Home improvement & Canada Training before Tokyo

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I can see my improvement. After Kazakhstan we remained home preparing for the Tokyo grand slam (three months away). I was egar to return home because I knew my judo needed the next big push. I felt I had platued and competing in Kazakhstan reassured me that I was missing something from my judo and we weren’t sure if I’d make the next performance jump away from home. Judo is so difficult because as soon as we “fix” or develop one element, another in need is brought to our attention. But putting in work is what it takes to be the best, right? 10,000 hours. Just a matter of getting up and persevering.

Back home, we hit the ground running. We were blessed to have the opportunity to move dojos and transform the old church at Holy Family Community center into the most spacious, beautiful, spring loaded floored training center -and speaking from my travels- on the western side of the world. It really is a beaut. With the engineering of my brother and two weeks of 6am-10pm labour intensive days of teammates and dojo classmates and senseis, we were able to open it and start with the judo. Because of the space in the new dojo, we were able to do more moving drills and randori sessions that I knew I was missing. Before, training home I had very limited ability to develop almost anything other than hitting the gym ( the old dojo you would take one and a half steps and you were out the next window), but now I am able to take away the hesitation when throwing, all thanks to the new space and spring floors. I feel as though every two months I develop exponentially as a judoka so it’s only a matter of time before I have constant wins.  Before Tokyo, dad (in replacement of Dj, because of Dj was in the hospital from building the new dojo at that time) and I went to Montreal to test whether the time at home was wisely spent, and I can assure you it was.

There’s nothing like returning to a place and feeling the differences in your performance. Other than Canada being chilly and finally accepting defeat with keeping my toes warm, it was a great camp. About 90% of the randoi (mock fights) I was the aggressor and it felt real good. Before when we went to Canada if I threw two people or arm-barred a person it was a good day, but this time for every seven rounds six of them I threw my opponents the majority of the time, and I think I was thrown about twice that whole camp by my good friend Stephanie Tremblay- who is in the division heavier- with a mean seoinage. But don’t let me catch her slipping. At the camp dad and I took notes of what still needed to be worked on and upon returning home dj thankfully was emitted from the hospital and he was able to help with some pointers.

Astana, Kazakhstan World Championships 20/08/15-27/08/15

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Today I competed and the results didn’t go in my favor. Towards the end of the match I had the opportunity to armbar my opponent but went for the choke, ending up being countered and pinned.
Next to the Olympics this is one of the hardest competitions out there and in senior competitions you cannot make a mistake because it will cost you the fight.
Two years ago I fought in my first senior competition (the world championships in Rio, Brazil) and lasted all of 15 seconds. That was a hard wake up call in seeing the real difference between professional Olympic A-level athletes and good regional players.
Although the result this time around was the same, the diffence in skill set, strength, and attitude has expanded exponentially. Next competition I will have to focus on remaining disciplined and cautious that every move you do can make you or break you.

I’m very fortunate to have @D’Arcy Rahming Jr.  as my coach, and was able to have all of the training and competition experience leading up to this competition. We return home tomorrow and it’s straight to work. Double times in the gym and afterwards we head to the UK for more training and European competitions. The fight isn’t over!

Special thanks to the IJF, Bahama Clear, and all of my many other supporters, coaches, and training partners who put in so much effort and time to get me this far. Each time I’m improving & I always have my eyes for the gold.

El Salvador 2/06/15-30/06/15

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Finally success!! We did it guys! A long time awaited, but we finally broke what felt like a losing streak and with a gold too!
We arrived in El Salvador a few days early and filled the time with judo technical drills, keeping fit, and catching up on the Walking Dead. Just saying, El Salvador had some high pros and cons if a zombie epidemic were to happen. Pros: food and supplies unbelievably inexpensive (although it seems money wouldn’t matter too much anyways), there’s an abundance of mangoes and fruits, and every place is almost like a gated community so you wouldn’t have to worry about having to “clear” large portions of the area. Cons: going into down town area you realize how many people actually live in El Salvador, traffic is horrendous on good days, and of course the language barrier. But on a serious note El Salvador is beautiful. Coming from Hungary, I can see why some of the first Europeans described it as a mysterious and lush place. One of the first days there we came across a turqouise-browed motmot, which is El Salvador’s national bird. Having a few days just enjoying the country made me realize that I don’t take enough time to enjoy nature.

