Judo Ron 62- Enhancing your judo with a Mentor or Coach?
Why would you need the services of a judo Mentor or a Coach? Because: you made the decision to become a judoka and registered at an institution, a club or dojo. Already, you are overwhelmed by some of the foreign concepts and alien vocabulary: Dojo Shu, judo instructor or teacher, Sensei, Shihan, Coach, Mentor, Yudansha, Mudansha and Kodansha. In the course of your journey, you will be submitted to their influence. One day or another, you will be entertained by one or many of these actors. Once embarked upon the quest to better know yourself and conquer your weaknesses, you will read about and gather behavioural examples to master. You will listen to lectures or presentations about different facets of judo. You will develop the need to rationalize what you are exposed to. Each one of these actors will play different roles and even become a mentor or a coach by being involved with your preparation and subsequent training regime encompassing: the Gokyo exercises, the Kata ceremonials, the Randori exercises, the Mondo discussions and perhaps, the Shiai. “Anyone can be coached if they are willing” Myles Downey-Effective Coaching, 2003 How can you best profit from all those who will contribute enrichments to your experience? Firstly, let us try to identify the judo concepts and the meaning associated with these individuals. Let us try to classify them in accordance with their distinctive attributes. Thereafter, I shall propose a possible journey by which you can maximize your gains and enhance your participation. The concepts within the culture of judo The club director or dojo master/director is called Dojo Shu. We identify the judo instructor or assistant-teacher as a person who provides some specialized instructions, knowledge or skills to one or a group of judoka. The instructor may be of intermediary rank or grade and may assist the class teacher by being assigned groups of students or take over some segments of the course. The judo teacher is normally recognized as a black belt holder having demonstrated his or her technical expertise before a special Commission of Peers and having received his or her credentials (diploma- certificate) from the national sport governing authority. He or she is currently addressed as Sensei. The term Sensei is a contemporary diminutive of Sendatsu, referring to the seniors who have gone before and traversed the path that you are now following. The Sensei is the authority responsible for a class. Due to social demand and circumstances, he or she may become a coach or a mentor also known as Onshi.


You will hear the term Shihan when you are asked to bow before the honorific area or Shomen. Shihan is described as the master teacher or originator of an art. The Kodokan dictionaryi refers to it as the title given to a highly qualified master teacher in academic, artistic and martial arts disciplines. In judo circles, the term has been reserved to the founder Jigoro Kano. Within the confines of larger clubs, you will note the presence of other black belt holders. They are the Yudansha: a black belt holder of first or higher grade. That individual may be an instructor, a facilitator or simply a senior student and competitor with no or limited pedagogical functions. The Yudansha provide depth and experience within a club. The Mudansha is the generic term encompassing all those not in possession of a black belt. They are mostly peer groups and colleagues found within the different color belt pyramid. (White, yellow, orange, green, blue and brown). They will be your most consistent training partners and will act as Tori (thrower) or Uke (receiver) when required. Their functions and their relationships with you are crucial to your advancement. Without training partners, you will not make realistic progress. In the larger clubs you may come cross the individuals known as Kodansha. They are black belt holders of the fifth grade or higher. They are representatives of a minority of the most seasoned, experienced teachers, trainers or competitors. They are potentially the most likely individuals to be developed as Kochi or Coach. They would be assigned the responsibility to train judoka-competitor for specific results and provide advanced technical guidance. This is the community of players with which you will have to interact. Other actors who may facilitate your training program are associated with diverse club administration duties. It is recommended that you get to know them as early as possible and understand the roles plaid by each one. About Mentorship and Coaching When you reach a certain competency level and become involved in competition training the two words that will constantly resonate are: Coach and Mentor. Being a Coach or a Mentor are two different things. Mentoring is a personal development relationship established between a judoka and a chosen elderly person, normally, more experienced or more knowledgeable, who can provide selected assistance, advice and guidance at key moments. In such a relationship, the judoka becomes an apprentice or “protégé” of sort and the mentor becomes readily available to carry on informal tutoring session or stands on call to express different points of view before selected difficulties or challenges.


