Judo IQ Workout Ideas

Improving your Judo without actually doing it

Learn from others… Ideas to improve your Judo from the comfort of your own home. Not even a pandemic can get in the way of this! You won’t even break a sweat!

If you’re anything like me, you’re more of a do-er than a spectator. I find watching people playing a sport incredibly dull. In fact, watching anyone is boring unless we’re talking about the people-watching we all engage in at the airport/cafe/reception etc.

However, one thing that needs calling out is just how useful it is to watch people fighting in Judo. “It’s a fight before it’s a sport” as Luke Preston of Camberley Judo fame mentioned to one Danny Williams before a match . Whether it’s club randori or shiai, the fighters are at an intense moment in their lives. Be wary of the participant who says “let’s just train light” – things can get heated in the blink of an eye once enthusiasm, testosterone and ego come together. Being thrown in competition is often painful, let’s not pretend it isn’t! And everyone wants to win the match – you’re even doing your opponent a disservice if you’re not making an effort to throw him/her. Given this quite extreme moment in two peoples’ lives taking place, there’s a lot for the onlooker to take away from it.

Personal Judo style

Each Judo player develops their own personal judo style over the course of their practice:

  • The inexperienced player will apply their judo style to their respective matches while actively developing it – one size fits all. 
    For example: Their seioi nage might be their favoured technique so they’ll use it on their heavier opponent, their lighter opponent, hell let’s just use it on everybody!
  • The more experienced player will have an established style but would appropriate it to their opponent accordingly – they will bait and test before making their movements e.g. if I feint an o-uchi does he shift his weight like I expect him to? He does? Useful!
    They will have more of that “Judo IQ” where they better predict the other’s movement, can guide and entrap the other accordingly.

I really enjoy the various commentary videos on Youtube where a high-level player will talk through a fight and pause to discuss salient points. There are some great examples by Vince Skillcorn, Shintaro Higashi, Travis Stevens to name a few. I’ve made it a point to try and get my coach to do this at some point.

I’m in the 81kg weight category so I typically go to the respective IJF website line-up to see examples of Judo perfection that I will never reach. Defeatism aside, there’s plenty to take away from watching others performing – whether it be the most novice or even the most elite. 

Watching Judo will contribute to your Judo IQ, regardless of what level you’re at.

Things to look out for

Below is a list of things to look out for when watching a Judo match. This is also useful for when you’re assessing someone who you’re coming up to fight with at a Judo tournament.

  • Throwing style: static or dynamic? Do they typically rely on stagnant movement or on continual movement?
  • Are they righty or lefty? If so, how’s their opposite-side ability like?
  • Grips 
    • What are their favoured grips? East-Europe bear hug style or traditional Judo lapel/sleeve? Or something else?
    • Which grips do they always want to break off and why?
    • How much effort do they take in establishing grips or do they rely on the opponent to establish a grip and then work from there?
  • Are they more up-right or more bent-over in stance? As an example, the current number #1 in 81kg Men is Matthias Casse  and his style is very upright compared to the #3 from Turkey, Vedat Albayrak who is more leaned forward and freestyle wrestler in stance.
  • What are their favoured bail-out techniques and when do they typically deploy this/these?
  • What’s their newaza game like – do they continue on the ground or wait for the referee to pause the contest?
  • Fitness: how much gas is there in the gas tank? Do they gas early, in which case how do they avoid passivity?
  • Tokui-waza – what’s their go-to technique and how versatile are they with other techniques?

Feel free to add more in the comments and I’ll update the page accordingly.

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