Weight Cutting or Weight Loss?!

So here I am at the beginning of July, my after-school Judo classes are coming to a close, and, I have begun to find myself actually having a little spare time in between training sessions once more. With virtually all the books I own read twice, all the films known by heart, I reckons it may be time to pay a little more attention to blogging again!

During the 12 months passed since my last post life has been evolving around 1 goal, qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the -73kg (11.5 stone) weight category. Although I walk around heavier than 73kg, normally between 77-80kg depending on what specific training block we are in, or, how drastically strict I am on my nutritional front, it suits my confrontational fighting style to make the drop down to 73kg where I feel physically bigger and stronger than the majority of my opponents.

I am asked questions fairly regularly by friends, students and fellow Judo/BJJ players regarding diet and ‘weight loss’ but, before I go any further with this post, I will add that although I have attended a number of nutritional lectures and briefly studied Sports Nutrition as part of my Sports Coaching qualification, I am not qualified to give anyone any dietary advice. I am merely stating what I have found has worked for me over 20 years of competitive Judo; with the information provided from my own training and food diaries, my personal nutritionist (Paul Ehren), and, my own research in the subject.

Below are the key strategies I follow for reducing my body weight.

Fat Removal (Lowering the body’s fat content whilst retaining as much muscle mass as possible):

Consume 1 pint of cold water immediately after waking in the morning (fires the metabolism).

Eat between 4-6 times during the day, minimum of 2 hours between each.

If possible, perform training/exercise before first meal.

Consume a strong black coffee 60-15 mins before exercise.

Aim to consume around 2 grams of protein per kg of desired body weight, e.g 73kg= 146grams.

Perform resistance training, e.g weight training, Judo, BJJ, rowing etc.

Consume energy foods (fats, carbohydrates) only around training.

If struggling with hunger drink a glass of warm water.

Stay Hydrated.

I make protein the main base for all of my fat loss strategies as it aids the maintenance of strength and muscle mass and is highly beneficial to recovery. As mentioned above I will aim to consume around 2 grams of protein per kg of desired body weight, so that will always be somewhere between 140-155 grams a day. Obviously the quality of different foods will alter the protein content but a few general examples are:

1 egg- 6 grams

Medium chicken breast- 25-35 grams

1 scoop of whey protein- 20 grams

I like to see my protein intake as a game of numbers as I find it easier to stay stricter. This system also helps me to be confident that as my body weight starts to drop that my strength and muscle mass will be retained.

I normally aim to have around 40 grams of carbohydrates before and after training sessions, normally by way of:

Brown rice- 125 grams

Porridge oats- 60 grams

Mentality is massively important regarding any change in diet or lifestyle, for me, eating the same things at the same times every day would quite quickly get monotonous. So, if I wake up fed up or feel that I need to do something different I will ‘calorie count’. That day I may only eat three times or twice etc, as long as I hit my required protein intake and don’t exceed 2000 calories then I will mentally feel better about being stricter again the following day. Obviously staying strict is the best thing physically however, for me, performing this ‘cheat day’ will stop me from cracking completely and having a wild pig out! On the opposite side if I feel very inspired to stay strict, the odd day I may not consume any energy foods at all, however this doesn’t happen too often!

Weight Cut (Removing water from the body to reach a desired body weight, and if still required, fat and muscle):

Continue the fat removal strategies.

Consume 1 pint of hot lemon water before bed (1 sliced lemon plus boiling water).

Around 36-12 hours prior to weigh in begin to restrict fluid intake.

Research ‘water and vitamin C loading’ strategies.

I have found that I feel at my best when I am dehydrating around 2.5kg. I feel sharp, strong and find that I can rehydrate fairly comfortably. Around 6 to 9 percent over fighting weight I find to be an adequate training weight, I still feel sharp but slightly more robust and at lesser risk of injury.

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Commonwealth ‘Glory?’

