National Championships

When I woke up Friday for competition, I felt the touch of the World Championship team in the palm of my hands.  The excitement was overwhelming.  The anticipation of victory rang in my chest and I could feel the weight of the medal haning from my neck.  I was prepared and confident.  However I let it all slip away on account of one minor mistake in the Semi-finals against Djamaldin Aliev.  I ended up with a bronze medal instead of gold and the missed oppurtunity to fight in the World trial against the number 1 seed.  When I get hold of my matches, I will post them for you all to see.  The Nationals were an amazing experience not only because of my competition, but my fellow New Yorkers that enganged in War fighting out of the NYAC and the ITC.  Watching the best in the country scrap it out for the title representing the elitist of the elite, I was able to collect ideas for my own personal gain.  For example, some of the final matches were so educational and interesting.  I learned many things I am dying to test out and incorporate into my repertoir of tricks up my sleeve.  Today is the Monday back from the 2009 Nationals.  It's time to get on board and start my training from rough draftship.  Thank you for your support.  Congratulations to my NYAC and ITC fighters.

It's Time!

Wow, it has been too long since I've written.  For good reason however, I have been extremely busy.  I'm moving back up to Westchester and Nationals is coming up this weekend.  I have been training and running errands day after day.  Well anyway, my condition is tip top.  Aerobic and anaerobic conditioning are tipping the balance beam with 50/50 equilibriation.  I have the perfect balance to enter my tournament comfortably without any cutting weight issues.  I am tapering off from my workouts this week and I got my last lift in just now.  All I have to do is stay loose, drill tomorrow and a treat awaits me on Friday night.  No it's not Ice Cream.  It's something sweeter.  2009 National Champion, World team. I've been 2x junior world team alternate, 2x world team alternate.  This is my year for the big salami.  The planets are in alignment.  Thank you everyone for your support. From my dojo, the people that help me and my training partners.

Liberty Bell

This past weekend was the Liberty bell Judo tournament.  There were many elite athletes present and it was very intersting to watch.  It is a great warm up for the Nationals for the East Coast fighters.  I decided not to fight this year to preserve my body.  Plus, the idea of taking a back seat from the competitive mindset and being a spectator as a pure fan seemed appealing to me.  At the tournament, I scurried from mat to mat to either observe a match up that intrigued me or to cheer for a fellow comrad.  I was involved in so many of the fights throughout the day, that there wasn't a dull moment.  I was constantly stimulated and it was a very eventful day.  I have to go to work for now, so I'm cutting this post short.  Thanks for reading, I will write you guys soon.

Torazo

Torazo took 2nd at the Junior Nationals this past weekend in the 90kgs division.  He fought with so much heart and determination, I was very proud of him.  He lost his 1st match but then came back by winning 4 straight.  On his route to the finals, he earned his long deserved 'W' against his long time rival.  He has lost to him many times before but this was his day.  He dominated the match.  He controlled his opponent with better hand positioning.  He flowed in and out of moves and graced the mat like Sarah Hughs does ice.  He owned the moment by marionetting every aspect of motion in the contest area.  Every jerk served a purpose, every twist a set up, every pop with meaning.  As the match progressed in the direction of Torazo's will, I slowly began to see the overall picture.  Torazo was setting up his favorite move.  And in that EXACT moment I realized what he was doing, his nemesis was in the air, vertical, falling to his back from a perfectly executed Uchimata.   Some of my career defining moments of my own are the matches that I defeated my rivals for the first time.  It was very heartwarming for me to watch my student enjoy this experience.  Congratulations Torazo, you deserve it.

