Friday, July 29, 2011

Fitness for judo

Physical fitness is a complex parameter that is not easily caught in any one number. As any role-playing gamer knows, there are three basic physical characteristics: constitution (CON), strength (STR) and dexterity (DEX).

In addition, judo competition is divided by weight categories so that each of the stats have to be optimised in relation to body weight. Some judoka have, apparently, rolled the perfect 18, 18, 18 and can beat everyone, but the rest of us will have to do with stats that aren't as stellar, and hopefully, bodies (and opponents) that aren't quite as large.

In judo constitution, or endurance, means that you have to be able to do two things: Control your opponent for at least five minutes, and launch your own attacks. The former is an inherently aerobic task because of it's length, but it is broken into shorter intervals by all sorts of breaks. At the same time the latter is anaerobic on the verge of nonaerobic. That is, during a match you use enormous amounts of energy very quickly, when attacking or defending, and then you have to re-coup this oxygen debt time and time again in the lulls of the fight.

For any given technical level, the stronger judoka always wins. The easiest way to get stronger is to increase muscle size, this increases the number of motor units and makes you stronger. It also makes you heavier. That's the reason for weight categories. Another way to become stronger is to learn how to activate as many muscle fibers as possible at the same time, while relaxing the opposing muscles as much as possible. This is an important reason for building strength using the movements that will actually be used in judo, and not only by lifting weights.

Dexterity can be separated into speed and limberness, where speed is the most important. It is important to be limber enough to perform all techniques, but there are always techniques that require less flexibility. However, if you are faster than your opponent, he will be hard brought to avoid your attacks. Speed in judo means how quickly you can step and turn into your technique or out of your opponents. It also means how quickly you are able to notice and react to an opening in your opponent's defense. Both require very specific training, which is why years of recreational judo has surprisingly little impact on the ability to beat competitive judoka (not to mention that they have higher CON and STR as well, or do they?).

Next up will be a more detailed look at CON. How do competitive judoka perform, and how much do I have to catch up?

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