The day of the competition finally came and I was excited. I had a really good draw and was pumped. My first match was against Mexico. There was no information we could find on her, so we were competing against a wild card, but it didn’t really matter. I knew what I was going to do and I was looking to finally medal.

That match was one the most frustrating one’s I’ve had in a while. I had her in the position for an arm a bar about five times, but just wasn’t able to finish. In the end she ended up taking the match by a minor score. But that’s why you just have to make it clear that you’re the winner. After that fight it felt like someone put nails in my chest and told me to sprint up a mountain. I just wanted to win so bad, my heart was racing. We finished watching the competition cheering on some of our friends from other countries.

On Monday there was another competition, and my thinking was along the lines of shutting down my emotions, and becoming a hunter. My first match was against El Salvador and I was striving for winning by ippon (the highest score). In this competition, to win gold you had to have the highest score. That day I was “mean-mugging” it. My whole demenor was to be tenacious. We bowed and the match began. I swept her to the ground, and all I could think was, “we’re not getting back up. It’s either gonna be you or me.” And I wasn’t going to repeat missing the juji gatame (arm bar) opportunities again. I attacked the arm and remembered Dj’s tip on tightening the arm and it popped right out. She began to tap, but the referee didn’t see it immediately so I kept the pressure, because like I said, I wasn’t getting up until someone lost. And today that wasn’t going to be me. That match was so short that I wasn’t even able to celebrate. I think I held my breath for most of it. All I kept thinking was about the next one. One down, one to go.

I had a short break between my matches because my competitors had to fight each other and then it was my turn. Show time. I had the same mindset. It all ends here. If we go into newaza it’s either gonna be me or her. The match began and she did a failed shoulder throw (ippon seo nage), and I attacked immediately for the juji gatame. I didn’t quite secure the elbow so I had to transition into the pin, but all the while I was ready for the arm bar if the opportunity arised. I won. We won. coming off the tatami I still felt like I had more matches to fight, the adrenaline was still going through me, but I felt some relief.

There’s nothing better than standing on the podium, recieving gold, and hearing your national anthem.
Winning breads winning. And I was so happy that I won, but more so that all of the people who supported me, whether financially so that I could get the training I needed, or go to these important competitions, or through spending special attention to my technique, or giving me some encouraging words, all of you and my experiences stood on that podium.
And let me tell you now, these people are going to hear more of our beautiful national anthem.

Our next competition is World Championships in Kazakhstan, and to prepare we’re heading directly to Lethbridge, Canada.

Budapest, Hungary Grand Prix 06/11/15 -06/22/15

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I had prepared for this competition by training at the Canadian national training center in Quebec. There,  #10 in the world ranking Katherine Buchardmin-Pinard trains and I was able to train and randori against her and several other high ranking Canadian judoka in varying divisions. The difference between beginning players and top 50 is winning one or two Olympic qualifying competitions. I just need one good day and it would be a huge leap.

After Canada, we went home for pretty much a two day trip to celebrate my dad’s ordination into becoming a Deacon in the Catholic church. It was a great ceremony and I’m very proud that my dad along with eight other men who committed five years for just the beginning of a more devoted life. While home, some of the team gathered for two judo sessions and we focused of different newaza speed drills as we noticed that it was the most lacking in my game plan.

We arrived in Budapest and stayed at the same hotel of my first major international competition back in 2009. Back then I was literally terrified and the day of the competition I was so nervous I chocked and wasn’t able to perform. All I could think of was how the competition was held in a stadium. I dont think the match lasted very long. I remember plenty of tears and mopping that day- but I promise you my attitude was polar opposite this time. I was very excited for it. This was the first competition since April and I was excited to get back in the groove of competing. The day before the competition the workout was the best I’ve ever had. It was awesome awesome sauce. I was ready. I was confident.

