All posts by Lex Fridman

42: Jimmy Pedro on What Makes a Champion, New Rules, and the Future of Judo

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Jimmy Pedro is an American judo competitor and coach, World champion, 3x World medalist, 2x Olympic medalist; we talk about his father (Big Jim Pedro Sr), his early career, the times he wanted to quit, overcoming a neck injury, coming back from retirement, the life of an athlete vs the life of a coach, a system for developing elite-level judoka, Japanese vs Russian judo, periodization, a weekly program for an elite-level judoka, toughest moment as a coach, watching Travis Stevens lose the semifinals at the Olympics, mental game, visualization, IJF, judo as a spectator sport, the future of judo in the United States and the rest of the world, and more.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or RSS, and check out our facebook page.

Full Video Interview on YouTube

Jimmy Pedro Quotes (from Podcast)

On failure and doubt:

“Every champion wants to quit… At 19, I lost at the Kano Cup, went 0-2. I remember sitting on the steps of the Budokan, thinking to myself: I hate this sport, I just want to quit, this stinks.  People see champions as winners, but they don’t see those dark days, the days when they struggled or they lost or they failed or the day in training when they got their butt whooped or those tournaments where they fought miserably. We all go through it. Nobody goes undefeated.”

On never quitting on the mat:

“I’ve never been broken in a judo match. I’ve never quit. I’ve fought some guys who were tough as nails. I’ve had to fight for my life. But I’ve never backed down. I might’ve been beaten, but I went out fighting.”

On strategy:

“We know we can’t beat the Russians, the French, the Brazilians, the Japanese by doing more judo than they do. They have way more people to train with, way more opportunity. So we have to beat them with physicality, strategy, gripping, newaza, conditioning, toughness, and the mindset that we are going to win.”

Links

39: Frank “Gorilla Hulk” Molinaro on Mental Toughness, Visualization, and Mastery of a Technique

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Frank Molinaro aka Gorilla Hulk is the 2012 NCAA Wrestling Champion, and a 4-time NCAA Division-I All-American; we talk about World Team Trials, last second victory, his day-to-day routine, diet, Vitamix, rehabbing injuries, sauna, cutting weight, leg killer video, cardio circuits, drilling, play wrestling, mastering a technique, 2011 NCAA finals match against Kyle Dake, wrestling the NCAA tournament through an injury, visualization, confidence, matches that haunt him, mental toughness, married life, coaching, and more.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or RSS, and check out our facebook page.

Video: What It Takes to Win a National Championship

Full Audio of Interview on YouTube

Quotes

Frank on what it takes to win an NCAA championship:

“You can’t just want to win a national championship. You have to see it every day in your head. You have to expect it to happen. When I made it to my first national finals, I was going in with the attitude that I’m going to wrestle 100% and I was going to make it happen, and that’s not how you win at the highest level. So I changed my approach the year after. I visualized winning probably 100 times a day, wrote it down first thing in the morning, had it on my phone, had it on my walls, had it on my locker. So when it happened it wasn’t a crazy jump up and down reaction, it was something that I expected to happen. My junior year I can honestly say I didn’t expect it to happen. I thought it could happen. But there’s a huge difference between when you want something to happen and you truly 100% believe something is going to happen.”

Frank on what it takes to be a winner:

“What it comes down is how badly do you want to win and what you’re willing to do.”

Frank on losing:

“Losing is something that I’ll never be able to get used to. I take losses very seriously. Losing will put me into depression for two weeks. I question everything in my life. I question what the heck I’m doing. I did this wrong. I did that wrong. So, I know how painful losing is every time I step on the mat and how badly I want to win. The moment you start to tolerate losing, you’re not going to reach your potential.”

Links

 

36: Dan Severn, UFC Hall of Famer, on Fighting, Wrestling, and Beating a Man He Couldn’t Beat

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Dan Severn is a UFC Hall of Famer, a legend in combat sports with more than 4 decades of wrestling and fighting under his belt; we talk about fighting, kids, competition, technology, amateur wrestling, Leri Khabelov, beating a man he couldn’t beat, UFC, Royce Gracie, no holds barred fighting, etc.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or RSS, and check out our facebook page.

Excerpt: Beating a Man He Couldn’t Beat

Full Audio of Interview on YouTube

Quotes

Dan on staying healthy through a long career of 150+ fights:

“I believe in the theory of duck. I’ve had young guys tell me: ‘Mr. Severn, I like to stand there and trade.’ Really? Trading means I’m going to give you some, and then I’m going to take some. I don’t believe in trading. I believe in guerilla warfare. Get in, get out. It’s called peace work. “

Dan on the mechanics of wrestling:

“In wrestling, I’m using principles of leverage to turn you on your back. What’s another word for leverage? Pain. I have to induce you into pain to make you do things for me.”

