In my high school home room, there was a slew of cheesy posters plastered to the walls. The only one I remember was this:
Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars
Fifteen-year-old me viewed that message with an eye roll. But I must’ve internalized it because ten years later, it is how I relay the message of visualization most effectively to younger athletes.
Visualization is a skill that has a massive payoff and potential, and yet is vastly underutilized in sports today."
When we set our sights on the highest possible level of achievement (not what level you think is attainable, but the highest possible level) to the moon (so to speak), we create expectations far beyond what anyone else would dictate to be the capacity of our skill. What’s interesting is that our brains will believe what we tell it, provided we believe it to be true as well. In his bestselling book Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman wrote the following: “A message, unless it is immediately rejected as a lie, will have the same effect on the associative system regardless of its reliability…Whether the story is true, or believable, matters little, if at all.”
That is one of the coolest phenomenon’s I’ve ever encountered. Because you think something, your associative system genuinely thinks it’s possible. We can be our biggest cheerleader in this, and we can also be our own worst enemy. In sport and life, we talk about this idea of the “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy” and whether or not you believe in the good or the bad does seem to have an effect. Whether or not you believe you will succeed or fail can have an impact on whether or not you do.
What does this have to do with visualization? Well if you can create a detailed narrative of how a fight will go, anticipating attacks and defending them, anticipating your ultimate victory, and anticipating that feeling of happiness, fulfillment, and relief…it turns out if you can imagine all of that, you’re more likely to experience it. And this is why visualization is the truest and most real secret weapon that athletes are just beginning to tap into.
I’ll leave you with this, one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books, Legacy by James Kerr from his chapter “Expectations.” If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it for being aware of and then ultimately engaging the appropriate competitive mindset for any occasion.
“It pays to hoist our sights if we aspire to be world class: to create for ourselves a narrative of extreme, even unrealistic ambition. It doesn’t even matter if it’s true, or reasonable, or possible, it only matters that we do it.”
It seems the age-old adage remains true: “visualize to actualize.” Do me a favor, in the weeks leading up to it, before your next competition, spend an hour a week (split this up between two days, so two 30-minute sessions) setting the scene. Be in the arena, feel the mats beneath your toes. Look your opponent in the eye. Anticipate their every move. Counter their attacks. React to penalty calls. Keep your head on straight. Walk away victorious. Imagine that feeling. And do this over and over again in great detail. By the time you hit the mat for the competition, you will have already been there, and have already been successful there and you’ll feel comfortable, confident, and focused.
For the competitive judo player, it might seem counterintuitive to be offensive, but not actively attempt to score. It feels like unwrapping a chocolate bar but not eating it. Or pouring a glass of wine but not tasting it. The Double Tap Foot Sweep can be akin to these sensations, but just like abstaining from a chocolate bar can help you achieve your fitness goals, or not drinking wine can help your athletic endeavors, being offensive with this move and not scoring can set you up for a whole bunch of opportunities for success.
The idea behind the Double Tap Foot Sweep is to create the appropriate set up for bigger throws. Even if all you get out of this move from your opponent is a stumble, or you force them to move in the right direction (for your purposes) you can view it as a success. And therein lies the beauty and simplicity of this move.
Jack Hatton, ranked number 1 in the US in the 81kg division, shows us this simple yet effective technique. The Double Tap Foot Sweep works great on both same side and opposite side athletes, meaning you can be left handed against a left handed opponent or left handed against a right handed opponent and still find equivalent success. Jack is a left handed athlete and he does a truly excellent job showcasing this technique against an opposite sided opponent.
This technique can be a great way to gain reactions from your opponent, and you can capitalize upon those subsequent reactions in order to score the points you’ve been after. A few key things to take note of during the video:
Jack is able to initiate this sweep from the double collar grip. This is why this technique works so well with same or opposite side athletes and opponents, the double collar grip alleviates any concern about the handedness of either judo player. Make sure you have a firm grip on the lapel, it’s about to go down.