Although this isn't a picture of the match I am talking about, I thought I would share it with you.  I got this off of www.Usjudo.org

Garry and Torazo

Boy has it been a great week.  Friday put a nice cap on the weekday workouts, truly a Friday worthy Friday.  Early Judo session with my friend Anthony and Brian, lifted at the New York AC, played some basketball and yes, Judo again at night.  I was informed also that training partner and friend Garry St Leger took a bronze medal at the Pan American Championships.  Congratulations!  Besides for Garry, there were several other American fighters that medalled at the Pan Ams.  US is slowly but surely catching up to World Judo and I am proud to be on the ship moving knot by knot.  Anyways, I am very excited about this weekend.  My protoge/training partner/brother/friend Torazo Karagiannis is going to compete at the Junior Nationals in York PA.  It is his big year and I have a great feeling about his very own 2009.  His goal is the Junior World Championships.  I missed out twice on this oppurtunity.  I was a 2x alternate and it hurt so much.  I really want for Torazo to capture the moment where he holds the letters USA on his back in the Junior World Championship setting.  I am leaving for Pennsylvania now.  Good luck Torazo!

Martin's workout

I went to Martin's to train today. We had a ridiculous workout. Throughout the circuit, my heart was banging like a heavyset metronome on it's highest setting, my head was spinning and every muscle on me ached. Usually I would quit way before that at my mental break threshold, however Martin pushed and encouraged me to keep on going. Truly a great trainer. We did...

Warm up, light sprints, rope circuit, then...

 {sprint 35 seconds, upright rows, over head press} 3 sets

{sprint 35 seconds, hammers 25reps} 3 sets

{sprint 35 seeconds, jack knives, trunk twists}3 sets

Afterwards, I had a small window of time not accounted for in my day's schedule. I was in manhattan by 11 and I didn't have to be at Brooklyn college until 2. I decided to go for a drive. I cruised down the bqe and into Brooklyn. I stopped by prospect park for the first time. I've always wanted to check it out ever since my NYC comfort zone expanded into this borough in 2008. I sat by prospect lake and hung out with the ducks while the big lake layout in front of me brightly rippling with the breeze and sunshine. I can't wait until practice tonight. I'm improving, and there is nothing else that feels better than that. Brooklyn college 2-3, judo my dojo 5-630. Judo Nyac 730-9. Not too shabby. Time for my meal. I'm going to throw down this chicken wrap.

World baseball classic

I absolutely love competition  Whether I am involved in the meat of it, a spectator on the sidelines or in front of a television, I absolutely love it.  I am not competitive about everything though.  I can accept defeat on certain things and take the back seat when I am supposed to.  But when it comes to sports I can not!  I don't follow professional sports like I used to, but on occasion I do like to watch the best work their magic in their respective crafts.  Anything world related in the realm of competitive sports interests me greatly.  The Olympics is a great example.  To me the Olympics are sacred. Every throw, every match, every race and every moment gives me profound poignancy.  Determination, perseverance, heart, courage, all the best qualities a human can possibly possess is tested maximally to determine the best of the best through this World involved competition. Anyways, the world baseball classic is in session.  Korea defeated Venezuela last night to advance to the finals against the Japanese who just beat the Americans tonight.  I was very impressed with the Asian teams.  Not to generalize, but in my opinion, the non-asian Major Leaguers preponderate the asian baseballers.  Yes I said it.  The average American professional athlete seem to be bigger and stronger.  My observation doesn't just end there however.  The awestruck moments I experienced in front of my tv with my family were the moments the smaller, physically inferior athletes took it to the big guns with precisely, the Judo philosophy.   I was so amazed with their skill, strategy and perfection of field manueverance, I couldn't help but be astonished.  Tomorrow evening.  Japan vs Korea.  Check out it if you can, I would love to hear your thoughts about this great rivalry!