I have been writing a lot over the past six months. This probably goes in hand with the fact that during this time I have ,more than ever, felt in limbo with my sporting life and career. Due to this reason I have not posted anything on here, sometimes I may be a little guilty of writing or saying things I do not feel so strongly about out of anger or emotion. Regardless, I still believe I have written a few pieces for this blog that may be fairly relative to where I’m at now. This post is a very much shortened down and modified version of a piece of writing that I have put a lot of time and effort into over the past few months, obviously recent events have helped to inspire me to slightly alter and post this piece. As always, any feedback is very much appreciated.
One question I am asked fairly regularly by my students (and recently by a number of reporters from the sports press),I teach after school Judo classes in primary schools, is why I have a tattoo of Big Ben burning on my neck!  Having normally only a 45mins block to teach I take every effort not to have political discussions with 6-11 year olds, although I’m pretty sure they could handle it, a lot of them are extremely bright and I learn a lot of them most days! I normally answer with; Because I like tattoos, or, that I think we should all be free to make our own good choices. The more this question was asked to me the more I began to recall the reasons that gave me the idea for this piece in the first place, which is actually from my knuckles to head, also the very basic idea was mine but the incredible design and tattooing is courtesy of the extremely talented Jo Harrison. From a very basic standpoint I wanted the piece to show my view that no human being has the right to tell another what to do, Big Ben being the most renowned part of the houses of parliament (I am aware Big Ben is actually the bell in the tower but as most people regard it as the entire clock tower I shall refer to it as that for the propose of this post), this building being the most significant in the English/British governments rule other others.
Why are we controlled and institutionalised so much? I do not believe in shear aggressive anarchy or anything like that, I just think that people are not bad naturally, the vast majority could live together in peace, happiness and harmony. There are unwritten rules that most decent human beings abide to and they are called morals. The idea that a person should live their entire life following a set of written rules or laws (laws of governments and organised religions) is completely absurd and inhuman to me. For example narcotics, legal or illegal, are very much a swept under the carpet, never do drugs issue in most households. I find this completely abnormal when considering the amount of people who consume alcohol or smoke tobacco, how can these extremely heavily chemically altered addictive narcotics be so easily and freely purchase when others can not? How does the right for you to choose what you do with your own body belong to someone else? That is crazy! Cannabis, which is a totally organic substance and has no know recorded fatalities, can get you locked up! DMT, psilocybin and other psychedelics are also highly banned, substances which have been known to allow the mind to be more open and creative, and probably most importantly in a large number of psychedelic clinics in South America vast numbers of heroin users have been recorded to be kicking their addiction. Now I don’t want to drag this section out, nor am I promoting drug use in anyway shape of form, and neither could I, I do like to drink, very occasionally smoke and as a youngster tried a number of recreational substances. I just believe we should have the right to do as we please with our own bodies, realistically hard and regular sports training isn’t exactly great for the body long term is it!
Moving on to more current events, I was extremely happy to win the 2014 Commonwealth Games -73kg title 6 days ago here in Glasgow. Although not the hardest of the major competitions ,not only was I thrilled to win in front of thousands of people but for me the whole idea of the Commonwealth Games is extremely, extremely important. Now I’m certainly not a patriotic person, the entire concept of differing nations and peoples is make believe to me. Culture is different, obviously different parts of the world and even different sections of singular nations have large cultural differences. The idea of boarders, which are completely invisible except for some bullshit road signs only add to separation and conflict amongst us. Governments and countries are just companies, and the most capitalistic ones at that. So for me when I think of the Commonwealth, of the English/British empire, of the peoples heroes such as Oliver Cromwell to me this only represents the colonisation and the barbaric and horrific acts the English monarchy and governments had the army commit around the globe for the purpose of wealth and power. Regarding bastards such as Cromwell we should always use modern day morals to review these ‘great’ names of history, ever asked an Irishman what he thinks of him?? So, for the games as a whole it is vital that every four years the young people of the time come together for ‘the friendly games’ and hopefully never again will such barbarism by any ruling power be allowed by the people.
I would like to concluded this short post by saying that these words and opinions are my own. I know I will sound, and probably am very hypocritical, by being open about my views whilst still representing England and Great Britain in my chosen sport. Also I am a british tax payer so I contribute to the funding of invasion and murder in the middle east, something the government brainwashes not just soldiers but the vast majority of the population into believing is right. Remember; who is in who’s land and did they ever find those weapons of mass destruction. These are just the thoughts I have that I believe to be right, and I also believe that a larger group of society is beginning to recognise the injustices and are making moves to make a change.
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Solstice, Reflection and Resolutions