Notice that Jack doesn’t go right for the kill, he doesn’t sweep the front leg initially. Instead, Jack with his left leg and drives downward to achieve a reaction from his opponent. That downward motion will cause your opponent to attempt to defend and counter and will set you up for the sweep. Only then does Jack put himself in an advantageous position and go for the leg sweep.
Watch how big Jack’s step up is with his right leg. He doesn’t take a baby step and he doesn’t hesitate. He fully commits to that step and thus, the sweep. If Jack didn’t step this big with his right leg, he wouldn’t have enough power to make the sweep work fully. He may get a stumble out of his opponent, but more than likely his opponent would recover immediately and Jack would be back to square one.
When Jack does move to sweep the leg, he stays on the outside of his foot and sweeps his leg as high as he can. This is all part of the full commitment to this throw. If Jack didn’t sweep as high, his opponent’s feet wouldn’t be as firmly swept out from underneath him. Jack’s ability to sweep high is ultimately what seals the deal, takes his opponent’s legs out fully, and puts him on his back.
Without a doubt, you have heard the phrase “timing is everything” before. From job opportunities, to relationships, to swinging a baseball bat, and especially to judo, this phrase rings true in a variety of settings. With this particular technique, timing really is everything, and that’s mostly because it depends on your assertiveness, your opponent’s reaction, and you taking advantage of it.
After watching this video and reading this post, head back to the mats and give it a try. When you drill this technique, make sure that you’re focusing on the timing of the movement and not how hard you can “kick” your training partner. First, they won’t appreciate it, but more importantly, the kick isn’t the point of this throw, the point is to move yourself into an advantageous position, receive a reaction from your opponent, and put them on their backs in order for you to find ways to score big time.
If you're looking to kick or grab your opponent's leg instead of sweep it, we're no longer talking about the same technique, are we?
When you try The Double Tap Foot Sweep out for yourself, make sure your partner knows what they are in for too. You have to have a training partner who is willing to work with you for this to work, they have to be okay with getting thrown in order for you to reap the benefits of learning and attempting this technique.
Also, make sure you're taking the time to recover between sessions appropriately. Your body needs to learn through adaptation as well as rest to properly come at training ready to go!
So while it may seem counterintuitive to be offensive and not actively try to score, trust that this technique will help you set up bigger throws, and ultimately lead to big scores. Try it out and see what works for you, don’t forget to go for the big step and see what you can get away with using this super versatile and fun technique!
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense."
The Trap Juji shown here should only be used when you feel your opponent hanging onto your arm, but not trying to finish. The battle is still ongoing and your opponent is looking to render you incapacitated, but not defeated...yet. As you get more experience with a Trap Juji you will begin to notice when you should be attacking vs. defending. This is an important distinction because you can toy with your opponent the same way they're doing to you. But definitely play around with this in order to be super comfortable reading your opponent from the position. Defending an armlock from a judo player can be simple, as long as you know what to expect. If your goal is to win (and it probably should be), remember to play a solid defense first, and then look to attack second.
Jack Hatton sets up a solid foundation and a great wide base here. In this act of defense with a wide base, he essentially forces his opponent to reach across. This allows him to transition from defending to attacking.
As soon as the reach happens, Jack is on attack mode. He uses his body to incapacitate his opponent and transitions into being in control.
With his opponent trapped, Jack capitalizes on the end result of the reach he forced in step 1. He grips his opponent's reaching arm and is in full attack mode.
With his opponent's arm gripped, Jack is in control and shifts back to pull his opponent's arm between his legs to finish the lock. He's got to be strong to accomplish this.
Jack settles into an armlock of his own. He shifted from defend to attack and in the transition put himself in an advantageous position to score and even win. This is how defending an armlock from a judo player should look. Take note!
The foundation of this defense method is a having a solid base. If you make yourself heavy, your job becomes much much easier. And ultimately, that wide base maintained is the key to getting your opponent to reach across and give you the best opportunity to go from defending to attacking. Once they make a commitment to reaching across you, then you can begin to set the Trap Juji and find that balance. Following is a step by step explanation of some key components of the armlock defense and Trap Juji. Let us know how it works for you!