Monday, June 8, 2020

Members' Area in new website

There are many things we will be introducing when our training centre reopens but there's one particular thing that will make a big difference. And that's a Members' Area in our soon-to-be-launched new website.

The Members' Area will contain many resources that will aid learning by students, chief of which will be HD recordings of all technical sessions. This will serve two purposes. For those who weren't able to attend a particular class, they can catch up by watching a recording of that class. And for those who were able to attend, the recording will be useful reference material for them to do revision.

This is important because it's not easy to remember all the technical details involved in a throw or a groundwork move. So these videos will help players remember all the key points that make the technique work. Also, many of our players are working adults and quite often, life gets in the way of attending training sessions. With these recordings in place, no member should have to miss out on any of the lessons.

A few people have inquired whether it would be possible for non-members to view our classes. We've always made highlights available through our social media pages and we will continue to do so. That's freely available for anyone to watch. But if a non-member wants to view the technical sessions in detail, they can apply to join our digital membership program. I haven't finalized the fee for this yet (it won't be very expensive but it won't be dirt cheap either).

11-week technical development program

The government is allowing indoor sports, done with social distancing, starting June 15. The RMCO (Recovery Movement Control Order) is supposed to last until August 31, after which presumably we could do contact sports.

There are 11 weeks between June 15 to August 31. We'll make the most of that time to do two things:
1) Get fit again
2) Work on technique

It's easy enough to imagine how one could get fit doing solo exercises. It's a bit harder when it comes to judo techniques. Sure, there's tandoku-renshu (shadow uchikomi). But is there something more realistic we can do? Yes, and all you need is a stick, which will represent one of uke's target leg, and in some cases, uke's body.

This is what I have planned for my players for the next 11 weeks:






Jun 16 - 20

Kouchi Series

- Gari

- Gake

- Makikomi 

Free movement


Jun 21 - 27

Kosoto Series

- Gari

- Gake 

Free movement


Jun 28 - Jul 4

Ouchi Series

- Ai-Yotsu

- Kenka-Yotsu 

Free movement


Jul 5 - 11


Free movement



Jul 12 - 17





Free Movement



Jul 19 - 25






Jul 26 - Aug 1





Aug 2 - 8


Free movement


Aug 9 - 15


Free Movement


Aug 16 - 22





Aug 23 - 29




Wednesday, April 29, 2020

MCO-Training, Phase 2

Is it possible to do judo training alone at home, without a partner and tatami? Yes, but it requires some imagination.

When the MCO (lock-down) was first announced, I decided to provide members with some unique and original content in the form of interviews with international judokas as well as concept lessons that could be delivered through blog postings. That was Phase 1.

Most likely the lock-down will last for a while longer so we need to move on to Phase II. A few players have asked me for tips on how to do training at home and these discussions have sparked some ideas which I think will be useful.

The first challenge of home training is that most of us don't have tatamis at home. Even I don't have any (all have been moved to the dojo) so any sort of actual throwing is out of the question for most members.

The second challenge is lack of training partners. Some members are lucky, like Dave, who has a spouse who is a black belt in judo! Our "Family Judo" members would also have suitable partners. Some of our members are living with family members or roommates who might not be judo players but who could serve as willing ukes. But a few, like Saymah, are living alone and thus have no one to train with. This will be the most challenging but if there's a will, there's a way. Saymah has suggested draping a judogi around a chair so she can practice some gripping. Hey, why not?

The third challenge is the training program itself. Just become some types of training can be done at home (and alone if necessary) doesn't mean it's any good. I've seen some things being done which I think are a waste of time. So, whatever I come up with, it has to be both practical and useful. Here's what members can expect

The gokyo is something everybody eventually has to learn if they want to become a black belt someday. Normally, we only teach the full gokyo when people reach brown belt level, to prepare them for the exam. But we might as well use this lock-down period to learn the gokyo. Since the gokyo involves demo techniques, these are things that you could easily practice with a willing partner, even if they are not judokas. For those living alone, it's a bit harder doing the techniques with an imaginary partner, but it can be done. At the very least you would be able to learn to recognize the techniques and learn their Japanese names. Then when you are able to practice this properly in the dojo, it will all become so much easier.

