Judo Injuries

Judo is a contact sport, we pick people up and throw them down on the ground. Although we teach people how to fall, we can not remove all the risks. Injuries happen and as a parent you need to know how to react, what to do to prevent injuries and what to do if your child gets hurt.

What Causes Injuries?

There are two main types of injuries; “collision” and “overuse” injuries.
Collision injuries are simply injuries that occur when an athlete has a collision with another person or something else… like the floor. This typically happens when a mat is crowded and someone is thrown onto someone else who has just been thrown. Or trips over someone else. Or when a throw is not well controlled and your child gets thrown overly hard or awkwardly and gets hurt.

Overuse injuries are when muscles or joints are damaged by being over used. This is the sort of injury that is typical known as a bad knee, sore shoulder, wobbly ankles, dodgy fingers etc. We see this sort of injury in adults more than children. In fact we should NEVER see this sort of injury in a healthy child in sensible training.

Elite level athletes train at such a level that they run very close to the thresholds where overuse injuries happen. Children on the other hand should never be training so often/hard that they pick up over use injuries. So if your child has picked up a overuse injury; you need to consider very seriously about the levels and quality of training they are receiving.

What to do if your child in injured?

Firstly, follow the normal first aid procedures. R.I.C.E is a good starting point. That is REST, ICE, COMPRESSION and ELEVATION. Specifically, if your child gets hurt, they should stop doing Judo immediately (rest), they should put something cold on the area injured (ice). Next they should have some sort of bandaging (compression) and put the injured part up (elevate). This will stop continued injury and control the swelling/bruising. Depending on the injury a trip to your doctor or emergency care would be sensible.

Your child should then be allowed the time to heal. They should not go back to Judo until the injury is healed properly. Returning too soon to training is a really common factor in repeat injury. A twisted ankle if not fully healed may cause your child to fall awkwardly and either hurt the ankle again and/or cause another injury.

Injuries are uncommon in Judo. Bumps and bruises do happen. Falling can causes some immediate pain and tears (especially in younger children) and it is a delicate balance sometimes between the “get back on the horse” idea where we don’t want a small bump being over-reacted to and your child falling our of love with Judo and not treating injuries seriously enough.

Children are fragile; their bones are not the same as adult bones. Their bodies are growing and can break in ways that for non medical people can be hard to appreciate. Children have also be known to get quite serious injuries and not report them as being serious as they do not have the life experiences to know an injury is actually serious. Many parents tell anecdotes of how a seemingly small fall causes a bone fracture in a child. And vice versa, sometimes the pliability of a child’s body protects them from what would be a definite injury in an adult.

If in doubt… seek medical advice.

A final point on armlocks and strangles.

Recently, with the popularity in adults of the UFC and MMA there has been an increase in the participation in armlocks and strangles by children. This is often done safely and many coaches will assure parents that it is safe.

It is not, in my opinion, safe. A better statement might be that it is an un-required increasing of the risk of injury in children for little if any benefit. It is important to appreciate that damage to joints is very serious… they do not heal as easily as a simple bone fracture or twisted ankle. Especially in a young body that is growing it is not a good injury to have. Equally, a child’s neck and throat are not as developed or robust as an adults. So the risk of injury is increased and the types of injury associated with the neck are very serious.

So please think long and hard before allowing your child to participate in any armlocks or strangles.

Falling safely is a life skill

Recently the European Judo Union posted the video below on their youtube channel:

This video is a terrific animation of the idea that by enrolling your child in Judo, you are teaching them an important life skill. Judo can be thought of in the same way as swimming lessons.

You teach your child to swim so they can be safe in the water, you teach your child Judo so they can fall safely.

Most experienced Judo participants and coaches will have anecdotes about falling and not getting hurt. In Judo we learn how to fall forwards and backwards and not get hurt. That might be tripping over a tree root in the woods (this happened to me last year) or falling of your bicycle Judo will teach the skills that can save you from minor and major injury.

You may want to consider a adult beginners course to learn breakfalls (Ukemi in Judo terminology), which might be a good way for you and your child to enjoy Judo together too.


