Practice versus Training in Judo

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


About Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Practice versus Training in Judo

  1. Ak says:

    Hi Mark,

    Thank you so much for your extremely informative blog. I had a few questions for you:

    1. Do you have any sample training routines for white belts seeking to get better — for off-the-mat training?

    2. As someone who is trying to improve my randori endurance, what does it take? Elsewhere you’ve said it is both aerobic and anaerobic. How can I tell what my bottleneck is and improve it? I know part of it for me is simply that I’m still too tense, but I’m sure part of it is also endurance. After just a couple of minutes of randori, I am tired… though I try to keep pushing myself.

    Thanks so much.

    • Mark V says:

      AK – the best training for Judo is more Judo. Most people start training just one night per week, but the result is slow progress. . If there is the opportunity at your dojo, try to train three times per week. You can then supplement this with road work, jogging, cycling, or swimming to build aerobic capacity. Judo is somewhat unique in that randori requires both aerobic and anaerobic capacity so strength training is also helpful. But don’t do so much in the gym that it interferes with Judo training. That said, Judo is a long slow process of learning techniques, developing timing, building speed, and then adding power. So don’t approach randori with the idea of muscling your way through it. Stay relaxed, focus on technique and timing, attack relentlessly, and don’t be afraid of getting thrown. Too many students fear getting thrown so tense up and waste energy. If your partner has 80% of the technique then give it to him or her. — Mark

      • Ak says:

        Thank you so much, Mark! To be clear I usually do train 3+ times a week as it is, but I tire out in randori quickly. I think my aerobic capacity is at least decent — I can jog a couple miles without getting too out of breath.

        But a couple minutes into randori and I’m huffing and puffing. I assume that’s an anaerobic issue? That and probably a matter of tensing up too much . But if it is an anaerobic issue, what if anything would increase my endurance there? I want to be able to keep explosive speed and power all the way through multiple 5-minute matches, and I’m wondering what off-the-mat training if any would help me with that specifically.

  2. Mark V says:

    It is not unusual to tire quickly in any sport where you are using all your muscles simultaneously. I would recommend incrementally increasing the duration and intensity of your gym workouts or exercise routines. For example, super-setting and cross-fit routines. Going from one exercise to the next without taking a break and keeping your heart rate up. I’m assuming you are healthy and capable of heavy exercise routines. You also do not need a gym. At home you can do push-ups, crunches, pull-ups, lunges, and various plyometrics. That said, keep in mind that you are still a white belt so adapting to the exercise load of Judo. By the time you hit green belt things should be improving.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s