National Competitor: How long?

I am making this post after considering the comments that I saw in reply to my last post about as to how long it takes to become a Judo blackbelt.

My questions now are,

1) How many years would it take for an adult beginning Judo to become a national level competitor or at least to become a Judoka of that quality even if they choose not to compete?

2) How many hours a week, divided over what number of sessions, should they train?

3) And of what should those training sessions consist and in what quantities, i.e. how much randori, how much "drilling", etc. (i'm not concerned with the cardio and strength training stuff, just the judo)?

1. Some adults will never be able to get to that level. I can't say how long it would take an average person, as I'm not there yet, nor have i watched someone come up through the ranks to get there.

2. To get to that level, as often and as long as possible without reaching burnout. That will vary for everyone. A noobie, like resnick said earlier, just isnt going to have the stamina, nor is his body going to be prepared to take the beating that judo brings to it. I would say 3x a week 2-3hours each time for the first year, then step it up if all is well. Currently, I'm training bjj monday/wed/fri evenings and tues/thurs morning and judo tues/thur evenings and sat morn. It took me a year, abouts, to get to where my body could take that, though.

3. The standard seems to be warm up for about 20 mins with grappling specific drills, work on new techinques and refine old ones for an hour or so, and then randori/spar for an hour or so.

woohoo 500!

congrats grambo!

how long would it take for you to become a national level baseball player if you had very little if no real experience in the sport?

fortunately, judo in the US isnt as deep as baseball.

if you are an amazing natural athlete with good coaching, training approx. 10-15 hours a week, and you just happen to be in the right weight category (ie, not 60, 66, 73, 81 or 100 kgs), manage to develop wihtout any injury, and fight in about a dozen tournaments or more a year... then you might be able to get there within 5 years.

now, sure, some people can come into the national scene with a lot less than that.. the weight division depth and natural ability of the athlete are gonna be what determines that.

just to let you know, when you say "become a national level player" i take that as meaning you could most likely win 2-3 matches at the nationals with a decent draw, medal no less than top-3 in E-level events, and qualify/compete in events like the NY and US Opens without getting yourself killed.

I will probably take heat for this response and I am definitely not trying to be a smart ass. I also qualify this by saying I believe a national class judoka is someone capable of beating any of the top players at his weight. I would respectfully say that it would very, very, very rarely ever happen that someone started the sport as an adult and climbed the ladder. In fact I would go on a limb and say never (someone will probably pop up with an obscure name from 30 years ago but I think you understand my point). I liken that question to someone sitting at the NFL combines at 22 years old and telling the scouts you just learned to throw a football and you wondered how long it would take to be an NFL quarterback. Again, I am not trying to be disrespectful but how can you expect to pick up the nuances and timing of an incredibly difficult sport and compete with someone who has been doing it for 15-20 years. If it is possible in judo, I would speculate that is more an indictment of the sport than an affirmation of someones talent.


i also think that where you train and who you train with is also very very important..

you will progress much faster if you are practicing with people at the national level

if you are defining a national level player as somebody who actually has the chance to come into the nationals and win it then yea, id agree with you that it would be pretty damn close no not possible in the men's divisions (unless we are talking +100 where you never know who will show and it is a post-olympic year when others retired).

i really think the weight division matters. mainly becuase everybody knows in the heavier divisions the majority of the best athletes in the US go into football and other sports. if those same people went into judo we'd be pretty damn close to the best in the world.

im defining a national level player as somebody who can get onto the point roster, nothing else. so yea.. like anything else in judo, it will also depend on the draw at the tournament.

if the sun were to shine on a dog's ass for this person... i'd say its possible, though not very likely at all, to get there in 5 years.

I can only say one person and ask Rhagi himself. I remember watching him at the 97 nat'ls in Chicago as a green belt and he was kickn' everybody's booty!!!

