The importance of being athletic and active was ingrained in me from a young age. And competitive sports were a huge part of my life from childhood into my early twenties. But when my years as a college athlete ended, I drifted into the typical weight lift/running routine so many has-been athletes often do. There’s nothing wrong with it of course, but it just doesn’t provide that rush one gets from competition, brought on by challenging yourself against others. I longed for that competition and challenge for years, but never did anything about it because I was busy with my businesses and family (yes, that is the definition of an excuse).
As I’ve learned in adulthood, if you want to be the best you, you need to pursue personal goals outside of your family and business. By doing so, you’ll be a better entrepreneur, parent, partner and friend. You’ll be happier.
Intro to Judo
The timing was perfect. I was starving for some sort of athletic challenge/competition about 9 months ago. Weight lifting and running just weren’t cutting it. It was at that time when a guy at the gym who I’d chat with from time to time told me he was a black belt in judo and thought it was a sport I would enjoy. He invited me and my workout partner, who is also an entrepreneur and ex-athlete, to get involved with his judo club. We loved the idea, and told him we were in.
I think the initial interest in judo was that we would get to see how tough we were and could challenge ourselves in somewhat of a fight environment, at least that’s what it was for me. I’ve always enjoyed mano a mano competition. And I wanted to see if I could hang with some of these ‘judo guys’.
Well, things didn’t exactly work out as I thought they would, at least early on. In fact, I didn’t get to ‘fight’ for several weeks because I had to learn the fundamentals first. And when I did eventually get to fight (randori) with some of the brown and black belts, I got my ass handed to me…
That’s when I started to realize that judo was far more than a sport or fight. It was a boot camp for self-reflection and an educator in dealing with adversity – valuable for any entrepreneur.
4 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Should Join Judo
1. The principle fundamental behind judo is to learn to use your opponents momentum against them. This is a valuable skill in business as well. Neil Ohlenkamp, author of Judo Unleashed, wrote “Judo principles are studied in the best business schools around the world to help corporate leaders use power properly, utilize leverage, and apply it in the right direction, as well as take advantage of a competitor’s greater strength and size by using it against them.”
Judo is a great tool to help you improve as an entrepreneur. It shows that size and raw strength are no match for balance, skill and flexibility (inherent advantages small and nimble businesses have over their larger competitors).
No surprise, one of our judo club senseis is a multimillionaire entrepreneur who started his own engineering firm. He is a former Olympic champion and contributes both his time and money to promoting the sport. He attributes his success in the business world, and life in general, to judo.
For some background, this sensei is around 60 years old. He’s roughly 5’6“ and 150 pounds, and wears glasses. One night I witnessed him fight against a 200 pound black belt who is pursuing an Olympic bid. The 150 pound, 60-year old wiped the floor with him. Although much smaller than his opponent, and likely not nearly as strong, it looked like a man versus a boy in how badly he out-skilled this 200 pound black belt and routinely tossed him from one side of the mat to the other. Incredible to see.
Judo teaches not to fight fire with fire. If a bull is charging straight toward you, don’t run toward it in the same manner. The bull’s over-aggressiveness plays to your advantage if your timing and technique are well practiced. The same can be applied in a boardroom or an interview for example. If you are being confronted with verbal challenges, knowing when and how to respond based on the oppositions actions makes all the difference whether or not you come out on top.
Judo teaches you how to de-escalate hostile situations. And through concentrated effort you learn how to execute with effortless action. Although deemed by many as a sport, judo is also an art and a discipline. There is no better workout, for both the mind and body, that I’ve ever experienced.
2. Judo promotes being present (which I wrote about here) while constantly visualizing success.
To avoid getting hurt at the dojo (judo training facility), you must be fully present. This means you have to be completely aware of the environment around you, and have no distractions. You must also have confidence in your ability to come out on top. Carried into the business world, that mindset can lead to great things.
The elites at judo, as in entrepreneurship, are mentally strong. Because they are fully present and constantly visualizing their success, they are independent, can handle adversity, and are hungry to continually grow.
3. Judo is an amazing stress reliever. As mentioned above, if you aren’t fully present when in the dojo, you’re going to get hurt. The sport forces you to forget about the outside world and focus on the challenge in front of you (often a bad ass black belt who is capable of throwing you across the mat at a moment’s notice).
Additionally, judo is an incredible workout, which leaves you exhausted and sore at the end of practice… but what an amazing feeling.
It’s hard to stay stressed when your endorphins are going and you’ve successfully made it through a battle. My best sleeps are the nights when I had judo earlier in the day. You leave the dojo feeling like you accomplished something great, which always lightens your spirit and makes it easier to sleep.
4. Judo teaches that the formula for success is disciplined repetition. For example, when you first start judo, as a white belt, you spend about a month basically learning how to safely get your ass kicked. While frustrating, you learn, through what seemed like 10,000 reps, the technique of ‘break fall’. This is basically learning how to get thrown and land without breaking a limb. To date, I don’t think I’ve learned a more valuable skill for judo than that.
Now that I am regularly participating in randori (fighting), I often find myself on the receiving end of a throw. Learning how to hit the mat has kept me in the fight. This is very applicable to entrepreneurship. Learning how to safely fall down, to deal with failure, and get back up to fight another day is critical to the future success of your business.
In the same token, learning to attack in judo takes thousands of reps as you must master the proper footwork to quickly get inside on your opponent and in a position to throw them over your shoulder. Same goes for business… if you’re planning an aggressive expansion strategy, you know there will be risk involved because you are opening yourself up to new markets and competitors (threats). Properly executing on everything you have planned and strategized for is critical to your future success. Take too long to implement your strategy after starting, and you risk potential financial trouble. In judo, when you shoot in on your opponent, you’re vulnerable to a counter. It is imperative you practice, practice, practice so your execution on a risky move is perfect. Thus avoiding unintended consequences.
I recommend judo for any entrepreneur because it teaches you how to deal with painful adversity. As oppose to withering away in the face of pain or fear, you’re taught to stay calm and flourish when in a vulnerable position.
The pursuit of a judo black belt is striving for technique perfection… the same goes for achieving the pinnacle of success in the business world.
Judo teaches you to be present on the battlefield of life and ready to meet any challenge with unwavering vigor. It also teaches you that to be great, you can’t just learn theory; you must improve your skill set through repetition. Judo takes theory and puts it into action.
Take a day off in the dojo and you’re going to get hurt. Take a day off in the business world and you could be left behind.