Links

 

35: Ryan Hall on Moral Victory, the Underlying Principles of Jiu Jitsu, Self-Defense, and the Value of Competition

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Ryan Hall is a BJJ black belt, head instructor of 50/50 BJJ, an ADCC bronze medalist with a long career in high level competition throughout which he has beaten many of the top grapplers in the world; we talked about moral victory, maintaining a stoic expression, a unified theory of grappling, the value of competition, a lifelong pursuit of a singular goal, best martial art for self defense, cultivating ego, and much more.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or RSS, and check out our facebook page.

Excerpt: Value of Competition

Excerpt: Moral Victory

Excerpt: Best Martial Art for Self Defense

Excerpt: Principles of Jiu Jitsu

Full Audio of Interview on YouTube

Quotes

Ryan referencing Frank Herbert’s Dune in discussing the value of pursuing a singular goal for a long time:

“If you search for freedom, you become a slave to your own desires, ironically. But if you search for discipline, you find liberty, in the long-run.”

Ryan on the courage of giving 100%:

“It takes courage and heart to properly prepare (for competition), because you’re risking horrible dissapointment. I’ve prepared so hard, tried so hard before and I won. And other times, I’ve prepared so hard, tried so hard and I lost. It hurts. It really hurts. It doesn’t hurt nearly as much if you half ass it, because you didn’t put that much into it. But that’s a cowardly approach. The right way is to prepare properly, you train hard, and then win, lose, or draw you deal with the results.”

Ryan discussing that most people are not honest with themselves about how hard they work:

“Most people would rather look like the thing, than be the thing.”

Ryan on what is involved in working hard:

“Trying hard doesn’t just mean having to be carried off the mat. It means thinking, reassessing, reevaluating, asking ‘how can I be better?’ It takes honest self analysis.”

Ryan on the cost of excellence:

“You show me someone who is well adjusted, and I will show you someone who is probably not a high achiever.”

Ryan on removing extraneous details:

“A principle-based approach to grappling is incredibly important. What I try to do is block out the extraneous nonsense. Talking about 55 details and reasons for something that’s going on is only clouding your thought process.”

Ryan on moral victory versus actual victory:

“If Fedor slaps your mother, you have to hit him. You have to. And he’s going to kick the shit out of you, almost certainly. But you have to hit him. Trying your best and losing would be the honorable thing to do.”

Ryan on the importance of ego (grounded in reality) in progress:

“Most progress over the course of human history has been made by unreasonable people that said: ‘fuck you, I’m going to win.'”

Links

 

32: Ido Portal on Movement, Improvisation, Practice, and Cultivating the Weird

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Ido Portal is a movement artist, researcher, and teacher; we talked about specialization, his journey in becoming a movement generalist, the sacrifice of specialists, improvisation, coaching, criticism, dealing with complainers, difference of mentality in different countries, perfect practice, Marcelo Garcia, learning new things versus perfecting old things, building work capacity, mentor/desciple relationshiop,  moving alone and in a community, moving through injury, antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, paleo diet, technology, Tom Waits, Charles Bukowski, cultivating the weird, etc.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or RSS, and check out our facebook page.

YouTube Clip: Price of Specialization

YouTube Clip: Improvisation in Movement

Quotes

Ido on his goal of becoming a movement teacher:

“If it’s impossible, it’s a good goal to have.”

Ido Portal on improvisation in life and in movement:

“Improvisation is the human condition. You’re born. You die. And in-between you improvise.”

Opening statement of Ido’s long discussion of “perfect practice”:

“Repetition is the mother of skill.”

Links

Full Audio of Interview on YouTube

Roll the Dice by Charles Bukowski

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
otherwise, don’t even start.

this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.

it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
park bench.
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
it could mean mockery,
isolation.
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test
of your endurance,
of how much you really want to
do it.
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the worst odds
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like that.
you will be alone with the gods
and the nights will flame with fire.

you will ride life
straight to perfect laughter,
it’s the only good fight there is.

