RETHINKING YOUR WAZA (TECHNIQUES) FOR MASTERS JUDO
By Mark Lonsdale, Judo Training Development
As you will have noted from my previous articles in this series, I firmly believe that the Masters community is a significant, largely untapped resource in the world of judo. But I have also come to realize, through personal experience and coaching, that many Masters competitors need to rethink the techniques (waza) they use in randori and competition.
As we discussed in a previous article, for the adult judoka who may have left judo for ten or fifteen years and then returned to the sport, they need to proceed with caution. For the individual who has not maintained a good level of fitness through regular exercise and hard work, the potential for injury is high. While one may remember all the techniques and be comfortable with light randori, the muscles, tendons and ligaments may have lost their elasticity. Aches and pains from muscle use are to be expected, but tears in tendons can be extremely painful and debilitating. Therefore, the longer one has been away from judo or regular conditioning exercises, the slower one should proceed on the mat. The first few months should be dedicated to warming up, stretching, and building aerobic capacity before attempting heavy resistance training or hard randori. The problem is we all remember how we used to train and fight as Seniors (18-30 years), and now think that we can do it again. Not true!
If we look at the injuries and ailments of many older judoka, we begin to see that some techniques are no longer an option. If, for example, the judoka has bad knees, then any of the deep squatting techniques such as drop-seoinage are probably not an option. Similarly, if a judoka cannot split his or her legs past 90 degrees, sitting on the mat, then the big uchi-mata may tear a groin muscle.
Since all judo begins with gripping, some Masters may have found that because of arthritic hands they no longer have the grip strength that they once enjoyed. If grip strength is weak, then techniques requiring strong sleeve pulling may be difficult, or simply result in a lost grip and no throw. Fortunately, in judo, there are several techniques that can be executed with minimal grip strength, in particular throws to the rear. Ouchi-gari and kouchi-gari can be executed by driving your opponent backwards, as opposed to pulling forward. There are also a wide range of ashi-waza that depend more on technique and timing than on strength.
For the heavier competitors, the maki-komi family of techniques is useful since they only require a winding wrap into your opponent and then the use of weight and driving leg power to execute the throw.
So, step one is to understanding which techniques you are physically capable of executing without injury. Step two is to select a family of techniques, combinations and set-ups that will work for you. Step three is to begin working these techniques in uchi-komi, nage-komi and very light randori. It is important to develop the technique, timing and confidence before attempting these in harder randori or shiai.
From there, a training partner or coach can be very helpful in giving positive feedback and suggestions. Lacking a coach, have a friend video your nage-komi and randori so that you can self-analyze after training.
If the above advice sounds like the beginnings of a serious training program, you are correct. It is more difficult for a judoka in their fifties or sixties to get in shape and stay in shape, than it is for an athlete in their twenties or thirties. It is also easier to get injured and takes longer for injuries to heal. So if you want to enjoy your judo and dabble in Masters competition, then devote the time needed to get in shape and avoid injuries. That said, I still carry a bag of sports tape, wraps, soft knee braces, and Advil to take care of the inevitable small injuries. The bigger injuries require adequate rest for recuperation.
No matter your age, keep enjoying your judo, sharing your experience, and staying on the sensible side of Jinki (exhaustive effort, valued in judo)