It’s been a good 10 days since my last post here. Training has been going well and the weight control ahead of the Grand Prix in Uzbekistan next weekend has begun. Olympic qualification consists of various tournaments throughout the 24 month period. On average most fighters who are seriously pursuing qualification would fight around 10 times per year; there are the top handful of players in each category that can afford to do less but, with Judo being such a fierce sport in depth and competitiveness, for the majority the former is the case. Larger blocks of training and preparation become scarcer for those fighters that must compete more regularly, such is the nature of the beast however. I like to think that I work hard every time I step onto the mat or into the gym but, going through the process of competing roughly every 6 weeks, I have found, in my third Olympic cycle that targeting specific weeks for absolute maximal concentration and energy expenditure is such an important thing to getting the best out of myself. If I allow it to qualification can feel like a repetitive slog at times; fighting more regularly than is enjoyable, up and down in weight, the mind continually drawn to the scales, dealing with the inevitable niggles and injuries etc. I notice that if I take this approach; quieter week post competing, build back in, really go for it for a selected short blast, realistic period for weight control and maintenance of physicality, then fight, I am fresher, happier, enjoy myself and am more motivated.
Something that I’ve begun to experience more and more this year is the thought of what’s next. I’ve known for a while that this will be the last Olympic cycle I shall experience as a full time athlete. I am undecided whether I shall continue to compete after Tokyo 2020, I will always train, Judo is a part of my beating heart, but if things remain the same regards to results and the financial situation with the self funding system currently in place then I will be looking towards endeavours that can lead to more financial security; to rent my own place and enjoy some other things from life. I shall continue some training around whatever I choose to do, but as to competing I will play that one by feel. I do experience some fear regarding moving on, I’ve been training seriously and competing since I was 5 years old, and, as of next year I’ll have been a full time athlete for 12 years. Sometimes I feel it’s all I know. It’s somewhat of a selfish and self indulgent lifestyle that must be led to compete at an international level seriously. For 2 and a half decades I have structured my life around what I believe it would take to give me the best opportunity of success at international level. I’ve had an awful lot of help in doing that and the thought of those people held spur me on through some of the more demanding times, or past the slightly more frequent thoughts that I would prefer to be doing something less strenuous with my evening than fighting a 90kg man during a calorie counting period.
I take a lot of solace from coaching. I enjoy it as much as much as my own personal competitive side of things, it gives me hope that there is something that I can be fiercely passionate about when my own fighting days are done. I am somewhat spoilt that I found something that I adore doing when I was 4 years old, and, that I was given the circumstances in life to go on and do that thing that I’ve only ever really wanted to do. The idea of full time coaching provides me with something that I know can get me out of bed motivated in the mornings for many years to come. I love seeing the difference Judo makes to people. When the kids come in for their first session full of nervous tears to months later swagging through the door full of beans. Watching them develop is an incredible thing, as fighters and as people, the discipline it can install, the outlet for many frustrations of growing up, the power of their desires to chase their ambitions and dreams. Our club coaches don’t get the credit and recognition they deserve. I absolutely take my hat off to those people giving up their time and energy to guide kids and adults through our sport, driving them around the country and going abroad with them every other bloody weekend. Personally, having never known my dad growing up and being pretty angry because of it (I didn’t realise that was the stem of it at the time), Judo and it’s coaches provided me with some unbelievably brilliant male, and female, role models, it’s physical combat nature providing an obvious outlet for frustrations. Judo has given me so so much, the idea that someday I can be part of giving back to it provides comfort through the times when I think what the fuck am I going to do when all of this is over. That thought alone helps me to keep myself in the day and leave the future for the future.