Tag Archives: japan

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



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.

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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.”


25: Christine and Drew Vogel on Visiting Japan



In episode 25, I talk with Drew and Christine Vogel, husband and wife, jiu jitsu black belt and blue belt respectively, about their recent 10 day journey to Japan. We talk about Tokyo, Osaka, David Sedaris, bowing, politeness, drinking with the bosses, work ethic, samurai, octupus donut holes, raw horse meat, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, BJJ, sport jiu jitsu,  how Drew and Christine met, marriage, advice for anyone visiting Japan, and much more.

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Christine on the past, present, and future of Japanese culture:

“The thing about Japan that is fascinating is the constant parallel between tradition and the future. A zealous, hurried interest in the future: the trains are fast, the people are fast, the food is constantly evolving.”

Drew and Christine on the difference in social interaction between strangers in Japan:

“You’re waiting for that cacophony of beeping and cussing and rage that cities have. People still bump into each other, still smash into each other in subway cars, but they don’t really acknowledge it with their eyes. They just look right past it when it happens. Nothing is taken very personally.”

Christine on the effect of the Internet and the global economy on prevailing mindset in Japan:

“I think the currents are shifting. The Japanese, in the past, have taken an isolationist attitude. I think that’s changed a lot now.”

Christine on architecture in Japan:

“There is something intrinsically balanced and harmonious about the Japanese aesthetic. You can’t get away from it. It’s evident even in the most modern construction… I was never described the immense color, vibrancy of Tokyo. It is New York on top of itself, 20 times over. It’s Blade Runner in the middle of the day. “


17: Niko and Lex Talk a Little Judo



In episode 17, I talk “a little judo” (for 90 minutes) with my comrade and judo mastermind Niko Dax. Our conversation is always full of opinions, disagreements, and Russian accents. We talk about Teddy Riner, Ilias Iliadis visit to the United States, judo in Kansas, AAU freestyle judo, being a big fish in a small pond, Nick Delpopolo, Travis Stevens, Kayla Harrison, Ole Bischof, financial support of American judoka, and much more.

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Niko on one of the many reasons Ilias Iliadis is already judo legend at the young age of 26.

“Iliadis is amazing because he has major wins in four different weight classes: at 73kg, 81kg, 90kg, and 100kg.”

Niko on the challenge of training without a nation-wide system that supports judo:

“If Travis Steven or Nick Delpopolo win a bronze medal in the next Olympic games, that medal will have much more value than a gold medal by any Russian player, because that bronze medal will be won despite (the lack of financial support).”

Niko on money and happiness:

“Money won’t buy you happiness… unless you don’t have money.”


YouTube Version