When I look back over 2013 it has probably been my best year to date, not only regarding international results but I feel I have enjoyed and appreciated the lifestyle I lead more than any other year before. I believe this may begin to stem back to last January when I received a surgery requiring injury to my left elbow, an injury which kept me off the competitive circuit for the best part of six months. Although spending 2 months in a sling and then brace hinge I was out of training all together for only three and a half weeks,  I then began a demanding rehab and strength and conditioning program which involved one hour of rehab everyday, and also one strength and one conditioning session daily for six days each week. Although the volume of training was still high, for four months, I could do no Judo whatsoever. During this non fighting rehab period I made myself stand on the mat and watch all Judo sessions, technical and randori. For the first two to three weeks not being able to participate in the Judo side of training didn’t really bother me, like anything done daily the edge of appreciation can sometimes wear off! However, after a few weeks I really began to feel the hunger/desire to begin practicing again, obviously still in a sling I was still well away from this being a reality. This inability to train really forced me to begin thinking deeply about, and, evaluating my own Judo again, or for short, what I have to do to give myself the best opportunity of achieving my ultimate competitive goal of winning a global medal (World Championship or Olympic). I began to really try and structure what I felt was necessary for myself to push forward, with heavy influence from my personal coach also, some of the plans I had/have are as thus; obtain methods to control the gripping of opponents of all styles and sides (sides being either right or left handed), posses the ability to throw in all directions from my major grips, become a major threat in ne-waza (groundwork), to continue to build all round body strength and to be as fit/conditioned as possible. There are more plans regarding tactics and lifestyle etcetera but from a Judo technical and physicality standpoint these were and are the main bases I have begun to cover. So concluding this point, having a clearer plan to move forward has given me the ability to document my improvements more which I feel has brought a much higher level of positive thinking to my training. After watching my friends and training partners practicing and going abroad it was awesome after six months to begin full training again and to get back out travelling the world to fight, certainly more appreciated than ever before.  
 
As well as reevaluating my Judo due to an injury lay off 2013 also brought changes to other situations regarding my full time Judo lifestyle. I did not compete in an international tournament or training camp abroad courtesy of the British team, due to not making the required criteria. Due to this I have had to self fund every foreign trip that I have embarked upon over the last 12 months, although I am fortunate to have a family and sponsors who help me out when they can, I began to work more again in the March of last year to help fund my Judo. I have now since begun to work everyday as towards the end of last year my UK Sport Lottery Funding ceased. I was taken off funding due to not meeting the required criteria very narrowly, a criteria which included applying to the new National Training Centre in Walsall, something which I chose not to do. I did not apply to be part of the centralised programme for numerous reasons, the major being I believe that the centre I am in (Camberley Judo Club) and my coach are the best for me personally and will give me the best chance to win a global medal. Saying this I am not against a centralised system if it is done in an effective manner; with the correct network, facilities, coaching, training partners etcetera, but it will take two to three generations of players or more to build all these aspects firmly in place at a real world class level. So I must be selfish and put myself in the best possible place so that when my competitive career comes to an end I can say that I really gave it my all and that when I had to make important decisions I made the ones that I felt were right. I do not hold any animosity towards any of British Judos performance establishment as they are only making the decisions they feel are right, and, all still offer me moral support. In summing this section up one thing I have learnt in my journey in Judo so far is that there is no secret or quick method to success in Britain, Judo is not a major sport here. Success involves lots of graft over a long period of time, lots of intelligent thinking, learning, planning and constant evaluation and revaluation. This is the reason why nowadays we in Britain get our better results when we get a little older or after being in full time training for a longer period as it requires the time to build up the account of quality training hours, think; Burton, Buchanan, Gordon, Oates etc. I for one am in it for the long haul, and if that means having to train like a maniac for another ten years, and go to work in-between sessions to fund it all as do lots of other amateur athletes, so be it. 
 
I feel that for the first year of being a full time athlete that outside influences have been taking more of an effect upon me. I joined Camberley JC to train full time at the start of 2009 and I had a very intense three and a half years, in training and within myself, building up to the London 2012 Olympic games. I know that I learned a lot whilst at the London games and I am still learning from the experience. Allowing myself to be more relaxed in 2013, the first year in the Rio 2016 Olympic cycle, I have been able to find more inspiration from non Judo people and interests. I am lucky to have some very special family members and friends in my life and they all inspire me in their own way. I have also always been interested in history and over the past couple of years I have been reading more about prehistoric Britain, with help and suggestions from friends, particularly the Neolithic ages up until the middle ages (6000 BC- 1000 AD). Mixing that in with other subject interests of Philosophy and Theology I have found myself reading more about old Pagan religions, particularly those of ancient Britain such as the Celts, Gaels and Picts. The pre Roman Britons and Irish seemed to live in much more harmony within their own environment and their belief systems also seemed to give them a strong fighting spirit. Julius Cesar in fact commented that the people of Celtic Briton were amongst the ferocious warriors his armies ever encountered, and, seemed to lack fear of death on the battlefield. The old celtic religion follows a cycle of eight festivals a year that follow the orbits of the sun and the moon. During festival time the past six to seven weeks can be reflected upon and the next segment of the year can be contemplated. I myself do not follow any organised belief or thought systems but I do find this particular area extremely fascinating, and so due to my growing interest I decided a few months back I wanted to do something for the Winter Solstice (December 21st, when the day is at its shortest). I went with a free thinking friend of mine to the Neolithic complex at Avebury which includes a massive Stone Circle, burial mounds and more. I have been to Avebury a number of times and it is a powerful place but being there on the Solstice was even more  incredible. People were playing music, offering out organic mulled wine, giving speeches etc. It was a really good day spent in good company in a very positive atmosphere. I am unsure of a real point to this last part but I do think that my interests and attending the Solstice celebrations at Avebury helped me reflect on the past year over the winter break, which also allowed me to start 2014 feeling more refreshed and enthusiastic.
 
