THE HISTORY OF THE WELCOME MAT JUDO, JUJITSU AND SAMBO CLUB
Bv Steve Scott
Welcome Mat, like so many other judo, jujitsu or martial arts clubs, was started by a young man with no idea if his club would be a success. I was that young man, and in fact, quite young; being a senior in high school when I began teaching people judo and jujitsu. Lots of mistakes were made and opportunities missed, but then again, lots of positive things happened and opportunities were made and taken as well. This is a brief history of how I started Welcome Mat and what it has meant to me. From the very start of our club, it’s been my desire to offer quality, serious and affordable training to as many people as possible. This is why I sought out community centers or other public facilities to house our club and teach judo, jujitsu and sambo. The concept of “Welcome Mat” where everyone is welcome on our mat has been the fundamental tenet of what we do. Thousands of people have trained at Welcome Mat since the club’s inception, and it’s my hope that thousands more will train at Welcome Mat long after I retire and pass on the coaching duties to others. Sometime in the 1980s, I started using the quote “Success is an on-going process” as the slogan for our club. When you think about what it means, it captures what Welcome Mat is all about.
Welcome Mat got its start in 1969 at the Marlborough Community Center. The original building housing the Marlborough Community Center was located at 8204 Paseo, Kansas City, Missouri and was originally a neighborhood grocery store that was converted to a small community center in the early 1960s. It was on Sept. 3, 1969 that I taught the first class of judo and jujitsu at the Marlborough Community Center.
The mat we used in those early years was a combination of a10’ by 10’ horsehair mat (covered by green canvas) loaned to me by my coach Ken Regennitter and several thin tumbling mats. The entire mat area was about 14 feet wide by about 20 feet long. At first, the mats would often separate, but after duct tape was more readily available, we would tape the mats together as well as possible.
After receiving my black belt in 1969, and with my coach Ken Regennitter’s blessing and encouragement, I started to look for a place to teach judo and jujitsu. Also, an overriding reason was to have a place closer to home so my training buddies and I could work out on the days Ken Regennitter didn’t have a scheduled practice. Before we found the Marlborough Community Center, a group of about 4 or 5 of us teenagers who trained with Ken borrowed his green horsehair mat and housed it in one of my buddy’s basement and then another friend’s garage. My friends’ parents eventually grew tired of having 4 or 5 young guys beat up on each other most days after school in their basement or garage, so we had to find a suitable place to work out. Finally, after looking for a place to house our club, the lady who ran the Marlborough Community Center agreed to let us use that facility. Admittedly, I was the one in our group who was most passionate about judo and was the driving force in finding a place to start a judo and jujitsu club. Initially, we thought the community center had enough mats and took Ken’s mat back to him, but we soon found out we didn’t have enough mat space. Ken, again, loaned me his big heavy green mat made of canvas and filled with horsehair. Maybe to someone else it wasn’t much, but to me it was a welcome and much-needed addition to my young club. Ken’s support was crucial to us in those early years and it’s still very much appreciated.
Initially, we had a large group of kids and some adults sign up for the judo class, but our hard practices quickly lowered the number of people working out with us and about 15 students stayed with the club.
At first, I named the club the Marlborough Judo Club, and this remained the club’s name until sometime in the early 1970s when I wanted to change the name so that it would reflect our philosophy that everyone who wanted to learn judo or jujitsu was (and continues to be) welcome. Also, I was a big fan of both Hayward Nishioka and Gene LeBell whose dojo was the original Welcome Mat in Los Angeles. I always liked the name of their club and decided to make a statement and name my club Welcome Mat as well.
I registered my new little club with the Missouri Valley AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), as the AAU was the governing body for the sport of judo at that time. I also registered with the American Judo and Jujitsu Federation (AJJF) as a club so we could continue to teach the Kodenkan (now called Danzan-ryu) system of jujitsu that I learned from Prof. Ken Regennitter. We also supported both the local YMCA judo league located in the Johnson County, Kansas area and the Judo League of Mid-America in Independence, Missouri. Both these groups had monthly judo meets and I continued to compete in them and as my new students developed enough skill and confidence, they started to compete in them as well. Since the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) was the governing body for judo at the time, we also competed in the AAU tournaments, especially the Missouri Valley AAU Championships, which was the qualifying meet for the Senior Nationals. We held our first judo tournament at Marlborough community Center in 1970. As I remember, we had about 60 contestants pack that little building; and all done on that small mat about 14 feet wide by about 20 feet long. I made it a point to host judo tournaments as often as possible. Not only did my athletes get to compete, so did I. Eventually, we hosted monthly judo meets at Marlborough with many local clubs competing and with a really good level of competition. Judo was popular in the Kansas City area during that time and for several years in the late 1960s and through the 1970s; one could find a judo tournament almost every weekend in the western Missouri and eastern Kansas area.
