Exclusive Interview with Olympic Judo Medalist and World Champion Jimmy Pedro

Jimmy Pedro

Jimmy Pedro at the 2004 Olympic Games. Photo credit and Rights Reserved- Real Judo Magazine/Lou DiGesare

Jimmy Pedro in action. Photo rights and credits reserved.

Jimmy Pedro Exclusive Interview for SwoleScience.com

Jimmy Pedro is not only one of the most accomplished judo practitioners in the world but is also one of the most successful American competitors to ever set foot on the mat. Jimmy Pedro’s judo accomplishments are incredible with two Olympic medals (1996 & 2004),  six US national championships, seventeen career gold medals, and three time US World Judo team coach. Jimmy Pedro is a career champion who is now poised to take on the world with the 2012 USA Olympic judo team this summer in London, England. Jimmy Pedro’s dedication to perfection, martial arts, and judo has allowed him to truly become a legend within his own time.  He has proven an unfathomable level of mental strength and discipline which has driven his success both on and off the mat to broaden not only the sport of judo but martial arts as a whole. This inspiring and relentless athlete, coach, and mentor has exemplified the true definition of a champion and ambassador of a sport.

Jimmy Pedro Exclusive Interview for SwoleScience.com conducted by Papa Swole.

SwoleScience- Thanks for doing the interview; how are you doing?

Jimmy Pedro- Doing great.

SwoleScience- So you are a two time Olympic bronze medalist, six-time national champion, and have thirty international gold medals; what has been the biggest contributor to your success as an athlete and martial artist?

Jimmy Pedro- The single biggest factor has been: mental toughness and fortitude.

SwoleScience- You were a ten-time USJA Junior National Champion, how did you get into judo so early, and what has your evolution been like to get where you are today?

Jimmy Pedro- I was literally thrown into the sport by my father who was a judo coach. I exposed myself to the best coaches in the world and trained with the best programs in the world. I have trained extensively overseas, spent a lot of time in England with Neil Adams; I’ve been to Japan over forty different times to train and compete. I have trained extensively throughout Europe.

SwoleScience- How do you think that overseas training has made a difference and overall influenced your success?

Jimmy Pedro- I think that by spending so much time in Europe and Asia, I was able to familiarize myself with their strengths, and get comfortable competing and training with various styles throughout the world.

SwoleScience- You have had a very consistent win record over your career. Over the course of your entire career which bout would you say was your hardest bout?

Jimmy Pedro- I had some battles with a guy by the name of Udo Quellmalz from Germany; he’s an Olympic champion, and two-time world champion. We had some very tough fought battles.

SwoleScience- What does your current training regimen consist of, and did it change during Olympic contention?

Jimmy Pedro- Currently I am retired, but when I was in my heyday, training consisted of: everyday doing morning running either sprints or distance running; then, a judo technical training session, followed by afternoon weight training, and then, another evening judo workout with sparring.

SwoleScience- How much does additional strength and conditioning training factor into judo competition?

Jimmy Pedro- Strength and conditioning was readily important and critical to my success.

SwoleScience- What additional strength and conditioning training techniques do you feel are the most effective for judo?

Jimmy Pedro- I think that Olympic style powerlifting and complex exercises such as clean and jerk, front squat, push press, and all in sequence really develop strength, power, and stamina. Then you combine that with a lot of polymeric exercises. I see MMA fighters nowadays doing tire flipping, and other exercises where they are basically simulating an MMA fight; I was doing that since at least the mid 1990’s as an athlete.

SwoleScience- So, what did it feel like to win the Olympic medals in 1996 and 2004?

Jimmy Pedro– I don’t think that anything will ever match winning the Bronze medal in 1996. That was my first time at the Olympic Games and it was something that I had dreamt about my entire life, and when it became a reality in 1996, in America, it was a dream come true. It was just friggin’ awesome. I was there with my family and my friends; and everyone who helped me was in attendance, rooting for me that day. It was a very sweet victory.

Jimmy Pedro. Photo credit/Rights- JimmyPedro.com

SwoleScience- For those who don’t know, can you explain the philosophy and basic rule structure of judo?

