By Mark V. Lonsdale, Judo Training Development
For most Judoka, their journey in Judo begins by attending regularly scheduled practice at a local Judo club. They are not going into Judo to train for the Olympics or even the Nationals, but simply for recreation, fitness, and possibly self defense. After the initial learning and technical phases, the Judoka continues to attend practice to improve. This practice involves repeating a number of actions, techniques, or series of steps to improve technical performance. There is no defined goals except to continue doing the techniques until they can be executed with proficiency in nage-komi and randori. Many Judoka simply practice Judo for exercise, to enjoy the sport, and for personal satisfaction.
The only marker of progress is some level of technical proficiency and the color of belt awarded and, as with most regular practice, an individual can expect to feel fitter and experience improvement. However, practicing without clearly defined goals, the probability of reaching one’s full potential is diminished.
In practical terms, practice is the once a week club event where one practices for an hour or two, generally covering warm-ups, uchi-komi, technical study, and randori. But without increased frequency and intensity progress comes slowly.
Training, on the other hand, generally speaks to a significant time commitment to a structured plan that includes a number of meaningful drills and exercises, with increasing duration and intensity, to achieve specific goals. In Judo this may include training to improve a specific technique or series of techniques; training to improve tactics and grip fighting; training to improve strength or stamina; or training to improve mental toughness. All of these are quantifiable and therefore have metrics for the coach and athlete to gauge improvement. The related targeted, incremental goals being promotion and winning in competition.
Training means having planned, meaningful practice activities driven by personalized coaching and instruction, designed to improve specific performance objectives. For Judo the training programs should be designed to improve technical skills (waza), competition skills (tactics), and mental toughness. For optimum effectiveness, each training program and training module should become progressively more individualized as the individual athlete improves and advances. Where initial group training will have drills that are “common to all,” truly effective coaching requires that the training be customized to suit the individual.
To take this a step further, each athlete on a training squad, or even students in a dojo, has varying strengths and weaknesses, so it is the mission of the coach to identify the weaknesses in each individual and to optimize the training to patch those deficiencies. Over time those weaknesses become strengths and the training is adjusted to address other weaknesses.
Finally, as most competent coaches are aware, meaningful, deliberate training that is focused on developing physical strength and stamina, plus technical, tactical and mental skills, greatly improves the athletes’ probability of reaching their full potential.
Train Hard – Train Smart – Train Often