One summer, instead of taking summer courses at the University of Texas in Austin where I was studying as an undergraduate, I set out for Los Angeles in search for good judo instruction.

I ended up training at the LA Judo Training Center where I trained under a really knowledgeable and experienced coach named John Ross, who was very kind to take me in and teach me things that would fundamentally change the way I approached judo.

Prior to LA Judo, my worldview of judo was very traditional, classical even. John Ross taught me to view things from a more practical, sports-oriented perspective. Focus on what works.

He explained to me the importance of gripping and showed me video tapes of Toshihiko Koga and how he use grips to set his opponents up for his favorite throws. Koga's grips were not classical. They were in fact very unusual. But so what? They worked!

Right from the get-go, he recommended a set of techniques for me to work on. I learned many other techniques along the way, but my focus was always on those set of techniques he had prescribed.  

When it comes to teaching beginners, the standard approach is to teach them a wide range of techniques. And only later would you help them develop their tokui-waza (favorite techniques).

This organic approach to tokui-waza development does make sense. You want the players to have a wide range of techniques from which they can choose the ones that best suit them best. But it takes a lot of time. They have to learn a lot of stuff before they can even begin to search for a tokui-waza.

Another way is to adopt a more targetted approach. This is how I was taught at LA Judo. My coach identified some techniques that he felt were suitable for me, and asked me to work on them. It was those specific techniques that I focused on every day, while gradually learning other techniques along the way.

In the course of that summer, I learned a lot of techniques but my focus was always on those core techniques that would become my tokui-waza. I worked on those techniques fanatically. I returned to my university judo club a changed judoka. I was even able to throw my seniors including some black belts.

Is this targetted approach suitable for a beginner? It depends. Different people take up judo for different reasons, and different people have different personalities, priorities and so on. What might be suitable for some, might not be suitable for others.

The targetted approach requires a strong commitment to regular training and doing lots of drills to build up muscle-memory. It requires a lot of sacrifice in terms of time. The player will usually have to come early to class as well as do additional training to find time to do those drills. It's really not for everyone.  

I would say the organic approach is the safer bet for a typical beginner. But if someone is very motivated to quickly acquire a set of effective, practical judo skills, so they can become good at randori, perhaps the targetted approach is the right one for them.