A Proactive Organization of Complex Football Through “The Okada Method”


In November 2014, I became the owner of FC Imabari (based in Ehime Prefecture), and at the time, we set a goal of being promoted to J3, the lowest tier of Japan’s professional football league. This season, we made it to third place in the Japan Football League (the fourth tier of Japan’s football league, and top ranked amateur league), which saw a promotion and the achievement of this goal. After victory in the Shikoku League in 2015 and setting forth into the JFL in 2017, we were finally awarded the ticket into J. League after three seasons. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to all those who have supported the club until now.

Now, onto the “Okada Method”, which was devised through FC Imabari’s experiences on the pitch. Thanks to the publishing company Eiji Press, the results of our trial and error have been summarized in a book for all the world to read. I began work on this book around a year ago now. While the bulk of devising this method lay in the three years of work on the pitch, I feel that by writing this book, I was able to work on fine-tuning the method.

In this method, we assigned names to and divided every single element of football, such as techniques, strategy, passing, supporting, and parts of the pitch. The reason for this was the realization that what we assumed to be a common language in fact ran into many obstacles. Even with the Japanese phrase kusabi no pasu (a wedge pass), which I would assume to mean a forward pass, others might think it also applies to a vertical or even diagonal pass. Well-worn phrases like this are often interpreted differently by various players, which makes communication difficult, and confuses the players.

The reason we began referring to wedge passes as a shank, after the long pole in the middle of an anchor, was based on a concept within FC Imabari of “the descendant of pirates heading out into the open ocean.” We have other similarly nautical terms in strategy such as casting and waving. If we hadn’t built this method in the coastal city of Imabari, it may be that we would have ended up with a completely different terminology.

For the last four years, we have continued to make new discoveries and realizations, revising and improving the method through strenuous debate. I think that we were able to create something relatively good through this debate. I also think it is a good measure for determining the suitability of instruction and coach’s strengths. From my years of experience as a coach, I have had the thought that “this kind of football would allow Japan to succeed globally,” and chose Imabari as the place to prove my belief. I had the concrete vision of FC Imabari fighting with the Okada Method’s style, and ended up becoming the owner in order to make this vision a reality.

As this method was developed, I once again felt the wisdom of shu-ha-ri, a word that expresses the three stages of becoming a master in martial arts.  In Japan, there are cases where too much emphasis on shu (obey) leads to a command hierarchy, forcing players into obeying without question, which can lead to criticisms that Japan’s coaching is too old-fashioned and feudalistic. There are also cases where a coach jumps right to ha (digress) and ri (transcend), and when players are unable to digress or transcend due to a lack of prior fundamentals, they are accused of lacking sense or effort. This ends up causing undue stress for the players.

With the Okada Method, we build a foundation of shu with logical coaching until the players are sixteen. Then, we have the players build on this foundation, where they can begin to digress and transcend this training. This is connected to the idea of keeping a team and its players lively and vigorous, which I keep in mind whenever I begin building a team. When players pass the age of sixteen and become adults, and continue to simply listen to what their coach instructs them to do without question, then they aren’t playing vigorously. The ultimate objective of the Okada Method is to allow for independent and active play.

On New Year’s Day next year, the first match of the national high school football championship will see Imabari East Middle School take part. Building a team that can take part in national tournaments is part of the Imabari model’s key performance index, and while a large part of the school’s success is thanks to the work by the veteran Coach Kengo Tani, I am incredibly happy to see our coach also heading there to help with coaching. With their big moment in the spotlight, how far will the children of Imabari be able to go? I look forward to finding out with the new year.

Okada Takeshi
FC Imabari Owner, Former Japan National Football Team Coach

News Abstract from Article Originally Posted in Nihon Keizai Shimbun, December 19th 2019

Okada Method A System of Football Instruction for Training Students to Become Independent Players and Form Autonomous Teams

Author ― Okada Takeshi
Published by Eiji Press ― December 18th, 2019

The first publication of the “model of football” practiced by the coach who led Japan to two world cups! All of Okada Takeshi’s experience and knowledge has now been condensed into this one volume.

The first publication of the “model of football” practiced by the coach who led Japan to two world Cups. A collection of teachings that saw FC Imabari reborn over four years of trial and error. This is truly a Must-Have bible for coaching! With over 150 diagrams, the book also features thorough commentary with an appendix and glossary.

▼Table of contents

Chapter 1: What is the Okada Method?
Chapter 2: The Meaning and Whole Picture of Play Models
Chapter 3: Principles of Commonality
Chapter 4: Principles of Generality
Chapter 5: Principles of Individuals and Groups
Chapter 6: Principles of Specialization
Chapter 7: Analyzing the Game and Planning Your Training
Chapter 8: Coaching
Chapter 9: Team Management

About the Author

Chairman of FC Imabari. Born in Osaka in 1956. Graduated from Waseda University School of Political Science and Economics. Joined Furukawa Electric Football Club (present-day JEF United Chiba) as a coach, and later became a coach of the
Japan national football team. After, he became manager of the Japan national football team (leading them to two World Cups), Hokkaido Condasole Sapporo (won J2 league), Yokohama F. Marinos (held the J1 championship for two successive years), and the Chinese Super League’s Hangzhou Greentown. Became owner of FC Imabari in 2014. He has won many awards, including AFC Coach of the Year, J. League Manager of the Year, and has been inducted into the Japan Football Hall of Fame. Specially-appointed senior advisor to Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting, outside director to Nihon Enterprise, and senior advisor to Japan Football Association.