29: AnnMaria De Mars on Raising Ronda Rousey, Aggressive Judo, Math Education, and the Value of Hard Work

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In episode 29, I talk with AnnMaria De Mars about being the first American to win the Judo World Championship, raising four kids one of whom is Ronda Rousey the current UFC champion,  getting four degrees including a PhD in applied statistics, her book Winning on the Ground, her blog, her grandmother’s advice, the passing of her husband, the absurdity of sport, coaching an elite level athlete, balancing academics and sport, Ronda’s 2007 World Silver and Olympic Bronze and her matches against Edith Bosch, refusing to lose, being a woman in a combat sport, teaching kids math through computer games at 7 Generation Games, math (and hard work) as an important foundation for long-term success in life, and more.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or RSS, and check out our facebook page.

Edit: I wrote a blog post with some post-interview takeaways.

Quotes

AnnMaria on the advice her grandmother gave her:

“Do the best you can with everything you were given. She really believed that quote in the Bible: ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.'”

AnnMaria on being asked if she is afraid of death:

“No, I can think of a lot worse things than death. One of the reasons people are afraid of dying is they have regrets. They haven’t done the things they want to do. Because my husband passed away when I was young, that changed the way I thought about things. He was a great guy, worked hard his whole life. There were a lot of things he wanted to do that he never got around to doing because he always thought there would be time later. So now when I want to do something, I do it.  When I look back, I’ve had a lot of accomplishments and experiences in education, academics, I published scientific articles, I wrote a book with Jimmy Pedro Sr, I have wonderful children, so if I died right now I have no regrets. You want to live like you might die tomorrow, because you might die tomorrow.”

AnnMaria on the absurdity of dedicating years of your life to achieving a singular goal like winning a World Championship:

“You have to be smart enough to do it and dumb enough to believe it’s important.”

AnnMaria on what it takes to be successful in judo or in math or in anything:

“You get good at something by doing a lot of it.”

AnnMaria on trash talking:

“Like Dr. Seuss said, ‘Be who you are and say what you mean. Because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind!'”

AnnMaria on what will go on her tombstone:

“I’m smarter than I look.”

YouTube Version

Links

28: Kayla Harrison on Winning Olympic Gold and Overcoming Trauma

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In episode 28, I talk with Kayla Harrison, first American to win Olympic gold in judo, about her training methods, visualization, competition mindset, Olympic final experience, warm-routine, Eminem and country music, overcoming a past of sexual abuse, PTSD, finding forgiveness, finding strength in judo, being coached by Jimmy Pedro, her Team Force teammates, moving up two weight classes, strength and conditioning, going to college, writing her memoir and also a book on recovering from sexual abuse, new judo rules, serving as the IJF athlete representative, and much more.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or RSS, and check out our facebook page.

Quotes

Kayla on the evolution of women’s judo:

“In 26 years (since Ann Marie DeMars became the first American world champion), we’ve seen women’s judo come a long long way. I’m very fortunate that I had pioneers like Ann Marie and Rusty Kanokogi and women like that who paved the way to allow me to pursue my dreams.”

Kayla on what was going on through her mind as she was stepping on the mat at the Olympics:

“I don’t know if I’ll ever forget that day. I was just a psycho. (Lol). I am very big on visualization. Before the Olympics even occurred I visualized that day a thousand time in my mind. I would go over it and over it and over it. And I would tell myself: ‘Kayla Harrison, Olympic Champion. This is my day. This is my purpose.’ And all that day, Jimmy (Pedro) was chirping in my head: ‘Do you want this more? Have you worked harder? No one deserves this more than you. You’re Kayla Harrison, Olympic Champion.’ “

Kayla giving credit for her success to her coaches:

“In order to be a great coach, you can’t be an athlete’s friend. He’s not afraid to make me cry. They are not afraid to light that fire, and tell me when I’m wrong. They are not afraid to push me when I need to be pushed, and pull back when I need to pull back. They don’t really care if I like them. I do, but they don’t really care either way.”

Kayla on whether fear/doubt enters her mind in competition:

“When I was younger I used to be pretty scared. I was more afraid of losing than I was willing to win. And when you’re afraid to lose, you don’t compete,  you don’t show up, you just worry about losing. Through the years, through experience, and just literally competing in every single tournament on the face of the Earth, I started to get into a habit… One of the things I’ve heard before and that I completely agree with is: ‘Success breeds success.’ When I start to win and I get on that roll, I don’t question myself, I don’t doubt myself. If you look at that video of me on the day of the Olympics, every match, even the one I was losing, I was losing my quarterfinal to a girl I’ve never beaten before, at no point did I question myself. I don’t know, I was a psycho. I thought I was going to win, and damned if I wasn’t going to go out there and do it. I trained too hard, worked too long, sacrificed too much, been away from my family too long to lose.”