A very complex topic that is often neglected. The lock-down is a great time to focus on this. Gripping doesn't involve any throwing so no tatami is needed. It's very helpful if you have a partner whom you can ask to put on a judogi and do some gripping exercises with but if you don't, using an imaginary partner is also a useful exercise. Not ideal but at least familiarize yourself with the concepts through visualization.

Each player must develop their own tokui-waza or favorite techniques. I will work out a customized skills development plan for each member, taking into consideration individual circumstances (e.g. living with family or living alone, etc) and individual goals and aspirations for judo (e.g. recreational or competitive). In a way, I will be giving you personalized coaching remotely via the Internet.

Family Judo

For beginners and parents with children, I'll also come up with practical activities you can do to have fun and build up useful judo skills in the process. These will be things that adults can do with adults, adults can do with children and children can do with children (we have some kids with siblings in our club).

Thinking out-of-the-box

Nobody likes to work under constraints but ironically, it’s when you work under restricted conditions that innovation sprouts. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. You find ways to work around the constraints you face and sometimes those way end up being better than the old way.

According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review last November, while people tend to intuitively believe constraints stifle creativity, they actually have the opposite effect. According to the authors of the article, who had looked at 145 studies on constraints, “when there are no constraints on the creative process, complacency sets in, and people follow what psychologists call the path-of-least-resistance – they go for the most intuitive idea that comes to mind rather than investing in the development of better ideas. Constraints, in contrast, provide focus and a creative challenge that motivates people to search for and connect information from different sources to generate novel ideas for new products, services, or business processes.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Judo in the time of Covid-19: Ghofran Khelifi, Tunisia

Q: Is Ghofran a common girl’s name in Tunisia?
It’s quite common and can be used for both genders, actually. Ghofran means “forgiveness” and I guess it’s an apt name for me because I am very forgiving, sometimes overly so and people end up taking advantage of that. My friends usually call me Ghofy.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about judo in Tunisia?
A lot of kids do judo but not so much adults. Usually the only adults who are doing judo are competitors. There’s not so much recreational judo for adults going on here.

Q: How’s the Covid-19 situation in your country?
The situation is stable for now. The government said the worst is over and the lock-down should be lifted by May 3.

Q: How are you coping with the lock-down?
Well, of course I wish I could do judo but I know we have to stay home for everybody’s safety, so I try to stay busy at home. I’m fortunate in that I have a younger sister, Mariem, who is also a judoka. In fact, she’s also a member of the national team. So, we are able to do some judo training together.

Q: How was your training like before the lock-down?
Right now, I’m at home but before the lock-down I was staying at the national team centre in the capital, which is two hours from home. I used to train twice a day there, for three hours each time.

Q: Is judo popular among girls in Tunisia?
No, not really. I think it’s because judo is seen as a rough and masculine sport so many girls shy away from it.

Q: What made your parents decide to send you for judo then?
I was hyperactive as a child and judo really was the only option for me. Ha… ha… But my parents are very happy with my judo progress and they are my No. 1 supporters.

Q: Given the lack of girls in judo, do you have enough high-level female randori partners?
Not enough, to be honest. So, we focus on technical work and strength training.

Q: Are you only training in judo or do you study or work, as well?
I am a student of a sports university. Right now, I’m doing most of my coursework online

Q: Are your judo activities funded corporate sponsors or the government? A: I’m not sponsored by any companies. The government pays for everything: food, lodging, training. They also give us a small allowance.

Q: What about for overseas competitions?
Normally the government will pay for this but my last two competitions were sponsored by the IJF. I'm grateful to them for that.

Q: What are your favourite techniques?
My main technique is left-sided uchimata. I love this technique because it involves a mix of flexibility, strength and balance. As for groundwork, I’m not really into newaza but I have won with strangles before.

Q: Do you have any uchimata heroes?
I’m a fan of all uchimata specialists but I would say Maruyama at -66kg is especially impressive.

