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Judo Training Methods

There is a considerable variety of practice methods and training drills in judo for skills development and considerable flexibility in the ways in which they are used by different instructors. One of the big difficulties facing most instructors is that of managing mat time sensibly, so that the right balance is achieved between practice and training. This is complicated by the fact that the average club has members of very mixed ability and experience. Even the simple fact that judo can be divided into standing and groundwork is potentially problematic as there are always individuals who prefer one area to the other. This is another reason why the role of the sensei is so important in ensuring that the session caters for all.


Uchikomi is repetition practice of throwing skills to the point of breaking balance, without actually throwing. Normally one partner does ten, fifteen or twenty uchikomi on a given throw then the other partner has his turn. The real value of uchikomi is in developing coordinated movements that lead up to the throw. Some people try to do this training without thinking, using it for conditioning purposes rather than as skill training. Methodically concentrating on specific details, particularly the position of the head, hips, hand actions and footwork, will often result in surer, faster progress.

Static uchikomi, where uke does not move but provides a stationary target for tori to turn in against and practice getting into position is indeed a very useful drill, particularly with beginners. However, it is important to progress the skill development into movement situations and it can be good practice to finish each set of repetitions with an actual complete throw. To add interest and realism, alternating uchikomi should be practiced on a regular basis. There are many possible drills. Both players can do the same throw or they can be mixed, such as one partner attacking with right uchimata, turning back out and the other coming in with left ippon-seoi-nage.


Nage-komi or repetition throwing is the best method available for developing complete rounded throwing skills and there are many types and varieties that can be employed, depending upon the situation. It is an excellent way to develop finishing skills and also to practice the transition from standing to groundwork. The class can be divided into groups of five and each person can throw the rest of his group three to five times. The instructor can insist that the same technique is used every time or specify different techniques for different players or allow total freedom of choice depending on the level of the class.

A modified form of nage-komi that is quite popular is the alternating kind, or 'throw for throw'. This can be taken a stage further and it can be practiced as randori with the main emphasis being on co-operation rather than competition. In some clubs this kind of practice is called French randori.


Tandoku-renshu, or solo practice, is any kind of skill training which the judo player does without a partner. Practicing throwing movements without a partner such as tai-otoshi or de-ashi-barai, shadow uchikomiand shadow randori are all forms of tandoku-renshu.


Sotai-renshu comprises the other training methods undertaken with a partner such as uchikomi, nage-komi, kataand randori'which are not covered by tandoku-renshu.


Yakusoku-renshu is a form of prearranged skill practice where tori and uke rehearse particular movements, combinations or counters in a controlled situation. Tori might ask uke to make a particular defence against a certain throw, hold in a certain way or attack with a given technique in order to train himself on the appropriate response to a situation that might arise in competition. It differs from nage-komi in that other elements may be introduced in a creative way, but is not competitive like randori, the 'thrower' and 'thrown' being predetermined.


Randori or free play is the core of judo training and practice and differs from the other training methods in that it is not structured and does not involve drill. It is comparable to sparring in boxing, with both players moving around the mat looking for the opportunity to throw each other. It is a kind of open-ended skill practice which takes place in a competitive framework.

The character 'ran' also means chaos in Japanese, conveying a sense of unlimited freedom and possibilities. It is the reason why most judoka continue to practice judo. There is no referee, and space permitting, the whole club usually practices together. Good randori is characterized by freedom of movement, frequent exchanges of attack and defense and is usually punctuated by ippon scoring throws. Good randori flows, one attack leading to another with changes of rhythm and tempo and it should be used as an opportunity to put the techniques practiced in uchikomi and nage-komi to work in a competitive situation against a resisting opponent. The intensity of randori inevitably varies depending on a number of factors, such as the relative strengths of the players, the temperature, the proximity of forthcoming competitions and suchlike.


Renshu, or practice competition, is a form of training that is generally under-used in most dojos. It tends to be used just once or twice with beginners to prepare them for gradings, and in some clubs not even then. Since the first experience of competition for virtually everyone is a grading, the least the competent judo instructor can do is put students through a rehearsal and ensure that they understand all the terminology and instructions that will be used by the referee. Renshu has a more important place in training if the members of the club are not active competitors who travel to events regularly. It can be especially beneficial for older players who no longer have any desire to go through the paraphernalia associated with contest - the traveling, the dieting, weight control, weigh-in and nights away from home in hotels - to have practice matches on a fairly regular but unscheduled basis, for example once a month. It helps such players to obtain many of the benefits of competition without having to make sacrifices they are perhaps no longer willing to make. The difficulties of introducing renshu into training sessions usually revolve around ego and hierarchical status within the club, but skillfully managed it can benefit most clubs.


Kata is a word used to describe a part of judo training which involves the formal demonstration of techniques and principles. Kata is a compulsory part of most examination syllabuses.The ability to demonstrate the nage-no-kata is a prerequisite for the first dan grade, but it is probably the least popular form of training that exists in modern judo and is only rarely practiced with the necessary dedication and spirit to derive the real benefits that it is possible to obtain. Nage-komi and throw for throw practice are much preferred, especially by younger people. However, there are kata championships for the true enthusiasts, which are hugely enjoyed by those who participate. There are seven katas, or forms:

The nage-no-kata - the form of throwing techniques.
The katame-no-kata - the form of ground work techniques.
The gonosen-no-kata - the form of counter throws.
The koshiki-no-kata - the antique form.
The kime-no-kata - the self-defence form.
The itsutsu-no-kata - the form of the five principles.
The ju-no-kata - the form of gentleness.

There is also a modern self-defence kata called the goshin-jitsu-no-kata, which was devised by the Kodokan to meet the changing needs for self-defence in the modern world.

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