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Archive for January, 2012

Tortoise or Hare?

As part of our clubs high performance program we look at a lot of factors. These range from the athletes themselves: how old are they?  Weight, height, bmi, current conditioning, current ability etc… and also what their goals are for the coming year. Are they realistic? Or are they wanting to be world champion by the end of next week?

From this we look at what they need to do themselves, and what we as instructors need to do to help them achieve their goals.

We’ve started this process this year already for our competitive athletes. Some have shown an interest in attending Wadokai England squad training sessions with the aim of being selected to the team that competes in Venice in November.

We’ve looked at which competitions we as a club will be attending this year, and which ones each competitor should be entering in order to gain the most experience. We’ll be sitting down with each of them over the next week or so and agree which events they will be attending, and how often they are going to train each week. The athletes, instructors and parents will then agree and sign a contract based on this commitment.

This might seem a little excessive and not all clubs will be this strict but we will be investing a lot of time effort (and money) into each of our elite athletes to help them achieve their goals so we want to make sure everyone knows what they’re signing up for before hand.

This brings me to the title of this post. Tortoise or Hare? A few of the instructors were talking about this the other day and it has stuck in my head.

Which is better?

Those students who peak early and achieve a lot of things very young (e.g. under 16yrs) but then tend to drop out of the sport altogether? (Hare group)


Those who don’t peak so fast and maybe don’t achieve as much in the same period of time but are in Karate for the long term? (Tortoise group)

I personally believe that the latter is better for the sport/martial art in the long term. It is from this group that our future instructors will come from, not the first group.

It would also be interesting to see why the majority of athletes from the first group don’t stay in the sport… but that’s for another time.

NOTE: this post has been written whilst on an exercise bike at the gym so their might be typos…

The future of Competition Karate?

Referee’s (especially in sports like Football) are often slated for being biased and / or incompetent, and they are often not the most liked people in the world of sport. So why would anyone want to become one?

I’m going to start this post with a controversial (but in my opinion true) statement, ‘without Referee’s and Judges, Karate competition will cease to exist’. Some traditionalists would love nothing better but I personally believe that Karate competition gives more to the Martial Art/Sport than it takes away.

Judges and officials are often in short supply at competitions so it  was great to see a small army of referee’s and judges at the 1st English Karate Federation Kyu Grade Championships in Sheffield last weekend. They covered the full range of qualification and experience levels from Novice  to Association, National, European and no doubt International level. Their was also an army of table officials.

I may be wrong but I believe that I was one of the youngest judges their and if that’s the case then what does that indicate? I may feel old but chronologically I’m not yet ‘past it’. So why were there not more ahem… youngsters there? I don’t know how many judges/referee’s are qualified in England and  I certainly don’t know the average age of them but I DO think this is something that really needs looking at.

If we don’t get more young people interested in refereeing and judging  then at some point in the future we are going to run out of them. Full stop. By the way, the same argument can be made for Karate Instructors too!


So, what’s stopping people from signing up? effort? cost? time? other commitments? Lack of opportunity? image of referee’s & judges?

Without knowing what the barriers are we can’t expect to ‘fix’ the problem.

From my personal experience as a competitor and coach, I can say that I’ve had my share of good and bad decisions against me. I’ve also been on the receiving end of blatant cheating and incompetence by officials too. I think that for the most part I’ve managed to ‘take the hit’ and have always explained to my students (& parents) that referee’s are only human and mistakes/bad calls can and do happen.


Know the rules. If instructors don’t understand the competition rules, then it’s unlikely that their students will. So my first simple suggestion is that every instructor at the very least should know the up to date WKF Competition rules. Also if they are unwilling or unable to do so themselves, they should encourage someone from their club to attend referee training courses. This could be association, regional or even national level. every little helps! 

Competition organisers also have a big part to play, it shouldn’t cost referee’s and judges to attend an event and volunteer all day. It can work out very expensive if you have to travel, pay for food and sometime even accommodation. Most competitions will turn at least a modest profit, and ‘judge expenses’ should be factored into the event costs. Even a token payment of (for example) £20 would be appreciated. At these rates you’d be looking at at least £800 for 40 judges to cover six areas (new rules, 1x referee, 4x judge, 1x match controller – per area!). This is a lot of money but remember, this is an investment in the future of the sport.