The mentor may well be another club member or an outsider. The important criteria is that the person be capable of accompanying the judoka in his quest for answers, that it can render some form of necessary assistance during the transition process or passages from one situation to another. The mentor is also expected to display integrity and honesty when he assists in resolving particular issues and bring forward different approaches and points of view from which the judoka will make his decisions. The mentor must be able to provide feedback when required and stand available to undertake the role of senior-friend, big brother or big sister as well surrogate mother or father. Mentoring is a power free, two-way mutually beneficial learning situation. In the case of junior member whose personality is not yet matured and is requesting to have a mentor, it will be important to ensure that the consent of the parents is obtained before solidifying the relationship. This precaution is necessary in order to avoid future misinterpretation, social or cultural challenges. In normal circumstances, the relationship should provide the judoka with a different low pressure, self-discovery approach towards maturity. Coaching is on the other hand, a relatively new term that appeared in the early 20th century with the arrival of more elite sports programs. Julie Kennedy in her academic paper of 2009ii identified coaching to be of Anglo Saxon origin and meaning: carriage “to take a person from one point to another”. In other words, coaching is helping you to do your best. Thus, coaching is about getting results, improving techniques and performances. The outcome orientation is the key characteristic of the coaches. It was further described by Julie Kennedy when she expressed on page 16 of her thesis: “All coaching methodologies are outcome oriented rather than problem oriented with the emphasis on both task and the relationships. They focus on the solution, promoting the development of new strategies for thinking and acting as opposed to trying to resolve problems and past conflicts.”

Mentoring: Helping others to achieve their aims
(Source: Public domain figurines)


In 1998, the British Judo Association conducted an on-line surveyiii to evaluate what should be the attributes of effective relationships between coach/mentor and athletes. The results identified some different perspectives about the functions of mentoring, coaching and supervision. It was clearly determined that coaching is neither a consulting function nor a form of therapy for athletes. It stands alone and should not be confused with mentoring. In his complementary research on beliefs and attitudes in judo coaching, Malcolm Collinsiv expressed his views about current coaching methods as follow: “Judo coaching predominantly uses traditional methods emphasising progression through belts rather than success in competition as the measure of achievement.” The main characteristics identified from these two functions are: Both the Mentor and the Coach are persons providing assistance towards improving the individual performance; their assigned athletes are viewed as unique and they see themselves as facilitators. Their degree of influence can be capture in their involvement with the personal development of the individual skills and techniques; the establishment of and implementation of a learning/achieving system; the increase in team work and the positive upgraded performance. It is interesting to note that both functions were regarded as being a life time commitment and as such, of direct result from their specialties/qualifications. “Health is of value in so far as it contributes to achievement.”
Warren Hilton-Psychology and Achievement, 1914

Areas of Concentration by the Mentor The mentors usually focus on the person. They offer career orientation and support for the individual growth and maturity while the coach is more job-focused and performance oriented. A mentor is more or less a sounding board, he or she can give advices but the athlete is free to pick and choose what is retained. The context does not have specific performance objectives other than assist in character building, improving certain skills and developing maturity. Mentors are perceived as facilitators, guides and teachers allowing the judoka to discover and experiment with their own limitations and directions. Mentors do not provide ready-made solutions but lead the protégé in a concept-learning phase where they can assess particular characteristics of situations and the mentor will guide the protégé into a critical reasoning process leading him to an appropriate and acceptable solution.


Areas of Concentration by the Coach On the other hand, the coach will use various assessment tools to identify where the judoka stands and where he wants to go. He will evaluate the performance levels and calculate how best to prepare him towards his imminent journey. In the evolutionary process obtained over a timeline, they both participate in the identification of the potential drifting situations and obstacles as well as determine the best ways to increase the performance level and keep the motivation and the spirit alive. The coach, as a master in his own area of expertise, will ensure that the judoka who follows his directives and plan will become more efficient and more productive. Measurable performance goals will be set as stepping echelons to achieve successive ‘personal best’. Emotional states will be monitored and feed the necessary persuasion and motivation elements. Both the coach and the judoka will form a bond within a disciplined or rigid cadre which is supported with a loaded action plan imposed to match the anticipated goals. In such a venue, the original judo structure known at the club level cease to exist. The empowered player no longer seek to attain the performance level necessary for his or her next promotion or rank; they are beyond that level. What is on their new horizon is the validation of their competitive skills to be displayed at National, World and Olympic levels. Observing upon the need for a revised plan for the British judo team preparation for the Olympics of 2012, Malcolm Collins recommended the following coaching approach for the high level performers:

“An elite structure should be based on players having specific performance targets including technical and tactical skills, psychological, and physiological, aligning judo more closely with the structure used in other Olympic sports. Coaches should also be given targets related to developing emotional control among players and instilling players with a self-belief to attain performance targets related to the above.”
Expressing some concerns about the depth needed with the coaching system, the same author recommended the inception of a similar approach at regional level when he said in his research conclusion: “Effective integration and usage of such personnel is required including developing and inculcating sport science knowledge into the practice of elite coaches, and then modifying this knowledge for use in the club system.for the local needs.”