Q: Any techniques you’d like to do but have difficulty mastering?
I’d like to be able to do ippon-seoi-nage to the right. I’ve been trying this for years but I can’t seem to get it to work for me.

Q: Did you develop the drop kata-guruma as an alternative?
In a way yes because all my other throws are left-sided throws and I needed at least one throw where I could throw uke towards her right.

Q: What do you like most about competing?
I just like to fight, really. I guess I’m naturally quite an aggressive person, have been since young, so judo is an ideal sport for me.

Q: How well do you cope with defeat?
Whether I win or lose a fight, what’s important is that I did my best. As long as I feel I did my best, I can accept it if I lose. I’ll take it to mean I’ve just go to work harder for better results.

Q: You’re 21 now and no longer in the juniors. How do you feel about fighting in the seniors?
I welcome it. It’s more challenging of course but to me if you want to prove that you are good, you must be able to produce results at the senior level.

Q: You did very well at the 2020 Dusseldorf Grand Slam, defeating two very experienced players, Sabrina Filzmoser and Hedvig Karakas. How did it feel fighting these two?
It was a good day for me and it felt amazing fighting them. It definitely boosted my confidence being able to overcome such capable players.

Q: You also gave Sumiya Dorjsuren a hard time, taking her into Golden Score. Although you didn’t win that one, are you satisfied with your performance?
It was a tough fight, a close fight and I actually thought I could win, especially after she got her second shido. But I got caught by her seoi-nage. I would say I was happy with my performance but I'm not satisfied with it.

Q: What are your short-term and long-term goals?
My short-term goal is to win the African Championships again. It will be held in December. And my long-term goal would be the Olympics next summer.

Q: Do you feel you’ve sacrificed a lot for judo?
Sometimes yes because I left my family at the age of 15 to do judo. In my culture that's a young age for a girl to be living alone. Also, in order to be able to do judo like I do — basically full-time training — I’ve had to take up sports science rather than some other subject. But as they say, great success requires great sacrifice.

Q:  What would you like to study if you weren’t doing judo?
Psychology. It’s so fascinating to me. Maybe I’ll do this after my competition career is over. Right now, my priority is judo.

Q: How would you describe what judo is to you?
It’s my life, it’s the blood in my veins.

And a special message from Ghofran Khelifi to members of KL Judo Centre...

Monday, April 27, 2020

Judo in the time of Covid-19: Tommy Mortensen, Denmark

Tommy during his 1988 Olympics days
Q: You were quite active from the mid-80s to mid-90s. Would it be accurate to describe you as a pioneer competitor for Danish judo?
Not quite. I was the second judoka to represent Denmark at the Olympic Games. Carsten Jensen participated in the -95kg category in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and I participated in the -65 kg category in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. But perhaps you could say I was the first to train rather professionally.

Q: Weren't you the only active Danish competitor during your time?
No, although there were many times when I competed alone there were others also who competed, including talented fighters such as Michelle Krey at -56kg, Allan Fevre at -65kg and Thomas Beck at -90kg.

Q: What was your motivation for pursuing judo so seriously until at an international level?
A: My mother and step-father had alcohol problems and they treated me badly. I developed low self-esteem. Judo was a way for me to cope with their neglect. It was through judo that I was able to overcome my low self-esteem. I am really grateful to all the good coaches who taught me.

Q: How much training were you doing back then?
I did about 10 training sessions per week. Five were judo session and five were supplementary sessions for strength and conditioning.

Q: Were there enough people to give you good randoris during that time?
No, there weren’t. So, I had to travel abroad a lot to get enough randoris. For example, I went to Kendal in England, Tokai University in Japan and many other places.

Tommy (2nd from right, 2nd row) training at Kendal under Tony MacConnell.

Q: What was it like in Kendal and in Tokai?
There was a really good vibe in Kendal, really good spirit. The head coach, Tony MacConnell, was a fantastic leader. He pushed us hard but at the same time was very attentive and caring. He helped me a lot even though I was a foreigner from Denmark. Tokai is the best place to get good randori.