We need the best possible referee’s at as many competitions as possible. They need to be experienced enough to make decisions accurately, to only score points that are actually good enough to score. If they don’t, then athletes will think their sub-standard techniques are great and then get destroyed when attending an overseas competition!

Another issue is that athletes need to compete. This may seem like a silly point but it’s quite surprising when you look at some squads how little they actually compete. This isn’t a criticism, it’s merely an observation but even our own style’s national Team, Wadokai England has members who only compete at the Wadokai European Championships each year. Some don’t enter domestic competitions and if they do, they only enter the ‘small ones’ or the ‘Wado only’ ones. It’s often the ‘big fish in the little pond’ scenario. Athletes don’t like to enter the big or multi-style/open events because they think they won’t win (especially in Wado Kata), so they become insular and the standard stagnates. If there is poor attendance at events, competitions will lose money and will cease to run meaning less opportunities in Karate!

The excuse: ‘the judges don’t understand Wado Kata’ is often used by coaches and athletes to explain why they didn’t win at a particular competition. This may be true BUT if Wado athletes refuse to enter open competitions then how will they ever know what a ‘good Kata’ looks like? I know of a number of very good Wado clubs that actively enter the open circuit and do very well so I think it’s more down to performance standard than what style Kata a lot of time (but not all!)

Also, back to my first point… we need more referee’s and judges, so the Wado fraternity should invest more £££ in their respective in-house referee training programs. The graduates of these programs can then move onto national qualifications and thus help bolter the number of great Wado ref’s out there. The more good quality referee’s and judges out there the better and we all have our small parts to play. If you have 50 officials at a competition and only 1 or 2 are biased or inexperienced then that is great, if you’ve only got 10 officials at the same event then the bias and inexperience is going to be felt more.

Bigger Picture: 

  • We need referee’s & Judges, they should be encouraged
  • Instructors need to learn the rules & teach them to their students
  • Competition organisers should pay expenses for all referee’s and judges
  • Athletes need to enter competitions


I am NOT an expert in refereeing and judging and I don’t claim to be. These are my own observations from my limited experience of national-level judging and running a number of very successful championships. The post is by no means exhaustive and I’m sure people may disagree, comment below and we can continue the debate.

The next referee course is: Sunday 29th January in Barnsley, England.

1st EKF Kyu Grade Karate Championships

We left Hartlepool two hours before dawn (approx 6am) on a very cold, wet and windy Sunday morning (22nd Jan). Ponds Forge in Sheffield was the venue of the 1st English Karate Federation Kyu Grade Karate Championships so, Sheffield was where we were heading!

Apart from being unable to find somewhere to park the mini-bus (gratefully borrowed from Hartlepool College of Further Education) the journey was uneventful. The competitors signed in and got changed, the parents tried to get comfortable on the seating and Lynne and Carl reported to the chief referee to find out where we would be working (Judging) all day. Amy (coach) then briefed the competitors and made sure they were ready for the day.

The day was pretty well organised and was done and dusted in about 9 hours, not bad for such a large entry! I think we could have easily shaved at least an hour off the day if it wasn’t for the usual time-wasting issues at competitions: kids not turning up when they’re supposed to, with incorrect equipment, occasional admin errors etc… but no competition is ever perfect.

This was the second time I’d helped judge at an EKF comp and a first for Lynne and we both thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it was like working in an oven – for 9 hours!!

The three competitors (Lewis, Phil, Bailey) that entered from our club did very well in Kata and Kumite despite the fact that this was the first EKF competition any of them had entered. We entered expecting zero medals, we just wanted to get some competitors on the mat as early as possible so that we had something to work on early in the season.

