Taki Taki

High Life | 2 May 2009

Martial combat

The hardest thing in the world for an athlete is to get out of bed in the morning. Show me a man who jumps out of bed and I’ll show you someone who has never trained for top competition. It’s the brutal preparation that makes one flinch when taking the morning’s first heavy, unsteady steps toward the bathroom. Yes, it’s that time of year again, and this time it’s Stuttgart, a town known for its terrific automobiles, as the safest city in Germany, and its proximity to Erwin Rommel’s birthplace. Mind you, I don’t know how safe it will be for the poor little Greek boy this time around. I will be there at the end of May, defending my world judo (70 and over) title, but they say third time is unlucky, or is it the other way round? The miracle of Miami was followed by the victorious battle of Brussels, and here’s hoping it won’t end as the slaughter in Stuttgart. But back to training.

‘What’s peak condition?’ asked an exercise psychologist in the New York Times. The answer was: ‘It’s one step from falling off a cliff.’ That’s about right. One pushes very hard two months before, after having settled into a routine of two hours per day. You push and push in the ‘dry’ training — crawling on your hands and knees on a mat, pulling or pushing a weight — then you grip fight with someone younger and stronger, and finally finish by fighting a much better judoka than yourself. I vary my routine with karate three times a week. My sensei, Richard Amos, is the best I’ve met in 40 years of Shotokan martial arts, and it is this that my judo coach thinks has led to the successes of the last two years.

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