. Goals are essential to the athlete in that they drive the training necessary to get to the required end-state or, in the short term, to the next level.  

There are two types of goals – long term and short term. Long term goals are dreams and ambitions such as winning the Nationals or going to the Olympics. These could be two to four-year plans, or even longer depending on age and experience. Then there are the more attainable short term goals. These are the steps that will take the athlete from being a talented club player to a local champion, then state or national champion and beyond. Innumerable short term goals, along with hard work and the inevitable painful setbacks, should be the markers that guide an athlete to their ultimate goal or ambition.

While the long term goals may remain constant, the short term goals are being constantly reassessed based on individual development, available training time, financial resources, quantifiable progress, or even injuries.  An athlete and coach can initially set their sights on the 2014 Nationals, but realize that this may not be realistic, so will reset their expectations for 2015. Similarly, a knee injury can take 6 months to heal after surgery, which could set a training program back almost a year.

Reality Check:

Training goals must be realistic and attainable with the resources and time available. For example, a promising competitor living in small-town USA is not going to achieve his or her full potential training at a dojo that only has fifteen members. To achieve national or international standing and success, that individual must be willing to endure years of hard training at a national training center or in Japan or Europe.

“If you’re going to be a champion, you must be willing to pay a greater price than your opponent.” Bud Wilkinson, University of Oklahoma Football Coach

 Goal Setting in Judo:

Improvement in competitive judo is a triad of technical skills, tactical ability & experience, and physical fitness (cardio and strength)

The technical aspects of judo can be studied and honed at the club level, at least until the player has exceeded the knowledge and experience of his or her sensei or coach. From there it will be necessary to attend high performance clinics or even relocate to a training center offering elite training. At a minimum, a competitor should be working on technical skills at least three times a week in the dojo.

Tactical knowledge and ability comes first from randori and shiai, and then from studying elite players in international competition. An experienced high performance coach is also essential when working on strategy and tactics for elite judo.

As for fitness, the judoka will quickly discover that at the international level, almost all national team players are elite athletes. This means that, immaterial of their chosen sport, they are all in superb physical condition, except for some of the heavyweights who are heavy but overweight and in relatively poor physical condition. For the aspiring international competitor, this equates to setting long term fitness goals, and then building a series of steps (short term goals) to attain the long term objective.

Technical Goals:

If, for example a player wishes to place at the Nationals, or just beat a particular player in their club, then one of the foundational goals should be to improve their technical ability. All good judo is built on good technical ability. This is best approached one technique at a time.

  1. Learn and perfect a competition throw
  2. Develop speed and then power
  3. Use moving uchi-komi to develop timing
  4. Practice entering the technique from different directions
  5. Incorporate this technique into a series of combinations
  6. Practice this technique relentlessly in randori

In time, a competitor will build the necessary neuro-muscle memory for this technique to become second nature. The true test and validation comes when the competitor begins throwing opponents in randori or shiai without even thinking about it.

Tactical Goals:

  1. Learn which grips work with each attack or throw
  2. Practice grip fighting to obtain the required grip
  3. Practice attacking off a single grip
  4. Practice both right and left-handed techniques
  5. Learn to attack left off a right-handed grip (and vice versa)
  6. Study your opponents’ stance and gripping sequences
  7. Gain as much high level competition experience as possible (and can afford)

Fitness Goals:

  1. Cardio. The first attainable goal is to be able to go 5 minutes in hard randori and not be totally exhausted. In time that goal should extend to multiple 5-minute randori, plus Golden Score. While running, cycling, and swimming may be good for cardio-vascular conditioning, there is no substitute for well structured randori training. The only downside of hard randori is the potential for injury.
  2. Strength. While many judoka work religiously on grip and upper-body strength, the real power in most judo throws comes from the legs. Watch any Ippon throw on video to that Tori’s leg and toes are fully extended in an explosive driving motion. This can be developed through plyometric training and nage-komi. Women, however, should endeavor to build grip and arm strength so as to not lose a grip during an attack sequence. “No grip – no throw!”
Slide drawn from Mark Lonsdale's judo training development program

Slide drawn from Mark Lonsdale’s judo training development program

To conclude, here are 20 Steps to Success:

  1. Make the Commitment!!
  2. Start a training journal and training calendar
  3. Set long term goals and write them in a training journal
  4. Set realistic & attainable short term goals
  5. Allocate the necessary time & financial resources
  6. Become a serious student of the sport
  7. Get a good coach with national and international experience
  8. Design a realistic training program
  9. Concentrate first on technical skills and speed
  10. Train frequently but don’t over-train
  11. Allow time for rest and muscle recovery
  12. Train hard and with a purpose to achieve short term goals
  13. Learn to think and train like a winner
  14. Be confident but not arrogant
  15. Compete in as many tournaments as possible
  16. Don’t be concerned about taking a week or two off to rest
  17. Stay motivated
  18. Stay focused
  19. Be sure to continue enjoying the sport and reinvesting in the next generation
  20. Be thankful for friends, family, supporters, and sponsors



Mark Lonsdale is available for judo coaching and development clinics nationally and internationally. Contact Judo Training Development at

About Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator
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