It doesn’t take long to realize that there are so many different skills to learn in Judo that you can’t imagine ever having enough time to address them all. Every time I mention to a coach that he or she should work on this or that, I get the same dejected look, and reply, “I know what you are saying, but I just don’t have enough time to fit everything in.”
If you can’t increase the number of practices or can’t lengthen the training session, then you must make your practices more efficient. Actually, you should make your practices more efficient anyhow, even if you can increase the number of practices (usually a good thing) or lengthen your session (often not a good thing.)
Two of the learning principles that I cover in my coaching courses are activity and transference. Understanding these principles will help you plan more efficient training sessions by cutting out inactivity, wasted time, and irrelevant training. You’ll be able to fit more relevant training into the same unit of time.
The principle of activity states that in order to learn a sport, you must actively do the sport. A no-brainer, right? A general guideline is that participants should be actively practicing their sport 80% of the time, while resting and listening the remainder of the time. I’ve been to enough clubs to know this 80-20 ratio doesn’t exist in many programs. If you want to know how much activity goes on during your class- and a good coach should want to know this- have a few monitors sit on the sideline, observe your class, and use a stopwatch to record the time that your class is actively engaged in doing the sport. Warning! Be ready for a surprise.
The first step to cramming more learning and training opportunities into your existing schedule is to decrease inactivity. This is an easy task since many coaches suffer from kuchi waza. Kuchi waza, a Japanese term that means technique of the mouth, is that special ability of coaches to go on and on talking about Judo, but not doing Judo, while their students sit bored out of their gourd. To decrease inactivity in class, coaches need to cut down on their kuchi waza.
The principle of transference, also called specificity of training, suggests that the skills we practice need to be the ones we actually use in the performance of the sport. Time spent on training that doesn’t transfer to the performance phase is deemed irrelevant practice and wasted time. Traditional Judo is replete with irrelevant training. Tackle this beast and you’ve found enough time to work on a whole bunch of skills you previously couldn’t cover.
Wasted time and irrelevant training start with your warm-ups. Too much time is devoted to warm-up exercises in general, and to exercises which do little to warm you up or develop athletic abilities. Can we honestly look ourselves in the mirror and state that traditional neck, hip, knee, wrist and ankle rotations warm us up or make us better athletes? And is there a need to make warm-ups the conditioning phase of Judo where hundreds of push-ups, sit-ups and burpees are performed? Do you really need to spend 25% or more of your practice warming-up?
More time is wasted during solo ukemi practice. Is there a rational reason we need to do tens of back falls from sitting, squatting and standing positions, before moving on to side falls from the same positions all without involving a partner or actual Judo throws? I can’t think of one. Judo ukemi is predicated on how tori throws uke. Tori has a vote on how uke lands. It makes perfect sense to me that ukemi practice should be done in conjunction with throws. Solo ukemi practice is a total waste of good training time. If you simply can’t get solo ukemi out of your system, for heaven’s sake, do just a few and then get going with Judo that involves a partner and throws.
More irrelevant training is found in those dreadful static uchi komi we are so strongly enamored with. How in the world does doing half of a technique in a static position prepare you for the dynamic Judo environment we call randori or shiai? Once again, if you can’t get static uchi komi out of your training paradigm, do a few and then move to real Judo in a real Judo environment.
The math involved in inactivity, wasted time, and irrelevant training is staggering. If your class meets twice a week for one hour, by eliminating even just a few minutes each of kuchi waza, warm-ups, solo ukemi practice, and static uchi komi- perhaps eight minutes per one hour class- you gain over thirteen hours of training time in one year! That’s like thirteen more classes- almost two additional months- that can be devoted to training that is relevant and makes a difference in the development of your students. How can you not dig that?