Everybody knows…. well, almost
everybody that knows that I started
judo at the age of seven and stopped
when I hit 13.
My parents decided to move from Miami,
Florida up north to Pennsylvania and
I had to say “bye-bye” what I hoped
would be a great judo career.
Well, what does all that mean?
Well, first it means that there
MUST be another way to get good
at judo without actually DOING
I know it sounds ridiculous, but
an athlete that I coach personally
also took a long layoff from Judo
and we worked together to get him
all that way to being the number
one ranked player in the United
States in his division.
Well, here’s a dirty little
secret and I know you aren’t
going to believe me but here’s
what I found out.
The sport of Judo is as much as
a “mental game” as it is a
physical one. If you want to
improve your judo you need
to sharpen your mind!!
A Professor from the well-known
Duke University in the United
States discovered that finding
Simple, yet effective ways to
Use your brain can help you
Process information, faster and
Now what I’m going to say to
you right now is completely
crazy. BUT I am 100% honest
with you and if you are an
athlete, a coach or just want
to get better at Judo, here
are some things that you should
1. Read. That’s right – READ!!
The benefits of reading are enormous.
Now don’t just read anything.
Read, Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”,
read books by Aristotle, Plato,
“The Prince” by Machiavelli.
Read books on combat, business
takeover strategies, and things of
that particular nature.
JUDO IS A THINKING SPORT.
It requires, strategy and tactics and
knowing when to strike and at the right
Think about this. How many times has
someone accused you of kicking them
while doing judo? Many, right.
You want to know why?
Because a well-timed kick is a foot
sweep and poor timed foot sweep -
is a kick!
Read and get mentally sharp – you will
be amazed at how your focus will increase.
2. Play Chess! If you don’t play
chess – start playing. Get a book
and learn. How often have you heard
about a tennis match, football game,
wrestling match or a mixed martial
arts fighting seeming just like a
Heck, you’ve heard the reference many
times, haven’t you?
So if Judo matches are just like chess
matches (and they are) – why don’t
you play chess!?!?!?!
Let me share this inside story with
During the years of 2003 to 2004
I don’t think that you could have
walked in the cafeteria at the Olympic
Training Center in Colorado Springs,
Colorado without seeing at least 3
to 4 matches of chess being played at
breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Before and after practicing everyone
Because the game of Ches, like Judo
requires YOU to see things 3, 4, 5, 6
and sometimes 7 moves ahead.
You have to anticipate what is going
to happen, You have to make and take
CALCULATED risks, you have to do all
of these things while playing.
Chess is the best (and might
I add safest) way to get an
‘extra’ practice in that
will drastically improve your judo.
Just think about some of the
best judo players and grappler
that you know.
I’ll give you a list:
Lloyd was my Brazilian Jiujitsu coach,
training partner and my judo student
and then he became my judo coach.
He’s won several National Judo
Championships and is a World Jiujitsu
champion. And he was selected by the
United States Judo Federation as the
International Coach of the Year in
When it comes to match strategy
he is like a genius. He coaches
Ultimate Fighting Champion Brandon
Vera and he is known all around
the world as “The Grappling Coach”.
He gets up every morning and either
reads or writes in order to keep his
mind sharp and stay on top of the
numerous businesses that he runs.
Jimmy Pedro is a 4-time Olympian,
a 1999 World Judo Champion and a
2-time Olympic Bronze Medalist.
He’s also a graduate of Ivy League,
Brown University, the author of a book
and runs and operates his own business.
Robert (Bobby) Berland is a 1984
Olympic Silver Medalist, a graduate
of San Jose State University and
currently he owns and operates a
successful printing business in
He was also a coach on the 2004
Olympic Team staff and I had the
opportunity to speak with him on
several occasions and he is “sharp”
as a tack.
And although not a judo player, this
man is a wrestler and an excellent
example of why you should keep your
mind sharp and also why you should
take the time to add “the listening
of classical music” to your list.
(and honestly, just
Instead of pumping rap music, R&B,
heavy metal and rock -n- roll through
your eardrums, try a little classical
Why? Well, other styles of music
tend to make you operate off of
an emotional high. Before
competeting I never listened
to music – I needed to think!
I can’t think with garbage being
pumped into my head. It’s the
equivalent of trying to concentrate
on something and people are
talking in the background.
You ‘can’ concentrate, but you
have to use some of your mental
energy in order to ‘block out’
the background noise.
Last but not least, make sure
you check out……..
And if you don’t know who he is
then it is best if you find out
From 1987 to 2000 he was UNDEFEATED.
He holds 9 World Championships
and 3 Olympic Gold Medals.
He also holds a Doctor of Philosophy
(Ph. D. in Education).
He listens to classical music
regularly and is also an avid
Well, I know some of you still
aren’t sold, but I promised
you some “off beat” ways of how
to get better and that’s exactly
what I’m going to provide.
I graduated with a degree in
engineering in 1997 from Howard
University. I earned my Masters
of Arts in Education with a
concentration in Secondary
Education in 2002, specializing
In 2002 I enrolled in my
Ph. D program. While I was
training for the Olympics -
I was going to school!!
In 2006 I finished all of my
course work, passed my
comprehensive exams, got the
topic of my dissertation approved
and now I’m in the process
of writing my dissertation.
I decided not to go intot the
numerous certifications that
I hold because the point is
not to brag but to let you know
that as you sharpen your mind
(or that of your students)
IMPROVEMENT will follow.
And in JUDO, our job is not only
to advance in judo, but in life.
The lessons that we learn in Judo
and from Judo should allow us
to build quality character,
good self-esteem, quality
morals, sound ethics and
I found out that the most
important things that you
need to have in order to
become a great judo player
is the ability to get in shape
and the willingness to learn.
An open mind and a fit body -
those are the things that you
need – FIRST!!
Take care and remember,
You are only a koka away!
4-Time National Champion
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