When I started judo in 1965, my first coach was Jerry Swett. Jerry required that we train with him in aikido as well as judo and this experience was beneficial to me later in life. Jerry was a strict Kodokan Judo man and emphasized the study and understanding of the Japanese terminology used in all the Japanese martial arts. His influence was profound and I still teach many of the techniques that Jerry taught me. His emphasis was on solid fundamentals and efficient body movement; the kind of stuff that stands the test of time. Jerry taught judo and aikido at the Kansas City Academy of Judo and Karate located at 3936 Main Street in midtown Kansas City, Missouri. Monday night was aikido night, and as I said before, Jerry required us to attend the Monday night aikido classes if we wanted to do judo. The only other day of the week I wasn’t doing judo was on Sunday. Every other Friday night, we had a club tournament, and would regularly have about 30 people compete. It was often a team tournament or a line-up tournament with no weight classes, and nobody went home without at least 3 or 4 (or more, if you kept winning) matches. The rules of judo weren’t so complicated in those days and many of the matches were really rough. I remember pinning a guy in a tournament and as he struggled to escape, I bounced up and down on him several times to keep control of him, only to get a stern look (but nothing more) from the referee. The club was a large one with a spacious mat and there were always people to work out with. When Jerry retired from coaching judo, I stayed at the Kansas City Academy (renamed Shobu Judo Club) and trained with Wey Seng Kim for about a year, and then switched to Ken Regennitter’s club in early 1968. Ken’s dojo was the total opposite of the Kansas City Academy. It was housed in Ken’s garage in Merriam, Kansas and he had about ten hardcore, serious guys training under him. Ken heavily influenced me and convinced me that good judo and good jujitsu are one in the same. Training with Ken in both judo and Kodenkan Jujitsu was a great experience. Under Ken’s coaching, I improved my newaza (groundfighting) skills tremendously and he gave me a real appreciation for rigorous training in self-defense jujitsu as well as sport judo. Ken’s emphasis on submission techniques gave me a lifelong appreciation of their effectiveness. Ken’s approach to judo wasn’t as “classic” as Jerry Swett’s and it was Ken who first influenced me to mold a judo technique to fit my body and to look at all the skills in judo and jujitsu as tools. Each tool has a function, and there isn’t anything wrong in changing the tool so that it does the best job for the person using it. Later, I would train under World Sambo Champion Maurice Allen who also emphasized this approach to judo, sambo and jujitsu. “Make the judo work for you” or “fit the technique to your body” was the common theme of both Ken Regennitter and Maurice Allen. This philosophy influenced me greatly and continues to be one of the major technical influences at Welcome Mat. But, back to Ken Regennitter’s dojo; that small garage dojo in Merriam, Kansas had no air conditioning and poor ventilation in the hot months (Ken’s idea of cooling the place was to open the small door in front and the small door in back, thus giving us his version of a cross breeze). The heater Ken had didn’t really do the job in the cold months, so training there on that hard mat was the type of training you might see in a “Rocky” movie, but it was the type of training that made me a better judoman, and a better man. Ken Regennitter pushed us hard in training. I have fond memories of those years with him in that austere garage dojo. Later, as the coach of my own club, I pushed my athletes hard and myself hard as well with the same attitude we had at Ken’s place.
The early years at Marlborough were rough and tumble and the young black belts and coaches in the Kansas City area (me included) made it a habit to “dojo hop” and train in each other’s clubs on a fairly regular basis. I made it a point to drop in often at Jim Harrison’s Bushidokan in Raytown, Missouri where my good friend Harry Parker ran the judo workouts. I also worked out with Mike Hillen at his Dojo (the actual name of his club) in Independence, Missouri. I also made it a habit to continue to work out with Ken Regennitter at his Sunflower Budo Club in Merriam, Kansas as well as drop in from time to time at the Johnson County YMCA in Prairie Village, Kansas to work out with Manual Rabago and his athletes. Initially, we worked out at Marlborough on Thursdays, but after the club began to grow, we added workouts on Saturday mornings, and then changed that to Monday evenings.