I spent the majority of the winter break back home in Shropshire, close to the Welsh boarder. Just before returning home I also managed to get out to Ireland for the first time. I have read a lot about the Emerald Isle and have wanted to go and visit some of its beautiful land marks and natural landscape for quite some time. Alas due to only having a few days free I only made it as far as Dublin. The spiritual culture I experienced was a little different from what one may find at ancient stone monuments. However I did discover something inside the vast amounts of pubs we visited, and at the bottom of copious numbers of pints of the ‘black stuff’ we drank, I believe it is called the craic!!! Whilst back home I trained a little, drank fairly heavily and enjoyed some quality time and conversations with friends and family. Obviously being the time of year that it was the topic of new years resolutions appeared fairly frequently in conversation. The way I have felt about resolutions for a long time is that if you want or need to change something in your life you should just do it regardless of what time it of year it is. However, after discovering the philosophy behind the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the suns orbit has come and the days will get lighter from here on in, I began to think more positively about resolutions. Glennie Kindred puts it perfectly in her book ‘The Earths Cycle of Celebration’……………………… ‘This festival is not a beginning in a linear sense, but part of a cycle. Deep within the earth and ourselves, roots have been growing, bringing stability. The outer world has darkened and the inner realms can expand. But here is a change in direction. From now on the days will lengthen. Being part of this cycle means that we can bring our inner wisdom out of the dark unconscious, to grow with the increasing light. It is a time to birth our visions, name our dreams and make our resolutions for the coming months…………….The old year has died and the way is now prepared for the rebirth of activity and expansion into the outer world.’
 
So to conclude, 2013 was another great year for me as a full time athlete. There was a lot of change making it quite a different year to the past few. I celebrated its end fairly heavily and am now feeling extremely refreshed and inspired to make 2014 as good a year as any other. Happy new year to all.

 

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Combat Sports Coaching- Art or Science?

I wrote this post about 6 weeks ago after shortly arriving in Japan. Any feedback, opinions or ideas will be much appreciated. Thank you!

The past seven days have been good. Last weekend I competed in front of a home crowd at the European Open Great Britain, although I didn’t obtain the result I was looking for I felt I learnt a couple of lessens, and reassured a few things to myself. The tournament was also very well run, good stadium, nice hotel, so couldn’t have asked for more in that aspect. I had dinner and a stout with a friend on the Monday night after returning from the competition, although we have known each other a couple of years due to training at the same club it has only been over the past month we have talked more in depth. So Monday evening everything from combat sports training to music to star systems was discussed, all under the influence of only Nando’s extra hot sauce and 1 pint of Guinness! A very nice evening with some very thought provoking conversation. The next couple of days were spent up in Birmingham getting tattooed in the company of two inspiring friends. Thursday lunch time I boarded a Virgin Atlantic flight bound for Japan .I found myself sat next to an older English lady who was the creator of a fashion magazine in Tokyo, and married to a Japanese Buddhist priest. She commented on my choice of reading material (Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil) and asked about my views on morality and existence; I suspect she may have also got a glimpse of my knuckle tattoos. As the conversation went on she told me her mother had just passed away at the age of ninety and that was the reason for her returning to London, this lead to further discussion regarding Theology and how much complimentary red wine Virgin aircraft can serve to their passengers! A nice woman with some very interesting opinions and facts on the way in which Japanese society operates. I must say not all my weeks are as eventful as this, most are more peace and quiet filled in a small space somewhere between a council estate and forest, with the daily task of fighting the people I live with!

I find myself now, on Sunday evening, sat on my bunk bed in the international training lodge at Tsukuba University in the north suburbs of Tokyo, attempting to make sense and sentences out of my thoughts. I feel that the next few posts will not have major points to them, more a collective of lucid ideas and feelings I have on a few comparable topics, influenced by conversations I’ve had and my reflections upon them. For this post I will put forward some of my views on whether coaching is a scientific or artistic process.