Weight Loss, Weight cycling, weight management in children doing Judo

As a sport that uses weight categories, it is important that parents understand the risks to health that can potentially affect your child.

Judo is a sport where children compete in age and weight based divisions. This is a wonderful thing for many children (and their parents) as it means the physical differences between participants are limited; increasing safety and enjoyment. However, we need to be aware of the negative health risks such as compromised nutritional status, diminished physical performance and impaired growth and development.

A very common issue is rapid weight loss, typically called cutting, or weight management.

Recent research in 2016 investigated this in children and found it was being done by 80% of participants. This included such activities as fasting (not eating at all) and skipping meals along with increased physical activity; with the aim being to make a specific weight.

For many of us in Judo coaching this is very worrying and as a parent it should be of concern too.

There are many coaches and health professionals that do not feel any child (specifically under 18 year olds) ever “make weight”. Parents play an important role in monitoring the subtle pressures (and direct pressures) from club mates and coaches. In the literature two thirds of children indicated that the coach was prime influencer for rapid weight loss activity.

No Judo coach should ever tell your child to cut weight to make a category. Children in Judo simply do not need to do it; the perceived benefit of making a weight category do not balance the risks caused by fasting and skipping meals in a developing child. Then their is the added risks of eating disorders.

Even if your child is overweight (as described by a doctor or other health professional), it is not the coaches role to tell your child to lose weight. They should encourage a healthy lifestyle (exercise and healthy eating); never losing weight.

As experienced coach will not be telling a child to lose weight for sports reasons. Parents should listen to the coaches and be aware of any suggestions from coaches to lose weight. This is a safety and professionalism issue and I recommend you speak with the coach or the club welfare officer.

As always, please email me (lw@judocoach.com) with any questions you might have.


A new year, a time for your kids to try Judo?

As we start 2017, perhaps now is the time for your child to give Judo a try. Better yet, maybe it’s a good time for you to try Judo too?

Rather than join a gym (January is when gyms pick up lots of new memberships); how about joining a Judo club instead. Judo is a terrific exercise, and doing Judo with your child can be a great way to spend time together. Even if you only do Judo for a few weeks together before you join a adults session.

So you might like to try this as your new years resolution:

  • 6 weeks Judo with your kids
  • Join adult beginners
  • Blackbelt. 🙂


The book project continues.

OK, so everything people say about writing a book is true. It takes ages and even as in my case you are basing it on a blog there is so much to write and it takes a long time and you make lots of mistakes and take ages to “get around” to doing things.

Even so, it have been amazing that three people have already bought the book via LeanPub already! I hope they enjoy it and I really hope they provide some feedback so that I can add, correct and remove content to make the book an even better resource for parents of children in Judo.

I have basically finished removing the blog posts that were included that are not relevant to a book format and done some structural changes. I have also cleaned up a large number of spelling and typing mistakes that come direct from the blog. I have started expanding the BJA Mon grade section as I know that the subject of belts and how to help your child get new belts via the British Judo grading system is an area that people value and that the resources to help are few and not very good at times. Writing the pages it is highlighted to me that this blogs pages on the syllabus are some of the few resources for parents available. As I finish typing up the pages, I will transfer it back into the blog I think so that as well as the book format the web format is available for you.

I would like to ask you all for your assistance, please let me know what content you would appreciate having in a book for parents. If you are a Judo coach, what would you want parents to know when they come along to the club? If you are a parent, what do you wish you knew before you took your child along for the first time? What did you learn early on? What advice do you give other parents?

I shall try and include (and reference you if you would like that) all the advice and tidbits of information you all share. It all goes towards making the book a great resource for other parents, so please add your two cents worth!


And then came the book….

The popularity of this little website about Judo aimed at parents has always amazed me. It is a pleasure to receive emails from parents thanking me for some post I wrote that they found valuable. So, I have decided to take the experiment one step further and turn the ideas from this site into a book about Judo for parents.

I have started by importing the content from this site into the book and am re-writing it and adding to it to craft a good set of pages for your enjoyment.

