More Judo competition experience for this haggard old Judoka

I’ve been fortunate to have had a string of unbroken success on the Judo and BJJ competition front. The latest was last Sunday at the Sussex County Judo Open where I won the gold medal for the under 81kg kyu grade category. This article details out the things I learned which you can hopefully benefit from..

Repeat Exposure Is Good

If you want to perform better at competitions you need to attend lots of competitions. The more you go, the more exposure you get, the less you’ll have those crippling nerves the night before. We all get nerves, it’s normal however noone I know has so much riding on a competition that it could change their life. It’s also a learned skill to harness those nerves into directed energy and grit when the action kicks off.

Let’s also reflect on the sobering fact that, win or lose, most of the attendees will have forgotten your victory/defeat after a month…everyone will have forgotten your victory/defeat not long after that. Your victories will amount to medals on the wall/in the box and you’ll struggle to remember which day you won which medal and what it was like. They mean nothing really, other than that moment you were there and fighting in the moment. Reflect on that if you’re reading this and you’ve got a competition soon.

One day I’ll write an article on competition preparation. Until then I will call out that getting to competitions early (when everything is quiet and low-key) is a massive boost. Knowing where everything is, where you need to go, where to get changed, where you’ll be waiting – these trivial details add up to a lot on the day.

Team Support

I’ve been fortunate to always have someone from my club coaching me in my corner. I’d see it as quite a solemn and uninspiring experience if I just pitched up on my own without a group to exchange banter with. I highly recommend you go there with your coach or at least a team mate. If you want to go one further, see what you can do about convincing a big group to join – it won’t only be exciting to see them fighting; it will further fortify the camaraderie you’ll experience in your club dojo.

I’ve noticed this in other sports too… There was a time long ago when I’d compete in mud runs with a group. Over the months and years gradually all my mates dropped off and I was left doing these on my own. It just wasn’t the same (queue violin playing in the background).

Performance Insights

We all have our limits. There will always be things we’re weaker at. When Judo is practiced in a recreational capacity there will always be a higher priority which will get in the way of training, be it job, kids, commitments etc.

Personally, I’ve always been cognisant of the limits of my cardio. It comes to the fore these days primarily in competitions. It’s something that I’ve dedicated time to and I can now feel improvements. I’ve certainly got better than a year ago and I put it down to developing an efficiency of movement from repeated activity in this sport. An example which can explain best: an uchi mata a year ago required a significant amount of effort for me to execute (even on a willing partner). This meant that by the end of a 3 minute round I was too spent to pull one off. Nowadays I find I can execute an uchi mata (and other throws) quite comfortably even at the point of my heart rate peaking.

This leads conveniently to my next point: I’ve noticed that the statement “A younger player will always have better cardio than an older player” is not 100% accurate. In one of the rounds I was against someone who was clearly breathless within the first couple of minutes despite being much younger. This kind of indication from an opponent would give anyone a boost – particularly if your tank has reserves!

Another insight I’m personally experiencing is throw opportunities. My kumi kata is decent but my setups are too slow and muscled through. In my head I’m thinking I’m quick but when I playback the video I can see I’m just slow and predictable. My age has taken some of the rapidity I once enjoyed but there’s opportunity to explore more in the setups of my throws.


Another competition and another day well spent. Some great memories from the day meeting some great people – it’s always lovely to see that people I was in mortal combat with one moment will more often than not become great mates.

I was particularly feeling this while waiting for my fights to begin: I was surrounded by people in our group. I was a little nervous but I was also feeling at home. I looked at the chap with the Fighting Films hoody jumping up and down to keep warm on my right and thought “Yep, these are my people, this is my crowd..”

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