Doing Judo Full Time: Things I’d Tell My Younger Self- Part 2 of 2

danny williams judo

Following on from last week’s post, I am discussing some of the key aspects that I would discuss with the 19 year old version of myself. The me that was about to relocate to the south of England to become a full time Judo player.

Just to reiterate, this is me talking to myself. If I use the terms ‘you, we’ or ‘us’ it is because I have no other words to use that I could better discuss these ideas with myself. I do not like feeling like I’m being  preached to or reading or listening to someone that is ‘telling me’ what I should or shouldn’t do or think. I apologise if the following sounds in anyway like I’m doing that, that is not at all my intention. I’m in no position to lecture on anything. These are just my own thoughts on what I would tell myself, with the benefit of hindsight, at different stages of my career to aid in combating some of the anxiety, projections, decision making or, to confirm that what I was doing was ok; things that a lot of full time athletes experience.

Focus Mainly On What Works

I love Judo and have practiced many different techniques, many of which have never scored for me at high level competition. I am now, in my twilight years of competing, consolidating my fighting system, keeping it smaller and simpler. I think of all the years that I practiced those techniques that haven’t worked for me in contest and how that time could have been spent solidifying a smaller but much more effective system. I’d have still learned a wide base and a larger number of techniques but clearly prioritising the main threats.

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Don’t Put Your Life On Hold- Too Much

If I had my time as a younger athlete again I’d try to get a bit more formal education and vocational training. I did a foundation degree in sports coaching which I managed to drag out over six years, it should have taken two! Even if it was something simple as doing more short online courses or trying a few more different jobs outside of training hours. When British Judo centralised and I had my funding totally cut, I began teaching Judo classes in schools each afternoon which meant my day was Judo from 9.30am-10pm. For a few of those years Judo just  felt like a job and, on the rare occasion, I questioned whether I still enjoyed it at all anymore. As soon as I taught less classes my passion for it flared up again. I’d have tried to study different things more, had a go at a few other part time jobs. Particularly after over say ten years of being a full time athlete, I think what would a few weeks of missing training to go on courses, study etc really have done? Probably would have done me, mentally, some good. I’d have tied to earn a bit more of my money from non-Judo activities also, keeping mat time mainly for training. I’d have saved a little more money.

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Appreciate How Hard It Is- Be Kinder To Yourself 

I always felt like I should be doing everything at once; becoming successful at Judo, constantly learning, earning good money. I was very fit and had an abundance of energy both on and off the mat. I always felt like I had to be doing something, I’d often feel guilty about watching a film in-between sessions, for not doing something ‘productive.’  

It’s only been over the past 12 months of slowing down I realised just how busy I was and how much work I was doing, how much training 3 times a day takes it out of you. It is only through lockdown that I realised that I didn’t really know what it was like to have my evenings at home. That isn’t normal! Since I was 4 years old I have consistently been at Judo clubs multiple times per week. From speaking to a lot of the athletes that I have been around that also seems to be the case for a lot of them, they often don’t realise just how much they are actually sacrificing, just how hard they work, how special and different their lives are compared to the average citizen. For those ‘all in’ people it is very often the case that they feel that they should always be doing more but, at a certain point, what is best is almost the exact opposite, they need to do less and ensure what they do do is the highest quality.  

Yes, it’s important to stay somewhat balanced with all things but you don’t need to try to do everything at maximum velocity all the time, that WILL only lead to burning out. 

Take a day off every now and again. Go and try some new activities and find different things that you also enjoy, it will benefit every area of your life, Judo especially. 

Your days are numbered, you are going to die. No medals, career or amount of money will get you away from that sentence. Wrestling in pyjamas is brilliant but it isn’t important, very little actually is. Not much is worth being stressed over. Don’t strangle it all so that you don’t enjoy the majority of it.

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Do You Have To Stay Full Time Forever?

Well, here’s one I’m testing out. I have seen a lot of older athletes go from being full time to finished in 24 hours. Stop while they are still more than capable of getting good results. I’ve long time thought that it is money and expectations that finishes most older Judo players. Look at other combat sports, MMA, Boxing, where athletes are getting some of their best results in their mid-late thirties. Last September, after finishing my time at -73kgs, I also made the decision that I would not train full time anymore. I had a month or so completely off the mat and since then have mainly trained once a day, on occasion twice. I feel great and as I said before I’ve not enjoyed training this much in a good while. I’d have to up the intensity of a couple of sessions to be ready to compete again but feel that I am willing to do that, when the time is right. I have trained hard for a very long time and want to enjoy the benefits of all that work, for as long as I can and, as long as I still enjoy it. 

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You’ll Never Regret Trying

When I was 19 and beginning full time Judo if someone would have said that they could guarantee that I would win the Olympics but, that they would blow my brains out the next day I’d have told them to get the gun loaded. After a bit of realisation of just how difficult and competitive international Judo was and, after speaking to some of those people that regretted finishing when they did, I concluded that as long as, whenever I do finish competing, that I can look back on my time and say that I did everything that I could have, then that would be a successful career. I could have done a lot of things differently, I have made many, many mistakes and didn’t achieve a lot of the results that I initially set out to achieve but, I can say that I went about everything as well as I knew how too, at that point in time. I found that the medals that I have won actually mean very little to me now, it is the experiences and the lessons that have stuck. The perfect way of doing things doesn’t exist. You must just go for it and work out as much as you can on the way.

Failure, at some stage, is completely inevitable. Inaction, not going for it,  I’ve found is the only thing that can be truly regretted.   

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