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Australia and Japan join forces at AIS Combat Centre

Judo athletes and coaches from Japan at AIS
Judo athletes and coaches, from Japan, at the AIS in Canberra.

29 Oct 2015

Australian and Japanese judo have joined forces for military-inspired training at the AIS Combat Centre in Canberra as the two nations look to bolster their Olympic ranks in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The AIS Combat Centre was established two years ago to enhance Australia’s medal chances in sports such as judo, taekwondo, boxing and wrestling, with a long-term focus on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and beyond.

The facility, its unique training methods and expertise in sport science has also attracted international attention, including from Japan – the world’s Number 1 judo nation.
Japan brought 12 of its most promising young athletes to the AIS Combat Centre for a week-long camp.

AIS physiologist and Combat Centre specialist lead Dr Clare Humberstone said the camp was beneficial for Australia and Japan. It exposed Australian athletes to the techniques of Japanese  judoka, but also provided Japan with an insight to Australian sport science and training methods.

“It’s really important for Australia to embrace the relationship with Japan in the lead-up to the Tokyo 2020 Games because they’re a very close nation to us geographically and in terms of time zone,” Humberstone said.

”Japan’s the number one judo nation in the world; judo in Japan is just like cricket in Australia, it’s massive.

“There are a lot of opportunities for exchange of knowledge. Their system for sport science, sport medicine and coaching is improving all the time and becoming more sophisticated. So there are things for us to learn from the relationship and equally things for them to gain.

“They’re getting some experiences unique to the AIS Combat Centre, including our relationship with the Australian special forces. This is about new ways to train athletes for mental and physical resilience.”

A former special forces commando with black belts in six martial arts disciplines, Paul Cale is a consultant to the AIS Combat Centre. He provides military-inspired training, which attracted Japan to the Canberra facility.

Cale said the training exposed athletes to a combative mindset, without the risk of harm of injury.

“You can have an athlete that’s very talented but under the pressure of competition they can’t perform,” Cale said. “This is a way of putting that pressure on them and then developing methods that enhance their ability to perform.

“The effect on the mind is the same as the toughest competition you’ll find in the world, but the risk of injury is much reduced.”

Masahiko Kimura, of the All Japan Judo Federation, was complementary of the AIS Combat Centre’s approach.

“We came to the AIS because we are pursuing for number one in the world, we are trying to combine the traditional training method with modernised sport science,” Kimura said.

“It’s always good to expose the younger athletes to various experiences and put them in a defence situation. The Olympics is high pressure so you need to overcome this type of high pressure with this military training.

“We are looking beyond 2020 to create a sustainable [sport] system … we can learn from Australia in terms of integrating sport science and coaching.”

Humberstone said the AIS Combat Centre was also about building sustainable systems for Australia’s combat sports.

“Since the creation of the AIS Combat Centre two years ago there’s been amazing acceleration in progress,” Humberstone said. “It’s been a catalyst for progress in the combat sports.

“Judo has harnessed what the AIS has to offer and looked at how their strategy can be very focused for 2020, rather than 2016. They’ve got five years to focus of what’s really going to make a difference to the medal tally – I think we’re going along that process together very well.”

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