Q: Did you get support from the Danish federation?
Yes, I got a good support from the Danish Judo Federation but judo is a minor sport in Denmark so it wasn't very much. When our national coach, Czelaw Kur, who came from Poland, showed our national team budget to his colleagues in Poland, they asked: “Is that your budget for Tommy?” They were shocked when he told them that it was the budget for 20 athletes!

Q: Were you only doing judo or did you also study or work?
I studied physical education and I also took on a job as a postman to help fund my judo career.

Q: Given all that, were you able to balance your personal life and judo?
Sometimes it was tough. I once had a girlfriend whom I loved very much. She would often complain: “You always prioritize judo over me!”. I denied it at the time but maybe in retrospect, she was right. We eventually broke up.

Q: Are you still involved in judo these days?
I’m a part-time elite coach for one of the regions in Denmark. But my full-time job is as a schoolteacher. I teach Danish, sports and history.

Q: How has Danish judo evolved since your time as a competitor?
Increasing professionalization has characterized the judo in Denmark since my time as competitor. Over the past 30 years we have had many professional coaches. First, we had Czelslaw Kur (POL), then Peter Gardiner (GBR), Thomas Beck (DEN), Miguel Ogando Lopes (POR) and now Peter Scharinger (AUT). They have all helped lift Danish judo to a higher level. Our best fighters today, namely Lærke Olsen (-63 kg), Emilie Sook (-70 kg) and Mathias Madsen (-100 kg) have all done well at the international level.

Q: Do you think Denmark can produce a World or Olympic champion?
Absolutely. Lærke Olsen took silver at the Junior World Championships two years ago. That’s a very good sign. 

Q: Do you still go on the mat and train?
Yes, but just a little bit. My hips are not so good. I have an artificial hip on one side and I might have an operation on the other too.

Q: Do you follow the IJF World Tour on YouTube and does any player stand out for you?
Yes, I do follow it. And I think Shohei Ono is really something special. His judo is just sublime and something very rarely seen.

Q: What do you think of the new IJF rules implemented in recent years?
I don’t find the rules to be simple and I think they should be. That said, the rules have been successful at promoting a more classical style of upright judo. It’s a pity that it takes rules to make competitors fight this way and not just character or as the Japanese call it, “kokoro”. Toshihiko Koga didn’t need rules to make him fight upright.

Q: How’s the Covid-19 situation in your country?
We have had the lock-down for over a month now and we’re just beginning to slowly open again. We are asked to keep distance of two metres from each other and no more than 10 people should gather together.

Q: How have you coped with the lock-down?
I’ve made the most of it. It’s a good chance to spend time with the family and to do some thinking and reflection.

Q: Speaking of reflection, what goes through your mind when you think of those competition days of past?
I’m glad I had those experiences. I often think about what will become of youths who don’t have the benefit of judo training. What is their fate and destiny like?

Q: You think today’s youth would be better off if they did judo?
Of course. Judo is good for many things. As I said earlier, judo helped me overcome my low self-esteem, and that’s not all. Through judo, I have made friends for life. Judo has educated me and built my character. I’ve long pondered about the essence of judo and to me, judo helps close the gap between reality and a dream. For me, judo was this, and still is.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Judo in the time of Covid-19: Maria Centracchio, Italy

Q: How’s the Covid-19 situation right now?
Prior to the lock-down, I was in Rome, near the Olympic Training Centre but now I’m spending the quarantine at my parents’ house, in the region of Molise, where I was born. This is a small region in the south, which fortunately, is not so badly affected by the virus.

Q: What kind of training are you able to do?
Everything is closed right now so there’s no possibility of doing judo. But my parents happen to own a gym, and although the gym is closed, I can use it privately to do some strength workouts and also some judo training with my younger brother.

Q: Normally what would your training be like?
Before this lock-down, I would do two trainings a day: two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon, Monday through Saturday. I do a lot of strength training and I usually do many randoris as well. I like this kind of hard training.

Q: In Italy, do top judokas train at their own club or at a national training centre?
Judo players usually have their home clubs as well as a “higher-level” club. I belong to the police force so my “higher-level” club is the police club. However, when it comes close to competition, we would all train together at the Olympic Training Centre in Rome.

