Should a judo player train to do techniques to the right and to the left as well? This was the question one of our members, Aunter, asked with regard to tachi-waza. This question was also asked in relation to newaza, by another of our members, Steffi. The answer is not a hard yes or no but depending on your personal circumstances.

Many judo players like the idea of being able to throw to the right and to the left with equal facility. And why not, right? If you can throw equally well with both sides, surely that's an advantage too.

The thing is, very few people are truly ambidextrous. Roughly 1% of the population. Quite often you will come across a player who will say I can do both sides. But usually all that means is he or she wants to be ambidextrous and are training to throw on both sides. It doesn't mean they are truly ambidextrous.

There are times when you ask a player whether they are naturally right-handed or left-handed and they will say they are not sure. Asking them which hand they use to write is not a very reliable test because in certain Asian countries, very conservative parents actually have a bias for right-handedness and if they notice their child being inclined towards left-handedness, they will actually force the child to learn to write with their right hand.

A better test would simply to ask them to kick a ball. If they use the right leg, they are right-handed. And if they use the left leg, they are left-handed. Most people are right-handed (about 90%).

Now, you might have seen Georgian players do techniques almost equally well on both sides. So, you might think it's a good idea to work towards that too. But you must understand one important thing. Those Georgian players you see on YouTube are top athletes. They are professionals who train full time. That means two or three times a day, five to six days a week. Unless you are a full-time professional player, you won't be putting in anywhere close to that amount of time for training.

If you're a recreational player, you'll probably train two or three times a week for two hours at a time. A Georgian player trains more hours in a day than you do in a week!

To master a technique on your stronger side is hard enough. Imagine how much longer it will take to train that very same technique on your weaker side. So while in theory it's a nice notion to be able to throw equally well on both sides, it's not really a practical thing to work towards unless you're a professional player who trains full-time.

Now, that doesn't mean you should have only throws to one side (although some players are like that and still do pretty well in competition). Ideally, you should have at least one throw to your weaker side. Let's say you're a right-hander. Maybe develop three tokui-waza (favorite techniques) to the right side and at least one technique to the left. And that technique to the left doesn't have to be a mirror of one of your right techniques. It could be something completely different.

For example, perhaps you have morote-seoi-nage, uchimata and osoto-gari to the right. You could develop ippon-seoi-nage to the left.

There is one very simple reason why you should not bother to develop newaza techniques to both sides. In judo, there is very little time to do newaza. If you hesitate for a moment, you are wasting valuable seconds and you risk the referee calling matte. Judo is not BJJ where you have a lot of time on the ground.

If you look at the top newaza specialists, they do their techniques to one side all the time. Neil Adams of Great Britain always attacks uke's left arm all the time when doing juji-gatame. In demonstrations, sometimes he shows it on the right arm but in competition, it's always the left arm. Kenzo Nakamura of Japan always did his reverse sankaku to the left. Never to the right.

When you're doing groundwork and you don't have any time to waste, you don't want to have to make a choice: Do I attack to the left this time or do I attack to the right? The moment uke is on the ground in turtle position, you do what you've trained to do a thousand times before.

Muscle memory works only when you do the same thing over and over and over again. If you try to do a newaza technique to both side, muscle memory never sets in. So, choose a side and drill it so many times that you don't even have to think about it when you go into groundwork.

It's also worth noting that unlike in tachi-waza where people adopt stances (right stance and left stance), in newaza, nobody takes a stance. Normally when they are defending, they will just turtle up. There is no right or left turtle stance so it makes no difference whether you want to strangle him to the left or to the right or whether your newaza turnover rolls him to the left or to the right.

Since the concept of Kenka-Yotsu and Ai-Yotsu does not apply in newaza, just choose a side to specialize in, drill it to death and go for it each time in randori. Don't waste your time trying to develop it on both sides.