Winning is not everything.

As a parent of a child in Judo, There will come a time when it is suggested that your child enter competitions. This is a wonderful opportunity for your child and may be the start of a long sporting career for them. However, it is important to put the competition element of Judo into context and consider it also in relation to your childs unique character, their needs and their desires.

Competition has been a part of Judo since almost the founding Judo. Kano (founder of Judo) was the first to introduce competitions (ref… podcast with yves) and was an active member of the International Olympic Committee, promoting the ideals of sport around the world as well as in his native Japan.

That is not to say that Professor Kano did or did not want Judo to be a sport.

Since the 1964 Olympic games, where Judo was introduced as an Olympic sport, the sporting element of Judo has grown in popularity and importance. The way we practise Judo today is considerably different to the past, both because of the rules of the sport and also because of the knowledge we have gained from the sporting world.

Judo is one of those few sports where it is played on every continent and medals at high level are won by a wide variety of countries. Judo is done from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe and if your child enters into the sport of Judo they may find themselves competing all over the world with people of virtually all nationalities. They may well become an elite level athlete and have the opportunity to represent their country on the worlds biggest stage… the Olympic Games.

They may also decide that they don’t want to be an elite athlete and endure the sacrifices and hardships required at that level. Judo is fortunate that there is competition at all levels, from children’s novice events, through to masters events for those upwards of 30 years of age.

As the parent of a child in Judo, you have a strong influence on what competitions mean to your child and also as to whether your child will be competing at all.

Some clubs and some parents choose not to allow children to compete; this I think is a great mistake. Competition when done appropriately is a great learning opportunity for your child. Competing is, to be honest, scary. Your child may have fears of getting hurt, of embarrassing themselves, of losing. However, facing these fears can be a huge benefit to your childs development.

What needs to be kept in mind is that competitions should be a challenge that your child is able to overcome. Be that winning the event or winning one fight out of many. Your child should not be thrown into the deep end, or made to fight in events beyond their capabilities. Nor should they be competing in events well below their ability as this is not giving them any benefit and is potentially ruining the experience for others.

Competing as a child should be about your childs development, not about winning at all costs. Winning does matter, but only within the confines of the development of your child. As they grow and mature they may become athletes, but until they are in their late teens Judo competitions should be about their development as individuals.

As a parent, you need to be careful not to place unhealthy expectations and pressures on your child. Similarly clubs and club coaches should not be placing undue pressure on your child. You and the club need to ensure that your child is entered in competitions where appropriate.

We do not want to see children competing for the glory of the club, or competing with parents threatening to punish them if they lose. Equally, inappropriate rewards for winning can be just as damaging when offered at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons.

Your child will ideally, enjoy the experience of competing (and you can help with this by expecting it to be fun). You and your child should attend competitions expecting to win some and lose some. Your child should be expected to do their best and no matter the result of the competition, if they have done their best you and the coach should be happy and express that to your child.

In the long term, we want to see your child lose fights and learn from the experience. Then we want to see them come back and do better as a result. We want to see them grow in ability, confidence and character. We want to see them learn through competition that they are the masters of their own destiny, that their hard work equals good performances… a valuable lesson for any person.

We also want to see a child struggle and overcome; be that a physical challenge or a mental one. You should be equally proud of your child if they win with a big throw or if they lose with grace; especially if previously they have lost in the past and not been able to handle it emotionally. A proud moment for any parent in Judo is when your child loses and is able to maintain their composure for the first time.

What we do not want to see, is children competing with undue pressure put on them to win. We do not want children competing because they “have to” or because the club or club coach wants more medals. We also don’t want to see children competing because Mum or Dad wants an athlete in the family or for any other reason than that competing is good for the development of their child.

It is a subject worth discussing with your child’s coach.

How fast should my child go through the Judo Belts?

A really common question parents ask is how fast their child should progress through the Judo belts. It is a difficult subject to cover, as the answer varies person to person, club to club and belt to belt.

In Judo, we have a number of coloured belts which indicate grade. Each club/nation/organisation has a slightly different system, but on the whole the all follow a rough progression like follows (novice to experienced):

  • White Belt
  • Yellow Belt
  • Orange Belt
  • Green belt
  • Blue Belt
  • Brown belt
  • Black Belt

Typically each grade takes a longer period of time than the previous one. Your Yellow belt may take only a few months, whilst Orange should take longer. A Brown Belt in Judo might take as long as several years before earning your Judo Black Belt.

