Using Judo to Upgrade your Daily Life

Once you’ve signed up to train in judo, you are investing time, energy and money. So how do you get the most benefit out of your time on the tatami as possible?

Having trained in the sport for 16 years, I believe anyone regardless of age or skill level, can utilise the time spent learning judo to upgrade the other components of non-judo life.

The first is automatic, the last 3 require a little more awareness to reap their benefits.

  1. Physical Benefits
  2. Everyday Habits: The Lead Domino effect
  3. Social Circles: Or really, Social Squiggles
  4. Developing Mindset: Embracing failure to grow

1. Physical Benefits

Practicing judo will allow you to develop co-ordination, physical awareness, strength and self-defence capabilities. For the majority of beginners, it will enhance your potential to engage in daily life.

Case in point:

  • Cartwheel across the lawn with your children? You can now show them how to do it one-armed!
  • Pick up the large boxes while moving? You threw Bob the other night, so of course you can pick up this large box!

This happens automatically by turning up weekly, and the rate of growth will be proportional to levels of focus and training consistency.

While the physical benefits are enjoyable and the most apparent, they are just the starting point.

2. Everyday Habits: The Lead Domino Effect

How you live the rest of your life will determine how well you perform on the mat. Judo is physical and mental. It’s not a “zone-out” type activity, but the mental engagement can quickly lead you to achieve flow state.

Because there are so many components of judo, your performance at training or competition is a reflection of your preparation.

Practically, it is how well you have been able to treat yourself with regard to:

  • Eating well
  • Sleep
  • Time management
  • Process pressure more effectively (see “Developing Mindset” below)
  • Other fitness activities
  • Recover and relax

And so in a reverse-influence manner, an interest in getting better at judo can be the “lead domino” that influences positive changes in other everyday habits.

That doesn’t mean you have to go paleo, and wake up at the peak of dawn to run in the mountains. Maybe you start choosing vegetables, or learn how to stretch. Realizing that your fit enough to cycle to work – the options are endless and you get to choose them.

3. Social Circles: Or really, Social Squiggles

In any sport, you are able to meet and befriend fun and driven people, who are interested in learning and being physically active. This is exemplified in judo due to the close-contact nature of the sport, and where you meet and become friends with people based on their personality and character before their social or financial status.

There’s “Jimmy the green belt who is a determined person” and “Ruth the yellow belt who is brave for starting as a woman and is learning quickly”.

It’s refreshing not to be defined by a title, and at the same time gives you the opportunity to connect with unique people outside of typical demographically-dictated social circles.

In effect, you create social squiggles – connecting with people you may never have usually met, and perceive them from angles you would never otherwise experience (figuratively and literally).

Taking this further, putting on the judogi implements an inherent role model system. The coloured belt rankings aren’t just to depict “who’s better”, but also places expectation on each graded person to be a role model for those who aren’t yet at that level. This challenges each person to act with character under pressure, and creates interesting inversions of authoritative hierarchy.

For example, where else might an orange-belted company director be forced to line up behind a brown-belted teenager? And for that teenager to have a responsibility to teach the company director how to do o-soto-gari?

It challenges the character of all involved. You learn how to forget your ego in the name of “getting better”, and if done well, is beneficial for all.

4. Developing Mindset: Embracing failure to grow

Practicing Judo is the literal embodiment of the “Fall down 7 times, stand up 8” mentality. It challenges everyone to learn and try new things, and allows you the space to fail in the process.

In fact, you are expected to fail. If you don’t fail while trying to learn something new, you either:

  1. a) aren’t trying hard enough; or
  2. b) are finding this too easy and need to go to the next level of difficulty.

And I would say that this is a great reminder to yourself in any area of life when you make a mistake. Failing is great – it means that you’ve challenged yourself to reach outside your comfort zone. As long as you reflect and learn, making that mistake is a stepping stone toward growth.

Using judo as a “life training tool” can overflow to upgrade many areas of your daily habits and activities if you are aware of it and allow it. You’ve already signed up for classes – so might as well, right?

By Mel Budiarto