Initially, I volunteered to coach judo at Marlborough with the trade-off being a free place to train for my buddies and me. Then, as more people signed up for the judo class, I was hired as a contract employee to teach judo at $1.25 per class. In 1971, I was hired as a part-time employee at Marlborough Community Center and continued to coach judo and jujitsu. After graduating from college in 1975, I was hired by Kansas City Parks and Recreation as a full-time employee. In 1976, I was assigned to work at the Lykins Multi-Purpose Center at 4012 E. 10 Street in Kansas City’s northeast side. The community center was located in a rough neighborhood, but I had the chance to get a permanent dojo. The Lykins Center was an old Catholic school and had several extra classrooms where my new boss allowed me to house a dojo. It was only a 20’ by 30’ classroom and the parks and recreation department wouldn’t supply the mats, but at least it was another place to coach and work out. Becky and I refinanced my car and we bought a mat for the new dojo. It set us back financially, but it was worth it to us. I continued to coach at Marlborough and now added coaching at Lykins to the weekly schedule. Also, during 1975, one of my students, John Olson, took over the coaching duties at Marlborough and did a great job when I was at Lykins, as well as doing some other coaching at the Dojo in Independence, Missouri. Basically, if I wasn’t working at Lykins as a full-time staff member, I was coaching or training in judo. By 1975, I had stopped teaching jujitsu and emphasized judo as a sport. Both Becky and I continued to train as athletes, but my interest was starting to go in the direction of coaching, although I continued to compete for several more years in both judo and sambo.
I met Becky Trussell at one of the monthly judo tournaments in Independence, Missouri in July, 1973. Becky was training at the Dojo at that time and was new to judo. She was a tough young woman and was dumb enough to agree to go out with me on a date. Eventually, Becky started working out with me at the Marlborough Community Center and we continued to go out. In August 1975, we got married and have been with each other, through thick and thin, ever since.
During the period of 1970 to 1976, I continued to receive coaching from Ken Regennitter, but not as regular as before and attended judo camps when, and where, I could afford to during that time. I was working, going to college and training in judo full-time. During this time, the judo club prospered. I made it a point to train with as many coaches as possible to learn more and constantly test myself. One coach who took a liking to me was René Pommerelle. I first met Rene Pommerelle at a clinic hosted by Harry Parker in 1974 and developed a lifelong relationship with him, with Rene being a coach and mentor of mine. Rene was a 7th Dan and eventually became the Olympic Team Coach for Mexico in 1980. The 1970s were an important period of learning for me, both as an athlete and as a young coach. During the 1970s, I met and was influenced by a number of talented people in judo, jujitsu and eventually sambo. It was also during the early 1970s that Becky and I met AnnMaria Waddell, later to become AnnMaria Burns, the first American to win a World Judo Championship (in 1984). Ann was a teenage girl from the St. Louis area who had the habit of hitchhiking to various judo tournaments and clubs in the Midwest. After Becky and I were married, we would often get a call from Ann informing us that she was somewhere in eastern Kansas City and ask if would I drive over and pick her up so she could stay in our spare bedroom and train with us all weekend. She would then leave sometime Monday morning and hitchhike back home to St. Louis. Ann would drop in on others as well in other cities, training with as many people as possible. AnnMaria’s been a good friend of ours since that time.