In the UK (Extracted from the British Judo Association Junior Grading syllabus 2009), the restriction for grading in children is:

Novice up to and including 6th Mon ages 5-7

Candidates may be promoted one Mon every 3 calendar months.

Novice up to and including 6th Mon — ages 8-17

Candidates may be promoted one Mon every calendar month.

This allowance for ages 8-17 is because it is known and accepted that at this age range young people have a greater capacity for learning and therefore more able to undertake examination at shorter interval.

From 7th Mon and above — all ages

Candidates are limited to one promotion every two calendar months.

The recommended minimum time period between attempts at any promotion for 7th Mon and above is four weeks, however, there is no limit to the number of attempts to gain promotion. A month is a calendar month e.g. a candidate can be examined any date in January and then any date in March. This means a candidate can enter a maximum of six gradings per year, following a learning pathway of continuous progress however it is anticipated they would go up 1 belt colour per year

These are of course guidance numbers of course, each club will carefully watch the students in the classes and try and progress them steadily through the grades. Each grade is awarded based on the ability and attitude of the child. Sometimes a child though technical not as good as others in a class might receive their next Judo belt as quickly (or faster) as a more technically skilled child, who works less hard.

As a parent, you should try and communicate with your club coach about how your child is progressing and help your child work towards their Judo Belts. Remember, the idea is to give your child targets to work towards along with rewards for their effort.

What qualifications should a Judo coach have?

gifted & talented students @ elgar college: april 2008As a parent, you want to ensure two things when you enroll your child at a Judo club. First that the coach keeps them safe and second that the coach knows what they are doing and can help your child learn, develop and earn their grades and belts. In this post I want to outline a little of the qualification process here in Europe. It is different in every country, but they all follow a similar structure.

( Disclosure: I am involved with the delivery of the European Judo Union’s Level 3 qualification via )

Judo as a sport is unusual in that we have more than one qualification system. By this I mean Judo has a Judo qualification system and a sport of Judo qualification system. This normally manifests in the requirement for all instructors/coaches to be at least Brown Belt or Black belt before they can start qualifying to be coaches. It is important to appreciate that being a skilled or experienced Judo player is NOT necessarily an indicator that someone can teach Judo to others.

Black Belts are indicators of someone’s personal ability to do Judo, not an indicator of their ability to manage a class, or help others learn Judo and improve.

Coaching certifications are generally apply to an individual organisation, normally nationally. Though increasingly there is progress towards qualifications that carry across sports and across national borders. Here in the UK for example, the system starts with the UKCC certifications. Level 1 being for assistant coaches, Level 2 for coaches running clubs and level three for more advanced coaches. It is then followed by the EJU (European Judo Union) qualifications. This starts with the EJU level 3 and follows onto the level 4 and 5 Elite Performance Coach qualifications.

As a parent, you want your child to be taught by people that have these certifications, as well as Judo ability and grades… as appropriate.

This does not mean that your 5 year old needs to be coached by a 7th dan EJU level 5 coach. A Brown belt coach with UKCC level 1 is more appropriate for novice children than an elite performance coach whose focus is on developing high level athletic performance perhaps more than ensuring your son or daughter enjoys them self and learns good technical fundamentals. That said, many high level coaches are excellent with kids!

Many clubs have the certifications of their coaches on display at the club, or stored in a folder. If not, they should at least be able to bring them along if they are stored at someone’s house or the coach has them on the wall at home.

You should not feel uncomfortable asking about the qualifications of the coaches at you kids club. Good Judo clubs understand your need to know and also should understand that coaches need to continue to learn and stay up to date.

If you have issues seeing this sort of documentation, you should definitely contact your national governing body and express your concern.

Every Judo journey starts with a first step.

On December 18, 19 & 20th this year (2009), the Hampshire Judo Academy, will with the support of the Hampshire Judo Association be holding a development camp for young Judo athletes from Hampshire. The preparation for the camp is starting in earnest now we have official support from teh association and I, along with the other volunteers working on this exciting project are looking forward to it all immensely!

I am bringing up this camp on this website because I believe that the audience of this blog is one that will appreciate the concepts behind the camp.

