In talking to my sensei about my progress yesterday, he mentioned that he too has noticed a changed, and predicted that once I get my hands and feet to work together I will notice that my judo will reach a whole new level.
I think in the past few weeks I have learned (both from within and outside of judo) that reducing tension and loosening up can go a long way. I guess if you think about the stiff-armed, body-power Judo played by lower Kyus (at least the kind that I played) and compare it to forcefully removing the lid of a pickle jar - sure brute force will open the jar, but it also increases the chances of me opening it very sloppily and getting pickle juice all over the place. But if I do it soft and gentle with a firm grip, (or smartly, say, by running the cover under hot water) it will open almost effortlessly and neatly.
I think I've just discovered that the brown belt kyus are really the transtion of Judo from stiff begginer play, to the smooth efficient style of black-belts that I will need to perform the Kata.