How Bad Do You Want It?

We’ve all heard, at least those of us involved with sport, “do you want this?” or “how bad do you want this?”  I use to think questions like those shouted at athletes on the mat or the field of play were silly.  Of course they want it, and they all want it equally as bad as the other guy right?  Well after years as an athlete and a coach I have come to realize that is not necessarily the case.

Let me start by saying that losing a match or game does not mean you did not want it as much or more than your opponent.  I can say this because no one on the planet has ever wanted it any more than I did and I certainly did not win every match.  I lost plenty of matches in my day but it was never from a serious lack of effort and desire to win.

How Badly you want something dictates how hard you'll work at it

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I have to add that I started this article a few days ago and just wrote the first 2 paragraphs and then waited a few days before coming back to writing.  Yesterday was Father’s Day and I saw a Happy Father’s Day post from my former Paralympic coach’s wife to him so I went to his Facebook page and wrote “Happy Father’s Day to the best and craziest coach I ever had!”  I thought that his response was prefect given the topic of this article.  Larry responded, “Thanks Scott and happy Father’s Day to you as well!!  Nobody ever wanted it more than you did!

When I talk about “wanting it” I don’t just mean really really wanting to win during the match or game.   I think everyone steps on the mat or onto the field of play hoping to win.  Just hoping or wanting to win isn’t always enough.  What are you willing to do (within the rules) to win?  How hard are you willing to push yourself.  How much are you willing to hurt to win?  I always say I never lost a match because I was out of shape, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have some knock down drag out matches where I felt like I was dead when it was over.  Being in shape meant I was able to get through those match and no matter how tough the match was, I was able to recover and be ready to do it again in the next match.  I always refer to the ability to hurt and push beyond what you thought possible as having heart or mental toughness!

How do you get yourself to the point where you can feel like you cannot possibly go any more or dig any deeper, but you do it anyway?  Training!  I don’t believe it’s possible to push through pain, exhaustion, and even fear in a match unless you have done it over and over in practice or training.  If you never push yourself to the breaking point and beyond it your training, how can you expect to do so in a match? When I first started going to Paralympic team camps I thought I knew what hard work was but I quickly found out I had no idea.  When you are doing drills and then sparring and you know you could not possibly do another round, but you get up and another round, and another one, and you are hurting but you keep pushing, then you finish with a drill that you would never believe you would be able to finish but you finish strong, that is how you find out what you are capable of and how hard you can push.

I use to leave practice feeling like I was going to faint, but always glad I made it through and survived the practice.  I remember in 1996 before my first Paralympic Games in Atlanta, I went to the Olympic Training Center for 4 weeks then we had a week camp before going to the Games.  Right before the camp I went home to Baton Rouge for a few days for my brother’s wedding and when I got back it was the second day of camp I we worked so hard it took me 15 minutes to go up 2 flights of stairs from the dojo to the locker room.  I got to the steps and felt like I could not go on.  I put my face on the rail because it felt so cool and walked up the stairs one step at a time.  When I got to the locker room to check my weight, everyone else had weighted in, showered and dressed.   They all though I had just left in my gi without changing.

My point is that I was dead after practice because I had been off for a few days and we pushed really hard, but I didn’t miss one round or drill.  I was hurting, probably as much as I have ever hurt but I pushed through it because I wanted to win!  While I do think some people are more mentally tough or have more heart than others, just like technique or fighting skill, mental toughness or the ability to push through pain is an ability you have to develop, just like anything else.  I’ve always been scrappy and liked working out hard, but what I was able to push though when I started was not even close to how far I was able to push myself by the time I won the World Championships or the Paralympic Games.  You first have find out what you breaking point is, then you have to build up to pushing past that point, then push past your new breaking point.

If you are not willing to work hard to realize your dreams, why bother dreaming - Scott MooreMy point is you cannot wait until the big game or tournament to find out how far you can go.  If you have never pushed yourself in practice you will not be able to push nearly as hard when you need it in a match or game.

Mental toughness is a huge part of winning, but another factor to really “wanting it” is sacrifice.  How important it is to you?  To me, winning the World Championships and Paralympic Games was everything.  It was all I thought about at that time.  That doesn’t mean I always won, I medaled in all three Games and three of the six Worlds I fought in, but that does not mean I wanted it any less or sacrificed any less when I didn’t win.

Judo is hard!  This is one of the areas I have always struggled with, not just with the athletes I have coached but in general.  I always lived by the idea that if it is not helping, then why do it?  Now that does not mean that I never went to movies or to dinner with my friends, or even out to a bar with friends.  I believe relaxing and getting away from all the training is also very important.  But, when I went out to dinner, I still watched what I ate because I had to monitor my weight.  If I went to a bar, I either drank water or diet coke.  Most bars would give me free diet soda because they thought I was the designated driver.  If you don’t know me, I’m legally blind and cannot legally drive a car and we usually walked to the bars from campus when I was in college.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I never drank or ate bad food, but I would not do either when I got close to a tournament, six months out for the big ones.  My though was if I give everything I have and fall short, at least I will be able to hold my head high knowing I did everything I could to win.  I never wanted to live with the regret that I could have done or given more or pushed harder or sacrificed more.  Bars are not going anywhere.  With the exception of a brief period of time in the 1920’s (in the US) have pretty much always been around and always will be around.  What’s a few months to sacrifice beer or buffalo wings, or cheeseburgers if winning is really important to you?  I’m not even saying you should not ever have a single drink or wing or whatever for as long as I did.  That was just what I felt I needed to do to be successful and to me it was totally worth it and it paid off in the end.  I have no regrets, at least not as far as my competitive career are concerned.  I did not reach every goal I set for myself but I can hold my head high because I know I did everything I possibly could have done.

I remember when I was in college and training for my first World Championships in 1995, the girl I was dating at the time asked if I wanted to go to a movie with two of our friends, one of which was in my judo club and the guy who got me into judo.  I said I would love to (I love movies) and that practice ended at 5 so I would come straight home and we could go.  She said that they were going to an earlier movie and that my friend was skipping practice and I could miss one practice.  I told her don’t skip practice.  It caused a fight and I don’t remember if we ended up going to a later move or if she went without me.  Granted missing one practice would not have killed me and I am in no way trying to say anything negative about my ex-girlfriend but she didn’t understand why I wasn’t willing to miss one practice to see a movie.  My thought was that I didn’t want to make missing practice a habit. I was committed to do everything I could to be successful, and that meant not missing training.  My friends knew that they were important to me, but they knew that I had a goal and that my training came before hanging out or going to a movie or dinner or whatever.

I actually had a reputation for never missing practice, whether injured or sick.  Once, when I didn’t show up for practice, my roommate who was in judo too told my teammates, “He must have been hit by a car, that dude never misses practice!”  He wasn’t all that surprised when I called him from the payphone at the emergency room where I went after I was hit by a car on my way to practice.  I did not make it to that practice but I was there, sling and all, the next day.

2016 US Paralympian - Ben Goodrich

2016 US Paralympian – Ben Goodrich

My point here is that if you really, truly, with all your heart want something, isn’t it worth going without something you can have or do for the rest of your life, for a few weeks, or months?  If your goal is to be a state, national, World, or Paralympic/Olympic champion, only you can decide how important something is to you and how hard you are willing to work and how much you are willing to sacrifice to get it.  If it’s not worth all that to you, that’s ok, but I hear coaches, team mates, and spectators yell, “how bad do you want this” during judo matches, I even say it now. My wife even grabbed one of our Paralympic hopefuls by the lapels and shouted “do you want this?” at him when he lost a match at the Paralympic trials.  He got fired up and won the next two matches and a place on the 2016 Paralympic team.  He had it inside himself to come back and pull it out, but you can’t pull that from nowhere.  You have to have worked hard and sacrificed so that you have a reserve to pull from. If you haven’t wanted it enough leading to that point, it may not be possible for you to want it enough to pull it out when it counts.

No matter the level of the competition or whatever it is you are going after, you have to decide how important it is to you and how hard you are willing to work to get it.  It doesn’t matter if it is a local tournament, the World Championships, or getting an A in a class, you have to do the work necessary to achieve your goals, and if you give it your all and fall short, you can hold you head up and know you did everything you could have done. You can also reevaluate your preparation to see if there is any way you can give more or push harder for the next one!

As always, thanks for reading.

I’ll talk to you soon!

Dream Builders VS Dream Killers

Have you ever had a dream, something big that means so much to you that the idea of not following that dream seems impossible? I’m not talking about “I’ll work all summer and do anything necessary to earn the money for the new X-box One or a new iPhone!” I mean something like going to medical school to become a doctor or law school, or making a Paralympic/Olympic team or winning the World Championships, or something along those lines. I mean something big, something that initially seems impossible. Ever have a dream like that? I have! Ever share that dream with someone – family, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, or your spouse? How did they respond?

Caution Caution Caution - Beware of the Dream Killers

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I’ll admit, when I first told my mother I was going to the Paralympic Games and then explained to her what the Paralympics are all about, I don’t remember what she said. She knew, however, that I had been really into wrestling in high school and had been working really hard and had been somewhat successful in judo. I don’t think she gave it a lot of thought in the beginning but she was supportive, and believed in me, so whether I made it or not, she was behind me. I don’t think she really got how serious I was, though, until I made my first world team in 1995. I think the fact that I had to have knee surgery a month before worlds but worked hard and won a bronze medal showed her that it was more than just a phase.

She was rightfully concerned and didn’t want me to go to worlds because of my injury but that was just because she is my mother and didn’t like to see me hurting, but she was always there for me. While I have always been self-motivated, the support of my family and friends means a great deal to me. When I started really pushing for the World and Paralympic Games, my family and friends got behind me 100% and I certainly could not have done it without the support of my Sensei and teammates from my old judo club at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana Lafayette). Many of them put in extra time, which benefited them as well, to help me train. I did not drink alcohol for several months before a big tournament but I liked going out with my friends. We use to go out to the college bars and when the bar tender would ask what I wanted to drink, my friends would always tell them “He’s not drinking, he’s the designated driver!” They didn’t know I was blind and that we walked from campus so they would give me free soda – or water if I was cutting weight.

The point I am getting at is that even though all the support in the world would not have helped if I were not self-motivated and a hard worker, having a great team of people you care about behind you, supporting your dream sure does make it easier. These people are “Dream Builders” – people who through their actions and words build you up, pick you up when you fall, and believe in your dreams! I was so fortunate to have such supportive family and friends/teammates.

The flip side of Dream Builders is “Dream Killers” – those people or things that get in the way and either intentionally or unintentionally impede your ability to achieve your dreams or make you believe you are not capable of achieving them. The worst part about dream killers is that they can often be your family, friends, teammates, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouses or even yourself.

Anyone who has dared to dream and further dared to share that dream with others has faced dream killers. One of the biggest dream killers is fear and self-doubt. I battled with both of those throughout my judo career, both as an athlete and as a coach. One of the things that helped me was the belief others had in me, and my ability to talk myself into just about anything. There were of course people who didn’t believe in me or thought it was just a silly pipe dream, or those who just didn’t care. They might say, “good for you, but why should I care?” My response was, “you shouldn’t!” Then I would avoid those people. If you don’t believe in or care about what I am doing, that’s ok, it doesn’t mean we can’t get along, but it does mean that to the best of my ability I will avoid being around you. Of course this is not always possible. Sometimes you work with these people, or you are related to them or you might even be dating or married to them. I could never date someone who did not support my dream just as I would support her dreams. Of course I am very lucky, I married a judoka (person who does judo), who had very similar dreams. A good friend always tells me how lucky I am because his wife hates judo and is very jealous of all the time he spends away from his family for judo. I can’t even imagine how hard that must be.

