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Judo Discussion and Investigation of Selected Topics by Ronald Desormeaux

JUDO RON 26- More About Randori in Judo

Jigoro Kano Shihan has mentioned before that : « when practicing judo for the purpose of
physical education, you must select waza that allow you to exercise each part of your
body equally. You must also take care not to overwork any part of your body. You must
regularly practice the kata (form) you have been taught in order to compensate for those
areas in which randori training alone is insufficient. »i Kata and Randori were the
preferred methods of training adopted by the founder and the Gokyo was the pedagogical
progressive system used to teach the technical skills.

On several occasions in the past, I have attended judo classes at some dojo where the
instructors placed too much emphasis on the Katame waza or ground work and the
students had very little time to tackle the improvements required of tachi waza through
Randori exercises. We have to remember that the judo contest starts with both opponents
standing face to face and that current judo contest rules favour the standing techniques
and the ground work is seen as complementary follow through to Tachi waza.

I have discussed the importance of Randori in judo. In previous documents ii, I have
highlighted the fact that Randori is an integral part of judo training and constitute the
perfect occasion for the judoka to really measure himself when facing difficult situations.
It is a training exercise where you seek to perfect your offensive and defensive techniques
with the help of a resisting partner. I also produced a french language article which
outlined the essence of the Randori as a composite in Judo Ron 5/2009 at WWW.

You will recall that by its own definition, doing Randori is to create and survive in
chaotic situations. It is to embark upon some form of guerilla warfare or deal succesfully
with one. My friend Michel Novovitch 8th dan described the exercise as the moment of
integral effort.iii It represent these instances where the judoka attempt to make efficient
use of all his physical and mental energy to gain maximum advantage of all opportunities
that will permit him to overpower or control his partner.

Through the practice of judo Randori, one must constantly cultivate his feelings and
reactions to what is happening around him in order to remain calm, flexible and make
intelligent use of all his energy. Observation and feelings of the surroundings become an
important facet in his decision making. The Randori can be addressed as a military
operation of sort. Many years ago, an american military officer by the name of Col John
Boyd coined the acronym OODA to express the likely process to be followed for decision
making in combat situations. OODA stands for observation, orientation, decision and

Judo Discussion and Investigation of Selected Topics by Ronald Desormeaux

With experience you will discover that such a process can be used both in Randori and in
real life. During a confrontation or when involved in hazardeous situation, one has to
open up his mind and catch the reality of the moment. He must be able to see with the
eyes and feel with the senses. In Randori, observation must capture the essentials
characteristics associated with posture, location of centre of gravity, distance, breathing
cycles, movements etc. Once you understand and have identify the proper target or the
danger, you need to orient yourself in order to remain as the master of the ongoing
situation : finding the right opportunities, identifying the angle of approach or thrust, the
distance and speed of oncoming or retracting objects etc.

Then, based upon your experience, your talent and technical background, you need to
decide what will be the most effective and the most economical solution to apply.
Finally, you need to align your mental and physical components and direct them towards
the selected solution. You must act quickly and get rid of non essential movements and or
deliberations in order to perform the selected technique that will guide you to the scoring
of Ippon. Hereunder is a schematic schema of such a decision making process.

A similar process had been identified earlier by Jigoro Kano when he used the expression
Jukuryo danko (meaning decisive action after careful consideration). By using this
expression, he meant that we should entertain developping the responsability of making
carefull considerations about any given situation. Each action should have been the
results of volontary ideas or decisions and not depend exclusively upon the compensatory
reaction through our automatic reflexes.

Therefore, in Randori or Shiai, the mental process must decide and guide the physical
reactions. Once that decision is rendered, we should carry it through without further
hesitation. We must be committed and act without delay. That is the essence of Randori.

Judo Discussion and Investigation of Selected Topics by Ronald Desormeaux

Training times do not permit you to continuously be practicing Randori type exercises.
Normal randori practice should be viewed as a training exercise for bettering both your
technical aspects and your aerobic capacities. It is the occasion to master or improve
upon your ability to perform the Kuzushi, Tsukuri and Kake at will. It should be an
occasion for you to develop better timing and displacement in the combat zone. It is an
opportunity to take and maintain the initiative during a given period.

As such, the Randori period where you perform at high intensity should last between
three to five minutes in duration ( preferably the same lenght in time as a real shiai or
contest). The Randori should be the ideal occasion for you to be sincere in both
defensive and offensive movements. By moving freely about the tatami you need to take
up the initiative and maintain it throughout the period. You have to develop the ability to
cope rapidely with the challenges and perform several inovative, repetitive and deep

I recommend that when performing Randori at high intensity, you should introduce some
alternance in your outputs by introducing some periods of rest lasting between 15-25
seconds between various offensive movements. On a regular training night, you should
try to accomplish five to seven good Randori (25-35 minutes) with different partners.

When you concentrate on too many of the same techniques there is a chance that you will
fatigue earlier. In order to reduce the elements of fatigue, you should ensure a better
distribution of your workload, as such, you may consider introducing some variety in the
style of your attack; in changing the area where you circulate on the tatami; alternating
your weight distribution; shifting your body from side to side or twisting more often; and
changing the speed with wich you execute your techniques.

When preparing for a competition or having the desire to discover if you have improved
your stamina with each round of Randori, you might think of taking a reading of your
pulse both at the beginning of the exercise (number of beat per miniute) and after. These
periodic and simple assesments can be of some help to establish your physiological
stamina level.

You are to be remembered that your overall endurance level will be influenced by your
motivation and determination to act and by your desire to maintain and sustain the
dynamic gestures involved in performing the waza. Your performance is also dictated by
the degree of your physical shape, your technical skills and the tactics you will used in
the Randori.

Judo Discussion and Investigation of Selected Topics by Ronald Desormeaux

Of course, it is to be expected that during the Randori session, you may encounter some
muscular pain and difficulties with the execution of techniques. You do not need to be
going all out in your first encounter; take each exercise in stride and augment your
outputs as you increase the numbers of encounters. Try to keep a good Shizentai position
in order to minimize the number of courbature and stress. By staying in harmony with
your partner you will use the minimum amount of force to do the job. Give yourself time
to relax and recuperate between exercise periods.

At first, do not be too preoccupied with the kumi kata, try different holds and familiarize
yourself with the various judogi holding patterns used by your partners. You should try to
be at ease with the ways you grip the opponent in order to feel him most of the times and
control his reactions.

During the randori, be free to experiment, to discover what you can do and how you react
to various situations and partners. Make greater use of your impulsion power, use your
toes to push on the tatami and gain greater speed in your approach; make use of spiral
and circular mouvements to gain impetus and be concerned on how you make use of
your natural levers.

For the developping judoka, the importance is to maintain the interest in Randori training
and to try to improve at every encounter. When results are no longer on the horizon, try
to go back to learn the principles through Kata training. Remember, Randori is not a
winning-losing situation it is a growth exercise.


Gatineau, Québec,

January 2010

Jigoro Kano, Mind over Muscle, compilation by Naoki Murata, Kodansha, Japan 2005, page 104
Ronald Desormeaux, The Discovery of Judo’s Arsenal, Shin Gi Tai, August 2008, page 48
Michel Novovitch, Judo Zero Gravity, Casablanca Maroc, 2003, page 104