Progress – How the hell do you measure it?

Judo is one of the easiest sports to make you feel miserable when you are not winning, and the complexity of the sport can lead practitioners to feel like they are getting nowhere or even going backwards.

Unfortunately, it is also easy for you to pad your ego by only remembering your successes and ignoring your losses. By example, you could fight the same guy twice and last an extra 30 seconds and say ‘I did better than last time’. However, you ran away, defended and incurred two shido’s. In terms of actually progressing towards eventually beating this guy, you’ve actually done worse.


So it is worth asking the question ‘how do I know that I am getting better?’


The fact that a fight can end in the blink of an eye as well as the fact that most randori involves relentless grip-fighting and minimal big attacks mean that Judo can never be analysed and simplified the way swimming, athletics and weight lifting can. It is just too hard.


So this is the formula I use to understand how well I went in a fight. Generally there are about three exchanges per minute in a Judo bout or randori. So in a five minute bout there is about 15 exchanges.


There are many ways to ‘win’ an exchange, some of these include:


  • Throwing your opponent
  • Almost throwing your opponent
  • Gripping them and forcing them to incur a shido
  • Easily defending an attack or countering
  • Breaking a dominant grip and creating a 50/50 scramble
  • Succeeding with a Newaza transition
  • Almost succeeding with a Newaza transition
  • Maintaining your preferred grip and opponent switching from theirs


Now, with this information in mind, it is easy to work out whether you won, lost or broke even during an exchange. It is also fairly easy to keep track, during a randori, of how you are going. It’s easy to walk to a drink break and think ‘I went 5-3 and some draws against my opponent.


This sort of approach allows you to weigh up the other important elements of a Judo fight - not just how many times you threw someone or the number of times you were thrown.


This sort of breakdown of progress can relate to everyday life as well. To accurately measure one’s progress, it is vital to look at the situation holistically. Through breaking down the sequential details of what went right/wrong and how often, you are able to see patterns emerging which form an equation. That is, when these certain things are happening my end product (ie win or lose a judo fight) is achieved more often then not.


I’m pretty sure I just went on a tangent about a heap of things, that may not make sense to everybody, but I hope it helps you. If not, comment, email, fax, call, etc and I will work a bit more on making sense of it.




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Comments: 19
  • #1

    AnnMaria (Tuesday, 13 December 2011 03:44)

    I disagree with you that it's a lot of gripping and a few attempts. One of my goals in practice was to attack every 10 seconds. There are not many ways to win. There are 4 - pin, choke, arm bar and throw. I see many people deceiving themselves as how much better they are getting by making it much more complicate than it is.

    In competition, look at your winning percentage and win-loss record against the same people. If you are not beating people you used to lose to, you are not improving.

    There is no such thing as winning in randori, it is not a contest. I'd set goals like attacking every 10 seconds (because most people hesitate too much) and throwing left-handed or pinning everyone I worked out with. If I could pin everyone at practice when I could not do that 6 months ago, that meant I was getting better.

    As far as 'almost' succeeding - you know what almost armbarring your opponent gets you as a score? Nothing. As Yoda said, do or do not. there is no try.

    I'd say there's no almost either

  • #2

    ivojudo (Tuesday, 13 December 2011 04:14)

    You're the World Champ not me, so I can't claim to be 'right' here.
    This is just my opinion based on my own training, competition and coaching career.

    I also agree that you can never 'win' a randori. however controlling an exchange in one of these ways can get you a score or even a shido to your opponent. both of which can lead to winning an actual contest.
    breaking down the exchanges just helps someone think about more than just the black and white of the situation.

    After all, I am sure that whilst training for one of your big competitions you may have failed in an attempted technique, does that mean the person who countered you is better? the winner? i think not. you were working on something specific with a bigger goal in mind.

    Producing a big attack every 10 seconds can become difficult. Say for example, your +100 player is training in Japan doing 15 X 6 mins of randori. The poor fella is unlikely to squeeze in the 540 required attacks in the session.

    My thoughts here are just a way of breaking down that rut you can feel when you train with the same guys day in, day out.

  • #3

    Lance Wicks (Tuesday, 13 December 2011 12:11)

    Hi Ivo,
    I think I follow your description of what is going on and it I think is a pretty good way of finding a meaningful metric beyond win-loss for a whole match. It would be interesting to actually capture those metrics and see what the hard numbers say.

    From my perspective, I have been looking at how you rate/rank players and been running an experiment ranking them... including you.

    Over at is my software's perception of your progress since qualification for London began. It is just experiemental of course, but I think it has interesting info.

    According to the system, you are 16 points up on where you started from (everyone starts at 1500 points). You are also 18 wins, 13 losses. (more wins than losses is always a good thing I reckon).
    Looking at the chart, you went up and have dropped down a little more recently; but are still up overall. So since qualification started you are better than you started.

    Just my two cents worth.

    I would very much be interested in building a system to capture the metrics you describe. If you have all the video of your fights, i/we could give it a go and see if your ideas produce numbers that match your idea.


  • #4

    Rod bartlett (Friday, 30 March 2012 18:37)

    Well success in anything is a very personal thing, let me say firstly I admire your commitment to your goal, I feel the quest for consrant improvement is the key

  • #5

    David (Tuesday, 03 December 2013 10:15)

    As already mentioned, keeping an accurate account of progression in judo is not an easy task. As said, success is a very personal thing and means something different to everyone. The best way I have found is keeping an honest training/competition diary. This way, I can review it and see if there are any points that crop up, for example continually losing to a left hander, and then working on this till I feel as though I can confidently deal with that situation.

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What happens now?

Now that the Olympics is done and dusted I’ve got to make some big decisions. I have refused to make any plans until the Olympics were done and now it’s time to shape my short, mid and long term future.


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Progress – How the hell do you measure it?

Judo is one of the easiest sports to make you feel miserable when you are not winning, and the complexity of the sport can lead practitioners to feel like they are getting nowhere or even going backwards.

Read More 19 Comments