Archive for the ‘Judo’ Category

My Training Update | Judo & Controlling the Controllable

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

2017 is the year of getting back on the tatami and trying to develop my competitive judo. Though the past few years I’ve been as consistent as ever with general training and able to develop my athleticism, I’ve been unable to build momentum in my chosen sport. Being a S&C coach means that sometimes (a lot of the time) when judo practice is on, I am working with my rugby players. That said, I’m now boxing clever and getting in my mat time towards the end of the week and weekends which gives me consistency. I’m looking forward to building on that.

This past weekend I had a team tournament which was both great fun and a learning experience. A true wake up call to where I currently am. It has fostered a greater desire to improve and further refine my schedule where possible to allow for more judo. Before I go any further, here was the result from the weekend:

Fight 1| Won (Ippon throw)
Fight 2 | Lost (Osaekomi waza – pinned)

This post could easily turn into a breakdown and full analysis of every second on the mat; however, I think it more valuable to share a message with you that I often discuss with my athletes: control the controllable. You see, my first fight almost went the distance. It was a long battle. I was very pleased to win with a throw that scored ippon right at the end, but it was in that moment I realised how gassed I was. There was a short turn around in Fight 2, and I failed to recovery in time. We landed in a non-scoring position and ultimately I got caught in a pin that I failed to get out from. I didn’t recovery between bouts and though there were lots of ‘judo work-ons’ with regards to technique and tactics, I knew straight away I had a new focus in my training: fitness and improved body composition.

The rule of specificity means I need more judo to improve. More high level judo would not only improve my fitness but most importantly my skills. Guys my size with good skill throwing me every Tuesday and Thursday night in randori would help massively. Unfortunately, based in Aberdeen I’m somewhat of an outlier and, as I’ve alluded to, often work clashes with judo practice. While I’m looking forward (I think) to getting to Edinburgh for national randori/ sparring when my work has me down that way, I must focus on what I can fully control, measure and improve on. Fitness and improved body comp is an easy one to get a handle on! Though nothing will replace a good scrap at national randori, I will use the 2k row to assess improvements in my aerobic capacity which I can compare to the GB Judo Team’s standards. And for body composition it’s a case of using the eight-site calliper test and bring the weight slowly down. Strength and power are on the back-burner though I would expect to maintain or certainly only decline by 5% in my core lifts in terms of absolute strength, while my relative strength will increase.

Below is me shooting for an o-uchi-gari after battling for ‘my grips’. A reminder to get in better shape so that I can express my judo on the tatami whether it’s fight 1 or fight 8!

Power Clean Clusters from Blocks

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Admittedly, I’ve become somewhat of a weekend warrior. As I’m often coaching in the evening I’ve found it difficult to get any consistency and therefore momentum with Judo in the last couple of years. Sure, I can do conditioning or lifting most days and slot it around my schedule, but I can’t slot Judo class around MY schedule. The truth is, the hardest grapple I’ve had these last two years is finding a regular training slot for Judo practice.

To that end, I’ve looked at the weekends as a way to try and get some momentum back on the tatami and this past weekend reflected that. I enjoyed some Saturday conditioning followed by two newaza/ bjj sessions on Sunday.  I went to sleep last night fully prepared to wake up with the aches and pains that every Judoka is familiar with; the cut feet that stings in the shower, the staved finger from an over eager grip and the stiff knees from ‘basing out’ on those grafty butterfly sweeps. What I wasn’t prepared for was the pain when I breathed in/out or coughed. I’m no medical professional, but something certainly wasn’t (and isn’t at time of this post) right with my ribs.

Anyways, there was still training to be done! I was a bit beaten up and sore, but in the grand scheme of things – who cares?! I have a regular Monday lifting session which is purposeful/ planned and part of a bigger vision, so there is no way I wanted to miss it. I simply took a little longer on my warm up, then ramped up to my ‘working sets’ on my exercises with the mindset that I will listen to my body, yet will be aggressive with the lifts and give them my best shot. To my surprise, once I got going I was able to achieve the planned numbers for the day despite being sore during my bracing phase of the lift.

Mondays are currently clusters on the power clean from blocks. Specifically, today was 120kg singles (3 x 3 with 10-20s rest/ 3mins).

The takeaway message: you’re not always going to arrive at a training session fresh and feeling fantastic. Sometimes you’ve got to talk yourself into achieving the goal of the day and gauge how you feel and how your body is responding after an aggressive warm up.

Obviously if you’re unwell or injured you should seek a medical professional prior to exercise as per disclaimer. The advice I follow and give to my athletes when they are not 100% (but not injured) is: “warm up, ramp up to your working sets, then we’ll talk”.

Training Montage

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Some recent training footage of myself and some FMT athletes.

Pull Ups For Grapplers

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Here’s a move I regularly cycle into my training when my volume of judo training is low. It’s an easy way to keep/ develop grip strength specific to judo. Enjoy!