The training pulled off. Honestly you guys would be proud. Although I didn’t win, I held my own and was super aggressive in newaza, so we fixed that. Judo is a two part sport. Tachiwaza, standing for throws and newaza, ground for pining, choking, arm bars. Newaza I can confidently say I’ve improved to the point where I can win, and we have been working my Tachiwaza to get to the same caliber. After the competition there was a three day training camp in Tata, Hungary. We moved to one of their Olympic training centers and it was a great size dojo. Many of the competitors were using the camp to also test their judo and most of the Europeans were preparing for the European games the following two weekends. The camp was very effective and it was the most positive I’ve been at one.

Almost there. Just have to keep at it.

Montreal Quebec Canada 27/05/15-08/06/15

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We came here for training. The issues with being a beginner judo country is not having the necessary array of bodies with the different styles and movement patterns; so we came to train with the Canadian national team to get the needed randori sessions. Randori is the closest thing to a competition and gives you a basic level of experience.

Working out in Canada is very inspirational. Their Olympic training facility is the most equipped I’ve seen in all my travels, in regards to gym and overall space, and there are many female judoka to aspire to be like.

We trained twice a day Monday through Friday and then one technical practice on Saturday. The first day of practice I hadn’t eaten enough carbs nor drank enough water so by the end of it my calf and souls of my feet cramped up, but other than that it was a lot of fun. It was still tough of course, but extremely useful. I was able to test what strategies and techniques were better suited for me.

Dj and I were able to enjoy some of Quebec on the weekends after training,  and it truly is a beautiful city (or at least in the summer). It is similar to France because of its appreciation for the arts,  and beautiful gardens and the people. I was particularly amazed with how interacial people were. I didn’t see the same ethnicity in a group of more than four. It was awesome really. The trip was overall successful. We got what we were looking for out of it and I’m looking forward to the Grabs Prix in Hungary.

Prague, Czech Republic European Open 02/26/15-03/1/15

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Last competition in Europe, and with each one I keep getting closer to winning. It’s frustrating to come out of these tournaments without a medal, or winning a match, but I’m putting in the work, believe me. I just need to keep at it. I’ve never felt so motivated or anxious about something so strongly.  It’s similar to putting in a screw. First you have to align the screw where you want it to go, and only through the action of turning the screwdriver will that screw hold place. Before the end of the year I’m going to win a medal. Speak it into the universe until it becomes reality, right?

The day of the competition I was confident. We warmed up and I felt ready. In the fight, your heart rate goes up, and no matter how many reps you do in the dojo, adrenaline courses through you, and you realize- it’s me vs her. When the referee says “hajime” the true test begins. I watched many interviews of Mike Tyson describing the moment before each fight when he knew he was destined to win. He described his thought process: tenacious & merciless. He beat his opponent many times already in his mind, and he confirmed his perceived victory when his opponent would be the first to break their stare. I’m getting closer. I was able to counter and get in for throws this time, which is an improvement from the last competition. Add one more twist of the screwdriver.

We weren’t able to see any of Prague because we were there solely for the days of the competition, then got on a plane straight to Chile.

Three continents in three months, doing something I love. Not a bad life.

Düsseldorf Germany Grand-Prix 02/16/15-02/25/15

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Much better.
Didn’t win, but was much, much better. Before going into the match I decided to alter my mind set from concentrating on the end result (which throw I’m striving for), to securing the first step (being disciplined with my gripping sequence.) In Oberwart, my focus was scattered, and I allowed negative thoughts questioning my ability to effect my performance, so this time in Düsseldorf I changed my mind to asking myself how bad do I want it? How bad do I really want to improve? This impact statement helped me focus and my performance increased significantly.
One thing I wish is that we knew to go to these camps and tournaments earlier. Can you imagine how awesome I’d be if we knew what we do now, back when I was just beginning? But alas, everything in due time.