The camp, is a beginning for the Academy project; it will also be a starting point for some young Judo athletes in Hampshire. Hence the blog post title, this is a small step that I hope will take the Academy project and the young Judo athletes in Hampshire down a road on a journey that starts now. This journey I hope will take these young 12-18 year olds on a path to their greatest potential. I also see that journey being one that they are on for the rest of their lives.

The camp is aimed at young Judo athletes; those young people who have an inclination to try the competition path.
The camp will for some be their first introduction to the concept of being an athlete, as opposed to simply doing Judo. It will appeal for some and not for others; some will flower as athletes, some will not. But time will tell.

In the UK, Judo athletes reach their competitive peak in their mid to late twenties, so for those coming to us as 12 year olds have a long exciting journey ahead of them. Within the Academy they will have at most 6 or 7 years with us, before we pass them carefully onto a more appropriate environment. We are only a stepping stone along their journey.

The camp and the academy is very much about inspiring these young people, showing them what is possible and the avenues they might pursue; and educating them so they make smart decision for the long term objectives they might have.

The camp, is also a starting point along a journey for those of us helping bring it together. For us it is the physical manifestation of a shared vision that has become apparent within the Judo community in Hampshire. That vision is to make Hampshire a place where young athletes are cared for and nurtured and once they are ready, passed carefully to other places for them to strive for gold.

Of course, we also envision these young athletes coming back to Hampshire after they have fought and won, or fought and lost. We see them coming back and taking their place within the volunteer base of the academy as coaches, mentors, support staff, etc. This si true also of those young athletes that become involved, but decide not to try for Olympic glory. Those that decide that for them Judo is perhaps something they do in the evenings only. Those that later in life might be lawyers or accountants who “did Judo”. These people too we see as part of the project, we look forward to seeing them return to the Academy years form now and being able to use their unique talents to help nurture a new generation of Hampshire Academy players.

It is a long circular journey we envision for young athletes who become involved in the Hampshire Judo Academy.
We look forward to helping train, educate and prepare athletes not only for competition and the training for competitions; but also for life.

It will be a long journey and it starts with this first small step, our Hampshire Judo Academy Development Camp!


For more information please visit where you can find more information.
If you would like your child to attend please contact us. If you would like to help, again please contact us; all volunteers will be appreciated hugely!!!

Is my child a talented Judo player and if so what should I do?

Is my child good?” is a common question posed to Judo coaches, and one that is often awkward to answer. The answer normally is “yes and no“, all children have talents and things they are especially good at; sometimes that area is the sport of Judo. Sometimes, it is not so much the sport aspect as it is a subset of Judo. for example your child may be a wonderful official or coach in the making.

But lets look at this from the perspective that most parents pose it, in terms of winning medals and the idea of your child being a sportsperson and perhaps competing at the Olympic games. Again the answer here is “yes and no”. Your child may well be talented, but the reality is that a tiny minority of those that do Judo get the chance to compete at the Olympic Games.

Here in the UK the total number of people doing Judo through the British Judo Association is about 30,000 people. Last year in Beijing seven British Judoka competed at the Olympics. That means that 1 in every 4250 or so Judo players can be Olympians, a rough guesstimate, and actually that is not so bad, better odds than the lottery.

So, back to the question, is your child talented?

Quite possibly, are they physically literate? In other words, do they display good ability at Judo? Are they good runners? Are they good at football? Are they good at swimming? If the answer is yes to all those questions, then maybe they have been given above average gifts, they have potential. When they are at Judo, do they win against bigger, better, older kids?

Are they the sort of kid who will go out and kick the ball at a target on the wall 100 times? Are they stubborn? Do they refuse to give-up? Do they love sport? Do they love Judo? Do they love Judo when they lose? Do they love to win? Do they Hate to lose? When they lose, do they come back and train harder?

If the answer to the above questions is yes, then maybe they have the mental toughness and aptitude to be talented at Judo.

Does your club coach, the regional coach, the national coach think they have some talent? If you don’t know, ask.

What if they are talented?

If your child is talented then prepare for a heart ache and pain. As the parent, you will feel every bruise, every injury, every loss. Judo at the elite level is hard and not many people make it to the very top. So you as the parent need to be ready for the pain of watching your child push themselves to the limit and fail. You need to be able to support them through the tough times that will come, and give them the solid supportive, loving care they are going to need.