My training update: the pursuit of a black belt III

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

 Every so often I like to update readers with how my own training and development is going. Though I am a strength and conditioning coach who really enjoys the physical preparation required to perform well in sport, I have always viewed the weight training and fitness conditioning as a means to an end. In other words, my focus has never been “I just want to squat huge bro”, rather it has been “okay if I can squat twice my body weight that puts me in a better position to run faster, throw quicker and move better”. Relative strength is vitally important in sport, especially in sports with weight categories like Judo, therefore all my athletic development has been with the idea that I will increase my ability to perform on the tatami.

Alongside my athletic development I have been trying to acquire as much fighting skills as my body and mind will allow. When I was introduced to Judo I went to class just once a week for six months or so and used the sport as a form of fitness training. Then, something clicked.  I didn’t all of a sudden become a baddass-slamming-feared-judoka. Rather, something clicked in my head where I thought: this isn’t good enough. I wanted to move, and throw like my sensei. I wanted to be a good fighter.  When the time came, I wanted to fight and win a ‘line up’ for the grade of 1st Dan (black belt).  In my part I and II of this series I wrote about my journey and the steps and processes I was going through to achieve the overall goal. I am pleased to report that I successfully completed a ‘line up’ last year (23rd Nov 2013) and received the grade of 1st Dan (black belt). As I eluded to in my past posts, the journey to this wasn’t easy. Now I am very much at the end of the beginning and hopefully I have a long and healthy middle ahead of me, full of learning and improvement. Specifically, I am currently in training for my first judo competition oversees in Germany.

For the last three months I have been trying to alleviate knee pain (patellar tendonitis) and maintain my athleticism. While my knee problem hasn’t completely cleared, I am short on time and have decided to get back into full swing and spend as much time on the tatami as possible. The view is to peak around the time of my fights in September and I will be posting up footage of my training journey along the way. Stay tuned! 

Strength & Conditioning for Judo: Part 2

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

The Olympic Lifts 

 In part 1 of this series the physiological profile of a Judo athlete was broken down and it was clear what physical attributes a competitive judoka needs to be successful. As discussed, power is one physical characteristic that is essential for a competitive Judoka. Indeed, an ippon will only be awarded if there is ‘sufficient force’ coupled with technique (2). A successful Olympic lift is much like an ippon, not only in body mechanics, but in the fact that sufficient force is required to move a loaded barbell overhead. The ‘clean & jerk’ and the ‘snatch’ are velocity dependant and the inclusion of these movements and their variations are essential for long term power development (1); however, some coaches shy away from them due to the technical complexity. Fortunately for judoka’s the Olympic lifts aren’t dissimilar to some high-percentage judo throws. The table below summarises the different phases for both a judo throw and Olympic lift.

       Judo Throw Phase                  Olympic Lift Comparison
Stance and Grip (Kumi Kata): Deciding on a preferred grip and stance is essential before a throw can be successfully executed.  The Start Position: Requires a stance and grip that is specific to the person’s preferences and body type. The similarities are: straight back while the upper body remains relatively relaxed and tension is expressed in the legs.
Balance Breaking (Kuzushi): Bring the Uke into a position where their centre of mass is not directly between both feet. First Pull, Transition & Second Pull:Much like a  judo throw the barbell must be moving in the correct direction before dropping under. The mechanics of the initial phases of the lift mimic that of a judo throw: the shoulder rotates from an internal to external position while the trunk stays stiff and the hips, knees and ankles fully extend before they flex. 
Throwing Preparation (Tsukuri): Tori’sbody has moved into the correct position.  Third Pull: With the barbell moving, it is now essential that the athlete moves around the barbell much like moving around Uki.
Throw Execution (Kake): Toricompletes throw by using the generated momentum/ energy and powers through to a standing position.  The Catch & Recovery: The athlete receives the bar in a squat position much like a seoi nage position and uses the momentum of the barbell and the stretch reflex within the legs to power up to a standing position.
The Fall (Nage): Arguably the throw is over and Tori guides and controls Uki to the floor. Dropping the Bar: In the standing position the athlete has a responsibility to control the weight and bring it down whether they are in the clean, jerk or snatch position. Athlete relaxes the shoulder and keeps the hands on the barbell until it passes the shoulders and then releases. Much like the final phase in a judo throw where the Barbell/ Ukiis controlled in a relaxed manner to promote safety. 


The video below demonstrates an Olympic lift (clean and jerk). It is worth noting that this is a reasonably good clean and jerk technique; however, it is by no means a perfect model as I wasn’t using a ‘demo loading’ in this video.


There are a multitude of benefits to including the Olympic lifts into a strength and conditioning programme for judo athletes. The above table highlights that the body uses similar muscles, mechanics and speed during a typical judo throw and Olympic lift. Other accessory exercises are necessary to include a fully developed Judoka; however, if the Olympic lifts are being neglected then power development will suffer in the long term. Please feel free to use the contact section of the website if you have any queries regarding how to structure a session and be sure to stay tuned for instalment 3 of the series.