After watching the rest of the competition we, along with the majority of the competitors, we stayed for the three day camp. The camp consentrated on randori sessions, and I was determined to test myself once again against top competitors in my division. I had randoried with some of them in last year December in the Tokyo Grand Slam’s training camp, and I was interested in seeing my development. I went against top players like Beauchemin-Pinard #11 (CAN), Lien #27(TPE), Wachter #72 (GER), Caprioriu #8 (ROU), Dorjsuren #7 (MGL), Müller #40 (GER), Udaka #9 (JPN), Lin #39 (CHN), Malloy #6 (USA), Roper #4 (GER), Zeltner #30 (AUT), & Kim #26 (KOR). And I honestly think I deserve a pat on the back. Seriously. I had to ask Dj if he thought some people were going easy on me, or if I truly improved that much in such a short period of time. Even the difference from Sofia, just a month ago is noticeable. If you want to be one of the best, simply train with them. But who wants that? I want to win; so I would add “and have your coach with you.” Two heads are always better than one. Directly after Düsseldorf Grand Prix’s training camp is Prague’s European Open. (Last competition in Europe-hallelujah.) I’m ready for some Sun, sand, & sea.

Oberwart Austria, European Open 02/12/15-02/18/15

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“Why do we fall?”

The Austrian European Open, unravelled much quicker than anticipated. I was over zealous in my attacks, I skipped important steps, and rushed the sequences we prepared and ended up losing a match that I truly should have won. I was originally disappointed in my match and was slightly disheartened, but after reviewing my match and doing my PPR I realized the good in it, and saw that even though the match was shorter in length of time, there were improvements from Sofia, Bulgaria. I was initially more aggressive, and although I skipped securing my grips, I was able to get off an attack. When we went into newaza I was still attacking and almost turned her over. Although the improvements are minor and none ending with a positive match-ending result, it is a step in the right direction.

Directly after the match, even though the only two things that I felt like doing were either creating a time machine, or crawling in a hole, we drilled and randoried for 2 hours until the finals. Then the next day we drilled again until the heavy weight finals. This was the second competition of the year, next is the Grand Prix in Düsseldorf, Germany and I will do better there.

Sofia, Bulgaria European Open 02/05/15-02/11/15

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After 26 hours of constant travel, I was glad to be on the ground. We received our accreditation and weighed in the following day, and I was excited for the tournament. Each tournament is of course, an opportunity to win a medal, but also an opportunity to improve; and my wish is to, even when I am World Champion and Olympic Champion, remember that I should always seek to become better.

The day of the tournament it snowed and the town transformed. The beauty of first snow fall is always mesmerizing and my toes were certainly thankful that judo is an indoor sport. Because of the fast approaching Olympics, these tournaments this year & the next will be larger than usual. My division had 39 judoka, which is about the size of the Tokyo Grand Slam.

My first fight was against the German Viola Waechter (#80 in the world) she has 200 fight experience and was number one in Germany before the current #3 in the world Miryam Roper. I swear, I have all the luck in drawing some of the toughest people, but I welcome the challenge. It immediately shows me the differences in the level I am now and the level I need to be, without any disillusionment. During the match I recognized what I needed to adjust, especially in my gripping, but I decided to “stick to the game plan.” That mentality has caused me many matches. The better thing to have done would’ve been to adapt. Yes, my game plan was a good one, but this is not one game of chess, but several cohesive, intertwining, ever adapting, throw-you-for-ippon-if-you-make-a-mistake kind of chess, and I made the mistake of not adapting. The goal is to win and I sometimes concentrate on the aspects of judo vs the main purpose. So yes, I lost-but I did improve for the Tokyo Grand Slam, and I’m going to improve from Bulgaria. After reviewing film, I had a slight sensation of deja vú. It reminded me of how my matches looked when I competed in US Junior Opens before I started winning- and it only took me several iterations to start racking up medals there. Remember, like I said before, once I’ve learnt something, I got it.