I have also decided to use LeanPub to write and publish the book.
LeanPub lets me do some really cool stuff. Firstly it takes care of most of the tricky stuff like formatting to specific layout and allows me to just write. It also allows me to easily publish to ebook format which allows me to publish early for you and to give you free updates as I revise the book based on your input.

It also lets you pay what you think the book is worth. On LeanPub you can buy the ebook at whatever price you think you should pay, which is useful for you and me. You get to pay a reasonable price and I learn what the price people think the book is worth. Once we are all done, I will also publish in paper form.

So, please take a look at the book over at https://leanpub.com/judo4parents buy a copy if you’d like to. Comment on the book and watch me revise the book to cater for what you say; you’ll get the updates for free of course. The more people comment on this blog and on the book and the netter the book will be in the end!


Judo vs. Zombies a short video from the kids at Vale Judo Club.

Below is a short video from the children at Vale Judo Club here in the UK. I love this video!

This video is a bit of fun, filmed at the Judo club, by the children in the club. What a great diversion from “normal” lessons this must have been.

Choosing to focus on one sport, a parents guide to specialism in sport.

In this post we shall be exploring the subject of when, why and how a child becomes a specialist in a single sport. We shall discuss some of the reasons it happens, how it happens and the implications that you as a parent need to consider.
Choosing one sport.

Almost every child involved in sport will at some stage (especially if they show themselves a talented player) will be asked or will choose to pursue one sport over others they may play. Sometimes it will be a natural choice made entirely by your child and the way they develop. Often however, it is imposed by circumstances or by pressure from outside influences like the coaches of the sports.

Why one sport? Why many sports?

Choosing to practise one sport is a sensible decision, there is an old saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”. By focussing on a single sport, your child will spend more time developing the skills and athletic abilities required for that sport. So rather than being good at several sports, the idea is that your child will become excellent at one sport. Your child may also be great at one sport they play and below average at the others they play. So choosing the one sport they are good at makes sense again. Equally (or even more so) they may enjoy one sport more than the others and want to spend more time enjoying themselves at this sport.

The otherside of the coin is that by playing a variety of sports your child develops a broader range of physical skills and ability. If they run and swim and play a ball sport and do Judo (of course); then they develop a wider range of abilities than if they only ran.

Is specialisation bad?

Specialisation in a single sport is not inherently bad, there are some substantial positives to doing it. We all do it, there are not many of us that have multiple jobs or on the sporting side played multiple sports to high levels. So choosing one sport may well be the first step towards your child becoming and elite athlete.

The opposite view of this is that if your child focuses purely on sprinting from young age and stops swimming, doing gymnastics and of course Judo; then as an adult they may not be a strong swimmer or be able to play the odd game of tennis with friends.

Of course there is also the benefits of “cross-training” in children to consider if elirte sport is the objective. Doing Ballet will develop flexibility and strength that will help an older Judo player. Swimming and Running develop the aerobic system, which will help any sport. A Judo player who is an accomplished swimmer or runner will have an advantage when it comes to supplementary fitness training over the Judo athlete with poor swimming or running skills.

A gymnastic background will help a Judo athlete; equally a Judo background will help the swimmer, runner and gymnast.

When should my child choose one sport over another?

This is the hard part of this discussion and requires knowledge of two factors (at least). It also requires thought on what you want for your child and what they want to be/do.

The first factor to consider is the age at which athletes in a sport reach their peak. We have all seen the very young gymnasts at the Olympics and the much older footballers, rugby players and Judoka. Each sport has a different age range at which the athletes seem to peak. In Judo we can say that players peak at around 25 years of age (based on figures from 2009 World Cup events). If we use the now commonly figure of 10 years development to reach your peak, then the average Judo player needs to be specialising in Judo at around 15 years of age. We also need to consider the physical development of each child, for example if your child is a late physical developer, then specialisation in a single sport could be done later in life than the early physical developer. Equally, emotional maturity needs to be considered.

The second factor that affects when a child specialises in a single sport is the business of sport and the talent model employed by many sports.