In 1976, Ken Regennitter urged me to try the rough sport of sambo. There were few sambo clubs in the United States at that time, but as Ken put it; “The way you do judo, that rough house sport of sambo might fit you well.” Initially, I didn’t know whom to contact to learn sambo, but eventually contacted Dr. Ivan Olsen in San Diego, California. Ivan was the National AAU Sambo Wrestling Chairman and he turned out to be another influential person in my life. Ivan got me in touch with Maurice Allen, the Scotsman who had won the 1975 World Sambo Championship in the 180.5 lbs. weight category and was living at the time in Rogers, Arkansas. An eccentric millionaire in Rogers, Arkansas opened a large, state-of-the-art training center in that town and called it Ichiban Sports Center. The millionaire hired several judo coaches during its existence from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s. Maurice had been hired to teach judo, but he was also teaching athletes the Soviet form of grappling called sambo. I started training with Maurice sometime in 1976 and was immediately hooked. In early 1977, I hosted the first sambo tournament in the Kansas City area. A local wrestling coach named Jim Schneweis showed up and displayed a real talent for doing sambo. Jim formed a friendship with Becky and me that continues to this day. Over the years, Jim and I hosted many sambo meets and clinics in the Kansas City area and Jim’s been a real friend and valued colleague. For many years, Jim and I hosted sambo tournaments; he held his at Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas where he was the head wrestling coach. I hosted them at the Lykins Community Center, then later at the Kansas City North Community Center. Our sambo tournaments attracted a lot of talented athletes from wrestling, judo and even weightlifting. Some years, the quality of talent was so good, our local and regional sambo meets were as tough to win as the National AAU Championships.
It was in 1981 when I started coaching judo at the Kansas City North Community Center. I was still coaching at Lykins Center and Marlborough Center, and as the program at Kansas City North grew, I had to stop coaching at Marlborough. John Olson was attending college and couldn’t continue to coach because of his schedule. Becky took over the program and continued to coach there. Eventually, sometime around 1985, Becky stopped coaching at Marlborough and helped me more at Kansas City North. I continued to coach at Lykins, but the increasing responsibility of being a community center director forced me to stop coaching at Lykins. Sandi (Quenelle) Harrelson took the program over at Lykins sometime about 1989 or 1990 and did a very good job until the city closed the community center in the late 1990s. By the time I started coaching at Kansas City North, Welcome Mat’s reputation as a regional and national judo and sambo team was starting to develop and the program flourished at Kansas City North.
In 1981, I started going to the newly opened U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Initially, there were one or two coaches there before Rene Pommerelle was appointed as coach in 1982, and then in 1983, my friend John Saylor was appointed as the coach. I met Bob Corwin at a training camp in 1981 and we struck up a friendship that has lasted the rest of our lives. Bob Corwin was a leading coach with his dojo located in Yorkville, Illinois, a small town near Chicago. Over the years, Bob has conducted clinics at our club and has been a real friend to Welcome Mat.
The Olympic Training Center (OTC) hosted numerous training camps for men, women and junior athletes. For the years from 1981 through 1992, Welcome Mat athletes attended numerous training camps at the OTC. Eventually, the OTC in Colorado Springs, Colorado hosted many national and international judo camps and tournaments and became a focal point of national judo activity. The OTC had a program where athletes could live and train at the facility through 2004 or so, when the U.S. Olympic committee dropped the live-in judo program. The OTC was an integral part of judo in the United States from the years starting in the late 1970s through the mid to sometime about 2004. As a young coach, I attended numerous coaching clinics, camps and seminars conducted by the U.S. Olympic Committee and became a better coach for it. When I served on the national coaching staff from 1984 to 1992, trips to the Olympic Training Centers in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Marquette, Michigan and Lake Placid, New York were common for me. Most of the activities were held at the OTC in Colorado Spring, Colorado and we saw it grow from a sleepy old Air Force base to the modern facility it now is. Quite a few Welcome Mat athletes spent time at the OTC as members of the U.S. Olympic Training Center’s judo training squad from 1982 to 1996. Many of the Welcome Mat athletes who trained at the OTC did so when my friend John Saylor served as coach of the training squad from 1983-1991. An athlete had to be selected based on his or her competitive record nationally and at least ten Welcome Mat athletes qualified to live and train at the OTC during those years. The OTC continues to have a judo program, but isn’t the “live in” program it once was.