Mantra

Some of the common words to describe the word 'mantra' are transcendence, chant, Veda, sacred, meditation, prayer and Hinduism. Although it has a very distinct and rich background,  it is such a flexible word.  To me, mantra is a catch phrase you focus on to be most efficient at the task at hand. I guess this whole deal sounds weird if you have no preconceptions concerning the amazing power of Self-talk. Here is how my mantra helped me. I noticed one day that my Judo was very choppy. I'd rely heavily on my blessed fast twitch 2A muscle fibers and explode into a single move with out set up or finesse. I would explode, hang out, explode, hang on, explode, hang around, and if I was fighting a fish, BOOM! Ippon. My 1-dimensional Judo became very predictable leaving me succeptible to counters and pick ups.  So my mantra became flow.   Flow Flow, Flow Flow, Flow... I would tell myself while I fought.  Eventually, my self-talk coaching methods pulled through and my Judo since has become more fluid.  Grip, create motion, attack the legs, Hi, low, motion motion, KILL!  Since then, my mantra has evolved to Commit.  Commit commit commit...  

Sorry for the super Judo-esoteric post.  All you non-Judo people reading this probably have no clue what I am talking about.  So here is a simple example.   Some youths on the 6 train bump into you and make a fuss.  Your temporary mantra is "relax."  relax relax relax, wow I dealt with that situation really well.  I walked away and I didn't punch anyone.  There you go.

morning sunshine and protein shakes

As the light splintered into my room from between the horizontals of my blinds, my alarm clock signaled the beginning of another hard week. My day began with a nice morning lift. My limbs pumped iron for a good 45 minutes like the pistons of a diesel fueled engine. I left the gym feeling great. It was 830am on Monday morning. Morning sunshine warmed my face as the cool spring breeze chilled my back. I drank my protein shake and I was ready to conquer this week for the best. I ate perfect today. rice and egg whites, protein shake, zone bar and nuts, low fat tuna sandwich, zone bar and asai drink, lemon chicken sandwich, and maybe some grilled chicken in an hour.

So I am off to a great start this week. I will be a better man through my upcoming experiences this week. I am already one day better than yesterday. Speaking of self-improvement, some of you may know about my religious philosophies and suchsuch. I don't want to touch upon anything controversial on my blog, but here goes. My god is my maximum potential. Many people have their belief system where they worship external beings of higher power. However, my pursuit of the unfathomable understanding of the Universe is internal. I am not saying I don't believe in God. So easy fellow human beings! My point here is this... Morning sunshine and protein shakes. Full potential here I come! 2009 National Champion!

Training week

Hey guys, thanks for checking in.  My week has been great.  I have been productive all week long and kept my nutrition on track very tightly.  I have cruised through my post-loss blues and I must say, on this Friday night, there is not a hint of lingering heartache from my recent defeat.   On Monday and tuesday for the NY Open training camp, I had the pleasure of being able to fight with many of the top teams from overseas.  Amongst them, the stand outs were the Japanese team, Mr.Konno (2x All-Japan Champ, Japanese team coach), the Olympic Gold Medalist Ole Bichoff and the NY Open Champion from my weight class, Bjork Bachman (Germany).  I must say I was very impressed with their skill.  I was humbled to the floor with their Judo knowledge and their Physical prowess.  The best way to explain how I felt Monday and Tuesday is through a quote I read recently on the Subway.

"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." ~ Sir Isaac Newton

I've learned so much Judo between my loss to Scott Edwards and the two days of training with these guys.  I need to sharpen my tools and get bigger, stronger and faster.  2009 National Champion!

I dream and dream

The 2009 Ny Open just happened yesterday and I can't say I am not disappointed with the outcome.  I worked hard and smart, but I fell short once again.  I would like to thank everyone who came to watch my match.  I feel like I let you guys all down, but have faith.  I am dreaming about the upcoming US National Championships in April.  It is back to the drawing board for me on this post-defeat Monday.  I drew many lessons from my loss on Saturday against Scott Edwards (Canada) although the match was very short.  4 things... Seoi nage-block the hip-shoulder roll.  Kata guruma, lapel elbow clinched tight to avoid being countered.  Confidence in attacking on the ground.  High C-knee blocks sprawl-to reverse lift.

Lying on the mat after the referee raised his hand to signal ippon for my opponent was a devastating blow to my Judo ego and self.  I will allow this match to fuel my quest to the top of the Nation.