The support network you as a parent form the core of, is a key component to the success of a talented child. You need to be able to support and encourage whilst ensuring that your child is not being pushed too hard. Can you do it? You will be a taxi, a bank, a shoulder to cry on.

What to do if my child is a talented Judo player?

The short answer is get help. Start talking to your club coach, start talking to elite coaches, start learning what these people think and what they see in your child.

The longer answer is to find the best people available to support your child and build a team around them that will help protect and develop your child. Try and find the experts you need. Find a coach that is amazing, a coach who cares about your child both as an athlete and also as a person. Someone that will push them and also protect them.

You will want to investigate the national performance system in your country, and see how it impacts your childs future. If they are “that good” then they will probably need to to work with the national setup. But this may conflict with the systems you have in place, the personal coach. You along with your child need to decide what is best and how to get the best of both worlds.

There is a difference between “elite” and “good”.

Many of you are probably reading the paragraphs above and are a bit shocked. The above words are talking about the top level of Judo the sport and are not relevant to 99.999% percent of us (or at least 1/4250 of us). It is written in a intentionally scary way to help you as a parent realise that the life of a elite athlete is hard and will take a toll on you and on your child if that is the path that is taken.

It is very VERY different to being a good/talented club player, or even regional champion and in many cases even being national champion is nothing compared to the path of the truely elite player, and all those aspiring and working towards that level.

But the difficulty is that you as a parent play a key role in deciding if that path is possible for your child. If they are going to make it to the highest levels, then decisions are going to start needing to be made before your child is an adult, meaning it is you as a parent that is responsible in many ways. In Judo it is perhaps less of a issue than say Gymnastics, as Judo athletes are generally in their 20s before they hit the Olympic stage.

But… it takes time to reach that level, years of time and effort are required. meaning that your child will probably need to be starting down the path towards the Olympics whilst still in school. Definitely at the age where they are looking at University education. Will your talented child go to University or train full-time? Can they do both? What is more important to them as a person? Should sport take a back seat to education and a career?

Again, it is you the parent of the Judo child that in reality makes the decision. These decisions can start as young as pre-teen. Do you send them to a Judo camp or go to a foreign country for your holiday/vacation? Do you allow them to travel long distances to compete in competitions on the weekend. Do they go to Judo or to Spanish language lessons? Do they learn Guitar or go for a run?

It is an unenviable position, and the reality is that nobody can give you an easy answer as to what you should do. Perhaps you can seek the guidance of someone who has child who has been to the Olympics. But even then, you and your family are unique and nobody can answer the question. You and your child are the only ones who can decide what path to take.

Personally, I would say this: If your child is considered talented by a wide number of the highest level coaches you can find AND if your child loves Judo (win or lose) and your child wants to go to win at the highest levels. If that is their passion (not yours) then I say support them to follow that dream. If they make it to that elusive Olympic gold, then you have helped them achieve an amazing thing. The last thing you want your child to have is regrets that they never tried to achieve their dream or worse they felt that you their parent held them back!

Good luck!

[Update 5 August 2009] Bob over at has posted a follow up to this post which is well worth reading. Click HERE to read his article.

British Judo Association (BJA) 7th Mon to 8th Mon Junior Syllabus requirements and help.

Welcome to another in this series on the BJA (British Judo Association) Mon grade syllabus. This series is designed to help you as a parent ensure that your child feels confident they know all they need to know before attending a grading. This helps ensure they have a positive experience. Under the official requirements are images, videos and text that will help you understand the requirements and ensure your shild knows the syllabus for this belt. Please note that a majority of the images etc come from the wonderful website. (For more information the official BJA guidance is available at

Official requirements for 8th Mon from BJA:



• Ko-soto-gari
• Ko-soto-gake
• Morote-seoi-nage

Combination Techniques:
• Ko-uchi-gari into Morote-seoi-nage
Counter Techniques:
• Tai-otoshi countered by Ko-soto-gake
• escape into Yoko-shiho-gatame from between Uke’s legs
• turn over from underneath Uke into Tate-shiho-gatame

• demonstration of attacking and defending in Randori with a co-operative partner