Welcome Mat has been an innovator in judo and sambo events for many years. We hosted the first Missouri State Judo Championships in 1976. We hosted the first U.S. National AAU Women’s Sambo Championships in 1980. We hosted the first U.S. National AAU Junior Sambo Championships in 1982. In 1994, I was one of the people responsible for getting the AAU to recognize (and reinstate) judo as part of their national program again and in 1995, Welcome Mat hosted the National AAU Senior Judo Championships at Kansas City North Community Center. In 1978, the Presidential Sports Act was made a law and gave the U.S. Olympic Committee jurisdiction over all Olympic sports and in 1980 ended the AAU’s status as the governing body for many sports, including judo. The AAU didn’t have a national judo program from 1980 through 1994. When we started the AAU judo program again, it was a goal to make sure that the AAU would be a development program and not get involved in belt rank, hoping to avoid many of the mistakes the AAU had made in the past. Welcome Mat also hosted the 1983 Pan American Trials for Women’s Sambo, the 1983 National AAU Senior Sambo Championships, the 1984 and 1985 National AAU Junior Sambo Championships and the 1985 National AAU Senior Sambo Championships. In 1987, Jim Schneweis hosted the National AAU Senior Sambo Championships and World Team Trials At Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas. In 1986, Welcome Mat hosted the USJI National Ladder Tournament for judo. We also hosted the National USJA High School Judo Championships in the late 1980s or early 1990s and the AAU High School Nationals in 1996. Welcome Mat hosted the 1995 National AAU Senior Judo Championships and Welcome Mat hosted the first Shingitai Jujitsu National Championships in 1997 and again in 1998. We also again hosted the National AAU Senior Judo Nationals again in 2003 and the first AAU Judo Grand Nationals in 2009 in Kearney, Missouri. Hundreds of judo, jujitsu and sambo tournaments, clinics and training camps have been hosted by Welcome Mat since we held our first judo meet in 1970 at the Marlborough Community Center. Thousands of athletes from almost every state in the union have competed in the events we sponsored.
When USJI Development Director Bruce Toups named me as the Director for Junior (20-Under) Development by U.S. Judo, Inc. (the governing body for the sport of judo) in 1988, I started hosting an annual judo training camp each year at Kansas City North Community Center. Many of the top judo athletes in the United States attended this camp and many of Welcome Mat’s junior athletes (as well as seniors) attended this camp as well. I also planned and coached at training camps held in the various Olympic Training Centers as well as many cities in the United States during those years. Welcome Mat has continued to host local and regional judo and sambo meets, clinics and training camps for many years. One thing I have wanted to do is to keep the annual Missouri Valley AAU Judo Championships alive and have held it in one way or another every year. The Missouri Valley AAU Championships was first held in 1956 and is one of the oldest judo tournaments in the United States. Welcome Mat hosted (along with Ward Wrestling club under the leadership of Jim Schneweis) the Missouri Valley AAU Sambo Championships each year from 1977 to about 1989 or 1990. As sambo declined in popularity, we dropped hosting the meet until 2006 when I revived the event and held it again at Kansas City North Center. Jim Schneweis held it in 2007 at Bishop Ward High School and Kenney Brink held it in 2008 at Kearney High School. Hopefully, we can continue this event every year as long as there is interest.
An important aspect of what we do at Welcome Mat is to develop our students, athletes and coaches technically. When I coached the kids, we often had monthly team tournaments where the kids in our club displayed skillful and technically excellent judo. Effective, skillful judo, jujitsu and sambo are emphasized on our mats. For many years, Welcome Mat has approached judo, jujitsu and sambo in a three-phase philosophy that my friend John Saylor developed into his Shingitai Jujitsu. The concepts of 1-Fighting Heart; 2-Skill; 3-Physical Fitness; What John Saylor termed Shin, Gi and Tai, are the elements necessary to be the best you can be whether it’s in a sport or self-defense situation. When John Saylor developed his Shingitai Jujitsu, its philosophy matched exactly the philosophy of Welcome Mat and I became an early member of John’s jujitsu organization in 1984.