In the zone

I cancelled my Judo lesson with big strong Al to preserve my body for the tournament, now only a day away.  I woke up rather early anyway to adjust to daylight savings come tournament time.  I stepped on the scale, 212lbs.  I immediately rehydrated, inhaled my protein shake and brewed a nice hot cup of organic coffee.  I flipped open my laptop, popped up google chrome and BOOM!  I checked my email.  My inbox stated that my friend sent me an article from the NY times and I would like to share it with you. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/07/sports/basketball/07shooting.html?_r=1&ref=sports

Did you read it?  The article speaks truth about elite athletes and the role psychology plays in performance.  I've had similar experiences where I felt so rapt in the Judo game, that the surrounding universe seemed to be non-existent. It's the ultimate euphoria, sort of similar to the runner's high I guess.   Your interpersonal relationships, insecurities, financial problems, and all the life thrown lemons and such become obsolete.  The immediate task at hand becomes invigorating and you're at the pinnacle of focus without thought.   These are the times when I have fought worthy of carreer highlightship.  The compilation between experience, practice and the so-called-runner's high results in the unconscious mentioned in the article.  Vince Carter, shooting guard for the Nets said, "It’s all about memory through repetition and memory throughout the course of the game," "Most players are at their best when they’re not thinking too much, they’re just playing and immersed in the game and letting the game dictate what they need to do."  

My mental approach to challenging tournaments such as the NY open...  Confidence, relaxation and rest.  Come fight time, focusing on the task at hand, having fun and never giving up.  Unconsciousness, here I come.

Getting ready!

I have tapered off from my lifting regimen.  I lifted light for repetition and did mostly calisthenics on thursday.  Push ups, dips, pull ups, chin ups, etc in a circuit training type fashion.  I must confess however, I couldn't fight the urge to fit in a few sets of useless bicep curls for the spring time right around the corner.  My judo practices have been less brutal and I have been focussing more on technique and flow rather than banging heads all out.  I am very much recovered from many of my minor aches.  I am rested and nourished like a fresh baby that just woke up from a nap and drank their formula.  My weight is perfect, tipping the scales at 215 pounds.  The only thing left to do is believe. I believe I will conquer my inner demons and perform, rest assured my friends.  I usually develop a psychosomatic cold a few days before tournament time, but I refused it.  Almost time, almost time.  I am about to stretch with my beloved flexibility trainer and friend Michael Simmon-Pappadakos.  So if I don't hear from you in the meantime, see you all Sunday D-day.

Jimmy Pedro clinic, Ny open

Usually blog entries chronologically parallel the events in the writer's life, but today will be an exception.  I am going to go back to Saturday to write about an experience very much worth mentioning.  So saturday.  Jimmy Pedro, 2x Olympic bronze medalist and World Champion came down to NyC to do a Judo clinic.  It was a privilege to attend.  He is one of the greatest Judo fighters born and bred in the United states.  Yet, he is modest and a champ off the mat as well.  He is a charismatic family man and is a role model to all his students and many of the judo fans out there.  Anyways, He reviewed grip strategies, techniques and Judo tactics.  He had a QandA session as well and I got to ask him a few questions so that was great.  Although I am not new to his clinics, I definitely learned many things.  I am going to incorporate the sode he taught into my arsenal of throws.  The grip fighting tactics against tall left handed fighters will deem beneficial as well.

The Ny open is 4 days away.  I am so excited.  I can't wait to see the faces of the fighters, to be immersed in the crazy of the competitive Judo atmosphere and to pour my training onto the mat.  I put in countless hours in the NYAC gym.  Running and lifting on my days I am supposed to.  When the weights on the barbell seems heavy in that gym, I've pictured that Gym floor covered in tatami's on March 8th, 2009.  T-4days.

