Let’s assume you are over 15 or so. I just don’t believe someone at twelve or thirteen should be training to beat the world. Whether or not a person can win isn’t the issue with me. It is simply a moral issue that I don’t believe people that young should have that kind of pressure.
Quick fixes: Are you as in condition as you can possibly be? Most American judo athletes are not.
1. Get in better shape. Run! I hear the same refrain often, “But I run four miles a day on the cross-trainer”. “I do aerobics class three hours a day.” Honestly! You are doing the same workout as the stockbroker who wants to work off the calories from his martinis after work. I joined my college varsity track team. That was my running workout for judo. I set school records in the 1500, two-mile, three-mile and two-mile relay. (Don’t be impressed. My school was noted for academics, not sports. I was the “fastest of the smart people.”) If you are on a track team and running in races, you are pushed in a way that you are not jogging on the running trail. After college, I entered 10k races. I ran with people who were training for 10K, marathons or triathlons. Other options are to have a friend come to the track with you and time your splits and your total time. Keep a record of your mileage and times and try to beat those each week.
2. Lift! This is the same as above. Do more. Get stronger. It really is that simple. You don’t have to put together your own weight-training plan. I know people who pay hundreds of dollars a month for a weight-trainer. Some elite athletes work with volunteer weight trainers. Still others design their own training program. The specifics aren’t nearly as important as the fact that you are moving upward. Of course you will have cycles where you are easing up on the weights the few days before a major tournament. You will probably alternate between days when you do a lot of reps and others where you push for the maximum. However, if you are doing the same weight training program today that you were two years ago, I think you have a problem.
Other things being equal, if you are in better condition and physically stronger than your opponent, you will win. Since this is an area you have so much control over, it makes no sense to not do whatever you can.
Now to the judo part…. Comfortable and easy are two words that do not go with world champion.
3. Your goal at judo should be to train harder than anyone else on the mat. Be the first one there and the last one to leave. Don’t spend half an hour stretching and fifteen minutes doing conditioning exercises. Get there early and stretch. You already had a conditioning practice. Go every round. Try to get people who are bigger and stronger than you who you can go all out against.
4. Guard against becoming a bully. If you can throw around everyone your size, then you need to vary your workouts so that you are not just drilling people weaker than you into the mat. That may mean working out with people bigger than you, but you want to be within reason. I am being a bit of a hypocrite here because several times, I entered tournaments in the 48 kg and Open divisions. I won both divisions every time, but I do believe that it was stupid moves like that which caused all of the injuries I had in my career. I fought through those injuries and won anyway. However, it is very possible that I would have had a longer career and won more if I had used better judgment. I would definitely be in better shape now.
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