Different Relationship Patterns Within a mentoring relationship the judoka and mentor have several free choices: to accept their partnership, to continue for a given time, to decide for how long and how often they will interact and to establish what will be the concentration of their interactions. It is to be reminded that the Judoka may freely choose is partner from many available individuals who may become their mentor and for whatever given purposes. The selection can be made from peer groups, yudansha and external individuals. The judoka will normally initiate his search, make the first contact and negotiate with the elected, both the level and the frequency of the forthcoming interventions. Selecting the kind of Assistance When reaching higher grade in judo (perhaps at the blue and brown belt levels), you may be able to beneficiate from the national organization who may have a scouting program to detect judoka with special talent. It will follow with an approach to selected judoka of high potential to suggest the assignment of individual mentor or group coaches. It will even suggest the relocation to a special training center where the individuals could benefit from the expertise of several coaches. When such arrangements are not available, it might be wise for the judoka to search around for retired judo experts or competitors within their reach who would accept this kind of assignment. Living with your Choice Not all relationships are expected to be fruitful. It must be understood that the interpersonal skills displayed by either the coach or mentor will determine the effectiveness of their associations. In the accepted linkages, the coach by the very nature of his expertise will normally carry a certain degree of authority. Developing a Spartan regime suited for individual athlete, he may ultimately insist on the total compliance with the program formulated or place the judoka at the risk of ending their relations when non-compliance or slackness are shown. As it pertains to the Mentors, they need not be an all-knowing expert in judo. Their professional expertise may have been acquired in different fields yet can be applicable in judo surroundings. A mentor’s influence is determined by the overall value he can bring to the relationship. It is a friendlier relationship based on mutual respect. There is more room for flexibility and the judoka is not restricted in the continuation of his other life interests. Many Yudansha and Kodansha may easily become «coach» but only a few of them are considering establishing a mentorship relation. The latter demand that future mentor makes alterations to their current mental attitude of making winners by perfecting “clones” of themselves. They have to let go the disciplinarian and Spartan approach. There is a new learning process to be achieved with mentoring, a liberty of thinking to be exploited and a consultative approach to be developed through appropriate feedback mechanisms.


The mentor must be capable to bring to the table, his or her ability to assess different situations and accept dissimilar perspectives. He or she must remain a flexible guide towards the overall development of the protégé and discard the disciplinarian duties. The protégé on the other hand, must ensure to retain his freedom of thoughts and his independence for his choice of actions. Coaching Environment As we said, the activities of coaching are task related and they pertain to: improvements in the knowledge base, acquisition of new skills or reaching continued higher performance results on a given task. Coach will normally accompany the judoka to the Shiaijo to give verbal reminders or cues to prompt their judoka to make use of specific strategies. From the side line, the coach always observes and analyses. He will frequently make approval gestures to signal or confirm the desired applications which should be followed by the judoka. The continual communication is designed to lead the judoka through a systematic process involving the identification of the right problem, finding the cause and effect, generating the best options, deciding on a plausible and possible solution, and implementing the necessary actions to secure the victory. The coach is an active participant, before during and after the event. He watches, assesses and recommends changes to the game plan. The coach is known to videotape an activity for subsequent review and discussion. It is a continuum of events leading towards the attainment of the goals.

Coaching is goal oriented; it will help you advanced further, higher and stronger. It is meant to assist you in the achievement of the victory over self and the external challenges.