Results are as follows: 

Phil Salmons: 3rd Place  –  Team Kumite, Boys 12-13yrs

Lewis Muldown: 3rd Place  –  Team Kumite, Boys 12-13yrs

Lewis Muldown: 3rd Place  –  Individual Kumite, Boys 12-13yrs -45kg

Bailey Reed: 3rd Place  –  Team Kumite, Boys 12-13yrs

Bailey Reed: 3rd Place  –  Individual Kata, Boys 12-13yrs

Bailey Reed: 2nd Place  –  Individual Kumite, Boys 12-13yrs +45kg


We got back to Hartlepool at about 9.30pm making it a mammoth 15.5 hour day and the longest ‘Karate day’ our trio of competitors have faced so far.

Key Learnings: The competitors need to work on keeping energy and hydration levels constant throughout the day by eating and drinking correctly to ensure peak performance.

Next Event: Wadokai England Squad Training, Saturday 28th January – Leicester; EKF Referee Training, Sunday 29th January, Barnsley

Summary: We were a little disappointed to only field 3 competitors at this event despite having a pretty big club, those that didn’t attend missed a great opportunity to get some time on the mats. There is still a lot of work to do with all three competitors in Kata & Kumite but each performed well and if they keep up the hard work and enthusiasm then the future should be bright for them.


As part of my Sports Coaching & Exercise Degree at Hartlepool College of FE I get access to the very latest scientific research etc… but every so often (like about 10 mins ago) you come across a journal that was published years ago but still identifies with today.

The journal in question is ‘Phsyical Activity and Intrinsic Motivation‘ by James R. Whitehead, which was published in 1993.

The name is self explanatory, and the journal starts with a great quote which I’ve copied below:

‘Children are born intrinsically motivated to be physically active . That motivation —if kept alive by physical success, freedom, and fun—will do more than promote the fitness behaviors that add years to life. It will maintain the physical zest that adds life to the years’

I particularly liked the ‘Applying Theory to Practise’ paragraphs as they are simple snippets of information that can make a massive difference to us as instructors/coaches/Sensei when delivering sessions.

1. DO try to emphasise individual mastery

This comes from an internal need to be able ‘ to do something’ competently. It stands to reason that if we find something too difficult to learn, then many people will just give up. If these negative experiences happen in our dojo/training halls in  those all important ‘early years’ then we could inadvertently be ‘turning people off’ sport for life.

2. DON’T overemphasise peer comparisons of performance
Does your grading criteria compare between students? or is it based upon individual performances? Do you say things like ‘why can’t you just do it correct like {insert name here}’. That said, I’m a fair believer in competition and I encourage even our youngest students to give competition a go – I couldn’t care less if they win, lose or draw but I like to see them giving their best and trying. They’re a great ‘head fake’ (Pausch, 2007).

3. DO promote perceptions of choice
People like to feel like they have a ‘say’ in their lives, especially kids! I’m not saying you should give up all your authority and let the kids run riot but you could ask them ‘what would you like to do today at training?’. You could also just give students the choice between a number of options, if they don’t choose what you’d like them to you could always build that subject into future sessions.

4. DON’T undermine an intrinsic focus by misusing extrinsic rewards
How do you answer the ‘why are we doing this’ question? Do you answer with ‘because I told you so’ or because you could get a shiny medal? or do you explain the inherent benefits of the skill, the traditional art that they are slowly mastering… something to think about.

 5. DO promote the intrinsic fun and excitement of exercise
This should be an easy win.

6. DON’T turn exercise into a bore or a chore
I KNOW that I’ve done this in some of my sessions but hopefully not all the time! I like the authors comparison with a ‘diet’ of physical activity and sport. Imagine how bored you’d be if you had to do the same technique every lesson, week in, week out. Again, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be practising our basics, every lesson if needed, but I’m sure we can at least attempt to keep it fresh and interesting.

7. DO promote a sense of purpose by teaching the value of physical activity to health, optimum function, and quality of life
This links in well with no. 6, if students know why they are performing a particular drill or technique then they are much more likely to work through the ‘boring stuff’.

I had a similar experience a few weeks ago in one of our sessions… we had our students working on one of the basic partner drills and you could see they weren’t particularly excited about it. We had to persevere with it as they had the chance of grading soon. I  showed them the application of the key skills  they’d been learning (in this case Kuzushi/balance breaking) in a ‘practical’ setting. Opponent attacks, I un-balance them and they end up on the floor with very little effort. I then broke down what I did and that it came from what they had just been practising. It was like a EUREKA moment, you could actually see things dropping into place with the students.   

