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By Mark Lonsdale, Judo Training Development

Ever wonder how judo champions can run a ten-man slaughter line using only a limited number of techniques, winning six out of ten fights with their signature uchi-mata or tokui-waza? Even though everyone in the lineup already knows that these techniques will be used against them.


                                   Judo 柔道 Taï otoshi

             Nobuyuki Sato instruction on Taï otoshi

From left to right: Dr. Shigeyoshi Matsumae, Isao Inokuma, Nobuyuki Sato, Yasuhiro Yamashita @ Tokai University. [Photo from the judo book: "Best Judo"]

I wondered the same thing when former World Champion and Tokai University coach Nobuyuki Sato bounced me all over the mat for 10 minutes using nothing but "tai-otoshi". Granted, I was only 20 years old at the time, but if you want to learn their secrets, read on….  

Developing a winning judo technique and becoming a champion is not rocket science. In theory it is quite simple but, in practice, not so easy.

It is in the attempted implementation of the following that the judoka will discover whether or not he or she has the dedication and perseverance to make the grade.

The short answer to the super-waza puzzle is to simply train harder, longer, more often, and smarter than your opponents. To expand on that, here is how it works:

  1. Select and develop a nice clean “big ippon” technique, for example uchi-mata (commonly used by many champions)
  2. Practice two or three different lines of attack, such as a direct entry, a circular entry to the right, and a step-back spinning entry (just examples).
  3. Do more uchi-komi than the other judoka in your dojo. If they are doing 100, then you do 200 or 300, but keep the movements clean and correct. Remember, it is not practice that makes perfect, but perfect practice that makes perfect. Uchi-komi can also be done at home with a belt or uchi-komi bands around a post or a strong hook in the wall.
  4. Incorporate forty or fifty nage-komi each day, throwing into a crash pad, so that you can develop the feeling of throwing at full speed and with full power.
  5. Practice applying this technique relentlessly in randori, to the exclusion of other techniques while you are perfecting this one. Begin with easier opponents to work on your timing and technique, and then work your way up to more experienced fighters.  
  6. Develop several setups and combinations (renraku-waza) that end with this technique, for example, ouchi-gari to uchi-mata, or sasae-tsurikomi-ashi to uchi-mata, etc.
  7. Develop the stamina and endurance to attack relentlessly for 5 minutes in a match. Keep in mind that endurance in judo is a combination of both aerobic and anaerobic capacity.
  8. Develop the physical strength equal to other competitors in your age and weight division; this includes arms, legs and core. For example, when competing at a light-heavy weight I knew that most of the top competitors could bench-press 250 pounds, so that became my first strength development target.

And there you have it! Within a few months, and with the appropriate intensity and frequency, you will begin down the path to becoming a superior athlete, with a superior technique, that will come reflexively in randori and competition. The more you make the conscious effort to attack with this technique, the sooner it will come automatically in randori and shiai.


If this sounds simplistic, it is. But if you are not willing to follow this advice, then you will fail at the higher levels of competition. Why you may ask? Because the other serious competitors are already doing this,

D. Kobayashi (JPN), Under 100kg champion, and Mark Lonsdale (USA) during the Kodokan’s Summer Training Technical Session, July 2013

therefore you need to be doing more than them. So train hard, train often, train smart, and listen to your coach.


Thank you, Sensei...

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Comment by Mark Lonsdale on July 23, 2014 at 6:56pm

Richie, Nice job adding the graphics - thanks.

- Mark


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