An introduction to Planning your Olympic Judo career.

In this post we shall look at some basic ideas around planning your long term Judo career, looking at the ultimate of our Sport… the Olympic Games.
006-Olympic Judo
The Olympic Cycle
Judo is an Olympic sport which means that the competition side of Judo is driven by the 4 year Olympic cycle. What this means for the Judo athlete is that everything is focussed on one day every 4 years. All your training is geared towards and aimed at the Olympic Judo tournament. So this is the starting point for any and all serious career plans.

In a recent post on the average age of athletes competing in the current qualification events for London 2012 was identified as being around 25 years of age. What this means is that in planning your career you need to consider if you will be 25 (plus or minus a year or two) in an Olympic year. How old will you be in 2012? 2016? 2020? 2024? The reality is that you can be 20 – 30 or even more outside this range, but you are increasingly becoming a statistical outlier.

Of course being the right age is a minor issue compared to the more serious matters in planning your career. But these target years are vital and you need to work backwards from them. You need to consider how many years you need to spend qualifying; about 3-4. So you need to be on the Word Cup circuit from about the previous Olympic Judo tournament. In other words, if you are not competing in the World Cups now, then you really REALLY need to be doing so in the next year or the points deficit is likely to be insurmountable. If you are looking at 2016, then you don’t need to be at the World Cup level until 2012/2013.

If you need to be at the World Cup level by 2013, then you’ll need some experience at lower international levels prior to then. So expect to budget 2-3 years at least doing C and B tournaments. Then, you need to consider how much time you will spend at national level first? 2-3 years perhaps in the medals at your nationals before you are ready to do well overseas? How long till you get regular selection for the right events?

As you can see those years start adding up and suddenly we have 10 years of competing planned out before you step on the mat at the Olympics. Do you have 10 years till “your” Olympics?

If you have longer, then brilliant, you have extra time and can fit more training and competing in. Not got 10 years? Then you have more work to do, more planning, more training and more performing with less time than if you had more time. It is not the end of the road for you, but your path perhaps shall be harder than for others, you have more of a challenge.

So… I hope you are a 15 year old Judo athlete full of potential and starting to win some medals that people didn’t expect you to win. If so, look to 2016 and start working HARD!!

I welcome any questions, comments, etc.
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Comments (9)

LexMarch 8th, 2009 at 7:50 pm

This is a fun post, and provides a great motivator for youth judo.

I’m a 25 year-old yellow belt that started 5 months ago and have competed in 6 tournament winning 1st or 2nd in all so far (novice division). But I also competed in the black belt division 3 times (including against an olympic alternate and several nationally ranked players) where I experienced exactly the difference that the 10 years of high-level competition you talk about make for a talented judoka. At no time in my life have I really felt so outclassed. It is beautiful to see these guys that invested 15+ years of their life working hard day-in day-out in the dojo to arrive at an amazing level of dynamic judo at age 22, 23, …

Of course, there’s always the outliers as you mention…. Jimmy Pedro, for example, winning bronze at 34. I stood next to him at a pasta bar at Pedro’s Challenge, and though I don’t think that’s the same thing as actually being Jimmy Pedro, it gives me hope. If I can stand up to him at a pasta bar, then surely I can kick butt in many judo tournaments to come into my late 20’s and early 30’s, improving all the time 😉

lanceWMarch 8th, 2009 at 9:49 pm

The important thing to consider is what YOUR personal Olympics is. The follow up post I have in draft is about deciding what your goals are.

Judo has levels of competition, not as many as I would like, but they are there. Find the level for you and aim to exceed it!


samFebruary 28th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Please can you list the ( european) B level tournaments and the competitions in the World cup circuit.


uyaMay 4th, 2012 at 9:51 pm

wow i’ve never really thought like this…i need to start training if i want judo as my career, especially if i want to go to the olympics 2016

JessicaJuly 3rd, 2012 at 1:06 am

Wow I came across this while trying to answer my 11yo son’s questions about Judo. He competes right now at the national level and wants to move to the international level but I think it might be to much to soon….. he is only 11. But you have answered a lot of questions thank you.

ElvaSeptember 4th, 2012 at 9:25 pm

My 7 year old son…after practicing Judo for 2 years, now wants 2 know when he can go 2 the Olympics, lol…. 2024 is the year!

Great post 🙂

ChrisieJuly 13th, 2014 at 2:46 am

Heya any tips for me? I’m a 19 year old who last did Judo when I was 12, I was forced to quit but have finally managed to find somewhere to train in this deserted place.. I was fantastic in my younger days and intend to be that way again. I became a blue belt before the age of 12 and intend on getting my black belt and being in the 2020 Olympics realistically. Any tips and advice or just words of encouragement would be great as I’m worried it will be more than a little difficult to pick up where Ieft off. Thank you and by the way great post 🙂 xx

Robrt TaliaferroMarch 31st, 2016 at 12:58 am

Hi Chrisie. I recently picked up Judo again in NYC after a 16 year hiatus. I stopped at 7 years old and I’m 23 now. Despite 16 years without any judo training, much of the training and instincts I had developed at 6 and 7 starting firing once I was on the mat again. I was in shock that my body and mind remembered. After only 7 years you are sure to excel if you begin to take judo seriously again. Remember judo is a discipline. Nothing great can be achieved without hard work. If you are serious about the Olympics you need to eat and breathe judo and dream about ippon!

RyanAugust 13th, 2016 at 9:12 pm

I’m a 36 year old man wanting to take up judo. If I get my black belt fast enough, and do well enough in competitions. Can I compete in the olympics in my forties?

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