By this we mean that most sports (at least in western countries like here in the U.K.) use the pyramid model for talent. This model works on the idea that if 1 in a hundred children doing a sport are going to become elite athletes then by increasing the participation base (base of the pyramid), then more elite players will rise to the top of the pyramid. So if a sport has 1000 kids doing the sport they might get 10 elite players where as if they have 10,000 kids doing the sport they believe they may get 100 elite players over time.

Also, Judo like many sports, relies on the large childrens participation to survive financially as well as competitively. Each childs membership fee helps pay for the elite programme and each child in the sport is another potential elite athlete.

Lastly, there is the competition between sports for talent. If your child is athletically gifted I want them in my Judo class, as does the swimming coach, the gymnastics coach and the tennis coach.

Gymnastics here in the UK is probably the best example of how the business of sport affects specialisation. Children can start in gymnastics from the age they can crawl. So by the time Judo clubs were ready to accept my children, they had already been doing Judo for a number of years. We as parents had invested many hours and money in gymnastics. Gymnastics was already part of my kids lives and they had friends in the club. This continues as they get older and moving to another sport becomes harder and harder.

Gymnastics trumps Judo, because by the time the British Judo Association starts to be interested in your child, your child has been courted or engaged by British Gymnastics for a number of years! When it comes to specialisation, the same thing happens; gymnastic clubs start trying to get kids doing more and more gymnastics well before Judo clubs, so by the time Judo wants your child to “take it a bit serious” they may well have already been lost to swimming, gymnastics, tennis or other sports.

This business model affects when clubs start asking parents to choose one sport over another. These pressures or norms for each sport may mean that your child is being asked to specialise not so much to match their development as an individual or even for performance in the sport but because it feeds the sport as a business. I do not intend to paint this as a negative picture; personally I think gymnastics here in the UK have the right idea. They have classes for all ages and abilities and the good clubs provide excellent facilities and coaching and develop your childs potential well; be that towards a Olympic medal or just being a physically capable adult.

So how do I decide when my child should choose a single sport?

I hope that the text above has given you an understanding of the reasons your child should specialise in a single sport and that it has also given you insight into the other factors that will affect when clubs start asking/expecting your child to do more.

My personal view is that the mid to late teenage years is about the right time for a child to start specialising in a single sport. Up to that stage the benefits of cross training are very valuable and on the whole specialism gives to little to make it worth doing. 12-18 years would be the age range where I would want to see a child start moving from multiple sports for fun to multiple sports with more of a developmental focus, then moving in the older end of that age range to choosing a sport to focus on and become an athlete of that sport.

I do see it as a 6 year process, which goes from multiple sports to a single sport. If you 10 year old is only doing one sport (or two) then perhaps you might involve them in more sport. Especially if the sports are not broad in scope. So for example if your child plays football and cricket (two ball sports played in teams), you might involve them in individual sports that do not involve balls. Your child may find they prefer individual sports. Even if in the long run they return to football (for example) the physical development and skills they learn from the other sports will make them a more rounded football athlete when they do eventually choose to be a footballer.

I hope this article has given you some food for thought as a parent (or coach or player), being narrowly focussed is the path to high performance in any area (including sport). The timing and the reasons for making the decision to focus on one sport need to be made with an understanding of the various factors involved; and as always with a view to what is best for your child in the long-term.

Please do comment on this article if you found it interesting or email me at lw@judocoach.com

Lance Wicks.

Judo is not just about Judo.

In this article we shall talk about why (especially with younger children) a Judo class is not solely about Judo and why this is a good thing and something that as a parent you will want to see happening.

100310 miles at his first judo tournament

If your child is attending Judo lessons, some of what they learn will be Judo throws and other techniques. However a large (if not the larger) proportion of what goes on at this age is not Judo techniques rather developmental work on general motor skills and areas such as general health and fitness, self confidence, self discipline and providing opportunities for social interaction and improvements in interpersonal skills.

