I once heard the definition that a Sensei is “Someone who has gone before.” I don’t know if this is true or not but what I do know is that we can learn from the ones who have gone before us.
As you get older and do more Judo you continually acquire more and more knowledge. I am a firm believer that the day you think you know it all in Judo is the day you should stop coming to Judo because you will have a negative attitude to training and this could affect the training sessions for other Judoka.
In the past 21 years of Judo I have done a stack of things:
– I have competed in hundreds of Judo tournaments
– I have fought in 4 World championships (plus 1 junior world champs)
– Competed in Grand Prix’s, Grand Slams and the Olympic Games
– I have beaten and thrown some great players
– I have lost to some great players
– I have lost to some terrible players
– I have been thrown by white belts
– And to be honest I didn’t love every minute of it. Sometimes I hated it. Sometimes I loved it.
But that is competition Judo. Once someone asked me what competition Judo was like, I answered that Competition Judo is tough, it’s lonely and it’s amazing.” Over the years I have learn’t and forgotten some great things but here are 5 things I wish I knew as a teenage Judoka.
1 – Judo is tough, brutal and lonely at times
If you want to be a good Judo player you must get familiar with training on your own. YOU are the one who must set the alarm in the morning and hit the gym. It is YOU who must get to training early and leave late. It is up to YOU to ask questions and remember. It is up to YOU to study your opponents in your own time and it is up to YOU to leave it out on the mat and fight as hard as you possibly can. Sometimes you may have to pay for your own trips but it is up to you to learn how to save money, how to budget and how to write sponsorship letters.
2 – Motivation comes from within
How hard you train and how much time you dedicate to Judo is up to you don’t rely on the motivation of others to motivate you. For example you shouldn’t have to wait for your coach to tell you to hop on and do another Randori – you should do that on your own. For example I hear people say, “I can’t push myself in less my coach yells at me.” This sort of attitude says I simply don’t want to take the responsibility to work hard on my own. I know at times you need a push, but not every training session for years on end.
Don’t rely on people to push you – in order to succeed you must push yourself and be motivated yourself. Anything less and you will not succeed and you will look to blame coaches and training partners for not pushing you hard enough. If your coach asks you when you are coming to training next, this is a good indicator that you don’t train enough.
3 – Strive to improve yourself – not just prove yourself
Strive to improve your Judo rather than prove your Judo. For example when I was trying to perfect my Kata Guruma I would throw some intermediate level Judoka over and over again. I wanted to prove to my club that I was a good, Ippon throwing Judo player. (I know stupid right?) Then all of a sudden Kata Guruma got banned and I had a throw less in my arsenal.
Instead of throwing these intermediate players hundreds of times trying to PROVE myself, I should have been working on other techniques in order to IMPROVE myself. So if you are training and throw the same person with the same throw day in and day out you are on the road to ruin. Discipline yourself to say NO to some techniques and start attacking with throws you’re not good at. This may be frustrating at first but you will thank me when your Judo improves drastically.
4 – Combination
All throws come off a combination. This combination may be a grip change, a grip break or an ashiwaza attack. Either way begin attacking with combination Judo not one off attack Judo.
Drill combinations against both lefty’s and right handers to ensure your Judo improves. Develop attacking Judo as this is the only Judo that wins these days.
5 – Learn a great half guard pass
One of the most annoying positions in Judo is when you throw someone for a score, turn them over and then they wrap your leg and you cannot get your leg out before the referee yells matte. So learn a few great half guard passes and drill them like crazy.
6 – Disguise your techniques with the same entry
If you really want to annoy your training partners and opponents then start disguising your throws with the say footwork. For example Uchimata and Ouchi gari, Ippon seoi nage and Kouchi makkikomi. By doing this your partner won’t know which way to react and in doing so you will have complete control over them. Also this also relates to your uchikomi. I am a big believer in doing 1 forwards throw and then one backwards throw when practicing uchikomi. This develops great balance awareness for both persons.
7 – Get out of your comfort zone
Training at the same place day in and day out may not only get stale, but also limit your growth as a judo player and a person. Get out of your comfort zone. Go to Japan and do Judo (you have no idea what it feels like to be the only foreigner on the mat with 400 Japanese Judoka). Another great way to get out of your comfort zone is to enter a Judo or Sambo tournament, a BJJ tournament or a Freestyle wrestling comp. Getting out of your comfort zone is the best way for you to grow both as a person and as a Judoka.
8 – Not everyone wants to see you succeed
There are going to be people in your world who tell you that “you can’t do this and you can’t do that.” But don’t listen to those people. I have had stacks of people laugh at me when I told them I wanted to represent my country at the Olympic Games – I have even had some people say, “so you went to the Olympics and only had 1 fight?”
But guess what? Who cares what they think. It is important as a young Judoka to not take every single persons advice on board. Pick and choose who you are going to listen to. O and ill give you a hint. Don’t listen to people who drag you down all the time – listen to people who encourage and build you up.
For example I know one guy that if I lose then I am “hopeless” and if I win “I didn’t win fast enough.” Either way this guy is a lose/lose situation so i decided long ago to not take his advice on board because it only ever hurt my feelings (yes I have some) and drag me down.
So be wise in who you listen to.