Are You Training Efficiently?

by Gerald Lafon

When it comes to violating modern principles of athletic training, sports with strong training traditions- traditions based on unfounded beliefs and myths- seem to have an edge on inefficient and often counterproductive training.  Although sports scientists have undertaken research that condemns many of the training myths, tradition, poor dissemination of research results and reluctance to accept inevitable change (progress) have resulted in coaches often subjecting their athletes to less efficient training regimens.  The sport of Judo, even in the face of the revolutionary training ideas advanced by Judo coach Geof Gleeson in the 1960s, still refuses to accept many of the changes that have been proposed, and steadfastly clings to training concepts that the more progressive sports threw out years ago.

One training principle that seems to be consistently beaten to death by Judoplayers and coaches alike is the principle of specificity.  The principle of specificity or transference states that training must mimic as closely as possible competition conditions and variables in order to maximize learning and training effects.  Training must duplicate the biomechanics, neuromuscular patterns and energy system requirements of competition skills.  Drill training is the foundation upon which competitive skills are built.  In order to be effective, drill training must allow skills to be repeated frequently and in their entirety while being realistic and reflecting the conditions under which the acquired skills will be used.

Note:  Since many Judo athletes practice skills in training that they don’t use in competition, it is suggested that athletes and coaches first analyze video tapes of competition performances to create an inventory of skills which will then be used to implement a more effective and realistic drill training program.

Below you will find some simple guidelines to make your practices more specific to Judo competition.

Set ups, Movement Patterns

Classical drill training or uchi komi involves little or no movement contrary to the requirements of competition.  Realistic, dynamic movement patterns in conjunction with grips should be used to bring your opponent into the right position to effectively throw him.  Make sure that the movement pattern you use in training is the same one you will use in competition.

Tempo, Pace

This refers to the speed of your movement pattern.  The tempo used in training must be the same you will use in competition.  Remember, however, that the throws in your inventory may require different tempos.

Grips, Resistance and Postures

Opponents you will meet in competition offer a variety of grips, resistance and postures.  You must incorporate those same variables into your drill training.  Use cross grips, end of sleeve grips, double sleeve grips, belts grips, unorthodox grips, classical grips, right and left sided grips, stand-up postures, crouched postures, exaggerated left and right stances, stiff arms, crunching arms etc. to add reality to your training.


Your Judo techniques must be practiced in their entirety and at the same speed they will be performed in competition.  Slow motion training, outside a few repetitions to get the feel of something new, should not be undertaken as this is counterproductive.

Note: Don’t confuse the speed of a skill with the pace of your repetitions.  Perform each skill or repetition as fast as possible without affecting the quality of the skill.  Don’t rush from one repetition to another.  This idea is contrary to uchi komi practice where quantity but not quality seems to be the overwhelming goal


Judo training is most paradoxical and inefficient when it comes to the biomechanics of skill.  Coaches allow athletes to train one way but then expect them to perform in another way.  Uchi komi and kata practice force the athletes to alter the biomechanics of Judo skills to the point of creating skills that no longer resemble competition skills.  To exemplify this, let’s analyze O soto gari.  In training, a right side O soto gari involves stepping forward with the left foot and reaping with the right whereas most competition effective O soto gari are performed with the left leg stepping back to create a forward drive while the right leg hooks initially and reaps only much later in the throw.  These throws may both be called O soto gari but any reasonable person can see that they are very different, so different in fact that they are biomechanically two distinct throws.  Therefore, if drill training is to be effective, athletes must practice skills as they will be performed in competition.  Practice perfect skills only.  Keep in mind that it isn’t the quantity of training or repetitions that counts but rather the exactness of the skills.  It is far better to perform fifteen properly executed skills in their entirety than it is to slop through one hundred partially executed throws as illustrated by traditional uchi komi.  To help you execute biomechanically sound skills, pay attention to the function of the following;

Head: Must be aimed in the direction of the throw.  Wherever the head goes, the body follows.

Body: Must be angled (30 to 45 degrees) in the direction of the throw.  This is called angle of attack.  To remain standing after you throw is to practice a different skill, one which won’t approximate your competition skill enough.

Legs: At least one leg, the driving leg or driver, must be placed behind you in order to achieve a proper angle of attack.  Power from leg transfers up through the hips to the arms.

Arms: Must lock, fix, pull or drive opponent’s upper body.

Note:  By now you should understand that in the world of modern athletic training principles, uchi komi are a fraud.  The practice of traditional, static uchi komi has very little validity and should be discontinued.  Spend your training time more efficiently by practicing intelligently.

Terminal Judo

If proper biomechanics are applied with an angle of attack, the attack will then culminate with both players being driven into the mat where ne waza (mat work) will ensue.  All throwing skills should end terminally.

Links, Follow-ups

All techniques, skills or attacks, whether successful or not, should be followed by subsequent techniques, skills or attacks.  To help you mimic competition situations during drill training always follow up mistakes with secondary attacks just as you would normally do in competition.

Note:   The above concepts will also apply to drill training of mat work skills.


• Your practice skills should mimic your competition skills
• Perform skills in their entirety
• Set ups should involve grips and movement patterns
• Use appropriate tempo or pace for movement patterns
• Your training partner must vary his grips, postures and resistance
• Practice your skills with speed as long as you don’t affect quality
• Perform biomechanically sound, perfect skills
• Create the correct angle of attack for terminal Judo
• Immediate links or follow-ups

3 thoughts on “Are You Training Efficiently?

  1. Very insightful article. It breaks judo dojo norms which are normally useless for shiai. I observed that one can learn a throw and internalize to the point of autonomy in couple of months of regular drill/simulation sessions under supervision of a shiai coach. And then successfully and consistently use it in randori or shiai. I also seen athletes making glacier slow progress training moves that will never work in competition. I’m glad someone is recognizing this. Jigoro Kano sectioned judo into two disciplines; Kata and Shiai. But I often see those combined in one, which result in slow progress.

  2. The truth of REAL movement and positions for judo throwing skills are finally coming to light! However this enlightened thinking was first promoted by a judo coach way back in the mid 1960s .He was a teacher at the University of Minnesota . He paired up a Video camera with an early computer to analyze the loco-motor movements of the main throws of judo.He was really light years ahead of the classical judo people, and still is! He produced more national and champions than ALL the judo teachers in Minnesota put together! He also developed the FIRST AMERICAN to win a WORLD Champion gold medal! Ann Burns (Rhonda’s Rosey’s Mom). I have not kept track of him over the years,but I heard that he had moved to Seattle,Wa. His Name is John R. Holm

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