In a chat a month or so ago my coach said to me that coaching Judo is an art and not a science. Now, although I have had similar discussions/debates in university lectures and on coaching courses hearing it in a more personal domain had a greater effect on me, and provided more food for thought. When I think about Judo training systems alone, as structured sessions and as periodization programmes including Judo Technical, strength and conditioning and Randori (sparring), it is a science. Scientific interventions can greatly aid physical and competitive performances, such as; nutrition, performance analysis (biomechanical and notational), strength and conditioning as well as others. But even science based programmes must be crafted and manipulated in an artistic manner. For example at Camberley Judo Club a usual training week is roughly three sessions a day, five days a week; usually beginning with a strength or conditioning session, secondly a Judo technical session and lastly Judo Randori. Now from a physiological stand point it would be mostly beneficial to split these session times out over the duration of the day; Nine in the morning, two in the afternoon and seven in the evening for example. Realistically though, Judo is an amateur sport and the majority of players in the training group are likely to be unfunded, and will have to be allowed time in which to work or study. Also from a mental aspect spreading sessions out across the day is more mentally draining, once you have refuelled from the previous session you check the clock and realise that you are not too far away from starting the next. I believe that’s why years ago at Camberley it was decided that the first two sessions would be done in the morning with break of about 45 minutes in-between for a little refuelling.  Strength and conditioning is usually first, followed by a Judo technical class which most of the time is a lesser physically demanding session. Then there is a seven hour gap until Randori in the evening, this provides time for players to work or study, or/and to unwind and take their minds off the rigorous training. Having the weekends off also allows for studying, vocational training or working. It is important to remember also that this programme (and all others) was and is still constructed around that/those coaches’ specific philosophies of how Judo players should be conditioned, and what fighting styles and techniques they should adopt, other philosophies may very well lead to different training systems. However, it is vital that a coach takes in to account both mental and physical aspects in all areas of the sport.

Anyone who has been in a coach-player relationship, in either role will know that a coach is not just someone who takes training sessions and shouts instructions during tournaments. A coach must have a number of different attributes; approachable, supportive, understanding in the judgement of personal situations, hard enough to be able to tell players to ‘get on with it’ when needed, a master in the art of being cruel to be kind!

So to conclude on whether Judo coaching is an art or a science I think it is important to remind ourselves exactly what science is; observed regularities. Taking this into account it can be scientifically proven that Judo is a complex, multidimensional, irrational individual sport which contains a lot of differing athletes (in both physicality and mentality). Due to these points I would then say that the coaching process is an artistic approach in manipulating scientifically constructed training methods and programmes whilst taking in consideration and allowing for psychological and external factors to maximise performance potential. So in a word; art.

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for Judo

I don’t know what it is about being on an aircraft, but all my written ideas nowadays seem to start mile high, blog and university. Maybe it’s the buzz off going abroad with the lads for a good old row, or perhaps subconsciously the mind is attempting to concentrate on  any other subject than that of the lack of food and liquid entering the body. Whatever the reason, I find myself with laptop in lap, starting this post, on a British Airways flight bound for Croatia, painfully refusing the offer of a complimentary breakfast butty and OJ. Whilst others tuck into their fine looking pre packaged breaky I am thinking about the last few months of full time Judo training, which have included Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes. I have partaken in a few BJJ sessions over the past six years or so, and was even awarded my blue belt back in January, but it has only been over the past twelve weeks that I’ve started to take a serious approach to really studying and improving BJJ skills. I had been thinking about adding BJJ back into my training while I was out with an elbow injury for the first half of this year, having already developed a growing love for groundwork in Judo I want to now try to cover all aspects/bases . However, the first six weeks of being back in full training included a little world tour of comps (Judo) so I wasn’t able to get any Jits in. It wasn’t until being up at Uni in Cambridge for a couple of weeks that I managed to get a couple of sessions in with Leo and the rest of his team at Tsunami. Shortly after I travelled out to Germany for a tournament and training camp and during both felt an improvement in awareness in my ground work. It’s been ten weeks since Germany and I have been doing my upmost to get two BJJ sessions in a week in an already busy training programme, one session of which is now compulsory for all the full time Judo players at Camberley.  Now twelve weeks is hardly a long time to have been studying anything let alone a combat sport or martial art, but with Judo and Jiu Jitsu having some obvious similarities I would like to put across some of my thoughts and ideas of how cross training could benefit Judo players. Apologies if I get any of the terminology, names, etcetera incorrect, I am attempting to broaden my BJJ vocabulary, but funnily enough learning technique names in English now seems harder than in Japanese. Too long a Judo geek!
 