You are the result of the dominating thoughts you allow to occupy your mind

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Negativity is another dream killer. Not even necessarily someone who is negative about you or your dreams specifically. I always thought that if I was going to be successful at something, I should hang around like minded people who either have similar goals or who have achieved what I am trying to achieve. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another!” Negative people do not sharpen anything. Again, I can’t always avoid them but if someone is always negative, even someone I may actually like, I will go out of my way to avoid being around them too often or avoid engaging them in conversation. There is so much negativity in this world, I just do not have the time or inclination to spend my time and energy on negative people. I can love you, but I can’t spend too much energy on you if you are negative. Negativity just weighs me down and makes it harder to move in a positive direction.

Obviously if you are in a relationship with someone and you find some new passion and develop a new dream, and that person is not on-board, I’m not saying you should end it, not right away anyway. Again, I am so lucky to share my passion for judo with the women I plan to spend the rest of my life with, but if her passion was, for example tennis, that doesn’t mean we couldn’t be together. It just might mean there would have to be some compromise and sacrifice on both sides. I would fully support her dream to be Wimbledon Champion but would expect her to support my dream as well. I think it is also difficult when you have a dream as big as being the best in the world at something and your significant other doesn’t have a dream of their own. It’s hard for them to understand the commitment necessary for you to achieve your dream.
You don’t have to completely understand and I get that I have to be willing to give a little too, but there are some things I cannot give up. For example, when I was competing, I did not miss practice. I had a girlfriend once that asked if I wanted to go to dinner and a movie one night with another couple. I said, “that would be great, I get out of practice at 5 and can be home by around 5:30.” She told me that the movie started at 5:30 so I told her I couldn’t go to that one but I would go at any other time. She told me that my friend was skipping practice to go. I said, “that’s on him, but you know I don’t miss practice, even when I am sick or injured I go watch if I can’t train.” That of course led to a heated argument and obviously we didn’t last much longer. You may thing that is a little harsh but she knew how important judo was to me, and she knew that I would go any other time, I would have even skipped class to go but just not judo. I don’t wish her any ill will, it just wasn’t meant to be.

Again, I am not suggesting that anyone break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse, or stop going home to visit family. I’m just saying that in any relationship there are “deal breakers.” In the case of my ex-girlfriend, judo wasn’t the only issue we had but for her my obsession with judo was a deal breaker, and her trying to make me chose between her and judo when there was no reason I couldn’t have both was a deal breaker for me, and that’s ok.

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will

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As I mentioned before, other dream killers are fear and self-doubt. One of the ways to overcome these it to stay away from negative people who feed your fear or self-doubt. Another way to overcome these is with hard work and positive self-talk. I use to talk to myself all the time before my matches, when I started hurting in practice or on the treadmill/track, or in the weight room. When I was getting to the last few minutes or a drill or a run and I was hurting, I would tell myself, “You can do anything for 5 minutes!” Then 4 minutes, etc. Before matches, I would pace and talk to myself. I use to drive the tournament volunteers crazy because I would never stand in the chute. I would pace and tell myself that I was good enough, and that no one had trained harder than I had and that I deserved to be there and I was ready. But all that positivity can be undone if you have someone telling you that you can’t do it or that you are not good enough, or that you do not need to train so hard.

The longest time I have ever spent away from my wife and son was at the end of my career when I went to Brazil for 23 days to fight in the World Championships then the ParaPan American Games. Don’t envy me, I was cutting weight the entire time, and it was the end of my career which should indicate that I didn’t do as well as I would have liked. My point is that while she didn’t enjoy having me gone for so long, especially with a 4 year old, she understood and didn’t do or say anything to make me feel guilty about being away. On the flip side when she make the 2005 world team in Egypt and told me how much it was going to cost us, I didn’t say it was too much or that we had a 2 year old. I called a mortgage company and we refinanced our house so she could go. It was difficult but having been on 5 world teams at that time, I knew how important it was to her and there was no way I was going to allow her to miss it.

Everyone is different as is every situation. The point I am trying to make is that there is so much negativity out there already, some of which you cannot control. There will always be negative influences in your life that you cannot avoid or control, so why burden yourself with that which you can control. You have to decide how important your dreams are to you and based on your answer, you have to decide:

  • How hare are you willing to work?
  • How much are you willing to sacrifice to realize your dreams?
  • What level of support do you need and what will you do if you don’t get it?
  • What are you “deal breakers”?
  • How will you deal with negativity from others?
  • How will you deal with fear and self-doubt?

If you can answer these questions honestly and stick to your guns, you will be well on your way. When I used to be asked for a favorite quote I use to struggle to find something meaningful then one day I just said: “If you are not willing to work hard to realize your dreams, why bother dreaming?” Maybe I’ll have to revise it to include something about avoiding dream killers someday – stay tuned!

As always, thanks for reading!

I’ll talk to you soon…

Goal Setting

I often talk to kids/teenagers, especially visually impaired kids, about their goals. In case this is your first time reading one of my articles, I am legally blind. Because the setting is at sports camps we usually talk about goals in sports, but I always try to keep the topic general so it can apply to any area of their lives.

Scott Moore in the 1998 IBSA World Judo Championships  Finals.

Scott Moore in the 1998 IBSA World Judo Championships Finals.

When I ask someone what their goals are with their sport, I usually get something like “I want to go to the Olympics or Paralympics,” or “I want to be a national, Olympic or Paralympic champion.” I hear that quit a bit from both kids and adults. They are always very clear on what they want to achieve but where they usually fall short is on how they are going to achieve this monumental goal. They usually have not given it that much thought. When someone tells me they want to win a gold medal in judo at the Paralympic Games and I ask them how they plan on achieving this goal they usually don’t really have any specific plans so they tell me they will train really hard and go to as many tournaments as possible. Training hard and going to tournaments are important but their really is a lot more to it than that. I do not claim to be an expert on goal setting, but I’m going to give you some of the ideas that I feel are important in goal setting, that I used myself when I was trying to reach my goal of wining a gold medal in Judo at the Paralympic Games.

The first step is you have to have a dream. I always tell people to reach for the stars. You may fall short but the higher you reach, the higher you will go. I always think of striving to achieve a major goal/dream like climbing a mountain. The peak is your ultimate goal, but you don’t just start climbing and expect to climb straight to the top in a straight shot. You have to break it down into smaller, attainable goals. These smaller goals, which I think of as plateaus on the mountain, are how you measure your success and ensure you are on the right path to achieving your ultimate goal. You have to set even smaller goals to help you reach each plateau. Then once you reach the first plateau you work out the path to reach the next and so on until you reach the top.

One big intermediate goal may be to win nationals in a senior or VI division. This is a big goal if you are starting out so you will need to break it down into smaller goals to help you reach this goal. For example if you are just getting into judo you might set a first goal of earning your yellow belt and then break that down into learning the techniques required for yellow and depending on your club’s rank requirements, competing in your first tournament. From there you might set your sights on earning your brown belt, as you have to be a brown belt to compete in the Senior division at nationals (in the US). This is just an example but the idea is that you set intermediate goals that will help you reach your overall goal then you set smaller goals to help you reach each intermediate goal.

It is important to remember that the first or even the second path you chose may not be the right path to the next plateau. If you goals are lofty, you will have pitfalls and setbacks along the way. This is where many people get discouraged and give up. I feel that if your dream is important enough to you, no amount of setbacks will stop you from trying to achieve your goal. When you have a setback it does not necessarily mean you are on the wrong path, but it is a good time to evaluate the path you are on. If you continue to have setbacks or come to an obstacle you cannot overcome, it is time to reevaluate the path and find a way around that obstacle and reach the next plateau. Overcoming obstacles in our path can be daunting, but you have to be driven and determined to either find a way over or around them.

All this climbing is hard work, especially when you have setbacks. This is why I feel it is very important to set rewards for achieving plateaus or even for overcoming obstacles in your path to the plateau. This is a part of goal setting I think a lot of people forget about so all they ever do is climb and climb and after several setbacks, get burned out and never reach their goal. When I started judo I was fighting at 86kg (189 lbs) and doing well in local tournaments but when I started going to bigger tournaments I was fighting guys several inches taller than me. I am 5 feet 7 ½ inches tall and I was fighting guys who were over 6 feet tall so I struggled with the tall guys reaching down my back. After struggling with the taller guys at the 1995 World Championships, where I won a bronze medal, my coach and I decided that I should go down to 71 kg (156 lbs). Well, actually he decided it would be best for me to go down and I agreed after some convincing.

So I decided I would spend the summer of 1995 getting my weight down. I took the summer off from school and worked on getting the weight down. It was very hard work but I fought in my first tournament at 71kg at Texas A&M University in August of 1995. My primary goal at the time was to win a gold medal at the 1996 Paralympic Games, in Atlanta at 86kg, so now I had to adjust my goal to win a gold medal at 71kg. To do this I had to adjust my intermediate goals, one of which was to make the weight by August and fight in the Texas A&M Tournament. To do this I worked out a training program consisting of weight training and cardio in the morning then lunch. Then I took 2 step aerobics classes taught by my Sensei, then a 10 minute break then judo practice. Then 2 days a week I was teaching a kids class where I would teach the kids and stay for an extra workout with the adult class. Then I would take a break and go for a run on the outdoor track near my apartment. I ran a minimum of 3 miles up to 5 and sometimes more, depending on how I felt, 4 days a week. And of course I had to adjust my diet as well. Fortunately the weight classes were changed after the Atlanta games so my weight went up to 73kg so I was about to gain a few pounds!

I’m telling you about this so I can tell you about my rewards. I set up weekly targets and if I hit my targets I would reward myself. My targets were all things I had to measure and I had to be honest with myself if I wanted to make the weight in time. If I felt I had good workouts and I pushed myself in practice and pushed hard on my runs and I hit my goal of at least 3 miles on every run, and I didn’t cheat on my diet and my weight was good, not even necessarily down but not up, I would reward myself. It’s easy to cheat and the only one watching was me, so I had to evaluate my training every Saturday after practice and decide if I had hit my marks or not, then if I did, I would go out to dinner and a movie with my friends, and even treat myself to a nice meal. I wouldn’t go overboard (most of the time) because I was eating really clean and if I ate too much fatty food it would make me sick. Sometimes I would go out to a club with my friends and listen to music. I was always the designated driver so I would get free diet soda. Don’t tell anyone that I was blind and not actually driving anyway. By sticking to my plan I made weight and took 2nd place in the tournament. I got caught in the final and unfortunately injured my shoulder so I lost that match but was pleased to have made the weight on schedule and overall fought well in the tournament.

If you don't set goals for yourself, you are doomed to work to acheive the goals of someone else. -- Brian Tracy - www.feliix.comSomething else I feel is very important when setting goals is to write them down and look at them frequently. Writing them down makes them real, if they are just in your head it is easy to “forget” or let things slide. That is not to say you cannot change them if you write them down, it can be a fluid, ever changing document, but writing them down and displaying them in a place where you cannot avoid seeing them keeps them in the front of your mind and helps keep you motivated to continue working on them. I put my goals up in my dorm room when I was in college I even put up a picture of Richard Keeney who was the 1992 Paralympian I was going to have to beat if I was going to make the team at 86kg and I talked to that picture every day when I got up and every night before I went to bed. I told him that I was going to take his spot and that 86kg was my mine. Of course I went down in weight so we never fought and he was not on the 1996 team anyway but he was on the 1998 World team with me and we got a long really well. He was a little shocked when I told him about all the trash I talked to his picture. I don’t like trash talk, and I never talked trash to or really about anyone I fought but I did talk to that picture. It kept me motivated and got me out of bed every morning and made me train hard even when I didn’t want to train or I felt too tired. I would sometimes decide I was going to sleep in and I would look up at that picture and see my goals right next to it and I might have grumbled a bit about being tired or sore, but I got up and I trained, and I was almost always glad I did, and in 1998 when I won the World Championships in Madrid, Spain, I was very glad I did. Beating Rich was an intermediate goal towards my overall goal of the Paralympic gold.