Candidates are required to:
demonstrate three of their favourite waza
Candidates are required to:
know the common English translations and meaning of all Japanese terminology used in this section
translate the following Japanese words into their common English names and where appropriate explain their meaning:
Shido Hansoku-make
demonstrate the Referee’s signals for Matte, Osae-komi, Toketa and adjusting the judogi
give two examples of actions (not grips) against the contest rules for negative and safety reasons
1. During the Randori demonstration the judoka will be required to demonstrate knowledge of basic performance skills e.g.
Kumi-kata, Renzoku-waza, Renraku-waza and Kaeshi-waza. The duration of the Randori will be approximately three
2. For the personal choice element, the judoka is required to demonstrate their favourite waza which may be demonstrated
either to the right or to the left with any suitable grip.

Ko Soto Gari:

Kosoto Gari - from

Kosoto Gari - from

Kosoto Gake - From

Kosoto Gake - From

Morote Seoinage - From

Morote Seoinage - From

Ko-uchi-gari into Morote-seoi-nage – From YouTube

Tai-otoshi countered by Ko-soto-gake

escape into Yoko-shiho-gatame from between Uke’s legs - From BJA Pictorial Guide

escape into Yoko-shiho-gatame from between Uke’s legs - From BJA Pictorial Guide

turn over from underneath Uke into Tate-shiho-gatame - From BJA Pictorial Guide

turn over from underneath Uke into Tate-shiho-gatame - From BJA Pictorial Guide

Terminology and other knowledge:

Shido:A minor penalty awarded against a judoka for an offence” (as per Beijing 2008 website). A Shido is a penalty given to a player if they break a (minor) rule of Judo. It earns the other player a score (although with the new rules in 2009, the first Shido does not give the opponent a koka (which have been removed from Judo) so it is a “warning”. The second Shido earns a Yuko for the opponent.

Hansoku-make: “A disqualification awarded against a judoka for an offence.” (as per Beijing 2008 website). Hansoku-Make is given when a player does something dangerous or against the spirit of Judo. It can also be earned through an accumulation of Shido penalties.

Referee’s Signals:

Matte Signal - From

Matte Signal - From

Osae Komi signal - From

Osae Komi signal - From

Toketa (hold broken) - From

Toketa (hold broken) - From

Signal for you to adjust your Judo Suit - From

Signal for you to adjust your Judo Suit - From

Tieing your childs Judo belt.

It is a quetsion we get all the time in Judo, how to tie the belt. There are two common methods, one that Kid’s can usually get straight away and another way that holds the belt more securely that Mums and Dads can do. If you can learn to this it’ll help you club coach as tieing and re-tieing belts really soaks up the minutes of the class.

So here are the two videos, the first is the childrens method and after that the more advanced method for parents. They are shown from the perspective of the person wearing the belt… sorry.

Childrens Judo Belt Knot:

Adults Judo belt knot:

Training Session for Teenagers, June 21, 2009

One of my colleagues from the University of Bath is hosting what will I expect to be an awesome training event, which may be ideal for your child and for your child depending on their stage in Judo (and assuming you are in Cambridge in the UK on June 21st, 2009).

To save energy I shall cut and paste from the flyer, here is what the day will consist of:

Training Session for Teenagers, June 21, 2009

I thoroughly recommend trying to get along to this if you can. The three sessions on the day are excellent for your teendage child (and parents) if they are competing. Spaces are limited to 20 players, so make sure you don’t miss out. The session session on Startegy I am looking forward to and the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) session is ideal for parents with children entering their teens and doing Judo. The final session is a High intensity training session designed to help player prepare for the Kent International Judo Tournament.

Bob, who is running this training is one of the few Level 5 coaches in the European Union and teaches Coaching Science for a living, so knows his stuff. The LTAD subject is something he has a high level of knowledge in and I think that session would be worth attending for all parents. It will help you understand the implications of your child’s development in a Judo context.

If you wish to attend, please email Bob at

Judo, Dieting, Weight loss, Weight management and Children in Judo.

In this post I’d like to talk about weight management, weight loss, the methods used to do this and how this relates to your child’s involvement in Judo. This post extends on the prior post I wrote on on the same topic, but rather than a coaching perspective I want to discuss it from a parents perspective.

Let me start by stating that any pressure on children to lose weight should be actively avoided unless a medical doctor has been involved in that decision.

