What Makes a Judo Champion
What sort of person is needed?, what sort of talent is called for?, what sort of physical attributes are required.
Top physical performance is somewhat analogous to a racing car: the very importance of its design, the pressures for maintaining exellence and the stress produced by sustained high performance throw the needs of the family saloon into stark relief.
The same is true of judo performance: by studing the needs of the champion, the needs of the novice in the way of training and preparation become clearer than in any text book.
If I tried to make a shopping list of all the qaulities I think a good Judo player should have, I would be bound to omit some. Worse than that, I would be implying that if the individual did not have all, or most of those qaulities, they could not be a good competitor.
The truth is, a good champion makes the best of what they have.
After all, top performance is freqeuntly a matter of compensation. If an individual lacks some supposed essential charateristic, they may well deliberately cultivate some other unique charateristic of their own which far outways the supposed benifits of the traditional factors.
For example traditional Judo is said to be an essential qaulity of a top Judo player.
However many French and Russian Judo players reach the top of international competition, they rely not only on skill but strength, they are not always the most traditional of Judo players.
Their non - conforming is in more ways than one, their strength. It is an essential part of their skill. Ask then to change it and you risk weakening that skill altogether.
Who is to say the traditional stand up Judo player is better than the player who bends over and wrestles, the attacker is better than the counter player or the thrower is better than the groundwork specialist.
The great thing about Judo is anyone can become a champion whatever shape and size they are and what ever style they choose.
What do you think?.
The older I get the better I was.
Last edited by Stephenjudoka : 07-07-2001 at 05:18 PM.
Most of us would like to believe that this, mimimum effort can produce that all time maximum result. It is also said that if this axiom is applied, we do not tire playing randori, fighting in shiai, or in practicing our kata to the extreme.
While it is true to an extent, to what ends? To be a judo champion in real terms means to leave all that makes the principles of ju at home. Sure, one can utilize everything the founders described as JUdo, but for how long? Adrenaline is an addicting substance.
Most do tire, and even in the greatest of champions it is very true. The days of fighting one after another without a break, people tire, and even those who endure in the early years wear down. There isn't time to ensure that one doesn't "muscle" another over for ippon, just as it isn't practical to assume that one can know more of judo than time allows other than the champion's tokui waza. Sometimes, it is as simple as going for it all, and whattayano, it worked. Was this the ai-ki everyone was talking about?
The list of attributes of becoming a championship calibre fighter is a long one, so I believe a champion must learn to overcome the simplest of stumbling blocks such as stamina and strength, as this is a reality. The big guy DOES have the advantage over the little guy, so s/he, the little guy, better know his/her technique and apply it as best he can or the "big advantage" takes him out.
There are exceptions, as in anything, but while the truisms of judo are true, so is life. Entering shiai, knowing one gets one chance to do it correctly, can be a monumental task, so we have rules that allow us more than just waza. Training, signing in, being called, and going down in six seconds is a reality for most and is also a good lesson for the future. Winning is a great motivator to do even better in the next match, and it is true especially of those who go on to be champion. Three, then four, five six and seven, well, there is a limit for everyone.
An exception to all this in those who go on to fight in the old guy's tounaments, the Master's Championships, was Vince Tamura, who, for seventeen years, was the Master's Champion when he retired finally from competition. Why? There was none, Vince said, of competition. Gene LeBell was a great example of "stamina" on the contest mat, as he, to become a grand champion, fought far beyond many of his equals. I believe it was in his second turn as the AAU grandchampion, he had to go more than eleven minutes to overcome a little guy. But in those matches in which he fought the best of the small guys, he maintained composure while waiting for his opponent to make that one small mistake and Wham! It was over.
Another may have been Masahiko Kimura, who, for about ten years, left the amateur ranks to "work" matches. But he returned later only to become co-grandchampion in the Dai Nippon championships afterward.
The champions of today are/were innovators. Koga, Yamashita to name a two. The Americans went to France to train and get ready for the Olympics or world championships, so Stephen is right on concerning the Europeans being powerhouses, and more in the future.
Koga revised a tried and true nage waza, and Yamashita went beyond everything I said about the big guys and won with amazing technique, quick and powerful, just as the founders said it could be done.
So is the bag half empty or half full? Wasn't it Berlioz who said "Time is a great teacher, but in the end kills all its pupils," or something like that?
Oh, the topic question, "What makes a judo champion?" Luck, I suppose. It is like anything else.
Last edited by MarkF : 07-08-2001 at 04:48 AM.