After winning worlds in 1998 I moved to Denver, Colorado so I could train with the Paralymic coach, Larry Lee, full-time and train at the Olympic Training Center a few times a week. So I had to adjust my goals once again. My goals changed often, not necessarily my main overall goal but the intermediate goals. Goal setting is an ongoing process, you have your main goal that may or may not change but then you have all the intermediate goals, the plateaus on the mountain. Sometimes a path may be blocked or may not lead you in the right direction so you have to make changes. You may even have to back-track, but as long as you keep moving toward that main goal, you are moving in the right direction.

On October 20, 2000, I reached my goal when I became the first American to win a gold medal in either the Paralympic or Olympic Games. I remember being on the podium listening to my country’s national anthem and thinking that all those years of hard work had paid off and all that pain and suffering and agony was worth it. If you watch the video of the final match against China when I threw him for Ippon, and jump up and run back to my line, after my wife screams and runs down the steps, you can see me at my line walking back and forth talking to myself and I think I was saying something along the lines of “Oh My God, I actually did, I won! I actually won!” or something along those lines.

This was my overall goal and I did reach it but there are other goals that I did not achieve. I wanted to be the first visually impaired judo athlete to be nationally ranked and I did get on the national roster but my friend and teammate Kevin Szott beat me to it. He also wanted to be the first US gold medalist but I beat him to that, but he did win the next day and I was honored to be wearing my medal when I got to sit in the chair and coach him when he won his. I also wanted to make the Olympic team in judo but I never made it. It was not from a lack of effort though.

My point is that you may not achieve all your goals but I always tell my athletes that at the end of the day, if you know you did everything you could have possibly done to achieve your goal, you can hold you head high and be proud for the effort. It does not mean it will not hurt to fall short, of course it will, but when you look back you will at least know you tried and you didn’t just sit on the sidelines because you were to afraid to try.

If you fail to achieve you goal it does not make you a failure, but failing to try, that’s something you will have to decide for yourself.

My advice, be ambitious, shoot for the stars!

Thanks for reading.

I’ll talk to you soon,

Scott Moore

Get Your Head in the Game

A member of my club, Denver Judo, asked me to consider writing an article about mental training in preparing for competition. I have been thinking about it for about a week now and have decided to give it a shot. I will start by saying, though I took some psychology classes in college and enjoyed and did well in them, I am certainly no expert on psychology. What I can, however write about is how I dealt with the mental and emotional side of training and competition. I am not going to say anyone can follow my process to become a World, or Paralympic/Olympic Champion, this is just what worked for me.

Scott Moore in the 1998 IBSA Finals

Scott Moore in the 1998 IBSA Finals

I don’t remember the exact words he used, but a former college teammate once told me after a match that he had been standing on the other side of the mat when I walked out to fight and he said I had the most intimidating “Game Face” he had ever seen. He asked if I always looked like that when I fought, and I replied with something along the lines of I guess, I just psych myself up to fight and go out determined to win. I had never given it much thought at the time but I always went out on the mat prepared to do whatever it took, within the rules, to win, no matter how much it hurt or how tough or good the other guy was, I was prepared to give all I had and then some to win. I have always said that I didn’t always win because I was better than the other guy, especially when I lost. I often won because I was able to dig deep and push past the pain of exhaustion and sometimes injury to push myself beyond what I thought possible to win. Sometimes, of course, I pushed that hard and lost but many times throughout my career it came down to out gutting the other guy.

When I was in college, one of the guys I trained with for a few years was one of my best friends. I was a little further along when he started judo but he was good so it wasn’t long before we were training together in judo, in the weight room and on the track. I always felt and believe to this day that he was a much more naturally gifted athlete than I was. I was a weight class above him so I was a little bigger but he was tall and lean and had been a cross country running in high school so he pushed me, but he rarely beat me in practice, the weight room, or the track. He would claim that in the weight room I had an unfair advantage because I am short and have short arms so I didn’t have to move the weight as far, but I usually beat him on the track too, despite the fact that he was a much better runner than I was. We would agree on how far we would run, usually 3-5 miles, and we never actually “raced” but we were both very competitive so it always turned into a race. We ran on an indoor track that was 8 laps for a mile. We would usually start off at a nice easy pace to get warm then we would pick it up after a few laps. Then when we got to the last mile we would push hard to finish as fast as we could.

Once he complained because I was on the inside lane and would come out of the turns ahead of him so that gave me an unfair advantage when it came to the last mile, so we agreed that from then on, we would switch after every mile so he could be on the inside too. So on the miles when I was on the inside I would come out of the turns a little ahead then on the next mile when I was on the outside, I would push a little harder so I always came out of the turns a little ahead and he would be so furious, so on the next lap he would pick it up and I would stay with him then on the turns push a little harder to come out ahead. So that led to us pushing harder earlier so we were in great shape. Once I wasn’t feeling well so I told him to go ahead and I would just take it slower and get in my 4 miles.  He took off and got way ahead of me so my goal on that run was not to let him lap me which I knew he wanted to do. After a while I started feeling better so I picked it up and then my goal was not to let him turn the far corner before I made it to the straight away he was on. Then after a little more I decided I would not let him out of my sight and eventually I caught him and passed him. Once he saw me coming, I started pushing really hard but I was able to catch him and finished ahead of him. It was not my great physical ability that allowed me to beat him on so many runs. If it came down to physical ability, he would have beaten me every day of the week and twice on Sunday, as I still believe he was physically better than I was. I beat him because I got in his head and psyched him out. I would make him push so hard so early that when it came down to an all our sprint, I had more in the tank than he did. You might say that I was obviously in great shape and I was but we were both physically exhausted by the end of those runs but he was also mentally exhausted as well, along with my absolute unwillingness to lose to him. No matter how much it hurt, I would push harder and harder to win. He once told me that he was unable to beat me because somewhere down deep on a cellular level, I was unable to lose to him.

never Give up

never Give up

Now to be fair I have to admit that the only time we ever fought in a tournament, he won. It was the Louisiana State Championships hosted at our club and I pinned him but back then if you got both you and your opponent out of bounds you got out of the pin and he pulled me out at the last second so I was up by a waza ari (half point) and later in the match he came in for a throw and I hipped him out to stop the throw and when I felt him let up I let up and he gave a huge second effort and threw me for ippon (full point) and won the match. So despite him rarely catching me in practice and not being able to beat me in the weight room or on the track he can to this day say that he beat me when it counted! I often talk about the importance of the second effort when a throw is blocked and I also talk remember the lesson I learned about anticipating and stopping that second effort I learned that day.

Ok, that’s not really about mental training but more about being mentally tough which I believe is a very important asset for competition. I just like telling that story! I think some of my mental toughness comes from being picked on so much as a kid for being visually impaired and having albinism. I used sports as a way to build self-esteem and wrestling and judo certainly help with my confidence in dealing with bullies.

I’m not a superstitious person. I don’t think I will have 7 years of bad luck if I break a mirror or that having a black cat cross your path is bad luck. I had a black cat who crossed my path several time a day when I won the Paralympics. I don’t want to offend anyone but I think such superstitions are silly. Having said that I will tell you that when I was competing I always tried, when possible, to follow the same pre-tournament routine. My coach told me once to take my best performance and try to emulate the routine from that day so that is what I did. It varied sometimes due to where in the world I was but I would get up early to go check my weight, even though most of the time I went to bed at .2 kilos over weight and knew I would float the weight. I would check my weight then hang around and weigh-in, immediately drink some water, then gator-aid, then go eat breakfast, go back to my hotel, shave, shower, brush my teeth, and relax for a few minutes if I had time, then get dressed and go to the tournament venue. Once there I would relax until about 30-45 minutes before the published start time and put on my gi with a hoodie over it and start warming-up. Then I would wait until 10 matches before my first match and start warming-up and then when I got to about 5 matches before my match I would start pacing and talking to myself, either in a corner away from everyone or in the chute if it was an international competition.

At the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, someone asked my wife if I was ready before my first match and she spotted me in the prep area, my coach was in the chute where I was supposed to be and I was back in the corner pacing, talking to myself. Heidi said, yep, he’s pacing so he’s ready. Want to know what I talked about with myself when I was pacing? Everyone always thought I so confident and mentally tough because I had such a serious look on my face when I walked onto the mat and fought so hard to win, but what no one realized is that I was always filled with self-doubt. So when I would pace, I would remind myself how hard I had trained to prepare for this competition. I would say, “you are just as good as these guys”, “no one here has worded any harder than you have”, you deserve to be here”, “you can win!” Then, when the match before mine ended and it was time to walk out and go to the mat, I had psyched myself up and put my game face on. I would say to myself something along the lines of, “now let’s go” and even though I look serious I was always really nervous until the first “Hajime” (command to begin). When I heard hajime, everything else faded away in an instant and I went to war.

This is still a lot about being mentally tough and psyching myself up for each match, so now I’ll tell you some of the things I did off the mat to help me prepare for competition. I took a sport psychology class in college and the things I learned in that class really helped me mentally prepare for competition. One of the things we talked about was visualization. I would spend time every night before falling asleep visualizing myself doing my favorite throw correctly and throwing someone for ippon. I remember before my first World Championships in Colorado Springs, our coach had each of us stand on the podium and put our hands up as if we had just won the World Championships. I remember thinking it was silly but when I was on top of the podium with my hands up imagining the other guys in 2nd and 3rd and the crowd and my teammates cheering, I got really excited. I didn’t win but I did take 3rd and I won the next one in 1998.

Scott Moore training with Coach Willy Cahill

Scott Moore training with Coach Willy Cahill

I had always thought that kind of thing was really silly but if I had to do it for a class I thought I might as well give it a try and see what happens, and I truly believe it helped me. One of our projects I had was to create a cassette (google it if you are too young to know what a cassette is with me talking myself through my warm-up then talking myself through winning a match. I had to talk myself through some visualization with some soft music playing in the back ground then warming-up. Then the music would pick up as I walked out to the mat. Once I started the match the music picked up more and then a big build-up to setting up and executing my big throw for ippon. Then the US National Anthem would start playing as I was on the podium accepting my gold medal. I listened to that every night before I went to sleep for a while but I had to change and do visualization at night and listen to that in the morning because I was too excited to sleep after listening to the whole thing. I had a really good season after I started doing those and other things.

I think what it did was help me relax and helped me believe I could be successful and this along with pacing and talking to myself reminded me that I had done everything possible to prepare so it was ok to believe in myself. Over the years I have known lots of athletes with a lot of unfounded self-belief because they believe they were going to win despite now doing the work required to win. Mental toughness and mental training can only take you so far, you still have to do the work. If you have done the work, mental training can give you the boost you need by making you believe you can win. Telling yourself you have done the work and deserve to win only works if you have actually done the work, and if you look deep inside yourself, hopefully you can be honest enough to admit to yourself if you have not put in the time and effort.

Another thing I did was take the picture of the guy who had fought in the 1992 Paralympic Games in my weight class and tape it to the mirror in my dorm room. I talked to that picture almost every day and told him that I was coming and he would not be making any more teams. By the time we met I had gone down 2 weight classes so I trained with him at camps but never got to fight him. I told him about my talking to his picture and I think it freaked him out a little.