For those unaware of the basics of Judo groundwork I shall briefly cover the main points. Judo is predominately a standing sport although time is allowed to work and score on the floor. To obtain a win in ground work you can pin your opponent, having them on their back with at least one shoulder in contact with the mat for twenty seconds, position examples that BJJ players can relate to would be side control, scarf hold, north south and mount etc. You can also choke, strangle and armlock (only to the elbow joint)  opponents into submission. If a technique, attack is continuous and appears to the referee that it has potential to score you will receive a decent amount of time to work, if not the fight will be stopped and brought back up to standing pretty promptly. Due to this last point it is important that in attack on the floor a quick catch and start is essential. And don’t forget that scoring in standing is measured by throwing your opponent towards their back, so when being attacked with a throw you are looking to land on your front, a big no no in Jits. There are a small amount of sacrifice techniques which can be applied from standing which can end in more positions familiar to BJJ players, guard, half guard etc, however these situations are usually rarer.
 
Now for those Judo players unaware of of what Brazilian Jiu Jitsu entails I shall cover the main points, again to the best of my knowledge. A submission is an outright win, submissions include locking/barring techniques to the; wrist, elbow, shoulder, knee, and ankle joints, although some are not really meant to be used until reaching a specific grade. Chokes and strangles are also permitted as well as face bars (as long as it is no higher than the nose???).  You can also score points by passing your partners legs, obtaining certain positions and escapes. I believe the higher scoring positions are taking the opponents back and the mount (tatae shio). Points are given as well for throws or takedowns. Although a number of BJJ submissions are forbidden in Judo, for me I feel it is important to learn and practice them as it gives me another view how biomechanics work in combat sports, and it’s good fun learning new ways to hurt people!
 
Now a typical Jiu Jitsu session at Carlson Gracie Camberley involves the delivery and practice of a range of drills for the first half and more free practice/rolling/sparring (Judo equivalent of randori) for the later. Obviously I am sure this can differ from dojo to dojo but the other clubs I have done the odd class at seem to follow a similar lesson structure. For me, and other Judo players that are relatively newer to jits this is a perfect structure, having adequate time to observe and practice new movements or techniques which is usually about four-ish. I find this is an efficient number for learning as you are slowly building up a repertoire but with enough time to drill it properly as opposed to being shown ten things and none of them sinking in, the coaches here get it spot on in that aspect. Rolling in BJJ  can be compared to standing randori in Japan, obviously not visually but in the fact that the majority of the time if you you relax a little more and practice rolling for positions or techniques your partner will do the same thus creating a more technical improvement based practice. However, if the intensity is upped they are still partial to a good tear up! I find I can really set an aim for my Jiu Jitsu sessions and go out and achieve it. On a more philosophical side I believe that BJJ players achieve Jirigano Kanos whole training for mutual benefit thing better than the majority of Judoka, I’m only saying it and certainly not claiming to always be innocent! 
 
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu also allows Judo players to to approach ground work from a different angle, not everyone can be beaten in standing, some will have to be dragged to the deck and held or submitted. Two players who support this point are Flavio Canto of Brazil and Travis Stevens of USA both high performers in Judo and in BJJ, both win a large number of Judo contests on the floor. And although probably ninety percent of what you will learn in BJJ you wouldn’t get chance or time to do in Judo competition, but having the ability increases the confidence which then heightens the awareness. Personally I have found that my defence on the floor is improving extremely, again as I feel more confident defending and attacking off my back and in between my partners legs. Also it is worth mentioning that the majority of Judo attacks on the floor start or require from having or being on you partners back, so as the defender the quicker you can roll safely  onto your back (without to much danger of being pinned) to defend should nullify a vast number of attacks your partner can attempt. Hip escapes and shrimps also play a large roll in this defensive process.  
 
When it comes to transferring BJJ skills in to Judo practice more relevant to Judo itself I personally believe that one player should start in a ball or on all fours etcetera and the other stand over them or to the side and work should begin from there. One player has to defend, by attempting to get to their back to continue to defend or attack, the other player must try to get their legs/hooks in to control their partner and look to score on them. This way the practice can be more relevant to Judo situations but with the amalgamation of both Judo and BJJ techniques.
 
To finish I would like to say that I would like to do another post on how practising Judo would improve BJJ. However, besides some obvious throwing and maybe physicality benefits I feel my ability and understanding of Jiu Jitsu is not of adequate level to do it justice. Hopefully some point in the future!
 