Q: Your father is a judoka?
Yes, actually I come from a judo family. Everyone in my family has done judo at one time or another, including my mother. And of course, my brothers are judokas as well.

Q: Did you take to judo naturally?
To be honest, I didn’t want to do judo at first, simply because everyone else in my family was already doing it. I wanted to try something different, so I took up dance. But being in a judo family, I ended up spending a lot of time around the judo mat. One day, I decided to give it a try and I got hooked straight away.

Q: I read that you’re a model student as well. How were you able to train so hard in judo and excel academically as well?
I guess it’s because I like studying and learning new things. So, it wasn’t difficult for me to train and study. It felt like a very natural thing to do.

Q: Is it true you don’t take any alcohol at all?
Yes, that’s right but I’ve nothing against other people taking it. I just prefer not to take it myself.

Q: You’re known to be a tough cookie, someone who can train even through injury. Why push yourself so hard?
A: I’m a hard worker. That’s my nature. I believe in persevering though tough situations. As a competitor, I’ve had many injuries. As long as I can safely do some form of training despite the injuries, I’ll do it.

Q: Being a high-level judo athlete requires a lot of sacrifice. Do you sometimes wish you could lead a normal life like other girls your age?
My life revolves around judo. Everything I do, I take into consideration how it impacts my judo. All my closest friends are judokas. This is not a normal life by any means but it’s the life I chose. So, no complaints.

Q: Why did you choose this life though?
The simple answer is that I love to fight but of course, there’s more to it than that. Many times, I was told that judo wasn’t the right sport for me because I don’t have the talent for it. So, I’m doing this for me. I want to overcome my own limitations and become the best version of myself. Maybe in the process, I might even be a good example to others.

Q: Do you feel it’s true that you don’t have a natural talent for judo?
Well, whenever I want to learn a technique it does take me a lot of time to master it. I have to try and try again before I can get it. So, sometimes I do feel something is a bit lacking. But I’m very confident about my physical and inner strength. I know I can work harder than anybody else, and I can eventually overcome any obstacles.

Q: Any technique you’re still have trouble with?
I wish I could do ouchi-gari without being countered! But I’m working on it… ha… ha…

Q: How would your coach describe your judo?
Not so beautiful to watch, in fact a little bit messy, but always intense with non-stop attacks!

Q: When it comes to judo videos, some players I speak to say they barely watch or don’t watch at all. Others watch tons of videos. Which group do you belong to?
The latter, definitely. I always watch and analyze my fights as well as the fights of my opponents. I also watch competitions that I’m not fighting in as well. I like watching judo videos.

Q: You had a good year last year with a gold in the Tel Aviv Grand Prix and a bronze at the European Games in Minsk. But this year has not been so good, with loses in your first fights in Tel Aviv, Paris and Dusseldorf. How well are you able to handle such losses?
They’re hard to accept of course and there’s always a sense of desperation whenever I lose. But deep down inside, I know that losing is a part of the process of self-improvement. Usually the day after, I’m able to compose myself and can start to work hard again towards achieving my goals.

Q: This is a tough question but if at the end of the day, you don’t quite manage to achieve your goals, would you be able to accept it? Neil Adams has said until this day he still has nightmares about not winning the Olympic gold. Would you regret spending all those years of training and sacrifice if you don’t get what you want?
It’s hard to tell how you would feel about something unless you’re actually experiencing it at that moment in time. But knowing myself, I don’t think I would regret the efforts I had put in towards chasing my dreams. First of all, I’d know that I had given it my all. Secondly, the experiences I’ve had along the way is what has made me what I am. So, there shouldn’t be any regrets. I’m generally quite a positive person anyway.

Q: Your English is very good. Is it true you are multi-lingual?
I speak five languages. There’s Italian, which is my native tongue. Then, I studied French and English at school. Later on, I taught myself Spanish and Portuguese.

Q: How would your friends describe you?
They’d say I’m a person with a big heart and lots of patience.

Q: Any words for other judokas stuck in a lock-down?
Be positive and don’t stop dreaming! And, take care of course.

And this is Maria's special message for members of KL Judo Centre...