The Coach is always a Student!

June 4, 2018

As a Judo coach I teach a wide spectrum of abilities. Classes can range from teaching basic Ukemi’s (breakfalls) all the way through to competition tactics, drilling and high intensity randori.


A couple of months ago I was assisting on a session at a Cadet GB training weekend and I was asked to help a couple of juniors with a technique they were working on. Obviously I was more than happy to do so, until I saw the technique they were practicing. 


The juniors were working on a Sankaku turnover (and they were doing quite a good job), after watching them for a few minutes I quickly realised I had nothing of value to add. I will say at this point I did know how to do the technique, but only as well as the junior practicing it in front of me! 


I’m now stood in front of two juniors who have asked for some assistance and expecting me to give them some great input which will place them on the road to Olympic Champion and I have zero to add to this technique … What to do? 





In time’s like these as much as you want to ‘blag’ it, as a coach I think it is really important to try and keep the athlete’s best interest at the centre. Humility is a big part of Judo, so I stopped the juniors and explained I could not give them any further details around the technique (which did hurt my ego). I offered some ideas around developing the technique through introducing some transitioning from standing but I felt pretty useless to say the least. 


I think it is really easy to dismiss  an encounter such as this and continue to demonstrate and work on the things that I am good at or at least feel comfortable with. 


“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’. - Neale Donald Walsch


Within my coaching I try to be self-aware and reflect on things that I can change to make a difference. Not knowing a simple technique in enough detail to help a junior is not of the level I expect of myself.  So over the next couple of weeks I set out to change this, I studied clips on YouTube (I have created a playlist link for some of them for you to watch), I got back on the mat and I worked on it. 


I feel it is really important to maintain a level of accountability to yourself and the players you work with! I always ask them to work on the things they do not feel comfortable doing and reassure them it is ok to fail, I had to eat some humble pie and follow the same advice. 




After working on the Sankaku turnover, I nailed down what I believe to be the key points for the turnover into the strangle, arm lock and hold down. This was still not enough so I looked at linking the technique with a turnover more suitable for minors and pre-cadets and then adding the Huizinga Roll for when uke’s defending the initial Sankaku turnover (for higher level Judoka). I must make it clear that I do not claim to have invented any of these techniques, but I set out to understand them better and improve the way a teach it to the people I work with. 


The videos highlight my tutorials of the techniques and the juniors demonstrating them. Please remember whether you are a coach or an athlete there is always room for improvement. 


“It is not important to be better than someone else, but to be better than yesterday.” - Jigaro Kano


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