Big thanks to Wilson, Andre, Mark, Gary and everyone at Carlson Cracie Camberley. Also a shout to Casey, Paul and all at Shrewsbury BJJ. Ooossss!
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Positivity

After a conversation with a friend/club mate/training partner last week left me thinking, I started to prepare this post on a flight home from Germany after a tournament and training camp, feeling I had had adequate time to reflect on my and my friends words and other ideas and thoughts I had been having.
To sum up our talk he was feeling disheartened about the full time training lifestyle, examples of some of the aspects are as such; lack of money, lack of education or vocational training, feeling of slow improvement or not going to achieve ones goals. Almost a general feeling of putting ones life on hold.
Before I get to any form of lucrative point to this post I would like to first mention a number of aspects/points of what full time Judo training consists of (although it differs between training centres they are mostly similar). Judo is a physically tough and rough game which takes its toll on the body, training 2-3 times a day 5/6 days a week, all sessions are physically and mentally challenging. Making weight, the majority of the time being on strict diets. Financial, Judo is an amateur sport so to receive any financial backing athletes must already be competing at a higher level. Most full time Judo players have to find part time work, private sponsorships, claim benefits etc to survive. Money is pretty scarce on the way up and certainly not phenomenal even if one becomes a world class athlete. Many young adults want to be financially independent and living on hand outs etc can almost feel like a child like existence. Training 2-3 times a day also leaves minimal time for education or vocational training.
 
Judo life is hard and Judo is one of the toughest sports out there, behind football of corse! But one thing I feel I am learning/have learnt is it is far better and beneficial to be positive as much as possible. Another friend of mine recently said to me something along the lines of the more positive energy you put out into the universe the more you shall receive back, something I have found myself coming around to vehemently agreeing with. The problem sometimes of being so immersed in anything or doing something in excess (obviously this example being sport) it can become almost as if you judge yourself on your ability, so when you have a bad competition or training session, which is inevitable with the amount undertaken, it can leave you feeling quite down and disheartened. Now, I certainly don’t think this is a good mentality to possess, the amount of times I have not got the best out of a session because I was thrown by someone I feel I shouldn’t of been thrown by or a technique I have been trying to develop isn’t working is more than I care to remember. Instead of being positive and thinking about what I could work on to make the most out of the training I would just ‘spit the dummy out’ so to speak. So I think that being positive about situations as just mentioned will always lead to a more positive and productive solution, and this was the point that I tried/am trying to reiterate to my friend.
 
As previously mentioned Judo life doesn’t leave us the most well off of folk but it is surprising how money or the opportunity of making it always seems to turn up when really needed. Maybe fortune favours the brave and all that! And regarding education, careers and making money after one has finished their athletic career I strongly believe in these points: if one puts half the effort into a business or money making scheme one puts into the athletic career one shall do well, in this day and age combat sports and martial arts training are in high demand and there are numerous business avenues which can be explored, there are many educational courses nowadays which can be done online making it easier for athletes to learn away from university campuses. And anyway obtaining money and education can be achieved at anytime in life.
Recently a youtube clip of an Alan Watts passage I believe to be titled What Do I Desire has been popular across a number of social websites. The message Watts delivers is fantastic, loosely summing it up would be to say that Watts claims you should do what makes you happy and disregard the idea of entering into a life path purely to make money. I loved the clip and without trying to sound like an arsehole I felt that the message spoke to what I/we are doing. One good thing I feel about Judo is that it provides a real life direction (as does anything you throw yourself into). Personally at the moment I despise the idea of doing anything else, I couldn’t envision waking up everyday, going to work and making money doing something I wasn’t really passionate about doing. It amazed me how many people eagerly and energetically posted Watt’s words who I know are working in jobs or offices they do not love, but then again I am just a young single man with no children or real responsibilities, living in a shack next to a dojo next to a wood! 
 
So evolving on from the last few points it is important to look at the full time Judo life on a broader level also, one gets to wake up each morning and fight people (!), develop combat techniques and physical attributes to then travel around the world and fight a vast array of foreign peoples! Through this process one gets to experience many different countries and cultures, meet and make friends and connections with many different and interesting people. Personally I could go to many places in the UK and have a friend living somewhere close, and the same when travelling to different nations. 
These are just a few thoughts that I have had before and after my conversation with my friend, and I think going through them may have helped him, and myself of course, because there are instances when you question yourself and what you are doing especially if you are a little down or tired, but it is important to get through those situations effectively. Doing Judo certainly isn’t work, but sometimes you do have to dig in and graft.
 
I would like to mention another point after finishing as although different I feel it is a closely related subject. 
I remember speaking to a coach a couple of years ago who was working for the National Governing Body about his children and how one of them was doing well in education and the other was embarking on, what looked like it could be, a potentially successful sporting career. Now, working for the NGB meant that this coach/parent would spend a large amount of time away from home either abroad at competitions or training camps, or driving up and down the UK. He was becoming disheartened with the lack of time he could spend with his kids, and was worried that he maybe not be there to enough to support them. Similar scenarios effect coaches closer to myself as well, and money again can become an issue. But surely as a parent if you want your kids to succeed in life being a good role model is vital, and what better role model could you be than to show your kids that through love of what you are doing, hard work and dedication that you can do whatever it is that you want to do? Surely being a good role model and guide is more important than providing them with over priced material things?

