Thursday, July 03, 2008

Stronger and faster

There are a lot of attributes that go into making a technique successful. The timing, offbalance, strength, speed, mass, etc… of both attacker and defender play into it. But when a technique goes bad in practice, what do you immediately think to change in order to make the next repetition more successful? I’m not asking what should you be thinking about working on, but what do you naturally think of
For many folks, I'd bet you think, "I've got to be stronger and faster."
This reminds me of a tournament I was in years ago as an orange belt. I beat a green belt pretty handily with what I have to admit was a superbly-timed sukuinage. The guy jerked on me hard and I clipped both of his legs with my whole body, using his own strength to throw him and his mass to turn us so I landed on top. It was a beautiful judo moment.
After the match, that guy’s coach came up to me and asked, “Are you the guy that beat my green belt so badly?” Being a young smartalek and high on adrenaline and testosterone at the time, I answered, “I donno, I beat somebody’s green belt real bad.” (If you’re reading this, I’m sorry I spoke to you that way. It was disrespectful and stupid.)
But anyway, I thought then and I still think that coach’s response was remarkably short-sighted. He sighed, looking exasperated at his student and said, “Yeah, I’ve got to work on him to make him stronger and faster.” I actually managed to control the response that popped into my head, “Yeah, you go do that and next time I’ll throw him that much higher.”
Point is, his first thought was that this player was unsuccessful because he was not strong enough and fast enough, when the reality was that the player’s own strength beat him in the first place.
Strength and speed are good things, but they are pretty sorry as a first line of defense. When a technique is not successful in practice, look somewhere besides strength and speed to make the next rep better.


  1. Amazing, I was just thinking about this topic.

    I'm new to Judo and I told my Judo teacher that I had started lifting weights to get in better shape. He told me to stop, that it wasn't necessary and might even hurt my grasp of the technique.

    I'm in my 30s now and I enjoy lifting weights. I don't want to stop. I can see the lesson in his words, but is it really that important that I stop?

  2. No, no, no. I didn't mean to say that strength is bad, and maybe I wouldn't go so far as your sensei.

    Strenth is vital for health and for functioning in everyday life.

    It judt sucks as a first resort for making technique work.

    glad you enjoyed the article. Keep up the judo practice and it will reward you greatly.

  3. This is a problem for me too. Finesse vs. power seems to come up often for me in my judo class.

    I don't mind using power/strength after I'm in position for the throw. But using it a lot in kuzushi seems odd to me. And yet, a lot of the kuzushi I see in class seems to be strength-based.

    I've gravitated towards the one female teacher in class that teaches the kids. She's 5' tall and can't use strength so she just uses technqiue. Her kuzushi is exquisite so I've adopted it as the basis for most of my throws.

    But now the guys sort of look at me strange in the dojo.

    I think the teacher's POV in this post is the approved one in some places. To deviate from strength even a little bit is considred wrong.


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