St. Albert

Recipe for Success - Written by Renee Hock

Written by: Renee Hock - 4 x SR National Champion, All Japan Company Champion, 1993/1995 World Team Member, 3 x Pan-Am Medalist


If you used a quick show of hands to take a survey among athletes and asked "who wants to be a champion?" likely everyone would raise their hands. Of course, all athletes want to succeed in their sport. However, how many athletes are truly willing to make the commitment and follow the necessary steps required to achieve their goals?

Key Components for Success

What is truly required to achieve an element of success at the highest levels of competitive judo? This article details some of the major components that if considered in your training program will help to improve your chances at successfully attaining your competitive goals:

  • Commitment
  • Hard Work
  • Attitude
  • Mental Skills
  • Planning
  • Integration of Skills
  • Outside Support
  • Nutrition & Hydration


This is the first step to achieving success. Make a commitment to your goals in judo. This may be something as small as committing to go to practice four times a week instead of three, or something like developing a comprehensive training plan that incorporates all elements of your program. Either way, making this type of commitment will increase your confidence in competitive situations because you will know that you have invested more in your preparation than the majority of athletes that you will face in competition.

Hard Work

It is not enough just to show up for training. In my many years as a coach, I have seen a number of athletes who show up to practice regularly, but simply go through the motions of drills and even avoid challenging partners and situations that would greatly enhance the development of their skills. Later, these same individuals often become frustrated in tournament situations when they are unable to push their bodies to the limits demanded by competitive judo. They feel that because they have made the commitment to attend practice regularly, that this alone should provide them with the competitive results that they are hoping for.

However, the reality is this - the body cannot perform at a high level of intensity in competition if it has never previously been exposed to this level of intensity in a practice situation first. At practice we are training our bodies to prepare for competition. It is therefore important to understand that if we do not work hard at practice, we will not be able to achieve our desired performance outcome in a competitive situation. Maximizing opportunities to work hard at practice will maximize your chances of success in competition.


It is critical for all athletes to seek to maintain a positive, open and flexible attitude within their training environment. Successful athletes know how to manipulate challenging situations and limited resources to their advantage. They are also constantly looking to outside sources for anything that will give them any type of a competitive edge.

For example, let's examine the situation where an athlete shows up for judo and only three other people are there. Some individuals in this situation would feel extremely frustrated. They may even choose not to stay for practice because they do not feel that training with three other people is worth their time. However, the successful athlete will make this situation work for them. Maybe they will work with one of the others and do a series of uchikomi and throwing drills. Or maybe they will do rotating rounds of randori with the people who are there. Either way, by remaining focused on what they do have, successful athletes are free to place their focus where it should be - on maximizing their performance.

Mental Skills

Mental skills are a key component of all competitive sports that are often overlooked. These include processes and skills such as goal setting, relaxation, visualization, emotional control, reflection, and assessment and adjustment of goals throughout the competitive season. The integration of these processes and development of these skills into your training program are critical to achieving top levels of performance in any sport.


To become a successful athlete in Canada, most individuals are required to balance a variety of different activities including education, social, work, family, and training commitments. Time management skills become essential. Careful planning training activities around one's other commitments is the only way to achieve guaranteed success with so many other things to consider. The planning aspect trickles down to all areas of competitive judo. Elite athletes follow a quadrennial plan detailing their competitive activities and training cycles over a four-year period. Provincial team athletes follow a yearly plan. These plans are then refined into some type of weekly training plan, and can be further broken down into a plan for a particular judo practice, or even into a plan to deal with a specific situation - for example, a high left grip. Any way you look at it, planning is a critical tool for success at any level in competitive judo.

Integration of Skills

Many athletes do a variety of cross training activities outside of their sport such as conditioning, strength training, mental training, flexibility, etc. However, it is important to coordinate these activities correctly so that they are all working together to achieve the common goal of training yourself to become the best possible competitive judo athlete that you can be.

For example, Athlete A does strength training 4x/week. They perform a series of 10-12 general strengthening exercises using machines that work the entire body. Athlete B does strength training 2x/week. Athlete B's program only includes 5 exercises using free weights - Squats, Bench Press, Rowing, Chin-ups & Clean & Jerk. Whose strength training program is more effective?

This is dependent on the goal, which in this case is to maximize our performance as a competitive judo athlete. The answer then is Athlete B, because this athlete has chosen exercises that directly simulate the movements in judo. For example, Squats simulate the explosive movement used when finishing a throw. Rowing and Bench Press simulate the pushing and pulling movements used to create kuzushi and/or to push our partner off of us when we are being held down. To execute chin-ups requires core strength, grip and forearm strength - so does judo. So remember, quality is better than quantity anytime. Think about this the next time you decide to do some cross training.

Outside Support

No matter how strong, well trained or emotionally together an athlete is, everyone experiences times of self-doubt, fear, stress, or just an overall inability to "cope" with the things going on around them. During these times it is important to have an outside support system, others who are there to support you at times when you are unable to provide this type of comfort for yourself. Often the people whom we may want to support us (i.e. parents, partners, etc.) are unable to provide us with the support that we need. It is important in these situations for us to recognize this. In these cases, it is necessary to actively seek out and identify others who are able to be the positive influences that you need to support you through these difficult times.

Nutrition & Hydration

I have often asked the athletes that I coach - "Are you willing to start a match and give the other competitor a wazari head start before you begin?" All of them, of course, reply "no". Strangely enough though, this is the type of advantage that you are creating for your opponent when you do not fuel your body with the necessary nutrients and fluid intake that it requires to maximize performance in competitive situations. Whether it's showing up for the tournament dehydrated from excess weight loss, failing to replenish the level of glycogen that your body needs to perform, or simply consistently making poor food choices you are giving your opponent a HUGE advantage before the match has even begun. Being aware and making smart choices are the key to being successful in this area.


This article presents a number of different concepts that if considered in your training program will help to improve your chances at successfully attaining your competitive goals. There are no guarantees that in following these steps you will achieve all of your judo goals. However, if you do follow these steps you will maximize the chance of creating a competitive edge for yourself even before the competition has begun. Think about it. If someone offered you the chance to begin a match against your opponent with a wazari advantage would you take it? I just did…

Judo helps instill mental focus in your child, giving them the ability to concentrate and see tasks through to the end. Judo is about respecting yourself and those around you.
Unlike other martial arts Judo teaches you how to defend yourself without any kicking or punching. In the dojo we teach you how to avoid dangerous situations.
No matter what your current fitness level Judo will improve your balance, coordination and general conditioning. If you are looking to lose weight, Judo can burn over 700 calories every hour!

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