If I'm not mistaken there are a few fellas in Oklahoma that made it to the top very fast. But they were also NCAA wrestling champs. If my memory serves me right Ron Tripp didn't start judo till he was almost or already 30 and he went on to be National champ and world team member. I'm not sure but Brian Pickalo made it to the Elite level in a short time. It's always good we you start training with a former multi-national champ and former Olympian.

Gender matters too. There is even less depth in female divisions in the USA now compared to the men. It would be easier for a athletic, determined woman to break in to the national level than a man. Especially if they carefully chose the E level event in which they competed to get points.

For example, we had a white belt place 2nd at the San Jose Buddhist (E-Level) one year. She had had two semesters of Judo, but got into a weight division with nobody in it, plus she was very athletic and competitive.

Mother of two, too, on top of that.

Ben R.

Ron Tripp never won the Nationals in judo. He did win the Ladder though. He won the Ladder as a white belt.

I started judo at age 19 and could "hang" with most of the guys at 60kg who weren't elite status but I could never beat them. I never could hang with any of the top 5. It took me about 4-5 years to get to the "hang with" status. I also trained 6x week during that 5 years. I always believed that I started too late to catch up to guys like John Matsuoka, Tony Okada, Liddie, etc. That was one of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in business and leave Pat Burris' program to move to Iowa where I became a judo teacher instead of training all the time.

I'll never know what I could have done if I would have invested 6 more years in my own training but I agree with Resnick, the odds would have been against me. As much pain as I have now at age 37, I shudder to think what my body would feel like if I had trained like that for 6 more years:)

My training broke down like this:

2 hours judo every day except Sunday.

4.5 hours every T/Th (morning and evening workouts)

The practices were generally half technique and half randori.

This doesn't include the running or weight lifting sessions. Also doesn't include the full time school and work schedules and social calendar. I have no idea how I did it all.

I can only supply anecdotal evidence how does an adult starting judo at 34 NOT become national level competitor.

Im 39, reasonably fit, have been training three times a week (twice a times a week last two years) an I am nowhere near being national level.

So there you have it.


Get Punk, you sound like me. I started at 17, I'm 41 now. I was trying to make national level, but blew my knee out at 19 or 20. I decided that I'd better be serious about college so I could have a career. I trained like a madman too, even after I blew my knee, but I doubt I'd have ever caught the top guys in my division (caught as in beat).

Ben R.

Josh, everyone:

I'm just curious as to why the +100 class is so wide open and why so few people of this size go into judo.

As you said:

"(unless we are talking +100 where you never know who will show and it is a post-olympic year when others retired)."

I know you mentioned the football, basketball factor, but is that all? It does seem that in all the competitions I have been to and watched, there have been fewer heavyweights than in any other class.

In addition to the bigger, better athletes going into the sports that pay more money. I think the window is open much longer for the HW guys, because the game at that weight is much more dependent on power and strength as opposed to quickness, speed, and agility.

honestly, how many truly athletically talented heavies do you know? im willing to bet not many.
most of those you know discovered their talents in HS-- most likely football and are competing in college football programs now. i mean, think of it.. look how many d-1 all the way to d-3 schools there are. look how many linemen per team.. something like 20, right?

one college football team will have more heavyweights than the entire US Nationals will.

in other cuntries these same people have no football programs to get into. so, where do they go? judo. wrestling. sumo. weightlifting. field events.

that is why i say the +100kg division is the easiest to break into for men.

I mean, I agree with you. Judo is definitely thin in the heavy division (no pun intended). In Jersey sumo we have two really, really good guys, one 250 (former NFL training camper) and one 450, and Yone salivates over both of them, says they could really make it in judo. But they lack the desire and the will to work. I have very little talent myself, but if I were 10-20 yrs younger I could probably get good enough to be national class. So I agree that it's easier in 100+.....just wanted to hear your thoughts.



Good point! Alot of times it does come down to numbers in the talent pool. Like you said most of the athletically talent people at a certain weight class are usually competing in different sports.

And in countries where certain sports are no existent then other sports benefit in regards to the talent pool.