Jason Laird: Mobility for Judo performance and injury prevention

There are many physical attributes that make up the elite Judoka. Strength and power are obviously pretty high on the list. But above these, in my opinion, is mobility. Mobility in its purest sense is:

‘the ability to demonstrate freedom and control of movement’

People can confuse the terms ‘mobility’ and ‘flexibility’ but the key difference is the word ‘control’. Having a flexible athlete sounds great, but without control, a large available range of movement can become a risk factor in itself.

Here’s a simple Judo example: If you can do the splits easily then perhaps you have good flexibility in your leg muscles. Now let’s say you are stepping over an uchi-mata attempt from your opponent; do you have the ability to move your leg high and step over your opponents leg with good control and balance? This will require you to have good mobility as you are using use your flexibility with that control element.

There are various examples of how having good mobility can actually help you become a more powerful Judo player. The key concept to think about is that we can only produce power in the range of movement we have available; the more range we have available, the more ability we have to produce force. For example, if you are turning in for ippon seoi nage and don’t have much rotational mobility in the upper body/shoulder region then your ability to produce high force will be limited. On the other hand, if you have large rotational mobility then you have the ability to have much more force in your throw if you train it well.

When we look at the profile of the Judoka on the World Class Performance Programme, we see that some of our athletes can be more at risk of injury due to their lack of mobility. Three key areas where this is important in Judo injuries are:

• Lack of hip mobility
o When attacked with osoto gari , for example, it is important the hip can rotate inwards and reduce strain through the knee joint and its ligaments

• Lack of ankle mobility
o When using a drop attack, for example, the more movement you have to bend your ankle forward will reduce the forces through your knee

• Lack of thoracic spine mobility
o When turning in for a morote seoi nage, for example, it is important you have as much thoracic rotation as possible to prevent excess forces being transmitted through to your shoulder

Mobility is a key part of our injury prevention system within the British Judo World Class Performance Programme and here are a few of the exercises we use to help our athletes become more mobile.