Taking Advantage of Opportunity
Over the last few weeks, I have been asked: “How do you keep getting these great Judo players to come to your dojo?” “Why do you bring these players here?”
The how is not nearly as important as the why.
Let me start back in the early 1980s when my parents enrolled me in the sport of Judo. Although it was not so clear to me back then, my parents had a better vision than I did. Soon after enrolling me in Judo, they started to see the opportunities that judo could provide. I grew up in the small town of Barstow, CA in the a small judo club with avery dedicated instructor, Ernie Smith. We had a great judo club that was geographically remote from most of the big Judo clubs in the state. The 120 – 150 miles each way did not stop my mother from taking advantage of constant opportunities in the sport of Judo. Whether it was for a seminar, tournament or awards banquet, we made the trek from the Mojave Desert into Los Angeles committing just about every Sunday for my whole childhood.
My parents did not spend too much time trying to decide if it was worth the trip for each individual activity. They saw the value in teaching me about hard work, determination, a never quit attitude and most of all, the value of deferred gratification. Every practice, tournament and training camp were all just slices of the whole pie. Missing one event here and there may not seem to have a huge effect on one’s development, but taking advantage of every opportunity over the course of many years is the way to give someone the highest odds of success.
“Why do you bring Flavio Canto or Ilias Iliadis or Marti Malloy to our dojo?”
I do this because it is now my turn – and I feel my obligation as a lifelong Judo student, coach and teacher to provide opportunities to others. Any one of these opportunities that I can provide may create a pivotal experience that will forever change a person’s life.
My pivotal moment came when I was 8 years old. My judo coach happened to have an extra ticket to the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. I am sure he had plenty of people he could have given the ticket to, but he gave it to me. I was lucky enough to watch Yasuhiro Yamashita win Olympic Gold that day. In the world of Judo he is a legend referred to as “Yamashita” and he was the most successful Judo competitor in the history of the sport. He competed without a loss for more than 7 years collecting 4 World Championship titles and Olympic Gold in 1984. Watching the Olympics live as an 8 year old pretty much locked me in for life, Judo became my lifelong passion.
You never know which person, sport, or activity will spark a fire in a child. For me Judo was real, it was not just something I saw on TV. I saw it with my own eyes, the most successful Judoka of all time. That was only the beginning of a long Judo career for me. I have a spent my whole life in the sport of judo making friends around the world. It gives me great pleasure to bring visitors into our dojo that might motivate my students to be great. Not just great Judokas, but great people that will go on to make positive contributions to the world.
There are people from small clubs or maybe even large clubs around the country that never get the opportunity to meet Olympians or Olympic Medalists. My goal is to make it commonplace for our kids to have the opportunity to train with Judoka from around the world that have made it the top of the game. Not just Olympians or champions, but people who have passion for teaching and want to contribute and share their experience with others. If just one person, child or adult, is motivated for greatness it will be worth the effort!