As a parent, it is important that you understand the risks and benefts of organised sports and of Judo specifically. In this article we shall talk about some of them and how they affect you and your child doing Judo.

Under 10s:

Back in 1997 the WHO (World Health Organisation) published a report which recommended that Sport Specialisation should be avoided under 10 years of age. As such a good Judo club will ensure that the young participants are not being pressured to only do Judo. The club will also include activities and skills that are beyond the specific requirements of Judo perhaps. For example ABC (Agility, Balance and Co-ordination) drills may be used in a Judo club that may include skills/activities that are not used in Judo. For example throwing and catching or kicking of balls etc. This is done so that the children develop a well rounded set of physical capabilities. In an ideal world perhaps kids would be members of multiple sports clubs and each club could focus on the skills associated with their sport. But a good club knows that children do not necessarily play multiple sports so shall try to deliver a variety of skills so that all the children in their classes get exposure to a wide range of developmental opportunities.

As a parent, you should be able to see multi-sport skills and general physical literacy being developed within classes. Not necessarily all the time, but across the duration of say a school term. We want 10 year old children who have been involved in Judo for a good period of time to be able to run, jump, skip, hop, throw, catch, kick, roll and of course do fundamental Judo skills like breakfalls and basic throws and holds.

Within in sport generally, but within Judo specifically there is a focus on developing the person rather than producing champions. As a parent, you want to feel comfortable that the Judo coach and Judo club is trying to develop your child not just as a Judo player but as a young person.

WIthin Judo, we have an emphasis on self-discipline, self-respect and respect for others. We have retained and incorporated bows and Japanese cultural artifacts in the culture and practice of Judo. These artifacts are tools that a Judo coach will use to help develop your child.

Training and competition is also focussed (especially with younger children) on providing positive experiences that promote healthy lifestyles. For example, fun is incorporated via games so that children have positive experiences with exercise. This in turn leads to exercise becoming an enjoyable part of a childs life, leading to a healthier lifestyle.

The self-discipline and respect elements of the culture of Judo, develop social behaviors that arepositive both for the child and for others who interact with your child; be that other children or adults. Many a school teacher has noticed the improvement in a students classroom demeanor after the child enters into the Judo community.

Socially, Judo provides a chance to play with children from the wider community and this is good for their social development. Clubs will generally have multiple classes one after another, which provides children the chance to see and interact with older children which can lead to friendships and also identify rolemodels.

Also the close physical contact involved with Judo can be very important in developing social skills and being comfortable with physical contact with other children. It can be very good for helping establish boundaries on what is and is not appropriat elevels of physical contact. Children learn quickly that Judo can be physically tough and that working together with their partners is better than against.

Judo coaches will try and interact with parents to develop the children in their care. Sometimes this is meerely teaching Judo skills; sometimes it is addressing aggression issue in the child or similar personality developmental changes. As such you as the parent should take advantage of the opportunity and communicate with the club coaches about any issues in your childs development that they may be having.

A good Judo club and Judo coach will welcome the input from you as the parent and work with you to help ensure that your child enjoys all the developmental benefits of being in a Judo club. You and your child should feel that the Judo club is a safe, fun place where your child is been given opportunities to develop as a person both physically and mentally.

The words “Safe”, “Fun” and “Development” are key. Your child should be safe and feel safe. The classes should be safe and your child should not become injured at Judo. There will be the inevitable bumps and bruises, sadly there may be the very infrequent accident. But a child should never develop a over-use injury at Judo. A kids class is not a elite sport training session, so although sometime sthe intensity needs to be high and perhaps stretch your child. It should not be heavy work every week.

We do want to introduce children to hard physical exertion and develop strength, but this should only be part of a wider programme to expose your child to sport.

An Introduction to Judo Etiquette

Final da Copa do Mundo de Judô por Equipes

Judo is, as the European Judo Union put it, “More than Sport”. Judo is a mental and physical education where the larger goal is to improve society by improving individuals within that society. And important aspect in achieving this key aim of Judo is the ettiquette and culture of Judo. In this post I want to discuss how the ettiquette, manners and culture of Judo will be seen by you as a Judo parent and also the benefits it can provide your child.

