Technique will beat strength.This is generally true. However, it is also generally true that a strong person with technique will beat a weaker person with an equal amount of technique. That’s one of the reasons we have weight and age divisions.
Judo requires strength and endurance. Of course some people just have a greater amount of natural physical ability than others (that goes with the luck part). At the international level, physical ability tends to play a part because much of the other factors are constant. Everyone in the Olympics has seen a juji gatame arm lock before. Almost no one shows up at the Olympics out of shape. The few that do are a disgrace, in my opinion.
Below the international level, though, the edge in physical ability tends to go to whoever trained the hardest. That means both strength training and endurance training. Endurance training can, and should, include both judo practice and cross-training. You can improve your endurance by going ten minutes of HARD randori against really tough partners, taking a five minute break and going another ten minutes. Be smart. Replicate what happens in a tournament. Those thirty-minute rounds of randori with no break are not the intensity you need for competition. Running is also good for endurance, both distance and sprints. Jimmy isn’t a big fan of running long distances unless it’s required for losing weight. He’s probably right that two miles – more than the length of an average match, even with overtime – is enough. Personally, I like to run; I find it relaxing. I always had to cut hard to make weight, and, since I ran track in college, on my company team and in 5K and 10K races (more about that later), I ran at a pretty good pace. If you like running six or eight miles, it certainly will help you cut weight and if you run fast, it will help your endurance. What you want to avoid is running more miles but at a rate that doesn’t push you.
Strength training, like endurance, can and should be done both through judo and cross-training. Judo is obvious – go with a lot of tough people. Matwork generally requires more strength than standing technique. You can catch people standing with good timing, but matwork, to a greater extent, requires power. Don’t fool yourself, balance is also a factor in matwork, but that’s another discussion. Randori, throws, drills, in short, all of judo, will build some muscles.
Cross-training usually means weight-lifting, but it doesn’t have to be limited to that. We’re lucky to live by Santa Monica Beach where there are gymnastics rings, pull-up bars and ropes. As with your endurance training, think about the type of physical conditioning required for judo. Rope-climbing is excellent to develop both hand strength for gripping and the muscles required for pulling. Sit-ups, with weights, are good for developing muscles you’ll use in arm bars, escapes from pins and generally moving on the mat. When I was competing, I did a lot of sit-ups with a 15 – 20 pound weight – my little baby, Maria. The rocking motion amused her, and a 15-pound baby works as well as a 15-pound bar bell. Push-ups are another exercise that develop “judo muscles”. Think about all of the times you push someone in a match. For leg strength, yes, squats with heavy weights are good, but so are sprints, especially up hill. There is no excuse for not being in shape. Even if you can’t get to the gym or find anywhere with ropes or rings, there is no reason you can’t get do push-ups, sit-ups and run sprints.
My recommendation for anyone starting a New Year’s resolution is to keep a written record of your workouts. Don’t write down what you’re going to do. Write down what you DID, after the practice, and do it faithfully, right after you get home. People seem to find it very easy to lie to themselves about how hard they worked out.
A good coach can be invaluable. Even if you “forgot” to write down how many rounds you went during practice, the coach can keep track. When you don’t want to go another round at practice, when you are coasting by going with an easier partner, when you don’t want to do that extra set of sprints or eight more repetitions with those weights, a coach is on your case. Your coach will cut right through all of those excuses, like that you can’t afford a gym, don’t have the time. I did all kinds of exercises with push-ups, like put my feet on one chair and one hand on each of two other chairs so that I could do “dip” push-ups.
While we generally think of judo instructors as helping with the technical part of training, a good coach will help you with the physical conditioning as well. That doesn’t always mean that he or she does it alone. My coach arranged for me to work with a strength coach. That’s another thing a good coach can do for you, bring in specialists.
My point is that a good coach can, and should be, an asset to you on all aspects involved in winning a match. (Now, aren't you just dying to know how that applies to luck?)