Welcome Mat has hosted clinics and training camps ever since Ken Regennitter did a clinic for us in 1970 at Marlborough Community Center. Many of the nation’s top coaches and athletes have conducted clinics at Welcome Mat. Here are the ones that I most vividly remember; Bob Corwin (World and Pan American Team (20-Under) Coach and Head Coach of the Yorkville Judo Club), John Saylor (Director of the Shingitai Jujitsu Association, U.S. Olympic Judo Training Squad Coach and Pan American Games Silver Medal Winner), Pat Burris (1972 and 1976 Olympic Team Member and 1996 U.S. Olympic Team Coach), Rene Pommerelle (1980 Mexican Olympic Team Coach), Willy Cahill (U.S. Olympic Team Coach), AnnMaria (Burns) Rousey (1984 World Judo Champion), Phil Porter (President, USJA), John Ross (1984 Pan American Judo Team Women’s Coach), Eddie Liddie (1984 Olympic Bronze Medal Winner and 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Coach), Jimmy Pedro, Jr. (1999 World Judo Champion), Clifton Sunada (U.S. Olympic Team Member), Jim Martin (1983 Pan American Games Sambo Champion), Tom Crone (National Coaching Staff Member), and Nori Bunasawa (U.S. World Team Coach). Something that is very gratifying is when a Welcome Mat athlete who has done well in judo, jujitsu or sambo does a clinic for his or her home club. Athletes such as Becky Scott, Jan Trussell, Chris Heckadon, Shawn Watson, Kenney Brink, Corinna West, Bill West, Joe Roberts, Bryan Potter and Sandi (Quenelle) Harrelson have all coached or conducted clinics or special training sessions at Welcome Mat after winning medals at the national, international and world levels.
With the 21st century now here, Welcome Mat continues to prosper and grow. It’s not arrogant to say that we have a unique perspective on how to train, learn, teach, compete and win in the grappling sports of judo, sambo, jujitsu and submission grappling or any other grappling sport future Welcome Mat members embrace. I pushed myself hard and pushed the athletes who trained with me hard as well. It’s not a philosophy for everyone, but it’s the life I’ve chosen and the life many others have chosen as well. I sincerely believe “Success is an on-going process.” It’s my hope that present and future generations of Welcome Mat members believe it as well.
OUR WELCOME MAT PHILOSOPHY
By Steve Scott
Pretty much from the time I started my little judo club in 1969, three principles have formed the Welcome Mat philosophy. These three principles will be listed with some commentary about each one of them. When John Saylor formed his Shingitai Jujitsu Association in 1984, it was only natural that I got involved. John’s concept of Shin (fighting Heart), Gi (Skill) and Tai (Physical Fitness) were the exact same principles guiding Welcome Mat. This is why there is no difference between John Saylor’s Shingitai Jujitsu and what we do at Welcome Mat.
There are three essential elements that a judo or jujitsu athlete needs to become a champion. Most every experienced coach or athlete I know usually list these three elements. In some cases, these can be natural traits, but in many cases, good coaching can bring out these traits in an athlete. Without getting into too much physiology or psychology, let’s explore these three simple, yet complex, elements.
This element, skill, encompasses the actual application of judo and jujitsu technique and when to apply it. Skill is the general term that describes the coordinated effort of the body and mind to make a movement that is considered by others (as well as one self) to be well done, has a good ratio of success and is successful in doing what it’s supposed to do. In other words, a skillful application of a throw is one that produces a successful score (hopefully a winning score) on a consistent basis. The function of the skill dictates what form it will take. Make the judo or jujitsu work for you.
The desire to succeed and excel and a real enjoyment of a good fight is what I mean when I say “fighting heart.” That doesn’t mean you have to be a bully or have a bad attitude. What it does mean is that you like a challenge and know that to succeed in life, you will be faced with challenges all the time. When asked about what the most important quality in a gunfighter was, Bat Masterson, the old west sheriff, said; “It’s not the fastest or most accurate, it’s the most willing.”
While skill is important, if the athlete isn’t willing to take the risk to use that skill, he simply won’t be successful. The guts to try a technique in a real situation on the mat are important. The willingness to do what it takes to be a success…the enjoyment of a good tussle…that’s fighting spirit!
Often, when two skilled judo or sambo athletes are matched up, the better fighter will win. Simply stated, a judo, jujitsu or sambo grappler who competes must enjoy the challenge of fighting and love the competition. He should be willing to apply his skills in more and varied situations and not be afraid of losing. When an athlete’s fear of losing is greater than his enjoyment of winning, he’s not nearly as effective as he could be. When this happens, it could be staleness, injury, burnout, or any variety of factors. It could be also that it is just time to retire and enjoy life.
Since judo, jujitsu and sambo are really fighting sports, it’s important for an athlete to actually develop the ability to fight, and not just solely concentrate on technique training. Doing randori drills, situational drills, randori games and lots of hard randori teaches a judo player to fight better. It doesn’t take a cocky, smart aleck to be a good fighter. You can love a good fight, and not be ashamed of it, no matter who you are. Just remember to keep the aggression on the mat and know when to use it. That takes some time and work, but it’s important.
