Wednesday, May 2, 2012

When to specialize

A friend asked about when is it appropriate for a Judo student to start specializing in one technique.  He’d been talking with other instructors who emphasize that students should pick one technique and specialize in it.

I think the defining thing about this discussion is that the other instructors are building their entire discussion around competition.  For competitive judoka, there are really only a few techniques that have been proven overwhelmingly to be the strongest in the competitive arena.  I don’t remember the exact list, so I googled it.

Harai Goshi
Tai Otoshi

If you are a competitor, based on the evidence, these techniques are clearly the most effective under the rules of judo competition.  For a competitive orientation, I think it would be a fairly simple procedure to introduce these 6 techniques and then let the student discover which one best suits that student.  I don’t really think it is too early to start specializing as a green belt if competition is your goal.  I don’t think you should stop learning other techniques, but those should be part of the variety of training, while you spend some time every practice polishing your primary technique.

If you are learning Kodokan Judo, or you want a more rounded self-defense base, then you will need to learn a variety of techniques that can be used in conditions other than those of the competition mat.  Competitive judo is great at close gripping range, but it teaches nothing about techniques and timing at other ranges.  That’s what kata are for.  Kata teach a lot of things that are useless to the competitor, but vital in self-defense, such as understanding striking ranges and timing, dealing with non-competition standard attacks and assaults, and what the range and distance of a variety of weapons are.  Too much specialization may actually be detrimental to this type of training because you have to have flexibility to change your responses to suit the conditions.

Competition is a very specialized activity and it makes sense to specialize if that is where your focus/interest lies.  If your interest lies elsewhere, heavy specialization may actually interfere with applying the appropriate response.

Thanks Frank.  This was a good question.

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