Teaching Intermediate Judo Players

Teaching Intermediate Judo Players


In my last post, we discussed “beginner” judo, now let’s dive into the next phase of a judokas journey - intermediate judo! In my opinion, someone who has been practicing from one year to about three years. By this point, we have taught our students the fundamentals that are necessary to build a strong foundation. We must continue to build on these fundamentals but also not neglect what was taught leading up to this point.


When playing judo there are many variables that take place in a simple round or match. Each variable will cause your student to revert back to their “natural response” rather than the “response” you have taught them. Don’t worry - this is normal when it comes to development and if you remember, something I have mentioned before! But the most important thing to realize is that this is where the greatest opportunity for growth is. You must actively watch and correct your students regularly. You can choose your method and judge your response based on the student’s ability so you can ensure the maximum result from those students. When I see a majority of a class is making the same mistakes, I will do specific drills to help them learn that one skill. But if a student is struggling with different techniques, I will work with them one-on-one in class so they know exactly what they should be doing.


  1. Posture
  2. Hand position
  3. Grip (hand closed)
  4. Leg position (staying in judo position)
  5. Direction of movement
  6. Choice of technique
  7. Space (this is a challenge which I will highlight in the future)


  1. Moving Nagekomi - This helps reinforce moving opponents in the direction of the throw while working on timing, body placement, and overall execution of the technique.
  2. Moving Nagekomi with Uke defending with hips only - This helps reinforce a feel of uke defenses without the worry of grip fighting or being countered. When uke offers some form of resistance it allows the students to ensure they are “kept honest” when training to be the most effective judo player possible.


When judoka are developing it is important that they compete as much as possible in local and/or regional competitions. This is because when someone competes often, they are forced to deal with the “emotional challenges” in all aspects of judo. The nerves, anxieties, stressors, etc. can all be tamed if students are put into scenarios where they are forced to deal with them - under your guiding hand of course. The more they compete, the more it will help with that transition to executing what they do during practice time to what they do on the competition mat.


In my past posts, I have commented many times that I believe the most important teachers and coaches are the “beginner ones”. The amount of work it takes to bring a young judo athlete to competence is tedious, time consuming, and while tremendously fulfilling in developing lifelong relationships and changing people’s lives. While it is not always financially rewarding and doesn’t take into account the time away from your family or personal goals, I truly don’t believe you get the credit you deserve from the judo public. Keep working hard and molding the next generation of judoka!

I will always support you!

Always manage your expectations, understanding that kids learn at a different pace, and this is hard for some kids and will take time!

My next coaches call will be tonight, Tuesday, November 14th at 7:00pm est!

It is my hope as Head Coach at the American Judo System that we can bring coaches together from all levels, dojos and the country and give you access to the knowledge we have. Our team is full of coaches who are eager to grow the sport from the Basic Level to the Elite Level. We are also unique in the fact that Jimmy Pedro and I, have experience in coaching all the areas aforementioned (Day One to Olympic Podium) and we are excited to share our experience and systems with you. I also hope that you will share your knowledge and experience with us because if we are going to grow Judo we must work together!

Thank you for your time and I look forward to working with you!

See you on the tatami!

Steve Cohen
US Olympian & US Olympic Coach
Head Coach, American Judo System

P.S. Please email me at steve@americanjudo.com with any questions, comments, or topics you may want me to cover.

About Steve Cohen
Steve Cohen has been doing judo for over 60 years. Starting judo at the age of 5, Steve had a long successful competitive career ending in 1988 at the Seoul, Korea Olympics. Steve along with his brother, Irwin ran a successful judo program in Illinois producing the first Olympic Silver Medalist and first Junior World Champion for the United States. They also had many athletes on Pan American Games Teams, World Teams, and Olympic Teams. Throughout the years they ran local, regional, and national tournaments. Every Summer, they held a camp where the best youth and junior judo athletes in the country would come to learn and develop, and the best senior judo athletes would attend, teach, and train. Many of those young athletes that attended went on to great success as competitors. Steve became the National Coach for the United States in the 1990’s becoming the Head Junior National Coach for 4 years and following that became the Head Senior National Coach which included being named the Head Coach for the 2000 US Olympic Team. Steve is still active in coaching and developing athletes out of Illinois and works with athletes all over the country.

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