As a coach, I want to make sure to allow my athletes to mix it up and randori as much as possible. While there’s a big difference between randori and an actual match, this time for open grappling is the ideal time to mix it up with teammates and push yourself. The ability to take punishment, as well as dish it out, is very important in the development of a successful athlete.
Be In Top Shape
To apply the skills of judo and be able to fight at a maximum level of effectiveness, the athlete must be in top shape. An athlete must be able to fight hard with extreme physical and mental efficiency throughout the entire match (and tournament). Even the great champions have fallen victim to not training enough and inferior (skill-wise) opponents have beaten them. You can’t use your skills if you don’t have the gas in the tank to physically do them. If you’re not in shape, then you doubt yourself and your abilities. This element also includes a good work ethic. It takes good, old-fashioned hard work to get into good shape and even more hard work to use that physical conditioning in a difficult sport like judo. Sometimes, a coach has to teach young people a work ethic. It’s usually not natural for a human body to undergo extremely hard physical training. Like good manners, hard work usually has to be taught to young people, and it’s the job of the coach to do it.
One sure way to develop confidence in an athlete is to get him in exceptional physical condition. Whenever an athlete loses confidence in him or wants to make a commitment to compete at a higher level, the first thing I tell him is to increase his physical conditioning. By being in better shape than anybody else, and knowing it, an athlete’s confidence soars. If you know you’re in better shape than anybody else, you also know you can run them out of gas and beat them. You also know you can learn the skills necessary to win because you are physically able to do it. No matter how tough someone is, he won’t win if he runs out of gas. Make sure your athletes don’t run out of gas and have the physical ability to perform at the highest level possible.
I always tried to put more stress on my athletes in training than they would encounter in an actual tournament. An athlete must be in better shape than anybody, especially the guy facing him across the mat!
Speaking From Experience
I’ve found, through the years, that all three elements listed here have to work together. More often than not, an athlete will emphasize one of these elements. We’ve all seen the judo player who is in terrific shape, but doesn’t have a great skill level. Or the fellow who has good technique but gasses too easily and loses matches as a result. Then, there is the athlete who has a heart like a lion, is in great shape, but just needs to learn some more judo and he’ll be great.
As a coach, if I had a choice, I would take the kid who has fighting spirit and a great attitude over the naturally talented technician. He can learn judo or jujitsu, he can get in shape, and if he really has a fighting heart, he will.
IS WELCOME MAT A JUDO CLUB, JUJITSU CLUB OR SAMBO CLUB?
The answer is “yes.” From a practical standpoint, good judo, jujitsu and sambo are pretty much the same. Athletes from Welcome Mat have competed in a variety of combat sports since the club’s inception. As Kenney Brink once told me; “Let me know if we’re going to a judo or sambo tournament this weekend so I know what gear to pack in my bag.” Of course, there are distinct differences in each discipline, but our approach at Welcome Mat has been to develop athletes who are successful in a variety of combat sports. Judo has been a primary sport for many years, but our Shingitai approach to jujitsu, as well as the training we offer in sambo all combine to develop a well-rounded and well-prepared athlete.
Welcome Mat respects the basic tenets of Kodokan Judo and recognizes Prof. Jigoro Kano as the genius and innovator he was. Prof. Kano’s judo has been the basis for a variety of grappling sports, including the sambo of the Soviet Union and John Saylor’s Shingitai jujitsu. We sincerely respect the traditions of the martial arts, but it’s our belief that function dictates form. Our approach is that an effective technique is an effective technique, whether it’s done in a judo match, a sambo match or in a sport jujitsu match or in a self-defense jujitsu situation.
Welcome Mat issues belt rank promotions in both Shingitai Jujitsu and Kodokan Judo. Our approach to issuing belt ranks is not to promote someone based on the minimum standards, but on a standard of excellence. Your skill level is more important than the color of your belt. Belt rank is not issued in sambo, in keeping with the tradition of that sport. There are some places and organizations that issue belt ranks in sambo, but it’s not a common practice (and has not been a common practice) in Russian sambo so we don’t use belt ranks in sambo at Welcome Mat.