Although I wasn’t able to win the match, what I learnt from reviewing it still made it successful. I must adapt. I’m personally striving for beautiful judo. And up until now I’ve confused the concept of” beautiful judo” with static judo. Well, I say no more! Yes, I want my judo to look like kata, where it seems effortless and can score me on 101 Ippons, but that’s the great thing about being young and not knowing any better than to seek the ideals. Okay, I have a bit of ways to go, I know that, but with perseverance and God’s grace it’ll happen.

My next tournament is the European open in Oberwart, Austria, & I’m striving for improvement.

Kangeiku & Sensei Kashiwazaki in Budo International University 01/5/15-02/04/15

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Kangeiku is ten consecutive days of morning training at 5:30 am. It tests the body, the mind, and the spirit at the coldest point in the day. I heard rumors that the senseis opened the windows to allow the breeze in to truly test yourself, and the inner Bahamian in me was not about it. We already knew that the seventh floor was chilly from being there in November, and I was sure that I will probably be leaving with some missing toes due to frost bite. Thankfully, that sensei decided against it, or was locked in a room by a previous Caribbean judoka that couldn’t take it anymore, and I didn’t have to endure the rest of my life missing three out of five of my toes- mind you, it was still super cold and my feet were two stages away from death, but I got used to it after the sixth day.

We stayed at the Kodokan’s hostel, which was similar to dorm style living. The schedule went like this:
5:30 -6:30 warm up, newaza technical regiment
6:30 1st roll call
6:30-7:00 uchi komi
7:00-7:30 randori
7:30 2nd roll call, bow out
I kept a note pad to write down the pointers I received from the senseis, sempais, Dj, and what I observed on my own so that I could remind myself what I needed to continue doing, and what I needed to adjust.

Kangeiku is an excellent training camp to focus on your basics, and I will definitely be encouraging my teammates to go next year. I think the idea of Judo for life would be a fit motto for the camp. You can get as much, or as little of a work out as you want. An aray of ages, from seven to definitely older than seventy (I’m not sure exactly,) were all there. Of course we split into different sections- children, men, women, & older folks- so that you could choose which level of intensity you wanted. It was really beautiful; no pressure; just pure love of sport. But of course I was there for a bit extra. My main goal was to improve my ashiwaza. I had to work on my foot placement (sweeping at the ankle), and my timing, which towards the end I improved greatly on both areas. The level there was lower than I expected, but like I said, it was beneficial because I was able to work on the basics.

Then we were off to Budo International University immediately following the closing ceremony of Kangeiku. We took a train to Kasuura, and to see the transition from city to country side was similar, but more natural scenery vs architectural. I feel Japanese culture is more secluded. The houses, although close and on top of each other are spacious, when you are sitting at a coffee shop directly across from another person they never look up, remaining in their bubble; it’s strange, because in Nassau if you see a foreigner you would usually stop, look, have a conversation, interact with them in some way, but here there is none of that going on. The days are long, the months are long, but the year is short. This time last year January I made the big jump of moving to California to train in San Jose, then in May I made another jump officially becoming a professional athlete, and now I’m Japan and will be traveling all over the world competing to go to the Olympics in Brazil. There’s no turning back now- but I wouldn’t want to any ways. It’s quite strange to think of what I’m doing, but I’ve definitely fallen in love with judo, and I know I’m very blessed to be doing it. Arriving at Budo International University I could already tell that there isn’t much else going on in the town besides school, your club sport, and fishing/ surfing if you’re a tourist. Which is great to truly focus on judo, and accompanied with the beautiful scenery of mountains it encourages you to really focus on what you’re doing in that moment, but I had to dig deep for my inner introvert. We arrived on Friday evening, and watched the males training. It was like a normal international camp: basic warm up, uchi komis, tachiwaza randori, then newaza randori, all within a 3 hour practice- cool. I got the basic lay out. I know what to expect, no biggie.