Kayla talking about losing a match at the 2011 World championships:

Failure is my fuel. If you beat me, I’m going to sleep that night thinking about ripping your arm off.

YouTube Audio-Only Version

Links

24: Kyle Dake, 4x NCAA Wrestling Champion

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In episode 24, I talk with Kyle Dake, 4x NCAA champion, Dan Hodge trophy winner, and 2013 SI College Athlete of the Year, about a tradition of wrestling in his family, early wrestling days, the influence of his mom and dad, setting goals, overcoming losses early in his career, facing Jordan Burroughs, David Taylor, Andrew Howe, competing with a broken hand against a 2x world champion, Denis Tsargush, training to exhaustion, keeping the training fun, being pushed by training partners like Jordan Leen, Call of Duty, Breaking Bad, and much more.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or RSS, and check out our facebook page.

Audio Clips on YouTube

Quotes

Kyle on the mental toughness advice his mom gave him:

“Your mind will break before your body will break.”

Kyle on his approach to the intense pace of competition:

“You have to learn how to function when you’re dog-tired… when you don’t think your body is capable of doing anything more, but you have to do more. You can either cower, give up takedowns, give up points, submit to the guy, or you can do everything in your power to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Kyle on the training to exhaustion:

“Feeling that exhaustive state is very important in the practice room, because once you get on the mat and you’ve felt that pain before, you’ve felt that exhaustion, it’s a lot easier to overcome it in competition.”

Jordan Leen, Kyle’s teammate and NCAA champ out of Cornell, said the following in an ESPN commentary as Kyle was wrestling in his 2010 NCAA finals match:

“Kyle Dake refuses to accept failure at any level. He takes it personally when he gets taken down in the room. It affects his soul almost. He is a well balanced wrestler, but they key is that he has to win. According to him, he has to win. He will do anything that it took to win.”

Links

21: Justin Rader on ADCC, No Gi Worlds, Cutting Weight, Combining Wrestling and Jiu Jitsu

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In episode 21, I talk with Justin Rader, two-time no-gi world champion, 2013 ADCC bronze medalist about the training camp leading up to ADCC, cutting weight, staying injury free, listening to your body, traveling to China, training wrestling against the guard pull, Augusto Mendes, Cobrinha, Joao Miyao, Kevin Hendricks, Johny Hendricks, Andy Howington, staying in the intermediate distance while passing tricky guards, positional training,  teaching and coaching young athletes, difference between wrestling and jiu jitsu culture, MMA, Game of Thrones, Dan Gable, John Smith, Paul from Open Mat Radio, and much more.

Subscribe on iTunes or RSS, and check out the facebook page.

Quotes

Justin on the weight cut for ADCC:

“I did the old school Vision Quest. I was out there the morning of weigh-ins in my plastic suit running up and down the streets of Beijing.”

Justin on the difference between the training environment in wrestling an in jiu jitsu:

“The wrestling environment can truly be summed up by ‘kill or be killed’.”

Links

Random Questions

YouTube Version of Full Audio Interview

(To be added soon. YouTube doesn’t seem to like 90+ minute videos sometimes.)

19: JT Torres on No-Gi Worlds, ADCC, Drilling, and Training at Atos

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In episode 19, I talk with JT Torres, American-born no-gi World Champion, ADCC medalist, Worlds medalist, Pans medalist. We talk about his perseverance and drive to  win the World Championships, winning the No-Gi Worlds, his bronze at ADCC, the close relationship with his dad,  his little brother, training in Maryland and San Diego, breakfast burritos, drilling, being pushed to the limit every day,  pre-tournament  routine, visualization, referee decisions, closing out a bracket with Jared Weiner, eventually moving back East, hip hop music, and much more.

Subscribe on iTunes or RSS, and check out the facebook page.

Quotes

JT on his routine in the bullpen before the match:

“Before the match, I’m visualizing my hand raised over and over and over again..”

JT on winning the 2013 No-Gi World Championship:

“It felt amazing. I really hung in there these last few years. I came up short the last few times, had a few rough calls, and easily anyone in my position could’ve just packed it up and say ‘screw this I’m going to move on’ … But I never quit. There were times when I thought about it. But I never quit. Kept working hard, training hard for years, and finally got my World title and it feels amazing.”

JT on cutting weight before a tournament:

“As they say, a hungry dog fights harder.”

Links

YouTube Version