How to Watch Judo (to make your game plan more effective)

Whether you’re preparing for a competition, or have a friendly rivalry with your teammate during randori, learning how to “watch” and ” read” judo is an essential skill in order to enjoy the sport and solve the puzzle of how to score ippon.

The best (and most interesting) way to practice “reading” a judo fight is to watch high-level judoka on the internet, or senior grades at your club.

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To begin with, look for:

  • Who is controlling the grips?
  • Who is leading the speed/momentum?
  • Where are the opportunities and vulnerabilities for each fighter?
  • Is anyone getting more tired?

Then use these same prompts to figure out how to watch your opponents and build strategies to win against your rivals/friends. Each of your randori fights are a puzzle, and it’s up to you to find the keys to solve that puzzle in order to control, throw, pin or submit them.

Take a specific person or training partner that presents a tricky problem for you, then use these as starters to analyse their style:

  • Stance: Left or right? Do they ever switch stances? And if so, what causes them to switch stance?
  • Grip: left, right, high, waist? Do they have specific patterns they like to use to get this grip?
  • Key attacks: What are their favourite throws? Do they usually attack in single attempts or combinations? Do they rely on counters?
  • Movement patterns: Circling left or right?
  • “Panic” moves/attacks: What do they do when they are losing and their back’s against the wall?
  • Transitions: How quickly and confidently do they move into newaza?
  • Newaza attacks: Do they prefer to hold down, strangle or arm-bar?

Then you can begin building a game plan of how to best fight them. This begins with knowing your own preferred style and system of judo. Note down:

  • What are your key throws?
  • What are your default patterns?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What do you do when you panic?

Then compare your own fighting style in relation to your tricky opponent.

By Mel Budiarto