Recently, I helped deliver a coaching course for Judo coaches working towards their Level 3 qualification in the European Judo Union (www.judospace.com). Part of the assessment and work was around the ettiquette of Judo and a podcast on this subject is available at www.thejudpodcast.eu from three of the coaches who attended. This module and the podcast form much of what is included in this post.

Ettiqutte in Judo is often most visible in the bowing that takes place in clubs and at competitions. The “Rei” (bow) is often the first experience of the culture of Judo that children and parents have. When people step on the Judo mat they bow, when the class starts their is one (or more) bows made, when we practice we bow, when we compete we bow. The bow (rei) is a safety feature, a matter of manners and also part of the culture of Judo.

In Judo there has been much debate, discussion and even legal cases involving the bow.

The outcome of which has been that the Bow in Judo has clearly been identified as a cultural element of Judo that is not religous in nature. It serves many purposes and it will help if you as a parent understand some of the merits of the bow and reinforce the importance with your child. The bow is often first described to children in Judo as how we say “Hello”. It is comprable to the handshake in western culture.

The bow is also an important safety feature within a Judo club. The initial bow, done with the whole class and instructor serves as an opportunity for everyone to “switch on” and focus in on the class ahead. The instructor/coach also has an opportunity to look at all the students and ensure that they have removed their jewllery, are clean and tidy and that there is nothing visibly of concern.

At the start of any period where two partners work together, they will typically bow. This signifies they are ready to work. If they don’t bow, you know they ar enot ready.

Similarly, at the end of a practice, they bow tells both parties that they are finished and that the other person is not about to attack them. This extends to contests or Randori, the bow at the start can act as a trigger; from that point on the other person needs to be aware that the match has started and they need to defend themselves. Aggressiveness can be expressed/released during this time. At the end of the fight/randori the bow identifies the end of this period where being aggresive is acceptable. Players turn of the attack mode and all emotional content stops. Think of it as a off switch to the required aggression required to fight with another person.

At the end of a class, the bow closes out the learning. It can be a mental flag that the class is over. Everyone knows that between the start bow and end bow, they behave as Judoka. menaing they show good concentration, obey the instructor, respect their partnerd and display good manners (no swearing etc).

This “showing respect” element of the bow and of Judo culture in general is expressed in the bow. This is both in terms of the Judo use of the bow and the cultural meaning of the bow as inherited from Japanese culture. In Judo respect for ourselves and others is integral and the ettiquette of Judo expresses this culture of respect.

The bow is not the only expression of this culture. The rules of our sport are also shaped by the Judo culture of respect. Unlike other martial arts, Judo’s rules restrict most “dangerous” attacks such as kicks and punches, knee and elbow strikes, etc. We play our “game” in a way that is respectful to our parters, we do not allow behaviour that is “against the spirit of Judo”. By this we generally mean, actions that are agianst the respectful culture of Judo.

In Judo this culture of respect is apparent in our high personal standards for appearance, hygiene and behavior. We expect Judo suits to be washed regularly, finger and toenails are kept clipped short. Judo students are clean and tidy and listen quietly when being taught. These ettiquette elements serve to help children develop into good members of society; and also help with important health and safety issues. Hygiene is important to protect one another from the spread of diseases for example. Similarly short finger and toenails prevent scratches and cuts.

As a parent, you can observe and ask the club officials about the ettiquette standards expected and displayed in the club. You can then help your child learn what is expected of them and how they can live up to the expectations. This makes the job of the coaches easier and also engages you as the parent in the establishing of ettiquette standards in your child. Often, this process started in the Judo club extends to the home and we see the high standard of behaviour and ettiquette adopted at home, school and elsewhere.

This general increase in ettiquette beyond the Judo club is one of the benefits of Judo that parents enroll their children into Judo to receive. If you as the parent learn about the ettiquette of Judo and help your child abide by it, then you encourage the same standards be applied at home or school.

In this way, the culture of Judo becomes a positive part of your childs character; giving them an advantage in later life.