Jimmy Pedro- In judo, although the emphasis is primarily on the standup part of the game, the object of judo is to throw your opponent from his feet directly onto his back, and if you can do so, you instantly win the match. You can try a throw, and you will score points; you are allowed to continue to grapple on the ground similar to jiu jitsu, where the objective is to either submit your opponent with an armlock or a strangle similar to jiu jitsu, or you can pin your opponent like in wrestling.

SwoleScience- One argument that always comes up is the judo vs. Brazilian jiu jitsu debate. How do they differ and what is your opinion on their comparison?

Jimmy Pedro- Judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu came from the same place, so all of the techniques, all of the strangles and armlocks, are basically the same. It is just the goals of both sports have gone into two entirely different directions. Judo is a much faster paced, explosive, and more dynamic art than jiu jitsu, and therefore you cannot pay as much attention to detail as you do in jiu jitsu when you do judo, because the referee does not give you enough time to execute those skills on the ground; where as in jiu jitsu, the entire match can be spent on the ground and you can take your time. Jiu jitsu practitioners are much more stylistic in their technique, and it is inch by inch, whereas in judo it is 100% or nothing because that is all that you have time for.

SwoleScience- Would you change that? Would you change that time-limit aspect of judo?

Jimmy Pedro- I think there becomes a point where it becomes a stalemate and therefore you should break that up in any sport.

SwoleScience- The reason why I ask is because when SwoleScience spoke to the Gracie brothers (Royce and Royler) they adamantly stated that there should not be time limits in any competition. What is your opinion with respect to judo?

Jimmy Pedro- I think that in any sport, it is very, very, boring for the public to sit there and watch something that just goes on for ten minutes without an outcome, so I think there should be some sort of time limit. However, the rule that I would change in judo is that you would continue on the ground and you have to stand yourself up; whereas now, the referee will stand you up a lot of times in judo. I think that the athlete should have to get up on his own in order to continue on his feet.

SwoleScience- Brazilian jiu jitsu has branded itself as a real world self- defense technique, do you feel that judo has this application as well?

Jimmy Pedro- 100% yes. Every art has challenges; you would not use jiu jitsu and go to the ground if you have more than one attacker. Whereas in judo you can attack multiple people, you can throw the first guy, and then take the next guy on. A throw on a mat, cage, or elevated platform does not have the same impact that it would on the street concrete. If you throw someone on their head in real life, they are not getting up.

SwoleScience- You are currently the 2012 USA Olympic Judo coach for the games taking place this year. I know you have stated in the past that you are predicting Gold medals this year; what specifically have you guys been doing different to bring home the first American Gold medal?

Jimmy Pedro- This team was hand selected back in 2004, immediately after I retired from the Olympics. USA judo put me in charge of a program called the U23 Elite Team, which essentially was the handpicked, most talented 20 kids in the country between the ages of 15-23; and we said, this is the group of the future. I work with them at camps, training, competitions, and I brought them all to my dojo here in Massachusetts, and have been training with them. We have truly developed a team of athletes that believes in a system of fighting such as gripping and conditioning. They have a total package of every element, and I have worked with them for a long period of time. Our athletes that are stepping onto the mat in 2012 have been preparing for the past eight years with a staff that is committed to seeing them succeed, and they have bought into the program, and now we are seeing the results of the effort.

Jimmy Pedro after Olympic win. Photo credit/Rights- JimmyPedro.com

SwoleScience- Based on your Olympic experience, do you guys think you have what it takes this year?

Jimmy Pedro- Without question. We have a couple of athletes that have a legitimate shot at a medal. Kayla Harrison is a gold medal favorite heading into the Olympics; she has beaten everyone in the world this past year. We have Travis, on the men’s side, who has beaten most of the contenders for medals. We have an athlete named Marti Malloy, out of San Jose, California, who made it to the semi-finals at Worlds, also to semi-finals in France which is one of the top level tournaments in the world, and she finished with a bronze there, and she has contended with the best. We also have a gentleman by the name of Nick Delpopolo who is top 15 in the world and is a medal contender as well. So, we have the four athletes that I just stated,  all of which are contenders for a medal, and eventually one or two will win.

