Subject: Rules, Hard Work And Whose Better, Teddy Riner or David Douillet?

If there is one thing that we can be sure of its that the rules of sport will always change.

They change so much that comparing one competitor to another is almost nonsensical.

The times of bouts of have changed, the rules have changed, the gripping rules have changed, moves have been banned and the competition area has changed…. several times.

It’s almost impossible to compare David Douillet to Tenny Riner or Ricardo Liborio to Keenan Cornelius. Different players, different era and different rules.

The more rules that are in place in terms of competitive martial arts, the less it becomes a sport and the more it becomes a “game.”

Meaning, being good at the sport or being athletic just will not be enough in order to win. When having the best technique does not determine the outcome of a sporting event, then the event becomes more of a “game” than a sport.

For example, at the lower levels of wrestling, judo and jiujitsu, you can clearly see that the better athlete or technician wins. At the highest levels, you can see that being the best athlete has some advantages but it does not determine the outcome of bouts. You can also see that things look and seem a little bit more boring at the higher levels. Well, that’s because you are watching a high-level chess match…… you are watching skillful gamesmanship play itself out on the mat.

It doesn’t matter
if you win or lose
it’s how you play
the game

There is this saying that goes, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, its how you play the game.” And while that phrase was aimed at sportsmanship and behavior on the field of play, it is kinda true. True in that, how YOU play the game will determine if you win or lose so it really doesn’t MATTER if you win or lose….. it is HOW you play the game which is important.

All games have an element of “chance” or “luck” in them. There are no guarantees. Some things just occur and some things just happen, but your job as a seasoned coach, athlete and player is to reduce that amount of chance in an event or game through proper planning and preparation.

(side note: If you have never read a BOOK on Game Theory please do read one. NOT AN INTERNET BLOG post or article. A book!! If you coach, do your due diligence and read the books that ALL professional coaches read if you desire to be a professional.)

Most coaches, athletes and parents never get to see what this looks like on a high level. They never see the planning of the year, the month, the practice or the tournament. And unfortunately some coaches are not taught it or taught how to implement it. They never see the personal and private preparation that has to be done or the amount of deliberate practice that is done at the higher levels. Most people just throw all preparation under the umbrella of “hard work” and say that champions “work harder” than everybody else. And that’s just not true.

When you look at the athletes who reach the medal stand at the end of the day, there is no guarantee that the gold medalist “worked harder” than the bronze medalist or that the person who didn’t medal at all worked less harder than the silver medalist. None at all. Hard work is the “entry fee.” Everybody works hard. Hard work wins at the lower levels. Smart work wins at the higher ones. Hard work is like the “p” in pneumonia. If its not there, the whole thing is wrong. And although its silent in its presence, when its not present everybody knows.

The beautiful thing about high-end training and preparation is that it is a different kind of “hard work.” It’s not the type of hard work that you are used to. This type is not physically arduous but mentally tough. And this is the type of work that is necessary in order to stay at the top of your game.

Because…… the rules are always changing. And you can’t change YOUR whole game every time the rules change. Your game and approach to the sport needs to follow a certain philosophical approach that you and your coach have constructed for winning and then you need to follow that.

You Must Get

Understanding how to play the game is of the UTMOST importance. Learning the art of Judo is great. Learning the art of Brazilian Jiujitsu is great. Taking off your gi and rolling around and learning how to apply the principles learned in your art is also good if that’s what you enjoy. But, the most important thing that you need to practice if you are a competitor is how to win. And that is NOT learned through uchikomi nor randori. That is also not learned through competition. In competition, you learn how to compete.

Being able to win means that you actually study winning and what it implies, requires and demands of you when you step on the line to compete. You must study winning and apply it’s principles and practices, deliberately.

(side note: studying chess finishes is studying winning. That was free and a heluva piece of free advice at that!)

In the beginning of 2015, I will open up my Deliberate Practice Coaching Group once again. Unfortunately, as I said before,I do not have as many spots as I had at the beginning of 2014 because I’ve have some people who have already re-upped for 2015. I would highly encourage you to take the opportunity to take advantage of this coaching opportunity because there are very few opportunities in the sport of Judo and BJJ where you can get year round coaching, training and mentoring to aid you in your developmental process. But I will tell you this — I can guarantee you that your game on the mat and your overall martial arts experience will improve great if you decide to do the work.

In the next few days please enjoy your holiday season and also be on the lookout for:

1. The opening of my Deliberate Practice Coaching Group (in January 2015) –


2. my NEW Judo 2.0: Effective Strategies And Tactics Seminar (February/March 2015) –


3. A host of training and development opportunities at Tampa Florida Judo in Tampa, Florida (All year long)

Take care and have a great holiday season.

Dedicated to Your Improvement,

Rhadi Ferguson, PhD
2004 Olympian