  1. Fleck, S., and W. Kraemer. 1997. Designing Resistance Training Programs. pp.88–91. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. P 88 – 91.
  2. Ohlenkamp, N. 2006. The Black Belt of Judo. London: New Holland Publishers Ltd. P 45-57.



My training update: the pursuit of a black belt II

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

In my last post I highlighted that I was going to compete for the grade of 2nd Kyu in Judo, or blue belt. I was super excited to have the opportunity to fight and was able to record all three fights.

On reflexion I was able to achieve my process and performance goals in two of my fights, though I must admit that I was hoping for a BIG crowd pleasing Ippon. Next time :)

There are many things that I need to work on if I am to progress and become the fighter I want to be, yet for now I’m pleased I was able to achieve my outcome goals for this grading.

If I could share a take-away lesson with you it would be this: use goal setting. Goal setting is a very powerful motivational tool which can really aid focus. As you’ve read, there are more than one type of goals you can set. Enjoy the process, execute the performance and the outcome should take care of itself.

Judo 2nd Kyu: Blue Belt

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

This coming Saturday provides me with my first oppertunity to fight for the grade of 2nd Kyu. I will face three opponents and must win two out of three to gain the promotion to blue belt. Of course, my goals are slightly more ambitious:

1. Process goal: obtain my grip and feel out my opponent before throwing.

2. Performance goal: Achieve an ippon throw.

3. Outcome goal: Win all three fights.

I hope to get footage of my fights (my last recorded footage was when I was a 5th Kyu yellow belt and so I have added many skills since then) but for now, I’ll share my excitement with a cool judo video…

Strength & Conditioning for Judo: Part 1

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

What Does a Judoka Need?

Judo is a grappling sport which involves many different elements of fitness. A high intensity intermittent sport, Judo is also a dynamic art which requires complex skills coupled with tactical finesse (2).  Body composition is important for the Judoka due to the weight categories which separate fighters; needless to say, maximum muscle and minimal body fat is desirable due to the relative strength benefits. A typical competitive male Judoka has ~10% body fat (3) and has high levels of strength endurance in the upper body paired with high levels of power output in the lower body (4).  This physiological profile is necessary when the demands of a competitive match are considered; Castarlenas (1997) highlighted that an average bout in the dojo will last three minutes with ~30seconds of activity and 10seconds of interruption (1). Within the ~30seconds of activity a judoka will aim to fight for a dominant grip before off balancing an opponent, which  would lead to explosively executing a move where the desirable score of ippon is achieved.  Though there are many more factors to consider when programming Judo athletes, the above information can provide a glimpse into the demands of competitive Judo and should be considered as part of the programme design process.

Tip of the IceBerg

The session below provides a snapshot (one training session) of a programme I used with an elite level Judoka this past year.  Daily undulating periodization was used due to the competitive demands and training frequency of the athlete.

  Client Name                 Monday AM  
  Prework: Weighted Vest Box Jumps 3 x 5 (45s RI)            
A1. Front Squats                  
  Weeks Sets Reps Cluster Rest   Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5
  1 3 2 3 10s/ 2mins            
A2. Scap Wall slides                  
  Weeks Sets Reps Rest     Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5
  1 2 12    3231            
B1. Bench Press (wks 1 and 3), Bench with Fat Gripz (wks 2 and 4)          
  Weeks Sets Reps Rest     Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5
  1 ~5 3RM    X            
B2. DB Row                    
  Weeks Sets Reps Rest Tempo   Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5
  1 3 12 2mins  X220            
C1. Band Press ups                  
  Weeks Sets Reps Rest     Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5
  1 3 20s    X            
C2.. Hang Power Cleans                
  Weeks Sets Reps Rest Tempo   Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5
  1 3 20s 10s  X            
D1. CandleSticks                  
  Weeks Sets Reps Rest Tempo   Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5
  1 5 3 1min  X            


More information on training for grappling over the coming months…



  1. Castarlenas JL, Planas A. Estudio de la estrutura temporal del comhate de judo. Apunts: Educ Fis Deportes 1997; 1 (47): 32-9
  2. Dégoutte F, Jouanel P, Filaire E. Energy demands during a judo match and recovery. Br J Sports Med 2003; 37 (3): 245-9
  3. Franchini, E., Del Vecchio, F., Matsushigue, K. and Artoili, G. (2011). Psychological profiles of elite Judo athletes. Journal of sports medicine. 41 (2): 147-166.
  4. Sbriecoli P, Bazzucchi 1, Di Mario A, et al. Assessment of maximal cardio respiratory performance and muscle power in the Italian Olympic judoka. J Strength Cond Res 2007; 21 (3); 738-44