SwoleScience- With the recent mainstream success of mixed marital arts, do you see this bringing more exposure to American judo at this year’s games?

Jimmy Pedro- Before jiu jitsu exploded into what jiu jitsu is today, I think mainstream media didn’t give much credit to martial arts at all. They didn’t give it any exposure on television, any time to martial arts, because they didn’t think there was a fan base that would follow it. I think that with the explosion of MMA, just in the last four years, and how frequently it is on TV, I think American media realizes that there are true followers of martial arts in this world, and judo is one art of MMA as is jiu jitsu. There are not ten of thousands of fans, there are millions of fans of martial arts, and hopefully this will help with media coverage for this year’s games.

SwoleScience- There have been more and more examples of Judo throws and techniques being exemplified in professional mixed martial arts competitions, is there room for successful cross competition?

Jimmy Pedro- I think that to be truly successful in the sport of Judo to where you win a medal in the Olympics, you have to devote yourself to Judo full time. Because the level of technique is so high, if you take time off it is very tough to come back to that same level of skill. If you want to win an Olympic medal in judo, you need to do Judo 100%, particularly the two years heading into the Olympic Games. After the Olympics, if you want to take some time off, and focus on mixed martial arts, you can certainly do that. To be truly successful at MMA, you have to have a well-rounded game as well. You cannot just think that with Judo you are going to win at mixed martial arts. You truly need to become a good striker, work on jiu jitsu and submissions, and diversify. Interestingly enough, one of the best Judo guys in the world Ilias Iliadis, who won the Olympics when he was 17, is a two time world champion, and is a friend of mine, and he is asking me if I can help him with his mixed martial arts career because he wants to compete after these games, which he may very well do.

SwoleScience- Given the current climate of the combat sports world, where do you see judo evolving in the next 10 years?

Jimmy Pedro- The current president of World Judo which is a judo federation, is 100% committed to the sport of judo. Worldwide judo has about 190 nations that participate in this sport, and there are millions and millions of people practicing judo worldwide, so it is a very strong and organized association. The focus will be on judo and the Olympic ideal of judo as a sport with friendly competition, respect, respect for your opponent, and a sport for the development of society by helping people become a well rounded individual. MMA, particularly what is on TV, where guys are slitting each other’s throats, or talking trash, all of those things go against the judo and Olympic ideals because they are not really respecting their opponent if you are trash talking him. The judo direction is going to continue to focus on being clean, positive, forwarding the Olympic ideals, having respect for everybody, and improving society through friendly competition.

SwoleScience- What goals do you have in the sport left besides what you have already accomplished in your incredible career?

Jimmy Pedro- Number one, I would like to produce an Olympic champion, and hopefully we will get an opportunity at the London 2012 Olympics. I will fully be content if one of my athletes on a US Olympic team won Olympic gold because that has never been done before. The second goal would be to have judo become successful in America by making it more of a mainstream sport.

SwoleScience- What else do you think needs to be done to make it more of a mainstream sport?

Jimmy Pedro- Make it Professional. Athletes need to be paid, and coaches need to be paid for teaching judo in America.

SwoleScience- Besides training and coaching what else are you involved in now?

Jimmy Pedro- I am Vice-President of Marketing and Sales for Zebra Mats and I am a consultant for a company called Fuji Sports.

SwoleScience- What is the most important piece of advice you would like to give to an aspiring martial artist or athlete?

Jimmy Pedro- This goes back to your first question as to why I was so successful and it is the mindset of a champion. It really is that you need to have a goal, believe that the goal is possible, and you need to do everything your power to pursue that goal. Along the way, regardless of the bumps and the bruises and setbacks, if you truly believe that the goal is possible, you will make it happen, without a doubt.

SwoleScience- Thank you so much for the interview Jimmy and we look forward to speaking to you again in the future.


-Papa Swole

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(Photos used with permission from Jimmy Pedro)

(This is an original post and exclusive interview that is copyright to SwoleScience.com, credited to the aforementioned author. Its reproduction is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved to the original authors of any quoted or embedded material)


1 Response

  1. Buffett says:

    Great interview.. Jimmy is amazing and wish him luck with his team.. Loved those take down techniques..

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