I’ll end with a story I have only told a few people, those being my wife and a few athletes I felt needed to hear it. My wife knows better but others at times have labored under the illusion that I was just a machine, I went out there and fought without any fear or reservation, and that could not be any farther from the truth. When I won the World Championships in 1998 and Paralympic Games in 2000, I was a full-time athlete, working just enough to pay my bills. In 2000, I got married a few months before the games but I married a hardcore judo fighter and we trained together and pushed each other. Once I got back from Sydney, I started graduate school and I finish in 2003. I left the World Games a few days early so I could present my final project. I didn’t do as well that year which I attributed to the fact that I was finishing graduate school, and started a full-time job, we had just bought a house, and my wife was 8 months pregnant. So when I went to Athens in 2004, I was working full-time, and was a new father, so I was still getting in a lot of judo but it was a struggle with work, training, and my responsibilities at home. So when I got to Athens I was a little concerned. I always went in knowing I had done everything humanly possible to prepare but this time I did everything I could but worried that it was not enough.

I remember moving into the village and being terrified because I had not done well at the previous World Games. I did just well enough to qualify for Athens and I have never been happy just to go, I expected to win every time! I think it was about 2 days before the opening ceremony which was 3 days before my competition day, I was working hard but felt like it was too little too late. I was in the weight room talking to Michael Doyle the guy in my weight class from Ireland, super nice guy who I never fought but he gave me a lot of trouble in Sydney (maybe I’ll tell that story someday). He told me he wasn’t able to fight because he had blown out his ACL but his NGB made him go anyway. I felt bad for him but after he left I was on the treadmill think how lucky he was that he didn’t have to fight. It was at this point I realized I had moved into Candyass Cottage (check out that article later), and I shouted out loud WHAT THE ____ IS WRONG WITH YOU? Luckily there were no English speakers in the area, but everyone did turn and look at me. I realized that it was killing Michael that he could not fight. He would have given anything to be able to fight and I was feeling sorry for myself and acting like a baby. Baby is not the word I used at the time but it is what I’ll use here.

It was at that moment that my whole mind set changed and I decided that it may not have been the same as before Sydney but I had trained extremely hard and I was ready. I truly felt as if a 2 ton weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was still nervous but when my day came I was ready to fight. I had a bye so my first match in the second round was going to be against a guy I had lost to 3 times or the guy he had lost to 3 times. I did my normal pre-game preparation and I beat the guy from Iran, the 2003 World Champion, by a koka (the smallest score back then). It wasn’t a big throw but my wife and I agreed it was the smartest, most strategic match I had ever fought. I ended up getting caught in a choke in the semi-final against China, but beat the 2002 World Champion in the bronze medal match. So in 3 days I went from being mentally out of the running to even win a match to beating 2 former World Champions and taking home a bronze medal. It wasn’t gold but considering where I was 3 days before, it might as well have been.

Avoid negative people, for they are the greatest destroyers of self confidence and self esteem,. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you.I know this is getting long but I want to share another thought with you. I try my best to avoid negative people.  It can be hard to do if you work or live with or around negative people, but it is important to surround yourself with like-minded people. I have always read that if you want to be successful at something you should surround yourself with others who are successful at what that you are trying to do. The only thing you learn from negative people is that everything sucks and that your dreams are silly and you will never be successful. Negative people are often people who have either given up on their dreams or have never had any and will try to make you feel you are wasting your time. It’s interesting how someone who has never done anything close to what you are trying to do will give you advice or tell you that you cannot do it. Because they don’t have dreams they are jealous and will try to crush your dreams. So avoid them at all cost if possible!

I truly believe that if you have a dream and you are willing to work hard to make it a reality, and you believe you can win, and you avoid negative influences in your life you can achieve anything!

As always, I’ll talk to you soon.

Thanks for reading,

Scott

New and Improving

I want start by saying that I have never been more impressed or excited about a new group of athletes in all my years with Paralympic Judo. We have found some really good athletes but have never had so much potential from one introductory training camp!

We hosted an introductory training camp in October of 2014 with the intention of finding potential future Paralympians. Some of the participants had some judo but most had little to no judo experience. Several did have wrestling and/or BJJ experience. Over the years, we have done many intro camps/clinics for the USABA, USA Judo, and other organizations, and have found some good athletes, but near the end of the first practice when we had the group do some ne waza (grappling sparring) Heidi and I watched the first few rounds and we looked at each other with looks of shock and excitement and said WOW! We were truly blown away by this group of athletes!

VI_Intro_Camp_Jan_2015I’m not cool enough to be a “give a shout out” kind of guy but before I go any further I want to give a HUGE shout out to my wife, Heidi Moore who is the assistant coach of the Paralympic program. Heidi, a self-proclaimed Facebook stalker of blind athletes found most of the attendees for this camp. A few were referred by their coaches and one who was a collegiate wrestler found us and contacted USA Judo, but Heidi found most of them through articles about blind wrestlers or BJJ athletes and then found them on Facebook and invited them to camp, and she worked with USA Judo to put the camp together!

What was so great about this group was not just their athletic ability, though that was pretty impressive too. They were all excited about learning judo, and were ready to train hard and start competing right away. Don’t get me wrong, I think judo is great for everyone whether they want to compete or not, but our primary focus in the Paralympic program is to find and develop athletes for Paralympic competition, so it can be hard to find people who are athletic and also interested in learning judo from within the blind and visually impaired community.

The first camp was in October and consisted of a workout on Friday evening, then 2 on Saturday with an optional BJJ workout that most attended between the two judo workouts. Then a workout on Sunday morning for those with flights late enough to attend. We spent a lot of the time practicing techniques but we wanted to give them a taste of what a normal judo camp was like so we did some drills and randori during each session and they were tired but everyone worked hard and they all loved it. I actually told them that I was beside myself with excitement by the end of the weekend. Oh and on top of being a talented, hard-working group of athletes, they were all really cool and fun to work with. No one had an ego, and everyone was open to learning and trying new things.

Robbie Alcorn with 2 Gold and a Silver from Dallas 2014

Robbie Alcorn with 2 Gold and a Silver from Dallas 2014

We talked to those who are not already in a local club about finding a club and starting to train and compete. We talked to them about attending as many tournaments as possible including the national tournaments that have VI divisions, so 4 of them went to Dallas in November and fought in the Dallas Invitational and the President’s Cup the next day. They fought in the novice divisions in both tournaments and the VI division of the President’s Cup. They all did very well in their respective novice divisions and the only one that did not win the VI division took second to one of the other new guys. It was great, they were there to fight and all got several matches. As a matter of fact, 18-year old Robbie Alcorn went something like 10-2 for the weekend, taking 2 gold medals and 1 silver medal.

Like I said before, they were a great group, and I thought it was really cool when Heidi told me that they told her it was cool to be there with their teammates. They went to one introductory camp together and were in Dallas already thinking of each other as teammates. That made me very proud and renewed my excitement for working with them. It certainly didn’t hurt that they kicked butt too, but more than just athletic ability, they have great attitudes.

So after the tournament, we scheduled another camp that was held this past weekend from January 16-18, 2015. We had all but one of the guys who went to Dallas and a few new people along with some that have been in the program for a little while but are still fairly new. We held this on at my club in Denver again. I was also happy to have 3 people from Denver Judo back on the mat after some time away from judo and will hopefully be seeing a lot more of them in practice and future camps and tournaments. This camp, just like the first one was a huge success, so now we are talking about bringing several of these guys to our next elite training camp. We are also talking about taking them to some of the international VI tournaments and training camps in Brazil and Germany to get them some international experience. The tournaments will be good for them but at this point, the training camps will be even more important.

I would normally never recommend a group of new guys who have only been to 2 introductory camps and training for less than a year spend the money to travel overseas for tournaments but I truly believe some of these guys can not only handle it but will do very well, and even if they don’t medal or even win any matches, they can get some good experience and will do very well at the training camps. One thing that really frustrates me is that so many people seem to think that Paralympic judo is easy or not like “real” judo or something like that. If it were not competitive I would not be so passionate about it. Contrary to what many seem to believe, Paralympic judo is very strong. We may not have the depth that Olympic judo has but our top guys train hard and take it just as seriously as the Olympians do. I know I did.

I also appreciate that some of the guys, though now qualified to attend the world cup tournament in Hungary next month, which is a qualifying event for Rio 2016, recognize they are not quite ready for a tournament of that caliber but have elected to go to Brazil and/or Germany where the competition is strong but will not draw as many of the top contenders from around the world as the qualifying event will. Two of the guys did decide to go and I was a little concerned but after watching them at camp this past weekend I realized they will be fine. One of them was a collegiate wrestler and is a wrestling coach so he is tough as hell and can grind with anyone, and the other is a purple belt in BJJ and was a boxer before losing his sight so he is tough as hell too. I have no doubt that once the younger guys gain a little more experience they will be attending higher caliber events and will be strong contenders in no time at all.

2015 VI camp - Warming Up - Denver Judo

2015 VI camp – Warming Up – Denver Judo

It’s really exciting to have such an enthusiastic group of athletes to work with. Several of the guys have talked about coming out to stay with Heidi and me during breaks from school to train with us. I wrote an article a while back called I can’t do the work for you, and with these guys I do not have to because they are excited about learning judo and serious about training and competing.

Before I end, I have to give an honorable mention to Justin who is a 15-year old judoka from Canada who came to camp. His coach saw something about the camp on Facebook and contacted Heidi to ask if he could attend. He has been doing judo for 5 years and has met some of the Canadian team online but has never met another visually impaired judo player, so of course we said he could come to camp so he and his mother jumped on a plane and came to Denver to train with us. Justin was a great kid and fit in really well with everyone and has already talked about coming to stay with us during his break to train. It was great to have Justin and his mom at Denver Judo and I look forward to seeing them again either in Denver or at one of the other events around the world.

I know this article is a little shorter than previous articles, but I am sure you will be reading more about this group in the future!

As always thanks for reading.

I’ll talk to you soon…

Scott

All About…Jiu Jitsu?

I know the title of my blog is All About Judo, but this article is going to be primarily about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and how my views of the sport have drastically changed over past almost 11 months.

I will start by saying that until January of this year I had absolutely no interest in anything to do with BJJ other than what I saw when watching the UFC fights every few weeks with my friends from judo. For the past few years my club has been keeping score at local BJJ tournaments as a fund-raiser. This had done nothing to change my interest in the sport. I know I said in a previous article (http://www.allaboutjudo.com/purest-thug/) that I was a proud judo thug, but in all honestly, I’m a purest in that I have never had any interest in any other martial art or sport pretty much since I started judo. As a purest I have always thought judo to be superior to BJJ. If you are into BJJ don’t freak out, that is what I thought, not what I currently think. My primary focus is still judo but I have definitely gained a huge amount of respect for BJJ and its practitioners.

Alchemy Team 2014

Alchemy Team 2014

I didn’t have a problem with anyone for being in BJJ, but after going to the tournaments and seeing what, compared to a judo tournament, is total chaos is hard to get used to. I’ve been going to these tournaments for about 2 years and still don’t truly understand the rules or scoring. The other thing that drives me crazy is how they let the action carry on into the other competition area. They also literally let them go to the floor with people sitting all around the edge of the mats. I don’t think I will ever get use to that aspect of BJJ. I also don’t care for how long the refs will just let the fighters lay in guard or side control. In judo we don’t get enough time on the ground but in BJJ they get way too much. I know judo is not perfect, and even less so now that the IJF is taking more and more judo out of judo, but that is not the point of this article. I will also admit that I had a preconceived notion of the typical BJJ player, meatheads all covered in tattoos from head to toe. Of course there are plenty of judo players with tattoos but it is less common to see a judo player, in my experience, completely covered in tattoos.

