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“do or not do - there is no try”
-Yoda-
Jason Koster's Brazilian Experience - Judo that is!
Tuesday, 04 August 2009 11:11
On the 30th June I traveled to Brazil to compete in the Grand Slam and World Cup events held in Rio De Janeiro and Belo Horizonte respectively. Both these tournaments offered World Ranking points and an opportunity to fight some of the best in the world.

I made the choice in early May to pursue these events as opposed to going to the World Champs because of the assurance of having two tournaments to compete in and the inclusion of a 3 day training camp between the events.

After arriving in Brazil I was able to find a local club to train at prior to the tournament. Unfortunately they only offered Judo for juniors however they had Brazilian Ju Jitsu (BJJ) classes for Seniors and after some bartering I was able to train for free on two nights. Although not ideal build up the BJJ trainings were hard and allowed me to get some mat time ahead of the Grand Slam.

As with most tournaments the draws were done on Friday night and I drew Luciano Correa first fight. Correa is the reigning world champion (Rio 2007) and has a current World Ranking list (WRL) position of #1 so to say it was going to be a tough fight would be an understatement!

On Saturday I attended the venue to get familiar with the mats, warm up area and atmosphere. The Brazil crowd was easily one of the most passionate that I’ve seen and the Brazil fighters appeared to feed off this.

09bra_jkoster1Saturday night I did some scouting on Correa (via Judovision) and attempted to come up with a game plan. The idea was to frustrate him with not engaging early, pick up a penalty if needs be, and then attempt to unsettle him with lots of movement off any grip.

Fight day came and went pretty fast. Walking out to fight the crowd was going crazy, I got a little over whelmed by it as I stepped on to the mat however I went about my strategy as planned, Correa is a great ‘pressure’ fighter and he had me on the back foot early. After getting an early penalty I tried to be assertive too early and off a weak grip and ended up being countered via Te Garuma for Ippon about 1:40 into the fight.

I was disappointed with this as I deviated from the game plan but as with all losses it was a learning experience, I spent the rest of the day in the stands scouting the other fighters in the division and witnessed some great Judo.

On Monday it was off to Belo Horizonte via an 8hours Bus Ride for the 2nd leg of the tour. The training camp began on Tuesday with at least 200+ Judoka on the mat and a pool of about 30-40 people around my weight to fight.

The structure of the training camp differed from most I’d attended. After warm up and ne-waza the randori started with 5min rounds but then gradually decreased to 2-3mins rounds. I really liked this format as I was able to maintain a good intensity for all fights and I could focus on the aspects of my Judo I was trying to develop as oppose to it becoming a war of attrition.

09bra_jkoster2Initially scheduled for 6 session the training camp only ended up being 4 sessions. While this meant I was fresher for each session it also meant I missed out on the possibility of more randori so I was a little annoyed about this.

During the training camp I was determined to fight Correa at every session and I was able to do this. In addition to Correa the other big name in my weight group was Elco Van Der Geest (#2 WRL) from Holland. Unfortunately I only got to fight him once but there were more than enough quality Judoka there for me to get pushed in each fight.

Post training camp and it was time to switch onto focusing for the World Cup event. The draw was again done on Friday night and I was going to be up against the #2 Brazilain, Leonardo Leite (#20 WRL).

I had scouted him at the previous tournament and established that he was very good at Ne-waza, only attempted drop techniques and didn’t do foot sweeps. From this the plan was to stay tight and low, engage him on the ground and hope for an error to capitalize on.

The fight was a good battle early on with a lot of feeling out. I was staying low to avoid his drop techniques and after a few exchanges in ne-waza I noticed his breathing changed and I felt it was time to apply pressure. I had 3-4 really good exchanges. One instance I dropped him with Sasae and had his arm out stretched for submission only to be rolled out of the area. In the next exchange I threw him again with a foot sweep landing him on his hip (koka under the old system!) and felt I was building some momentum.

However as I was building momentum I got sloppy and deviated from the plan of staying low, after some careless gripping he was able to drop underneath me for seoi-nage and end the fight after about 2:40.

Because of the draw I was able to get a repecharge fight against Shintaro Higashi of USA. This was easily my worst fight as I had literally only had a few minutes to prepare. I was unfocused and lost via the same technique as the previous fight. I was really disappointed in myself as I should have fought a lot better than this.

Despite the disappointment from my last fight I felt I gained a lot out of this tour and had developed not only my own Judo but a lot of ‘take home’ techniques and ideals to implement into my club training. As the quality of this trip was high and reasonably priced as compared to Europe, I plan on returning next year. Next time however I intend of traveling a week earlier to get more mat time prior to the first tournament.

Jason
 

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