Your healthy child should not be encouraged by any coach (or club member) to starve themselves to lose weight. They should never be encouraged to lose weight by dehydrating themselves. They should never be encouraged to lose weight by “sweating it off”. They should never be encouraged to lose weight by using dieuretics.

There are a large number of “never”s in that last paragraph and I mean them all. The problem we have in Judo is that we compete in weight classes. There is scientific evidence that suggests that this puts our young Judo players at risk of eating disorders.

A study from 2007 entitled “Eating Attitudes, Body Esteem, Perfectionism and Anxiety of Judo Athletes and Nonathletes” in the International Journal of Sports Medicine sadly identified that the coach and club members are the primary sources of pressure on athletes to lose weight. This is a dreadful finding and something that you as a parent need to keep in mind.

If you ever detect pressures being placed on your healthy child to lose (or manage) their weight, then you should immediately address this with the club coach, or another official of the club (for example the child protection officer).

Eating disorders are a very scary illness, they have very serious health issues that you really don’t want your child to suffer from (check the references on my original post for more information). Even children who are not underweight can suffer from health issues if they lose weight rapidly, especially if they use dieting, dehydration, etc.

You, as the parent can help by ensuring that your child eats healthily. You can help also by ensuring that your child’s weight goes up steadily as would be appropriate based on normal developmental stages. Unless your child has been overweight, your child’s weight should NEVER decrease. This also means that your child should no be dropping weight classes, they should only ever go up, not down.

You might want to discuss your child’s involvement in Judo with your GP, there may be some value in discussing what your child’s expected final height and weight will be. Discuss perhaps what growth spurts are expected and when and what growth you might expect. It is worth looking at this with relation also to the developmental phases children go through (Long Term Player Development). This might help you and the club coach plan your child’s weight category progression.

Finally, I’d like to repeat once more, that your child should NEVER be encouraged to lose weight, diet, etc by the club coach. If your child is being encouraged to lose weight it should ONLY be from a medical doctor.

Is my child ready for their next belt?

Happy Little Ninja

Photo by themickeyd on Flickr

Is my child ready for their next belt” is a question all Judo coaches hear all the time. It is also a great question to be asking the coach at your child’s Judo club. Why? Because if you ask then the coach can give you an indication of where they think your child’s progression is.

As a parent you are vital in keeping your child in the sport of Judo. Without parents Judo clubs would fade and disappear. One of the reasons for this is that you as the parent are able to help set expectations for your child. By this I mean that you can help ensure that your child is excitedly expecting their green belt at the right time, not the wrong time.

You can help encourage regular attendance and enthusiasm, by sharing with your child that the coach things they are almost ready for their next grade. Of course to do this, you need to speak with your club coach (when your child is not able to hear) and find out if your child is ready to grade to the next colour belt.

Please don’t ask your club coach to discuss when your child will get their next belt, right in front of the class and especially in front of your child. You need to be aware that gradings are a sensitive area and who gets graded when is a matter both of technical ability and of maturity in Judo as well.

Some children will be able to do all the throws but the coach may not want to grade them too quickly as in the long-term this is likely to lead the child to a position where age restrictions prevent them from grading for an excessive time. Which is really discouraging for the child. Equally, the child who is not as physically capable may benefit from being graded earlier to help their confidence and enthusiasm.

It is important to be aware also that there are many other children that the coach is considering, and they need to try and ensure that all those of roughly equal ability are wearing roughly the same Judo belt colour. There is also matters concerning social groups for the coach to consider. They may wish to slow your child’s progression through the belts slightly so they stay in a group of friends, or vice versa.

Mostly the deliberations highlighted above will not be visible to you the parent, so it is really important that you talk with your child’s Judo Coach regularly and when away from others. Then you will be able to gain an understanding for when your child is ready to progress to the next Judo belt.

You will also be able to learn in what areas the coach thinks your child’s Judo needs to be developed. For example, their groundwork may be weak or they might be a little too aggressive. You can help guide your child down the same path as your coach is. This is also a two way thing, if you know that your child needs to work on their spelling for example, the coach might be able to work spelling into games or exercises. If your child is shy, the coach may be able to help them socially through the club.

I have mentioned it several times, but I will say it one more time. The best way to find out if your child is ready for their next Judo belt is to speak with the club coach.