As I said, until January I had absolutely no interest in trying BJJ. So what happened in January? We were looking for some other programs to fill the down time in our dojo, Denver Judo, and we got a call from a guy who wanted to teach BJJ. Two guys came in on a Saturday in January after judo practice to talk to us and of course the first thing I thought was that they fit my stereotype of a BJJ fighter. They were both covered in tattoos! They both turned out to be really nice guys and started changing my opinion of BJJ right away. What I was most impressed with was their attitude toward teaching and learning. They both talked about how impressed with the “vibe” of Denver Judo and they did not want to just rent space from us and teach BJJ, they wanted to be part of our community. I had not realized that one of them had taken the beginning judo class a few years ago with one of our other instructors.

I was very impressed with them personally and while I am prone to snap judgments like thinking a certain way when I see someone with lots of tattoos, I am able to recognize this flaw and realize when my initial impression is completely wrong. We talked about what they wanted, which actually included working together to help us all grow and become better. I really liked their approach and wanted to encourage our judo student to give it a try so Heidi and I decided to give it a try as well. Heidi had taken a few classes but I had not, so in February of this year we both stayed after judo practice for the first BJJ class and we loved it. So this is how Alchemy Martial Arts joined forces with Denver Judo.

When I decided to try the BJJ class I thought it would be fun but that was really all I thought it would be. I have to say I loved it. Our coaches Joey Chase and Jason Cox really do an excellent job and it has been a great experience so far. One of the things that struck me is that I am not nearly as good a grappler as I thought I was. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never thought I am a great judo player but I have always thought I was pretty good on the ground, but BJJ has opened my eyes to a lot of not necessarily new techniques, although there is plenty of that too, but new concepts and a new way of looking at things. As I said before, I am first and foremost a judoka but even in the short time I have been studying BJJ I have started to change the way I view and even teach grappling.

Heidi and I did very well initially because of our years of judo and in my case wrestling too, so there was some initial talk of bumping us up in rank but when I talked to coach Joey, I told him that I don’t want to be promoted because I’m a black belt in judo and aggressive on the mat, I want to be promoted on merit when I earn it. So I guess that was when I realized I was going to be sticking with it for a while. After a few months, he did promote me to 4 stripes on my white belt but Heidi who had competed in a few BJJ tournaments in the past, competed in a local event and dominated her division then walked through the absolute division so Joey promoted her to blue belt on the spot. I was very proud of Heidi but I was also proud of my stripes. It’s funny that after 26 years in judo and earning a 5th degree black belt, how excited and proud I was to get my 4 stripes on my white belt.

It was cool to go to the BJJ tournaments and see people from our club doing well and actually knowing, sort of, what was going on. Then there was talk about me competing. Even though my views on BJJ had gone 180 degrees in the other direction I was not planning on competing. If you have been following this blog you will know that I retired from competition in 2007 and the way I look at it, retired people do not compete. Plus over the past 4 years I have had my rotator cuff (shoulder) repaired then had my biceps tendon on the same arm cut and reattached, and that is since retiring from competition. When it came up again one day I said “I’m retired and retired people don’t compete” to which Jason replied, “You are retired from judo, not jiu jitsu!” I couldn’t think of anything to say to that so I left it alone.

A few months down the road there was another tournament in Denver and only God knows why, but I mentioned to Heidi that I might consider fighting. I thought I might be a hypocrite if I didn’t at least compete once. I have always thought that anyone who practices a sport should at least try competing once. How do you test what you are learning if you only train with the same people and never do it live. I couldn’t very well tell my students they should try it at least once if I was not willing to do the same.

The bigger issue for me finally came out in a conversation with my wife, when I told her not to register me yet, I still wasn’t sure. I told her that if I was going to be totally honest, I was afraid, not of fighting, I have been fighting/wrestling my entire life, but I was afraid of fighting and not living up to what I thought everyone’s expectations of me were. It’s hard for me to admit this to myself, much less anyone else but my ego was getting the better of me. Not that I think I am so good at judo, just that because I was a Paralympic and World Champion in judo, I worried that if I did not do well in the tournament, I would let everyone down and lessen their opinion of me. Plus my son would be there and he has only seen videos of me winning, he had never seen me compete. So there was a lot of pressure to win, or so I thought. I was also concerned that I had been having trouble with some nagging injuries all summer plus I had been sick so I wasn’t in as good a shape as I would have liked.

A few days before the registration deadline I had a talk to our coach, Joey and he completely understood my though process but he reminded me that all the pressure I was under was all of my own doing and that no matter how I did I would still be Paralympic Champ and World Champ and this was something different. Then he said something along the lines, but of course you are going to kill it, or something like that, so I put my ego aside and entered the tournament.

That face you make when you realize the white belt has a black belt in judo!

Heidi made me include this one!
Source: http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CAcQjRw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fexchangingstrikes.tumblr.com%2Fpage%2F3&ei=rriTVJ2HCoeGyAStloGoAw&bvm=bv.82001339,d.aWw&psig=AFQjCNHkn4h5QJ0dgCGf0KdRTYevL-c4FQ&ust=1419053610405027

I have to say, I am so glad I did it. Even though I was a white belt in BJJ I had to fighting in at least the blue belt division, so for my first tournament I entered the over 30 division in the 185-205 class. It was a really great experience so I am definitely going to do it again but I am working on getting down below the 185 mark to fight smaller guys. When I competed in judo, it didn’t matter if I fought a bunch of long grueling matches or 2 30 second matches, the next day my back and neck were always extremely sore. Because I spend so much time in my first math in guard posturing up to pass the guard, my abdomen, especially on the left side was so sore. I fought on Saturday and my 45th birthday was the following Monday and I told Heidi that this was the first time I have ever woken up on my birthday and literally felt older.

In case you’re wondering, I did win., mostly because, though I was out ranked, I was a much more experienced competitor, and I had some really good coaching. I won’t go into the details of all the fights here but the first guy I fought was definitely the best and being that I got sick the day before the tournament I was exhausted and my forearms were hard as bricks. He was a super nice guy and thanked me for the opportunity to fight. I thanked him and told him it was my first tournament in a while so I was hoping for a fish the first round and definitely did not get one. He told me he was hoping for the same thing. The matched ended 0-0 but because I was more aggressive and was in control for most of the match, or something like that. I won. I was standing there at the end trying to tie my belt with my dead arms thinking I was going into overtime. When the ref raised my hand I was confused but so happy I didn’t have to continue right then.

I tweaked my back in the second match and was really not sure if I would be able to continue into the final. I couldn’t lift my left arm and Coach Joey asked Heidi if he should pull me. Heidi told him I knew my body and my limits and was experienced enough to pull out if I didn’t think I could fight. Fortunately I had long enough between the semi-final and the final for my back to feel a little better, so I went into the final and threw the much taller guy with drop seoi nage (one arm shoulder throw) then got side control and held on to win. During a scramble I ended up with him in my guard right near the end and I even got to pull spider guard which I had worked on a little in practice. You’ll have to google that if you don’t know but apparently stumpy legged people like me don’t often use it, but I like it. When they were awarding the medals, Coach Joey presented me with my blue belt, which was awesome too.

Heidi and Scott Moore at BJJ tournament 2014

Heidi and Scott Moore at BJJ tournament 2014

Joey and I talked and we decided that if I fight once more in the 30 and over division and win again I will fight the next one in the regular division and take a shot at the younger guys.

The point of my article was not to talk about the tournament but just to tell you about my experiences so far with BJJ and why I decided to try it in the first place. I typically go to 3-4 judo workouts per week and 3-4 BJJ workouts per week when I’m able. Actually, now our Friday night classes are combined so I only have to do 1.5 hours on Friday rather than 3. That is a lot of fun and I get to train with and coach the judo guys at one end of the mat then go to the other end and learn an ankle lock, it’s a blast. I still get about 3 hours in on Saturday.

I’ve always liked the phrase “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Now I’m actually trying to live by it. Our coaches are truly great guys and great teachers/coaches, and I have truly enjoyed having Alchemy Martial Arts affiliated with Denver Judo. We make a great team and I hope this continues for a long, long time. I will always be a judoka at heart but now I am a judoka who has developed a love for BJJ.

As always, thanks for reading.

I’ll talk to you soon,

Scott Moore

Love at First Fight

Back in the day, my Sensei use to say that it was not a good idea for two members of the same club to date each other. She always said that if two people in a club date then break up one or both of them would stop coming to judo. For the most part I agree with this idea. It’s the same as dating someone in your office. If things go badly it can make working together difficult. Even if you stay together but have a fight at home, it would be hard not to bring it to the office or dojo.

Of course, to every rule there are exceptions! There are many examples but I am going to talk about a few. My former Paralympic coach and his wife met when he was training in France. She was a member of the club where he was training. They started dating and everyone referred to Larry as her crazy American boyfriend. Kathy moved to the US where she was #1 for several years with Larry coaching her. They now have 15-year-old twins. Larry was a really tough coach so Kathy said it wasn’t always easy but they were able to leave judo at the dojo and always seemed to have a great relationship.

Kedge Zaqack proposing to Alyssa Gilkey

Kedge Zaqack proposing to Alyssa Gilkey

The most recent example is two member of my club, Kedge and Alyssa. Kedge and Alyssa were members of the Iowa State University Judo club who had attended the Denver Classic for a few years, so I didn’t really know them but knew who they were because they not only came to the tournament they always (their team) helped us setup the mats after weighting-in for the tournament. Of all their team, those two stood out because Kedge, despite being in his early 20ies always had on what I think of as an old-fashioned hat so the first time I saw him I thought he was the coach, don’t forget, I am visually impaired so I often see things differently than others. Plus, how can you not stand out with a unique name like Kedge. Alyssa stood out because she was that orange belt girl who came in and told me how to lay down judo mats. 🙂

Like I said, at the time I didn’t really know them or that they were dating, but when they graduated, Kedge got a job in Denver so they joined Denver Judo and have been members for about 2 years now. They have made a great addition to our club and we are very happy to have them in our judo family! We noticed right away that Alyssa was a really good teacher (she is actually a music teacher) so when we lost one of our instructors, she took over teaching the beginning class and is dong a wonderful job!

Once they moved out I realized they were a couple and it didn’t take long for people to start asking when they were going to get married. Kedge’s last name is Zawack and Alyssa’s was Gilkey. A while back Heidi was harassing them about getting married and somehow it came up that Kedge wanted a son named Commander Zawack so we were joking about the name and I said they could combine their names and name their kid Commander Gilwack. Everyone liked that name and Alyssa started referring to them as Gilwack 1 and Gilwack 2.

Several months ago, I was lucky enough to be witness to one of the coolest proposals I have ever seen, even though at the time I didn’t realized what was going on. Also, you probably have to be into judo to truly appreciate how cool this proposal was. It was getting toward the end of practice and Alyssa wasn’t really feeling all that well so she wasn’t doing any tachi waza randori (standing sparring) and I announced that the upcoming round was the last round. Kedge and Alyssa randori with each other at least once a practice, despite Kedge being bigger than Alyssa. This time she didn’t feel up to it but Kedge talked her into going light and said he would just take falls for her. No one noticed that when he left the mat, we all assumed to go to the restroom, that he had put a ring inside his judogi. I wasn’t actually watching the round but when I heard the squealing from Alyssa and one of the other women on the mat I quickly looked over and saw that when Alyssa had thrown Kedge he looked up from the floor with ring in hand and asked Alyssa to marry him.