 

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ANXIETY AND MENTAL PREPARATION

Following up from my last post (mental strengths- cruel to be kind) I would like to discuss anxiety. I purposely failed to mention the subject last time as I believe it is a big enough issue to deserve its own post.
Now, I think most people would agree in multidimensional combat sports such as Judo mentality plays a huge role in competitive performance. For example how many fantastic players have you seen in training be unable to deliver in competition?
We have briefly covered ways to deal with frustration and installing mental toughness into fighters, some of their associated aspects will cross over into combating anxiety but it is a far more complex psychological issue, due to there being many forms of anxiety which can arise from many different situations. However, for the purpose of this post I would like to mostly discuss anxiety on tournament day and put forward some ideas of dealing with it.
A Judo tournament, especially higher level, provides a number of potentially stressful scenarios for athletes, common examples being: 
 
Preparation- Training up to the tournament may have gone well or not, the same goes for dieting/weight making.
 
Journey- Being at airports, train stations or on long drives, maybe dieting, is not the most ideal part of the final preparation but obviously essential, can’t fight if you’re not there.
 
Hotel- Seeing fellow competitors that you may have to fight (we ain’t just playing a football match against each other)!
 
Weigh In- Lots of near naked thirsty and hungry Judo players pushing and shoving to get onto the scales first.
 
Draw- Knowing who you will fight first match.
 
Warm Up- Crammed mat areas, the post weigh in feeling (you have to have felt it), the pre fight nerves.
 
Crowd- Maybe a foreign crowd or home, may contain members of family or friends.
 
All these scenarios could potentially lead to negative stress, so it is important that players have their own methods to deal with pre competition stressful situations, could be use of music, staying relaxed etc. Some stress can lead to positivity, i.e use of the crowd to lift performance, but it is in my view that firstly it should be stopped from causing negative effects (if this is an issue) and allow the players to step onto the contest mat as calm and prepared as possible.
So concluding stressful tournament related situations it can be argued that the only way to learn how to deal with anxiety before and during competition is experience, i.e by fighting in competitions. It is important as a coach that it is recognised that some athletes will suffer with anxiety more or less than others, or in different ways (one athlete may want to win more than another, or parents may put pressure on another), leading from this the coach must then allow and encourage his/her players to develop their own methods of combating anxiety to help maximise the competitive performance.
To finalise this post I would like to just mention some psychological methods I try to employ before and after tournament day. As previously mentioned, experience I believe does play an important role in mental prep for tournaments, especially for British fighters competing at International events as our domestic competitions are not of the same level and don’t run on the same format. I found familiarising myself with tournament format important in all aspects such as; the journey, airport transfers on arrival, seeing the draw, sleeping the night before, weigh in, tournament structure etc. It took me a few tournaments to learn the structure, and I was fortunate that my coach at the time would take me to international senior European cups from a young age (17) so I familiarised my self with this process relatively earlier on. Now the thing that requires more experience is to know what you do in each scenario, which of course is always personal, but for me it is now always to stay relaxed and conserve energy. During the first year of my senior competitive career (19-20 years old) the national coach at the time told me a motto him and his team mates used to use regarding mental preparation, ‘don’t do the tournament before the tournament’. On hearing it I really liked it and thought it was very relevant to Judo tournament preparation. Whether I worry about fighting or not the night before a competition is really irrelevant, I have to/am going to wake up and go and fight anyway, so better to be relaxed and try and get a good nights sleep. I try and carry this motto or method right the way through up until the warm up, if I watch a movie the night before or listen to music that morning it’s only causal or relaxing, not wanting to try and charge myself up too early. I like to get a bit pumped for my warm up but as soon as it’s done I will again try and stay relaxed until 1 contest away from my fight (5 mins roughly) where I try to let the anger build (!), focus and think not on winning or loosing or anything else but only on the fight or certain aspects of it, which usually will be the grips I wish to obtain. 
Regarding the draw, in a higher level international Judo tournament the draw of competition is done in the days leading up to the competition. I personally like to know who I have first fight, to familiarise myself with whom I must face first and so that I can relax with knowing what I have to do so to speak, also slightly an ego thing as well, ‘ain’t scared of no one’ and all that! But I suppose using my previous arguments you could push for a method of leaving seeing who you have to fight until the day of competition, not thinking about the event, staying relaxed etc. Again looking at the draw is a very personal thing.
To finish I would like to reiterate the point that there are specific mental techniques and methods that coaches can employ to prepare their athletes to fight but they MUST recognise that they will have their own personal tweaks. Also when preparing mentally to fight an athlete should have their own system of preparation but it shouldn’t be totally ridged, doing what you feel is the right thing that you need to do at the time is the best way of looking at it. 

 

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