Even though I competed for 14 years, I can't remember a day that I wasn't really happy to be on the mat. We had some hard practices – don't get me wrong. In fact, there was some days that I just lay on the mat after practice at Tenri Dojo and I swear if the building had caught fire, I was so tired I would have just laid there and burned up with it. Those were great days!
I never understood people who talked about practice as if it was a chore. It was the best part of my day! I dreaded driving in rush hour traffic for 2 hours to get to East Los Angeles. Sometimes I felt as if I really needed to spend more time at work or with my daughter. However, the actual physical act of judo itself I loved. There was never a time that I thought of it as a pain or something I didn't want to do.
I never understood those coaches who said,
"Sure, they'll hate practice but they'll love me when they win."
You spend so much more time practicing than you ever do competing, what's the point of feeling miserable for 300 days in a year just so you can feel good for a dozen?
Recently, someone asked me if you lose your reason for competing, can you get it back?
Speaking from personal experience, I don't know if you can get the same reason back but you can find a new reason.
As I said, when I was first competing my motivation for winning was to prove people wrong. I was not exactly the child who would be picked most likely to succeed. If there had been a yearbook category for "student most likely to end up in prison", I would have won the vote hands down.
Several years after winning my first national championship, I was still competing. By then I had graduated from college, bought my first house, earned a Masters degree and was working as an engineer. No one expected me to go to jail, no one made fun of my clothes from Goodwill – because I actually bought my clothes at Nordstrom's by then because I had a job and money.
My friend, Lanny and I were talking about the last national championships I won and he was the one who made the comment,
"I hated the people like you who won the national championships just for practice."
It was true, too. By then, my goal was to win the world championships and the nationals were just a tournament to get ready for the ones that really counted. I wanted to win the world championships because no American had ever done it and also, to a large extent, just because I thought it would be really, really awesome to be best in the world at something. I really like judo, so that seem to good something to be best in the world that.
I'm not saying that you can't go to practice every day, be miserable, gut it out and still win. Maybe you can. What I'm saying is that I know for sure that's not the only way.
PS: I use Dragon voice input software to write this blog because I had hand surgery – they took a tendon from my arm and made me a new ligament for my thumb as well as some other equally painful stuff, like sawing off the ends of a couple of bones in my hand.
Several people have asked me if that was related to judo. I asked the surgeon and he said very likely not, that he does a couple of these surgeries a day and I'm the first person he met that competed in judo. It's more likely genetic. My grandmother had very severe arthritis, too, and she never did judo a day in her life. In fact, she often warned me that no man was going to want to marry a woman who had a pile of sweaty judo gis in her house. In the summer time when my gi would be soaking wet with sweat after practice she would pick it up at the end of a broomstick and carry it to the washing machine, refusing even to touch it.
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