Kedge and Alyssa got married a few months ago and Heidi and I along with many members of Denver Judo and their club from Iowa were fortunate enough to be in attendance. Kedge and Alyssa Gilwack are suck a cool couple and we are so proud to have them at Denver Judo

Kedge and Alyssa's Marital judo back patches at their weeding.

Kedge and Alyssa’s Marital judo back patches at their weeding.

The last example I will talk about is, you guessed it, Heidi and me. Like Larry and Kathy, and Kedge and Alyssa, Heidi and I met at judo. More specifically, we met in the east side bleachers of the gym above the dojo at the Olympic Training Center during the finals at the US Open. I was looking for a place to sit during the finals and a mutual friend from the OTC, Dedra Philips, yelled that there was a place near her. When I got to where she was sitting, she introduced me to her friend Heidi. I thought right away that Heidi was very cute but of course assumed she would never be interested in me, but we hit it off right away. I have always been shy around women but because Dedra was there and my Sensei came to sit with us too, I was much more comfortable than I normally would have been.

We talked all through the finals then at the after party I talked her into attending. A guy named Martin from Canada came out to train with my coach, Larry, before the US Open so he and I had been training together and we had Kathy’s car for the tournament. Martin hooked up with several of the Canadian national team and found out about an after after party and wanted to go but he had been drinking so he couldn’t drive. So I talked Heidi and Dedra into going with us so I could spend more time with Heidi. The only reason she agreed to go is because Dedrawas going. A the last-minute, Dedra pulled out so Heidi was stuck with me and Martin and pretty much the entire intoxicated Canadian national team stuffed into the little hatch back of Kathy’s car. Oh and the blind guy (me) had the directions to a place no one in the car had ever been to before.

God only knows what possessed Heidi to get in that car and drive us to that bar, but I am so thankful that she did. She and I danced a little then the club closed early due to some under age violation from the week before, so we drove back to the hotel where most everyone was staying and hung out in the lobby for a while just talking. Over the next few days they had the training camp that followed the US Open so I worked in the morning then drove down with Martin and other teammates for the afternoon session where I saw Heidi. She went to diner with us after the two sessions I attended. Heidi was living in Oregon when we met so we emailed a lot then started talking on the phone quite a bit. I had some hellacious phone bills for the year after we met until she moved to Denver.

Scott and Heidi Moore with their son  Jordan

Scott and Heidi Moore with their son Jordan

I’m not going to bore you with every date we had but I will tell you one of my favorite stores from when we started dating. While she was still living in Oregon, did I mention she lived in Oregon when we met? Ok so anyway, she was out for the weekend and we went to a movie at a theater that was being remodeled, so we had to walk out through the alley. On the way to the car there were some punk kids behind us acting like punk kids and I was thinking, “Great, I’m going to get into a fight in the alley with my girlfriend here, just great!” We got to the car and the kids went past us without incident. We had not said anything about it but just as we were getting into the car she looked at me and said, “That would have been embarrassing,” to which I replied, “what?” She said, “those kids almost had to go home and say they got their ass’ kicked by a chick and a blind guy!” I was already in love with her but at that moment, I knew she was my kind of woman. She moved to Denver in June of 1999, and we were married a year later.

It wasn’t long after Heidi got to Denver that Larry turned Denver Judo over to us. Heidi is not only my wife and best friend, we were each others training partners and coaches pretty much from that point until now. I don’t compete anymore but she does sometimes but we still enjoy training together. We also enjoy coaching together. I don’t know if I am a good coach or not, but I do know that I am a much better coach when we are working together. I love judo and I always have but I love it so much more with Heidi there. We still randori with each other and we still fight tooth and nail to win. Sometimes she does, and sometimes I do. We still coach the kids together but we split the adult practices. On Monday I stay and she takes our son home and on Wednesday she stays. I love our dojo and our students and love being on the mat and even training with them, but I love it so much more when she is there with me.

I feel so fortunate to share the thing I am most passionate about with the woman of my dreams! I have a good friend who always tells me how lucky I am that my wife and I share judo. His wife does not like all the time he spends away because of judo. When I was competing, I never had to explain why I had to spend so much time in the dojo, gym, at the track, etc. She not only understood, she was right there with me. She understood because she had the same dreams I had.

Sharing your passion with the person you are passionate about is a wonderful feeling. Heidi was not a spectator cheering me on from the sidelines, she was either on the mat with me or sitting in the coach’s chair and I was doing the same for her. One of the greatest thrills for me as a coach was sitting in the coach’s chair for her when she won the US Olympic trials, twice, actually, so I guess 2 of the greatest thrills. When I won the Paralympic Games in Sydney, we had been married for about 4 months but she was there and it was her I could hear from the stand cheering for me. We are each others biggest fans and supporters.

So, while I do agree that it can be a bad idea for people in the same judo club to date, and I have seen some examples to confirm this idea, I also know that it can work out and be a wonderful thing. Judo is too important to me, so even if I dated a girl in my class and we broke up, I may have hated to see her there but I would have never stopped going to judo for anyone or any reason. I will admit that now, if something happened to Heidi and I or if god forbid, I loose her, judo will not be the same. Even if I do manage to go, the dojo would not be the same and I would not get the same fulfillment without her there, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

As always, thanks for reading.

Talk to you soon…
Scott

2014 Senior National Championships

I know it’s been a while but I have been so busy lately I haven’t had a chance to write for a while. I actually had an article all ready to go and had planned to publish it right after I got back from Senior Nationals then work on a wrap up of nationals but our team did so well I decided to put the previous article on hold and work on this one.   As I said I have been swamped but here goes.

Left to Right (Djamaldin Aliev, Eric "I beat Jake" Van Houten, kedge Zawack, Alyssa Zawack)

Left to Right (Djamaldin Aliev, Eric “I beat Jake” Van Houten, kedge Zawack, Alyssa Zawack) Not in Picture – Mike Kannianen

I want to start by saying that I am so proud of our team from Denver Judo on how well they did at nationals! I was completely beside myself with excitement after the first day of competition and the athletes on day 2 just kept it going. Heidi and I could not be more proud of our club. Everyone trained so hard to prepare for Nationals and all that work really paid off.

Eric Van Houten started us off in the 90kg division. Eric got off to a rough start, getting caught with a drop seoi nage for ippon early in the match. His next match was against Jake Larsen who was the top seeded player in the division. Jake use to train with us quit a bit but is now training full-time at the Olympic Training Center, so Eric knows how good and powerful Jake is. Jake got off to an early lead with a few yukos (smallest score), but was unable to finish Eric who really picked it up tin the second half of the match. Eric gripped really wall with Jake and with about a minute left in the match, he threw Jake for waza ari (half point) and was able to hang on for the win, a big win for Eric!Eric’s next match was against 2012 Paralympic Bronze medalist, Dartanyon Crockett also from the OTC.   This was a hell of a match. They each had a waza ari and 3 shidos (penalties) with 3 seconds left. Eric had just tried to throw but Dartanyon defended so they stood them back up and with three seconds to go Dartanyon attacked and Eric defended and the time ran out. The match should have gone into golden score but instead the referee gave Eric a 4th shido costing him the match. I, for the life of me, cannot figure out why he got that last shido. I would get it if he had not been attacking for the last few exchanges, but he had made a good attack right before the last exchange. I was sitting in the coach’s chair for the entire match and never looked away but I have no idea which match the referee was watching when he gave that last shido. As a matter of fact there were 7 shidos in the match between Eric and Dartanyon and I can honestly tell you were 2 or maybe 3 were for. Either way, there were 3 seconds left, they should have let it go to golden score.   I like Dartanyon quite a bit and I coached him in London, but Eric got screwed out of that match. Normally I would get on him for racking up so many shidos and say it was his fault for allowing the referee to do that to him but as I said, I don’t know why either of them got most of the penalties they got. So Eric placed 7th. If he had won that last one he would have fought for 3rd but I am still so proud of the way he fought and when we took a picture with the medalists from the first day I told him I would Photoshop the words in over his chest, “I didn’t get a medal but I beat Jake!”

Next up for us was Kedge Zawack, who started off with a big win by ippon (full point) in his first round. Then in his second match he was gripping well but he over reached for the high grip and got caught with a drop seoi. You would think he and Eric had never fought a short guy who loves drop seoi nage! J Anyway, the loss was to L.A. Smith of San Jose State who ended up winning the division so Kedge was pulled back in and won his next match by 2 waza ari and 1 yuko to nothing then won his next one pretty quickly by ippon. This win put Kedge into the bronze medal match against Ajax Tadehara from the OTC.   Kedge and Ajax have gone back and forth but with Ajax a little ahead in the win count. The split in November when Kedge beat Ajax for the first time at the Dallas tournament only to lose to him the next day in the President’s Cup. Ajax also comes up to train with us periodically so they have had a lot of time on the mat together. The match was going well and Kedge got up early by a yuko. Ajax is a tough player but Kedge was gripping really well. Then about a minute and a half in Kedge got a huge o soto gari for ippon! I was so excited and was on my feet raising my hand in the air before they hit the mat. I ran back to the rail then back up to the coach’s chair to wait for Kedge to come off the mat. When he came off the mat he high-fived me and said “Go Wreck Judo!” This was a huge win for Kedge and Denver Judo and a bronze medal at Sr. Nationals!

On the other half of the bracket for us was Djamaldin Aliev. Djamal is a 3-time world team member for the US and several time national champion, but he has not competed in about 5 years so he was a little rusty. He has been coming to practice and working hard but this was his first tournament back. He won his first match pretty easily by waza ari then ippon then he won his second match by ippon but it was from the other guy getting 4 shidos. I actually felt bad for this guy.   I don’t believe he actually earned all of the shidos but Djamal is so powerful when the guy would attack he was not able to break his balance so they looked like false attacks. I didn’t believe they were, but I was coaching Djamal, not the other kid.   I think he attacked 5 times and got shidos for 4 of them. Djamal was looking a little tired in the next match. He cut a few pounds to get back down to 100 kg so I think it took its toll him. He ended up losing the next match by shidos. This was in the quarter finals so the guy he lost to went into the semi finals and Djamal was automatically pulled back in. In Djamal’s next match he was up by a yuko and a waza ari when he got a big throw for ippon to win the match and advance to the bronze medal match against 2012 Paralympic Silver medalist, Myles Porter from the OTC. Myles had injured a rib in his previous match so he pulled out of the medal match making Djamal the bronze medal winner! Not a bad showing for his first event in 5 years! Kedge is now ranked #7 in the US and Djamal is #8.

Mike Kannianen on the podium at the 2014 Senior Nationals - (Second from the right)

Mike Kannianen on the podium at the 2014 Senior Nationals – (Second from the right)

Mike Kannianen fought in the +100kg division. Mike recently moved to Denver Judo and we are so happy to have him. This was Mike’s first senior nationals, and he started out well with a big win by ippon. In his second match, Mike looked a little tired. He told us that he had been diagnosed with strep throat just 3 days before and had been taking massive doses of antibiotics in order to be able to fight and I think that being sick caught up with him. He ended up losing the match on shidos. This put him in the bronze medal match. Mike started out well, scoring several times. However, after a few minutes he started to look tired again and started racking up the shidos. With less than a minute to go and 3 shidos on the board, Heidi had had enough and shouted at Mike “are you going to let this guy take your medal?!” This seemed to wake Mike up. He promptly threw his opponent for a waza ari and pinned him for the win and his first senior national medal. Mike is now tied for 2nd overall in the +100kg division (and is 2nd in the open division as well!)

