Friday, December 17, 2010

Why You're Not Winning

Jim's comment to me today is that I should write more about judo and less about what I said to Ronda and she said to me, '... because nobody cares about that s---'. Actually,  he said 'keers' instead of 'cares' because he is from Boston and they talk funny there.

Just on the off chance that he could possibly be right ...

I know of a judo player whose goal is to win an Olympic gold medal. This person loves judo, thinks of nothing else,  traveled to many countries to compete and train at the camps. Yes, this athlete SAYS all the right things.

It makes me sad. It just so happened that I have been to three Olympics to watch judo. I happen to have seen this player compete and, along with many other athletes from countries where judo is a minor sport, was not even in the running to win a medal. I don't want to single out one person because I have seen it over and over, men and women, from many countries.

These are not the slackers. These are people who were good enough to make it to the Olympics and the best their countries have to offer. They have everyone's hopes and dreams back home following them. They get up early and run, lift weights. They have husbands, girlfriends, parents, coaches at home who support them. They haven't a prayer of winning and I can see it in the first minute of the first match, if they last that long. I feel sorry for these young people, but I don't know any of them from Adam so I never say anything about what they are missing.

What are they missing?
  1. Attitude - In part, belief comes from training. If you have trained until your fingers bled from grabbing the gi, you come out with more confidence. However, you get it - by training six hours a day, by meditation, prayers to St. Jude, whatever, you need to BELIEVE you have a right to be there and that person is standing between you and YOUR medal. Tell yourself a thousand times a day that you can win. Tell yourself while you're running, when you wake up, before you fall asleep, in the middle of a hard round of randori. Belief is strength.
  2. Lack of hesitation - this probably goes with attitude. There is a difference between not being hesitant and being rushed. Over and over, I see players who don't attack. They are waiting for the "right" opening. So, a minute, two minutes go by and they don't attack and they get penalties. Then they are panicked and they attack and get countered. Or they don't attack and lose on penalties. Discipline yourself in practice to attack every 3-5 seconds. If you live in a region where there aren't many people at your level, when you go to those international tournaments GO TO THE CAMPS. In the camp, discipline yourself to attack every 3-5 seconds. If you get thrown, so what? No one wins randori. If you can't attack 50 times in a four-minute round, be in better shape.
  3. Setups - what about set-ups to techniques? Yes, you don't have that, either, but don't practice that in camps, practice that at home. You know why? Because at home you can't go all out against your partners because they aren't at your level and you might hurt them. The camps are your only chance to go 100%, but it's a bit scary, isn't it? Better to say that you are working on technique.
  4. Grips - You can't get your grip. You can't break the other person's grip. You can't attack from more than one grip. These are things you should work on at home and in training camps. I'm not a proponent of grip-fighting alone. Maybe early on for kids, when they are learning. For you, at home, work on fighting for a grip and then throwing. Do specific drills for gripping. Jimmy Pedro, Jr. has a DVD out that I believe Rhadi sends everyone on the planet an email about three times a week telling them to buy it. (I like Rhadi but I do have to kid him about his marketing.) Hayward Nishioka also has a DVD called Get a Grip. Practice SPECIFIC drills for specific situations. Find the best coach in your country to help you. Watch what drills other people do at training camps. I don't care how you learn it, but learn it.
  5. Matwork - Here you might have a chance but you are blowing it. If you happen to be in a country that is strong in wrestling, train with your country's best wrestlers and steal every move that is legal in judo. The IJF is doing its best to make that tougher but there are still some like a wrestlers roll, half-nelson, sit out. Jiu Jitsu people do some moves that are legal but most judo players don't use. Steal everything you can. It doesn't make sense to go against other people's strong suit. If your opponents have a ton of judo players in their country, they probably aren't fighting against wrestlers and jiu-jitsu players. 
  6. Don't try to be Japanese or French or Eastern European. The players from Japan, France and eastern Europe have a lot more practice at that than you so they're going to be better at it. They also have a lot of practice fighting players like that. Going back to #5 - be something else. Be you. Figure out what your opponents are not strongest at - transition and chokes are two areas that tend to be relative weaknesses.
I'd just like to leave you with a bit of advice from my friend Steve Scott, who said it came originally from an extremely successful coach of Olympic weight lifters when he looked at their program years ago,
Whatever you're doing now, stop it, because it isn't working.

With two years to go, that gold medal is a possibility, kid, but you have GOT to change.

And ... I know how it feels to want to win that bad, and I know how it feels when you get the gold medal and when you don't --- so, best of luck to you.

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