The Challenges we all face Whether you are a new judoka or a seasoned competitor, you have the need to stay physically and mentally fit to benefit from your endeavours. Throughout your journey, you will seek the experience, the stimulations and the challenges to overcoming obstacles. You may have already attempted some exploit six times and failed, but you will have tried a seventh just to prove to yourself and to others that you are able to conquer. Your courage and determination will have demonstrated your competence over the obstacles and you will feel contented. You are no exception. We are all made of the same biological needs: to overcome is our nature. When obtaining superiority over an obstacle, we all take pride in the improvements made and will seek the appropriate acceptance of peers. Alone or assisted, we all strive to improve ourselves. Within the judo community, you have been acquainted with the various individuals who can help you realize your dream. Peers, teachers, friends, parents and outsiders are all within your reach. It is now the time for you to decide what are your priority goals and how best to go about reaching them. Hereunder are suggested paths. Seeking the right paths With time and practice, you will need to come out and shine over the mass of judoka and begin to personalize your Judo. From your instructors, peers, teachers, coaches or mentors you need to command their trust and obtain their willingness help you grow and attain a certain degree of freedom of action. You have to remember that your relationship with the club membership and with other outsiders is a two ways process. You must give to others what you can to support them and make them grow. In return, all the players mentioned will influence the way you develop your comprehension of judo concepts and implement judo theory with practice. You will come across different people with dissimilar points of view and approaches that can assist you when considering solutions to given combat situations. Do not haste to diversify your relationship. Be careful with your choice as you should expect sound advices and frank assessments of your strengths and weaknesses. Try to be yourself when in the presence of others. Seek out the best moments for productive discussions and exposés; try to maintain your goals and priorities. Always maintain the desire to go beyond the simple drill or plan. Articulate your ideas clearly and believe in them. Once embarked upon a given path, be prepared to accept positive variations and suggestions if they are intended for your benefit. Remember that it is essential that your collaborators understand the importance of you taking charge of your own ideas and actions. In return, be sure to convey to them how valuable their contributions are.


It has been said that: When you have no baggage, you can will to go anywhere at any time. Keep your mind open and ask questions. Always remain an inquisitive student regardless of your age and status. It was R. Euken in his essay about the philosophy of life that described the liberated man as follow: v “His actions are no longer distracted by external influences but they are the outcomes of his own decisions. He continuously aspires to conduct himself in accordance with his choice: to be one with the universe.” Decision time Now that you better understand the judo milieu, you may want to revise your goals and set new ones. You must ask the right set of questions to obtain the right answers. There are too many judoka that failed to ask specific questions and accept all situations as presented. You must distance yourself from such a group and take command of your own future. As with most decisive moments in life, you must now set the stage to properly recognize all the elements at play. You are considering seeking assistance to improve your knowledge or skills. It is by conducting a self-analysis that you will gain a better understanding of your needs. After conducting such an exercise, you may narrow your choice and decide if you need the assistance and who should you choose to best help you with your present life goals and judo objectives. Here are a few questions that may be pertinent to this kind of exercise: Why am I interested in judo? What are my goals? What can I learn or practice that will make me better? What is really going on with my learning-practice regime? What obstacles do I face? Is there someone that can assist me now or later, who? Does my judo teacher really care about my improvements? Am I deceiving myself to expect too many results, too soon? What are the likely consequences of failing to achieve those aims? If I want to do my best what is the preferred option to prepare for it? What other alternatives do I have to be more successful in doing what I wish to do? Is this my biggest problem now, or do I need to focus my attention on something else? Responding to these or similar questions should become part of your analysis. Do not venture to ask the first person for assistance without thinking about the reasons you seek their help. You need to engage into some preliminary intellectual work: focussing on the task, sticking to the point, questioning deeply and striving towards a reasonable solution. Then, and only then, can you proceed to add positive actions to your plan. You should review how you conduct yourself in the dojo. Check out your attitude; be on the look-out for half-hearted or vague performance, the lack of details in your demonstrations, moments of inattention and blurred reasoning. Try to understand the deeper meaning of what is being taught to you. Just don’t be satisfied with what you see, look beneath the surface; ask pointed questions until you are satisfied. Try to figure out the important principles underlying each technique that is taught. Confirm your understanding of the issue when being presented by others.

When you are working through a problem or combat situation, make sure you stay focused on what are the causes and effects. Don’t allow your mind to wander to unrelated matters. Don’t allow others to stray your thoughts from the main issue. Conclusion By being active during the lessons and interested to pursue your understanding, you will better grasp your longer terms needs. Having a good attitude will enable to clarify your goals and seek those who can best help with the optimization of your performance. Have a fruitful journey and a good training session.

Ronald Désormeaux Judo teacher, Hart House Dojo University of Toronto October 2012

i ii iii

Kodokan New Japanese -English Dictionary of Judo, August 2000 Julie Kennedy, A Definition of Coaching, Thesis, Potsdam U, Germany, June 26, 2009

http://coachingandmentoring.com/mentsurvey.htm. Malcolm D Collins, Beliefs and attitudes in Judo Coaching, Wolverhampton, Oct 2008 v R. Euken, Philosophy of Life, Gutenberg Project 2004, p 127

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