Alyssa Gilkey Zawack, recently married to Kedge, fought in the 78kg division. This was a round robin division and Alyssa was disappointed not to be able to have a chance to have more matches. However, she fought very well. Her first match was against #1 ranked Sam Bleier from the OTC. Sam is ranked in the top 30 in the world. Alyssa came out strong, and was dominating every exchange, but made a small mistake on the ground and was pinned. Alyssa likes to make Heidi sweat, so in her second match she was down by a yuko. This evidently made her mad because she grabbed her opponent and threw her for ippon with makikomi. The referee then overruled the ippon and changed it to waza ari. This just fired Alyssa up more and she did the same throw, but this one echoed through the room, leaving no doubt that it was ippon. This was Alyssa’s second consecutive silver medal at nationals, and she is ranked #2 in the US.

By the end of day 1 we had already had an incredible trip to Nationals but we were not finished. Now we move on to day 2 where our only senior competitor was Kedge Zawack fighting in the Open division. He had injured his foot the day before but thought he would do his best to fight. He got a big throw early in his first match and was griping well is his second match when his opponent kicked his injured foot so Kedge had to withdraw from the competition.

Our next competitor was John Turner who fought in the +100 division in the Visually Impaired category. John had a rough start when his opponent did a body lock, which is illegal, but the ref called ippon and when Heidi complained the jury, rather than penalizing the player for the illegal act, they only overturned the ippon so they continued fighting. It happened again, immediately after restarting the match and rather than awarding hansokumake (disqualification) for the second illegal act, they overturned the ippon to no score again. Judo tournaments are tough enough, but they are even tougher when you have to fight the referees tool. John ended up losing that match and I’m sure his back was really sore the next day. This loss dropped John into the bronze medal match against Mike Larsen. John threw Mike for ippon in the second minute of the match finished with a bronze medal.

While the VI division was fighting, we also had Garmaa Shinebayar in the 81kg brown belt division. Garmaa would have also fought in the senior division but his US citizenship did not go through until a week after nationals so he was not allowed but look out next year! I didn’t actually get to see much of him fighting as I was helping with the VI division but Heidi coached him. Garmaa started out strong with 2 commanding wins, including one over a professional MMA fighter who was on the Ultimate Fighter TV show. In the semi finals, Garmaa got sucked into fighting his opponents more static style and was caught with a tai otoshi. He dropped into the bronze medal match where he dominated the match, coming home with his first national medal.

Fighting in the Master’s 90kg division was Greg Sadar. Greg took a bronze medal in the 2013 Masters national championship and was looking to better his finish this year. He defeated all three of his opponents handily and brought home a gold medal. This win solidifies Greg’s ranking as the #1 player in the US in the M4 90kg division.

Left to Right (Djamaldin Aliev, Greg Sadar, Garmaa Shinebayar, Becki Fierens, Alyssa Zawack, Kedge Zawack) - Not in picture - Mike Kannianen, John turner, and Eric Van Houten

Left to Right (Djamaldin Aliev, Greg Sadar, Garmaa Shinebayar, Becki Fierens, Alyssa Zawack, Kedge Zawack) – Not in picture – Mike Kannianen, John turner, and Eric Van Houten

Our last competitor of the day was Becki Fierens fighting in the women’s novice 63kg division. Becki was an orange belt so we only entered her into the novice division but realized later that we should have also entered her into the brown belt division as well. She only had 2 competitors, as this was the first time nationals has featured novice division so hopefully it will continue to grow. Becki made quick work of both of her competitors, beating them both with pins for ippon. The funniest thing that happened at the tournament was after the first exchange in her last match I was coaching Becki as she was walking back to the center of the mat and she waved her arm as if to say, “I got this, I don’t need your help!” When she came off the mat and Alyssa said something to her about it, she claimed not to have any recollection of doing that. So when we tested her for her green belt a few weeks ago, the final item on her practical exam was to demonstrate the proper gesture to make to a coach when being coached from mat side, even if you don’t feel you need the help. The correct answer, which we gave her, was to nod and at least act as if she was listening. I’m sure we will get lots of mileage out of that one in the future.

I’ll end this article the way I started it. I am so proud of the Denver “Wrecking Crew!” There is a story behind that name but it will have to wait for another time. Everyone did such an amazing job. We looked at the brackets and discovered that we were tied for 3rd overall in the elite divisions with 4 medals.

Not bad for a wrecreational club!

As always, thanks for reading.

I’ll talk to you later…

Why Do I Do This Again?

That is a question I have often asked myself over the years, usually when I was training for competition.  I might look over at a teammate and ask, “Why do I do this again?”  The question was a joke (almost always) aimed at taking our minds off the pain during a particularly hard practice.  My wife and I often ask each other that question after an injury or right before going into surgery to repair the odd shoulder or knee, etc.  The short and easy answer is, because it is AWESOME, and we love it, but the true answer is much more complicated.  I’m sure that like me, most people have a quick answer they may give but if they really thing about it, they too have a much deeper reason for doing judo, or whatever they do, that is so rewarding that despite numerous setbacks and disappointments and even injuries, they do it and cannot imagine not doing it.

I originally wanted to get into sports because my older brother played several sports and was really good at all of them.  Being visually impaired did not mean I could not play the mainstream sports he played like football (American football for my friends overseas), and even basketball, although it would make them difficult, but by the time I was old enough to get into school sports, I was at the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired, so I was limited to the sports they offered.  So in the 3rd grade I decided I would try wrestling which I did almost every year after that, but I was too small/young to compete until 8th grade.  Our school wasn’t big enough to have a JV team so I wrestled varsity from 8th grade through high school.  I also did track and field in the spring but I mostly did that to stay in shape after wrestling.

Wrestling, of course lead me to judo. By a lucky chance a teammate who was a year ahead of me went to the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana-Lafayette) and took a judo class. He called and told me he thought I would like it, so I went out for a weekend to check it out and came home and told my mother I was going to USL.  She asked why, since I had planned on going to LSU. I told her “they have a judo club,” to which she replied, “what is judo?”  I replied, “I don’t know but it looks really cool!”  So in the fall of 1988 I went to USL for college and the first class I registered for was beginning judo.  I fell in love with judo right away but I had no idea where it would take me and that I would still be doing it 26 years later and coaching my own club with my wife, who I met at the US Open 2 months after moving to Colorado to train for the 2000 Paralympic Games.

Scott and Heidi Moore - it was love at first fight!

Scott and Heidi Moore – it was love at first fight!

I have had so many incredible experiences through my participation in judo, first and foremost, as I just said, I met my wife at the US Open in 1998 right after I moved to Colorado to train for the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, and we have been coaching at our own club (Denver Judo) together ever since.  In 2000, I won my second of three Paralympic medals, but this one was Gold, making me the first American to win a Gold medal in judo in either the Olympic or Paralympic Games.  My teammate won Gold the next day and we were the only 2 for the US until Kayla Harrison won Gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.    I have many other moments I am proud of in judo – in 1998 I won the IBSA World Champions in my second of 6 World teams, and after retiring from competition I was the assistant coach for the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing and the head coach for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.  I am very proud to have the opportunity to give back to my sport and to honor the many people who have given so much for my success.

I didn’t tell you about my accomplishments to illustrate how great I think I am.  If you have read my past articles you will know that I do not think I am great.  I have been very fortunate but my success is due to many factors, one being some level of athletic ability and aptitude for judo, but even more so, hard work, desire, the will to win, great training partners and coaches, not necessarily in that order.  I told you about them to show the upside.  I, of course, have had several pitfalls along the way.  I separated the A/C joint in my shoulder the first of many times in high school wrestling.  Since then I have separated them both several times, so much so that my body started laying down extra calcium to stabilize the joints.  I had to have extra bone shaved off each shoulder several years ago.  The month before my first worlds, I ruptured the bursa in my knee. I went to the trials anyway and while I was there, after having it drained three times, I had to have surgery because it got infected.  I have had several ankle sprains, injured wrists and elbows, strained LCLs and MCLs on both knees, a concussion or 2, and I have broken pretty much all my fingers and toes.  This was while I was still competing. Since retiring, I had surgery to repair my rotator cuff then a year and a half later I had to have my biceps tendon cut and reattached on the same arm.  I had a cortisone shot in my other shoulder last week, which seems to have also helped the tennis elbow on the other arm.

There are plenty of people with better upsides and worse downsides as well, but this is my article so I am giving you my highs and lows.  As I said, my wife and other teammates and I have asked jokingly over the years, “Why do we do this again?”  My mother has asked me that question many times over the years.  When I won in Sydney she was so disappointed when she found out I was not going to retire.  I used to think she hated me doing judo, but then I found out she loved judo because it meant so much to me but she hated my getting hurt.  She was really bothered by my most recent surgeries.  She always says, “Retired people are not supposed to get hurt!” But even through all the lows, I only ever considered quitting judo once, but my Sensei wouldn’t let me quit and I am so thanking to her for that.

Scott Moore after .rotator cuff surgery

Scott Moore after rotator cuff surgery

So now I’ll tell you some of the reasons quitting has never seriously entered my mind and why, even when I have been injured and cannot practice or even get on the mat, I always go to the dojo anyway.  Because I love it!  There you go, that’s why.  Now if you want to know why I love it so much that I would never consider quitting, that is a little more complicated.

I started judo because I loved wrestling and loved competing.  I got into judo because it was similar to wrestling and while rank wasn’t really important to me I did think it might be cool if I stuck with it long enough to get my black belt some day.  My Sensei, Connie Lavergne, had been an elite competitor so she taught us to be competitors.  But she is also an educator so it was important to her that we not only learned to fight but that we learned the techniques and vocabulary as well as the philosophy and principles of judo. She taught us to respect ourselves and others.  Being in a college club, we always had new people coming in and others leaving but we had a core group of people in our club  that trained and traveled together, so we became close, more like a family than just a group of friends.

That is one of the things about Denver Judo that I am most proud of. We all train very hard, but Heidi and I think of the club as our extended family. It’s this sense of community that makes judo so special.  It’s like a dysfunctional family, we all care for one another but we fight like crazy.  In 1999, when my mentor, coach, and friend Larry Lee stepped down from the Paralympic program, we were fortunate to have Willy Cahill step in as the new coach.  After the Sydney Games, Heidi and I considered moving to San Francisco to train full-time with Willy, just as I had moved to Colorado to train with Larry.  We also considered moving to Colorado Springs to train full-time at the Olympic Training Center rather than just going once or twice a week.  Either move would have allowed us to focus 100% on training rather than trying to train while coaching. The only thing that kept us in Denver was our club.  We just could not fathom the idea of walking away from our club and all our students/friends, our judo family!

Another thing I love about judo is it truly can be a lifetime sport.  This August it will be 26 years for me and I plan to be doing it at some level for the rest of my life.  And I am so lucky that I share my passion with my wife.  I never had to worry about my wife being upset because I had to spend so many hours in the dojo or the gym or away on a trip because she was usually right there with me.   I’ve known many people who could not train as much as they would like because their spouse or significant other didn’t want them in the dojo so much.  It’s understandable that they want you to spend time with them rather than spending all your spare time in the dojo, but I never had to worry about that. My wife and I share judo, and I don’t have to rush home from practice so she can go play some other sport or do some other activity.  We go to judo together.  Plus, we don’t fight at home; we work it out at the dojo!