8. DON’T create amotivation by spreading fitness misinformation
This again should be a no-brainer. As a coach we don’t want to be endorsing products or services that don’t work, simple really. This includes fad diets and the use of supplements.

I’m not a perfect coach, and probably never will be but I do wholeheartedly believe that you don’t improve in anything without some sort of intention to and the effort that goes with the intention. Continuously. This philosophy is built into our club at every level, every journey begins with the first step. How are you going to improve yourself this year?

The full journal can be accessed here for free: http://www.fitness.gov/publications/digests/intrinsic.pdf for those who would like to read it. I’m sure you can download it and read it on your kindle!

Paris Open – Karate Premier League


live from LiveKarate1.com


Live streaming from the Paris Open, this competition forms part of the Karate Premier League.

Hartlepool Borough Council Olympic Inspire Program

There are only 206 days until the start of the 2012 London Olympic Games and 239 days for the start of the Paralympic Games. Over the next few months I’m sure it’ll be easy to get caught up in the media hype with most politicians, business types, media moguls and the like wanting to cash-be associated in some way with this fantastic showcase of some of the worlds greatest Sporting champions.

Hartlepool Borough Council have recognised that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to ‘inspire’ a generation to take part, and excel in sport and recreation. To this end they have launched their own Inspire Exhibition which showcases the wealth of female sporting superstars in the town including our club’s very own Amy Jorgeson (nee Coulson) – See above.

These posters will be featured across the town, the local art gallery and of course the local schools. On top of this, the athletes may be visiting the local schools to talk to students and ‘inspire’ them to get involved and perhaps even running training sessions for the students!


Club update – January 2012 (1)

I hope you’ve all had a great Christmas and New Year break.
Re-Start Dates
All Karate classes at Belle Vue re-start from Friday 6th January and Owton Manor re-start from Monday 9th January. Throston After School re-starts from Friday 13th January.

Training Course
We’ve also got a Start of Year Course on Saturday 16th January at Belle Vue Sports Centre, 12-3pm, £5.00. Open to all club members. – This is a great way of getting rid of the cob webs from the holidays.

Club Membership – Important
Club membership renewal forms will be handed out over the next few weeks, these need to be completed in full (to ensure all details are up to date) and returned with the renewal fee by the end of the month. Everyone will then be issued with an information pack with all important info relating to the club (policies etc…) that we follow, including guidelines on what you do if you’ve got complaints, questions, ideas etc… The renewal fee is £10pa, there will be a pro-rata payment for those who have became members within the last 12 months.

Competition – For advanced grades only, 11 years+
There is an English Karate Federation Kyu Grade Competition on Sunday 22nd January in Sheffield, the club has arranged a mini bus as transport (thanks to Hartlepool College of FE). Any students wanting to enter need to pay the relevant entry fees (& £10 transport cost) on Friday 6th January, No exceptions. I know this is short notice but the closing date is Saturday 7th. Download the full entry form for information only, parents and students  can not submit entries themselves, they must go through the club. If you have any questions about this then give me a call as soon as possible (07984 798634).

The above information should have been delivered to our members via email, if you didn’t receive yours then please contact us.

2012 at Hartlepool Wadokai

Last year was a very busy, but very successful year for the club with a very many people achieving their individual goals.

All of this was done thanks to the support of the club instructors, committee, volunteers and other support staff at the club. Most importantly though, it was down to the students (& their parents) buying into the strong work ethic at the club. Our students proved that through working hard you achieve results.

Before we re-start, I’d like our students to think about what they would like to achieve this year through training at the club. Do you have a goal weight to reach? Do you want to get the next belt? Learn the next kata? The next part of this is How are you going to achieve that goal? And how much time are you realistically going to be able to commit to achieving it?

We’ll be talking about this in more detail over the first few sessions of the year to see how we can help you.

2012 will be another good year with lots of great things planned.

I look forward to getting stuck back in to training from the 6th, see you all then…