Judo, camaraderie and recovery spa

Judo today at 10am.  Me and a bunch of elite judo guys from the NYC area decided to get together for a workout.  It was about 5-8 of us throughout the entire ordeal.  We started off drilling light and exchanged tricks and ideas.  We studied different entries and gripping sequences and the first hour flew by.  We then went to grip fighting and started doing more aggresive moving uchikomi.  After that, it was all a blur of battered shins, jammed fingers, banging heads and of course throwing and being thrown.  Some of us worked out until about 2pm.  Yes it was on and off, rehydrating and chit-chatting here and there.  After we were all spent, we sat around on the mats talking and joking.  It was great.  There is something about the bond you make with your fellow comrades of the mat.  It is almost as if we are soldiers fighting in the same battles for a common cause.  It is because we all have the mutual effort and pain, we are able to respect eachother and make that friendly relationship.  To my Nyc judokas in my brotherhood, thank you for being on this journey with me. So after the training session, me and anthony went to eat healthy and to a spa to unwind the tensions of our muscles and to mollify the stress of our never-ending War against bad Judo.  For all who is interested, www.nyspacastle.com  That is where we went.  If you live in the NYC area, I highly recommend it.  Yes, it's pricy, but hey it beats a night out on the town.  You spend less without compromising the biochemistry of your body with drugs and alcohol.  What is better?  I don't know, you tell me!

Friday nights and driving in Manhattan

Oh Friday, oh Friday...  Friday nights used to be all about non-stop debauchery.  Letting loose the inner beast of the night and drinking until the dawn.  Gut busting meatlovers Pizza binges on the corner store after gallons of brew being pounded down the hatch.  Oh Friday nights.  But those days are long gone.  It's so funny how you become so accostomed to a certain lifestyle and you can't even fathom the thought of going back to your former routines.  Ahh the human mind.  Well, my week was great.  I got in all the workouts I needed to excel at the pace I have chosen for myself.  This training week ends tomorrow and I look forward to my sunday recover day. Something I like to do:  I love driving at night in Manhattan.  During the day, the streets are usually polluted with angry drivers and aggressive cut-offists.  Oh, and NYC Cab drivers.  Only at night do you get to really Hit the streets of the city.  The stop and go is inexistent on some Avenues later in the night.  And sometimes you can zoom by 20 Lights, all green and Jam to your favorite tunes feeling good.  I experienced this to the realest degree just today.  I drove in the morning to teach (it got cancelled halfway there) and in that time, I got cut off twice, some one gave me the finger, and it took me 20 minutes to get from 110th street to 96th where I was planning to shoot cross town.  But after Judo in the evening, it was a totally different story.  I turned up the radio and blew through the open streets; 110th street from the East to the West side.  My aching body was soothed with every green light I ran.  Word of advice from a New Yorker:  Best time to take a ride in Manhattan.  Mon-Thurs, between the hours of 10pm and 4am.  True story.

Wednesday madness

Today was a beautiful day.  I was Feeling productive and powerful, flowing through the streets of New York City... I couldn't ask for more.    Today was a wednesday.  My usual routine.  Workout, work, Judo Judo.  The first Judo at my father's school, and the second judo practice at the NYAC. The New York Open is approaching fast.  John who runs tournament told the AC Judo athletes today that 2/3's of the competitors are from overseas.  It's going to be a tough one.  The NY Open is the only tournament I have not medalled at in the United States that I have competed in.  THIS IS MY YEAR!  The Tournament is March 8th at the New York Athletic club so if you can make it, you would Catch World class Judo at its finest.

One of my favorite quotes I want to share with you...  "The Youth is Wasted on the Young." I don't know who said it, but I believe it to be so true.  When you're an old man like me, you realize that those days when your ignorance made you believe youth would never end has Long been gone.  And when you're knowledgable enough to do damage, you start to miss your well-lubricated and flexible joints.  Its too late... The young and stupid have the Knees and shoulders YOU need to succeed.  And yes I am old beacuse my joints ache.  But on a serious note, Embrace your youth!  Get strong, be heatlhy.  You are younger today than you will be tomorrow.  Even if youre 50 (Blake, Big Bill).  So there a piece of my Old man wisdom.  Have a great night.