Get yourself a game plan (if you haven’t got one already)

I’m a recreational judo player, I enjoy the sport, I’m comfortable with the fact that I’m not getting invited to a Grand Slam any time soon. I’ve not invested in additional time/effort/expense to get further because I have other higher priorities at this current point in time (my daughters clearly at the no.1 spot here!).

I’ve always found that I’m both a righty and a lefty. When I’ve got someone throwing me with a right-sided throw I take on the left stance, and vice versa. I’d train in both left and right side techniques. I’d rely on feel. I’d develop a few favoured throws and try to pop them in whenever I find the opportunity. I thought this was what you were meant to do really, until I got talking with a few more Judo-enlightened people.

It’s just not optimal

My method may work for a lot of people but it’s just not the most optimal way to train. Regardless of whether you take your training seriously or not, you want to be efficient with your mat time. Our mat time is obviously our greatest opportunity to advance. And during this mat time we get exposed to all kinds of ideas, concepts and techniques.

If you’re anything like me, some of the techniques introduced will stick and some won’t. The ones that will stick will be the simpler ones that you achieve early success with. This is fine, however it’s likely you may pass on something that might actually be a great asset for you if you persisted.

Working up a game plan

What has recently helped me in leaps and bounds is formulating a dispassionate and analytical look at my judo. I listed down offence scenarios and defence scenarios in two separate columns across a page. I went through and listed out what I do in each situation and have been contributing to it for a few weeks now. I quickly realised that I didn’t have an answer for a lot of situations that would come up again and again. I was also dismissing certain techniques I was being shown that would actually fit quite well in areas where I was weak.


Writing it all down meant that when I’d be introduced to something new I could then:

  • See where it fits in my existing list of techniques (having a point of reference)
  • Assess the principles used that I’m already familiar with
  • Assimilate it into my defence strategy.
  • Determine whether it’s something I should integrate into my game or keep it in mind for a future experiment.

I’ve made it a point to limit myself to 2-3 options for each of the different scenarios I’m faced with at any particular time. My aim is to further hone them, develop muscle memory, but more importantly – to establish some level of predictability in my actions/reactions. This way I can have a better view on where to tweak things.

Taking this approach I can then be distracted by fewer things. I can look at ways to further bolster my set pieces by adding an additional feint or some other distraction to set it up. I can then focus on dominating the pace and the movement of the fight so I can better control the chaos.


I’m in my early point of this, but it’s worked wonders already. It’s really opened my eyes – I’ve now had a mental shift where randori is no longer a rough argey-bargey but a harmonious flow that I’m constantly steering.

Don’t underestimate how long it will take you to put one together. It takes a very long time and will require a lot of paper. I gave up on physical paper and ended up putting it all in Google Docs as I can make it pretty. If you’re struggling for a format, then let me know and I’ll send you mine as an example. Some people can put this all together in their head, and that’s great. For a sleep-deprived 40-something like myself I’d recommend the good ole’ “write it down” method.

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