Jack Hatton is currently the #1 ranked athlete in the USA on the IJF World Ranking List for 81kgs. He’s currently training in Japan at the world-renowned Tokai University with coach Travis Stevens. Here are his thoughts on weightlifting while training overseas.
Before I delve into the positive aspects of lifting weights while training internationally, I’d like to shed some light on my personal experience with strength and conditioning that you may find surprising for an elite level athlete.
I’ll start with this; last year at the age of 21, I did my first real pull-up. Most laugh when I reveal this, but if you ask any of my judo or old wrestling teammates they’ll confirm. There’s a lot of excuses for this (all of them bad), but I boil it down to two reasons. The first being that I was never the physical specimen. I was not blessed with those raw strength genetics and I DEFINITELY wasn’t the guy in PE class knocking out 30 pull-ups to impress the girls. The second reason I couldn’t do a pull-up was that I never put real WORK in the weight room until I turned 20. Back then I thought that because I had a lot of natural success in judo, it meant I could shy away from the hard work in the gym. How wrong I was. Years later, I kick myself for not surrendering my ego and accepting that hard work in the gym. If I had committed myself during this time, I would already have that base level of strength and power needed for my weight class. If I could give one piece of advice to any kid who is avoiding the weight room it is this:
OK, moving on. Now that I have been on a consistent strength and conditioning program with one of the best gyms in the country (MBSC) for a little more than a year, I have seen massive improvements in my results. All my international results (apart from one), came after I made the change to train there. I see this to be direct causation and not just some random correlation. Being physically strong is an essential piece to the puzzle for an American judoka looking to be successful on the world stage. I feel it’s important to be improving in this area at all times, no matter where you train.
An example of this that is overlooked is sticking to your strength program while judo training overseas. Typically most people skip the gym when training overseas because they want to be 100% rested for judo practice and perform to the best of their ability. Also, it’s not uncommon to see people taking rounds off when they are very tired in order to recover. I believe this to be a flawed approach as it creates a false perception of where your judo is at and doesn’t teach you to win on the day that matters, which is competition day. I try to do quite the opposite by lifting every day of training, doing extra rounds and just generally trying to exhaust myself so that I am performing at 30-60% of my ability. This approach of purposely training at a diminished state has taught me a plethora of skills that have directly translated into wins on the world stage. There are so many to talk about, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll mention one that allowed me to medal at the Croatia Grand Prix back in October. Every match I won in Croatia, I won in overtime. This is no accident as I developed the skill to win in overtime by purposely training tired, as it simulates what your body and mind are going through in an overtime match when speed and strength are no longer readily available.
So while I am currently in Japan training, I am still sticking to the plan and developing strength in the weight room and mental strength on the mats. It’s hard work but there is comfort in that as hard work always pays off!
Updates to the journey can found on IG: @judojack
All things from cauliflower ears to katsu curry will be documented. Cheers!