Judo is such a great community too.  Don’t get me wrong, we have nimrods just like any other sport or group/organization, but the majority of the people I have met in judo feel the same way I do. They think of judo as more of a lifestyle than a sport or just an activity.  I have been fortunate to visit a few clubs around the country and the world over the years and everyone is always so welcoming, just before they try to throw you to the floor and choke you out.  I have so many friends from all over the world though judo.  As a matter of fact, while they don’t all come from judo, probably 95% of the people I consider my friends, I know because of judo.

Scott Moore with 3 Paralympic medals.

Scott Moore with 3 Paralympic medals.

Ok I’ve given you some of the big reasons I love judo, now I’ll give you one a little more personal to me.  As I said at the beginning of this article, I am visually impaired, but what I did not say is that I have albinism.  My hair isn’t gray, it’s white or actually clear but looks white all together and it has been all my life.  What this means is that as a kid, I got picked on a lot.  All kids get picked on to some degree, but being a kid and looking so different and being picked on for being different, even by my friends at times, or having them laugh when others did, was tough.  I, of course, have developed a thick skin but one of the things that allowed me to do that was sport.  Wrestling along with an awesome and supportive mother helped me through the tough times but even with sports I have always struggled with self-esteem issues, as many kids do.  I have always felt different and always felt insecure around people I didn’t know and sometimes still do.  I know most people go through this especially when it comes to the opposite sex but I always assumed women were not interested in me because I look so different.

Because of this I have always turned to sports and more specifically, judo because the dojo is one of the few places I truly feel normal.  Now I know a lot of people would say there is nothing normal about someone who spends the majority of his time barefoot on a mat trying to throw someone or rolling around on the floor with a bunch of sweaty people in their pajamas.  This may be true, but when I’m on the mat, I feel confident in a way I don’t feel anywhere else.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t walk around sulking or worrying about what people think about me.  I’ve learned not to care what others think and now that I’m getting older, people assume my hair is gray and not that I’m an albino.  The success I have had in judo has helped because, while Paralympians are not nearly as revered as Olympians, my success in the sport as an athlete and a coach has definitely helped boost my self-esteem.  Most of the benefit judo has had in my life is not the medals; it’s the people, some of the greatest people in the world.  Like I said, I feel normal on the mat, maybe because you have to be a little crazy to do judo, so my abnormality gets lost among all the others weirdoes.

Being that judo has been such an important part of my life and has done so much for me, it also makes me feel good about myself to be able to help do the same for others, and especially for other visually impaired individuals.  Having others feel I have something valuable to offer and show me the same respect I showed my Sensei and coaches always makes me feel so proud.

Ok, now that I have told you something way more personal than I had intended when I started this article, I’ll share part of a message I got on Facebook from a former student.   I won’t give his name because I haven’t asked for his permission to share this publically, but it made me feel so proud when I read it, I just have to share it, so I hope he will forgive me.

You probably don’t know this, but you and Heidi are the reason I am doing Judo today. Back in 2003/2004, I was a freshman at DU. As I was at the Ritchie Center working out, I walked past a door and saw someone flying across the room. Right then and there, I decided to check it out. You were both very welcoming and I had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, after that quarter, all of my classes changed and I wasn’t able to come back to class. But, I could never really forget about judo after just 3 months with you guys. I had some family problems a few years back and I needed a way to release some energy and decided to get back into judo. I was living in _______ at the time and joined their program, but I never forgot about you guys. I even remembered that I needed to look at my watch in my first class! Needless to say, I am appreciative of the environment you guys provided to me so many years ago and I will be forever grateful for that. Keep the posts coming. – A Former Student

I can’t tell you how much that means to me.  Knowing that in the short time he was with us he developed a love of judo and that when he was able he joined a club where he is now living.  That is what is judo is all about, and that is another reason I’ll never quit!

As always, thanks for reading!

I’ll talk to you later…

Minimum Effort

I don’t have a set schedule of when I will post articles or what I will write about.  The ideas for my post usually come from things I read or are inspired by things I hear or see from athletes or other coaches.  The idea for this article came to me when my wife and I were talking about people wanting to do great things with the minimum effort possible.  I have been thinking about it for a few days but this morning I came across a quote that I really liked.  I shared it on Facebook then realized it went really well with what I was thinking about for this article.  The quote is by former NFL wide receiver, Jerry Rice:

Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t
— Jerry Rice

Scott Moore training with 1984 Olympian, Brett Barron

Scott Moore training with 1984 Olympian, Brett Barron

I just found this quote today but when I was competing, this idea is what helped me get through the toughest workouts.  There were so many times when I was training for a big competition and I was physically and mentally exhausted, it would have been so much easier to skip practice or skip a run or even slack off on a run.  Some days my best effort may not have been as good as on other days, but if I started to back off I would always ask myself, “Do you think X athlete from Y country is slacking off, or is he working harder than you are because he wants it more?”  That would always help me push harder.  Like I said, my best effort may not have been as good when I was tired as it was when I was fresh, but that’s what competition is all about.  You have to be able to push hard when it hurts.  Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the ability or even the will to go on when it hurts, but how can you do that when it counts if you are not willing to do it when it does not.  I never liked losing, does anyone?  I could accept losing to a better player, or getting caught by a good athlete, what I could not accept is losing and knowing that I did not do everything possible to put myself in a position to win.  I always said that if I did everything within my ability to win and lost, I might be upset, but I would be able to hold my head up and be proud of the effort, knowing I gave it everything I had.  I would still be upset for the loss but if I did everything within my ability, I could look myself in the mirror and be proud.

I’ve never understood how anyone can expect to do anything great with a minimum effort.  No one has ever done anything great by only giving the minimum effort possible.  I know those of you have just learned the principal of judo, Seiryoku Zenyo‘ which basically mean “maximum efficiency, minimal effort” may argue that by putting forth the minimum effort in the attempt to do something great is following one of the principles of judo, right?  Not right.  That just means that you should not expend more effort than is necessary to perform a technique.

People tell me they are training hard because they go to practice two or maybe three times a week.  My thinking is ok, cool, but most everyone in your club is doing that, what else are you doing?  Mind you, I’m not talking about the average student learning judo and competing in local tournaments for fun and exercise, I’m talking about the people trying or saying they are trying to make an Olympic/Paralympic or some other national team.  How can you be doing what everyone else is doing and expect to be above average?  The short answer – you cannot!  It’s not realistic that you can put in the same effort as everyone else and somehow be better than the crowd.

Obviously there may be other factors that help you rise above the others in your club, like maybe you are blessed with a greater level of athletic ability or you have a knack for the sport, you just pick it up and are better than the others in your club.  That’s great, and maybe that will take you a little farther than some others, but I’ve got news for you, that does not make you special, at least not outside of your own club.  In most cases, everyone who wins medals at the World or Olympic/Paralympic level has greater athletic ability or affinity for the sport than the average person in their club.  Talent without real effort will only take you so far.  When talent and athletic ability are equal, it’s effort, preparation, and determination that will prevail.  There are of course many other factors that play into it as well, but if you are waiting for the “big game” whatever the “big game” is for you, to give your best effort, you have already lost.

2000 Paralympic Champion, Kevin Szott after a training session before the 2004 Paralympic Games.

2000 Paralympic Champion, Kevin Szott after a training session before the 2004 Paralympic Games.

There is a drill I do at the end of practice when we are preparing for a competition where I have everyone in a big circle run in place.  I yell a number and that is how many push-ups everyone has to do.  I usually count down from 10 to 1, then back up to 10.  That’s 110 push-ups.  That’s not a ton but we do it at the end of practice, which means they have done randori (sparring) and probably a few other drills, so everyone is already tired.  During the drill I tell them they control how fast the drill goes. They have to do 110 push-ups no matter what but they can control how much time they spend running by how hard they work.  They start running in place and I will not call a number until I am satisfied that everyone is pushing hard and getting their knees up.  If they dog it, they run longer.  It’s not necessarily the result, but the effort.  Some may not be as tired so they are really moving but some may be tired and even though they are giving everything they have, they are not moving as fast.  If I see the effort I will yell the number and if they keep it up I will yell them faster, but if they dog it, I will make them run longer.  I also have a rule that everyone counts out loud together.  If I catch someone not counting, I will call that number again.  If I ask, “what number was I on”, and someone tells me a lower number to make the exercise shorter, we start over.

One of the things I tell them is that you do not win tournaments at the tournament; you win tournaments in the dojo.  You win tournaments with preparation and hard work.  You win by learning to push harder than you ever thought possible.  If you never push that hard in the dojo, you will never be able to do it in a tournament.  Winners are created by effort, winning is not done by accident, at least not most of the time.  I have pulled throws out of nowhere when I was about to be thrown, but I’m talking about overall.

I know it’s hard, that’s what makes it special and worth doing.  When I was talking to one of my athletes/friends about his decision to quit his job to move to the Olympic Training center to make a run at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, I told him that when he is walking through the tunnel into that stadium with thousands of screaming spectators, all his sacrifices, all his hard work, all the pain, all the disappointment and frustration will have been worth it!  If he does not make it, it will still all have been worth it, or at least I hope so, because even though he will be disappointed and crushed for missing out, he will be able to hold his head high knowing he did everything he could have done and be proud of himself for the effort and all the amazing experiences along the way.  I wrote about him a while back in “Step Outside…”

Achieving anything worth achieving requires sacrifice.  You have to sacrifice your time, your energy, time with friends, drugs and alcohol (I’ve never understood drugs anyway but especially not for an athlete), and lots of other things.  I always thought, if it’s not helping me reach my goals, it’s hurting, so I can do without it, at least for now.  I’m not saying you can’t go out and have fun with your friends or go to dinner and a movie with your girlfriend of wife, I’m just saying that even if you like to go out and party every night or if you love eating fast (fatty) foods, if you are serious about winning, maybe you can put that stuff on hold for a while.  I love Buffalo wings and cheeseburgers and all kinds of other fattening foods, but when I was training for a tournament I did not eat any of that stuff.  I had to eat clean to make weight, but I also wanted to make sure I was eating food that would give me the most benefit for training and competition. If you think of your body as a machine like a race car, food is the fuel you use to make the machine run.  If you want your machine to run at its highest potential, you don’t put crappy fuel in the tank, you put the cleanest, best fuel you can get in the tank so the machine runs clean.  If you are drinking and eating fast food before a major competition, I seriously question your desire to win.  You cannot perform at your best if you are putting that stuff in your body.  After a tournament, I always gave myself a day to eat whatever I wanted then the next day I got back on my program.

United States' Travis Stevens reacts after losing against Germany's Ole Bischof during their men's -81kg judo contest semi-final match of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 31, 2012 at the ExCel arena in London. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/GettyImages)

United States’ Travis Stevens reacts after losing against Germany’s Ole Bischof during their men’s -81kg judo contest semi-final match of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 31, 2012 at the ExCel arena in London. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/GettyImages)

Deciding you want something like a national, world, or Olympic/Paralympic medal is the first step, the next step is to actually do the work necessary to get you there.  It’s great to have hope but in reference to competition, hope is not enough.  If hope is all you do, you will not succeed.  I hoped I would make the 1996 Paralympic team, so I did the work necessary to make that a reality.  I hoped I would win a gold medal, so I worked really hard but won bronze instead.  I was very proud of my bronze medal but it is not what I went there for, so I went home and worked harder and went to more camps and even moved to Colorado after winning the 1998 World Championships so I could train with my Paralympic coach full-time and train at the Olympic Training Center on a weekly basis. So in 2000, I hoped I would win a gold medal again and this time, because of all my hard work and added experience, I did.

My point is this, if you want something, you have to work for it.  It takes a great amount of effort to do something truly great.  If you sacrifice and work hard, victory is not guaranteed, but failure almost certainly is if you do not!

As always, thanks for reading!

I’ll talk to you soon…