Photo: Peter Timar Lönneborg
People often think about Martial Arts as individual sports, which of course often is right when it comes to the actual competition. This besides Team Competitions, Kata, Ju Jitsu Duo System and other variations. But from my personal experience as an athlete and coach it takes a TEAM to be able to win as an individual!
Besides the obvious fact that you need training partners to be able to train and a coach to help you out with your training, it is often the other things we take for granted sometimes. Before I start, I want to point out that this article is based on my personal experience from my time as an athlete and a coach, as well all the inspiration I have received from talking and working with many people from inside and outside martial arts.
I have been very fortunate to have been part of different teams as an athlete, through 2-3 (team )generations, as well being close to National Teams from different countries. This gave me a great view of different training methods, working with different training partners and different coaches. But I also found out about three main similarities!
1- We all worked very hard and focused towards a common goal, “trying to get as many medals together as a TEAM”.
2- We had great respect for each other and respectfully pushed each other forward.
3- We build close friendships, and the dojo was a “safe place” where we could be ourselves, dream big and feel safe to talk about it!
I think that this is very important to think about from the start as a coach, to create this environment for the athletes. People are different, athletes are different and that is exactly what makes the job as a coach so great! Just like in team sports, the individual athlete must buy in to the team system and philosophy, but there should be great space to develop a person and an athlete.
I think that it is very important to teach the young athlete HOW TO BE an athlete and help them to find out WHY they are choosing the career as an elite-athlete. When they know that, and the more they can take care of their own training. The stronger they will become mentally, and they will grow as an athlete and a person.
At the same time the WHY is one of the most valuable information for me as a coach. This way I can individualize training even the whole group is on the mat. This gives me the information about HOW to show techniques, HOW to explain them to the specific athlete and WHICH pedagogical tool to use during training or coaching sessions. This together with all the information I receive through the athlete analyser platform gives me everything I need as a coach to prepare the team for the competitions. This way we as coaches can set individual, but also team goals.
This process takes time, and it takes effort from both sides. Where do I start? Always with the WHAT is the goal of the athlete, WHAT drives the athlete and WHAT tools do I need as a coach to create the optimal environment for the athlete to reach their goals?
I once was helping a group of judoka from the same club. As a start we took a “test” where we registered what was important for them. In life and in training. Three of them wrote that it was very important for them to “have fun” in training. That's not so strange in it's self because we all want that. But when I asked them what they meant with “having fun”, the difference was clear! One said that it was important that the trainer was “funny” and “making sure that there was a nice environment in the dojo”. One said that “having fun” meant that there was the freedom to explore techniques and be creative during training. Then the third said: “I think it is fun when the techniques work”.
Then in the same group there where probably more interpretations to this. If I as a coach do not know, or do not use this information, then I can miss a lot of possibilities to “connect” with the athlete during training. Even I of course have a “general” way of explaining things during training and have my personal teaching style, I need to be able to adjust to a more personalised coaching style when talking to the single athlete. The information gives me also the opportunity to create challenges for the group as well for the single athlete.
In November 2018, we had the pleasure to have the Ju Jitsu World Championships in our home country. Sweden. A great honour which comes with a lot of expectations, pressure but also positive energy. One of the greatest experiences for me as a coach.
Why? First because we had great results, but second, because we did it TOGETHER as a team! A memory for life for the whole team and a great foundation for the next generation!