Yes. I was lied to. The females on the other hand, have no such luck to an easy work out. We had basic warm up, uchikomi, nagekomi, tachiwaza randori, uchikomi with running drills, nagekomi again, newaza randori, running ukemi drills, then 100 dip pushups. And we wonder why the Japanese team is so good. I can tell you, that Budo International University is on the level of most countries national teams, or not far from it, not to mention I think all of their high schoolers have to participate in at least an introductory judo class, and they are the literal inventors of the sport. So they have a larger pool to pick from, they have the longest histroy of practicing it, and the average Joe Shmo is starting at the level your club has trained to be at after 10 years, and guess what? I’m gonna beat all of them. All day, and all night.

Personally, the first time I do anything I kinda suck. I wish I was lying, but that’s just how things have always been for me. Most of the time when I’m unfamiliar with whatever I’m doing, the initial couple times I’m trying to figure out the mechanics of the drill, but when I get something, I don’t forget it, and I make it my personal life goal to improve on whatever I’m doing. This happened with me in reading, in art, and especially in judo. More specifically in Saturday’s practice. I was really bad, I’m not even gonna lie, and I felt a tad bit beaten, but 80% of getting to where you wanna go is showing up. And some days you just have to tell the inner weakling inside of you to politely move to the side, and do what you came there for. After three hours of mild torture, Saturday judo practice was finished, but of course it didn’t end there for me; ’cause how can you expect to beat someone if you’re doing the same things as them. I had an agility work out afterwards. Yay leg day, but not really. You’d be happy to know that I did suffer Saturday evening, all of Sunday, and some superdy-duperty suffering was going on that following Monday.

Monday was an hour morning run. And I came there expecting the most we’re gonna do is run through town, & up and down a bunch of mountains. I’m gonna be sore, but I could push through, then enjoy myself the most well deserved nap in life. Note to self: Times your expectations by the temperature in hell and add two. No, I don’t mean it was hot. That would’ve been a blessing. I arrived there all bundled up because it’s probably around 35°F, and we start the run and I’m noticing it’s not too bad. We’re heading down hill, and the view is beautiful- don’t miss and trip mind you, because rest assured you will be falling to your imminent death by mountain side, but it’s still nice. Then we go a bit further and I start feeling it in my legs from the work out on Saturday and I’m convincing my self each other step that no Japanese can beat a Bahamian running. I’m sorry I let my country down; that day the Japanese team won. But like I said before, first time I suck, just expect it. When I finally caught up to the team it wasn’t at the finish, but Murphy’s law came into play. Midway through the run we stopped at a temple, and your thinking okay, cool, we have to do some agility drills? I got this. I will not be defeated. And what is it? Stairs. I’m not talking about two or three steps, or better yet, one flight of stairs. Nope. I’m talking about three flights of stairs worth of agility drills. (Let’s all close our eyes in prayer for my legs… Amen.) I did push through the work out, and the whole team ended at the top where the temple was. And I did praise God that there are no such temples in Nassau, and as steam emitted from every part of my body, I patted myself on the back for making it through. But little did I know that that was the least of my worries. Ohh foolish me. When everyone went back down the stairs, they all lined up again. And one by one, I kid you not, began backwards bear crawling up the stairs. I was like tap out, no no no sir man, nope, I don’t know if I could do that. I honestly didn’t know if I had gone crazy and my mind was mixing Saw III with the work out, but each one of them did backwards bear crawls up those three flights, even the heavy weights, and I’d be damned if I didn’t make it too. I took a deep breath in and took it one step at a time. I’m sure some of you think I’m over reacting, but I’d invite you next time you go to the Queen’s 66 steps try it. That’s when the mid-run-temple work out ended. Thank you almighty baby Jesus in heaven. But remember how I said to” add two” to the intensity of the work out, yeah. Temple torture wasn’t the end. Afterwards we had to run the rest of the mountain, piggy backing someone at one point, then do 100 pushups at the end. You want to hear my most favorite word that day? Finished. Amen, Amen I say to you. I have never deserved a nap like the one I took that day. Never.
And this is every Monday-Thursday morning work out.

I’ve moved to four workouts a day. Morning “runs,” agility or strength, deliberate practice, and judo practice. Total of 6 hours a day, Monday through Thursday, excluding Friday and Saturday work outs. The biggest lie I ever believed was that my idols made it look easy.