Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Running an adults judo class

Once when I was visiting a Singapore judo club, a coach there told me an interesting story. He said he had a player in his kids class who was really into judo, so much so that earlier in the day when he announced that they would be playing some games she came up to him and said, "I don't want to play games, I want to do judo."

I replied, "Where can we find more kids like that?" 

"This is very rare but I knew you would like the story," he said. 

Most judo clubs in this country (and in many countries around the world) are dominated by kids. Parents want their kids to learn judo for a variety of reasons. Many feel judo can give their kids discipline. Some want their kids to learn how to defend themselves against bullies. A few want their kids to become champions. There are different reasons. But the kids usually don't have a say. When they are 7 or 8 years old, they go to judo because their parents want them to, not because they necessarily want to.

No doubt some kids grow to love judo. But when you are talking about kids below the age of 12, usually what they want to do is run around the dojo, tumble about with their friends and play judo games. They don't really want to learn judo per se. And who can blame them? Which kid would want to do endless uchikomi, nagekomis, drills, etc. That's not fun!

It's different with adults. And I'm not even talking about those adults who grew up learning judo as a kid and ended up loving it. Even adults who start out as absolute beginners are there with a different mindset. They are there because they themselves want to learn judo. They wouldn't invest time and money coming for judo class unless it's something they really want to do.

If you have a three-hour session, like we do at KL Judo, and it's serious training all the way (except for the warm-up where we play some games), you'd be hard pressed to maintain the attention of most kids. They generally lose interest after the first hour. But with adults it's really a different story. They train intently until the end.

Of course there are exceptions. We have three kids under the age of 12 who train with us. When their parents first approached us, saying they want their kids to do competition judo training, I told them that our class was full of adults and their kids would have to follow along with the adults training program. I wouldn't be able to modify the class to suit the kids.

That means one hour of newaza training, one hour of tachi-waza training and one hour of randori (with water breaks of course).

So far, they've been able to follow the program. Maybe it's because they are naturally competitive so they appreciate the training. Or maybe it's because of peer pressure -- all the adults in the dojo are doing the drills properly so they just follow along and are now used to it.

I've taught a children's-only class in the past and I can assure you it would be close to impossible to do one hour of newaza drills, one hour of tachi-waza drills and one hour of randori if it was a room full of Under-12 kids. But our three kids, training among adults, are able to do the full three hours of competitive training, which I think was a pleasant surprise to their parents.

I refer to my class as a "competition class" not because all my players are competitors. Far from it. In fact, most of them are recreational players who do judo for fitness or for self-defence reasons. But the training we do is competition-oriented.

Yes, we do a formal bow-in and we observe judo etiquette of course but other than that the training is far from traditional. We play music during training, for example. We do practice uchikomi when the players are introduced to something new. Uchikomi is important for them to get the feel of entering into the technique. But we don't do it endlessly like in many traditional clubs. Once they get the feel of it, we move onto nagekomi -- not the landing-assisted type but on crash pads, where they are expected to throw with full force.

We emphasize a lot on gripping which is not something usually taught in a traditional class. We look at throws from ai-yotsu (similar stance) and kenka-yotsu (opposite stance) scenarios, again not commonly taught. We spend a lot of time doing situational drills, with tori attacking and uke resisting. This is the kind of training I did when I was a competitor.

Why is this good for recreational types? Well, I want them to learn judo! I want them to be able to throw and to catch people on the ground. There's no point if they can do beautiful uchikomi and nagekomi if their techniques don't work against a resisting opponent.

Anyone can do beautiful judo when their training partner is cooperating. The challenge is to pull off techniques when your training partner is fully resisting and trying to catch you with their techniques. Everything we do at KL Judo is practical. It's stuff that actually works.

Of course this approach might not sit well with some people. It would be hard for most kids to take this approach. But even some adults may not like this. Those who want to do easygoing judo and do minimal randori will hate our class.

We not only post up highlights of our class on our Facebook Page but we also livestream the entire session so you can see what our training is really like.

Our training is intense! It's not for everyone. Those who like our system stay with us. Those who don't end up leaving. It's a natural weeding out process which works very well because those who stay really want to be there and they train wholeheartedly.

Different types of judo clubs exist for different reasons and cater to different needs. There are clubs that teach very traditional judo and do very little randori. Perhaps those are suited for those who prefer to take it easy. There are clubs that like to mix things up with BJJ, no-gi wrestling, MMA etc. I guess those are suitable for those who like cross-training among different martial arts. At our club, we do competition-style judo.

Judo has been very good for me and has enhanced my life in profound ways. I want to share the joy of doing practical, realistic judo with others who really want to experience what that aspect of judo is like. That usually means adults who have elected to join such a class after attending a trial session. But it can also include some exceptional children like the ones we have.

I could teach an easygoing judo class that emphasizes uchikomi over drills and nagekomi over randori. I could teach a children's-only class that focuses more on tumbling and games. I could even teach judo for BJJ or MMA. My club would probably generate more income if I did any of those things. But I have to be true to myself and do what I find to be meaningful. And that's why I conduct an adults competition training class (even though it has mostly recreational players and a few kids). 


  1. Hi admin, it is possible for me to learning judo even though I am 23 years old?

    1. Of course it's possible. Judo is suitable for any age.