In Judo Do You Really Have To Fail To Succeed (Part 2)
by, Rhadi Ferguson, PhD

Hello and greetings.

I hope that you are having a fantastic day. Today has been challenging as I am literally writing this blog post a little bit later than I expected because I had a knock down, drag out evening last night with my 4 year old daughter, Rhadi.

My son Rufus is allergic to peanuts so we know that he can’t have any nuts or eat any. But Rhadi, is not. She’s done all of the allergy testing and is not allergic. Little did I know that cashews are in a different nut family and the allergic reactions to nuts just doesn’t make sense. Like, both of my children can eat coconuts and drink coconut juice (which is in the tree nut family) but they cannot tolerate cashews. If you have never done the whole google search on nut allergies and you have children, I would recommend that you do so.  I just learned a REALLY good lesson last night after Rhadi’s vomiting, coughing and face swelling episode in harmony with my cleaning up and checking on her every hour.  And that lesson was — NO MORE NUTS.

My wife just left to go out of town and I know she’s probably saying,  “See! I leave for one minute and all hell breaks loose!”  And she would be 100% correct.  🙂

Well, yesterday we dove into the topic of failing in order to succeed and I was going to share with you one of the moments which was a true tipping point for me and a client of mine. It is one of the hardest moments for me to discuss and quite honestly I’ve never talked about it in depth with my friend who I shared the moment with. We just mention it in passing and then we keep it moving.

It was a moment that was so painful that just typing it or talking about it makes me want to take a pistol and shove it in somebody’s mouth and pull the trigger.  I know that isn’t something good to write but when communicating you have to feel what I am writing since you can’t see the tightness of my face or hear the increase in my heart rate or feel the rise of my blood pressure.

In the year of 2008, I had no idea that I would have a training experience that would change my life. One that would also change the life of my client.  I was just doing my job. My job is to provide professional services in the area of combat sports as a performance enhancement specialist and to do so in support of my clients for their embetterment, improvement and increased desired match outcomes.

Let me back track some, because, I’ve never told this story in its entirety, but I’m going to today…..

At the 2008 United States Judo National Championships I saw this dude that I had seen for some time. I knew him because we wrestled at the same time in college, so I had seen his name on the national ranking list. We were both Division 1 Wrestlers but not in the same class. Not at all. He was a Big 10 Wrestler, an All Big 10 wrestler and a Division 1 All American Wrestler.  I…… well, I wrestled in college. LOL.

In 2008 I watched him while he was warming up. He was all by himself and I decided to ask him if he had an extra jacket and I warmed up with him.  I remember what it was like, going to tournaments by myself with no workout partner so I wanted to help him.  While warming up with him I could see that he did not know ANYTHING that was even close to what was going to be necessary to place at this tournament and qualify for the Olympic Trials.  I knew how old he was. I knew that he had a family. And I knew that THIS was the end of the line for him.  I also knew, that with his wrestling background, if he took the information that I had and applied it at this tournament, that he could most certainly qualify for the trials.

I also knew that as a world class wrestler that he could pick up the information QUICKLY. So I just warmed up and observed. And then his coach came over and he was telling him the WRONG SH*T!! Ohmigosh! It was so bad that it would have had him dumped on his head for sure. I did not want to interject, but there was no time. It was like not wanted to grab your daughter by the hair, but that’s the only thing available when they are falling off of a cliff.

And his coach, at that time, is someone who I still have a massive amount of respect for. So I interjected and said, “Man, I think that if you do X, this may happen. You might be better served doing Y.”   NOW PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS…….

I AM THE KING OF MOROTE GARI and there is NOBODY who has come out of USA Judo who owned the pickup game like I did on a national or international level, so when I talk about pickups, I KNOW what in the hell I’m talking about. I’ve studied them like nobody’s business.

Instead of his coach looking at what I said and saying, “Thanks, but we are going to stick with this” or “I appreciate that” or “if you don’t mind, I need a couple of moments alone to speak with my player. Thanks for warming him up.”

His reply was to his PLAYER, “LOOK!!!! Now you can listen to him or you can listen to me.”

(you can guess who he listened too).

So, after placing in the tournament and qualifying for the Olympic Trials 🙂  Brian Picklo started training with me.  In order to prepare, he came down to Florida where I lived to train. He took off work and came down.  We put in 16 hour work days while he was there. We did scouting reports, match analysis and game plans for all the persons that were on his side of the bracket and the person that was the most likely to win on the other side.  Lucky for us, ALL of his competitors that he had to fight via the selection process were lefties. And the number one person in the country at the time, was a lefty. And as the Lord would have it, I fight lefty. So this was a match made in heaven.

As I said, we trained and trained and trained. And during the training, I also brought a technical specialist down to help him.

All he kept saying is, “I can’t believe that nobody ever explained this stuff to me. You’ve unlocked all of my judo.”

He was in disbelief the whole time.

And so was his wife on the price that I quoted for the training.  LOL

But he did know that, ALL OF THE MONEY THAT HE PAID ME. I INVESTED IN THE TRAINING.  I made nothing!

Like the old fable goes,

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.
The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should
open a restaurant!”
Pig replies: “Hmmmm, maybe, what would we call it?”
The Chicken responds: “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”
The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved!”

I was committed. More so than I should have been and that’s probably who I am so leery of doing Olympic cycles and runs with people because they are life altering experiences. BIG TIME.

After training for some time, Brian was ready to go home and the technical coach that I brought in, Angelo Ruiz, a 3-Time Olympian told Brian, “You cannot go home. If you want to win the Olympic Trials, you must stay here and train.”

He thought about work. He thought about his wife. He missed his kids. He sat in the back of the car and cried. He called his wife and told her that he had to stay and about how much more money the training would cost and he stayed.

And he trained.

And he trained some more.

And then he trained some more.

He and I fought each other like we didn’t like each other in training.

When we first started training, I could beat him.  I remember thinking, “As long as I can beat him, he’s not ready.” As the days passed, the gap lessened. And then it closed. And then I could no longer beat him in practice. It was now him who was standing over me, waiting for me to get up. Practice started getting miserable. I was taking all the falls. I was the practice dummy. And I was getting my ass whipped. LOL!!!

I taught him all of my lefty vs. righty tricks and how to patch up the holes in the old judo game when you could grab the legs, and fighting him was getting frustrating.

He was turning into a machine. He was coming back to the house and watching film and falling asleep on his notes.  He knew that match strategy and game plan for each player. He could recite the scouting report on each player and he had caught up to my other client Taraje in terms of adeptness, albeit on a smaller scale because he did not have to learn the righty vs. right game at all in order to win the trials.

My son would sit down with Brian while he was doing his notes and Brian would put his arm around him and hug him up and I would be ready to break down because I could just see that he loved kids and wanted to be home with his, but that this little brown one would serve as a good substitute.  LOL!!!  🙂  My son was around the house walking behind Brian and would even practice with him.

Even though I was in the process, it is also my job to watch the process in order to get a good read on the athlete.

The best assessment that I could make was during the 2008 Pan American Championships and Team Tournament.  Now this was a hectic weekend.

I had to pay to have my father fly down from Maryland to watch my son because now I had Taraje Williams-Murray and Brian Picklo, both in my home at the same time.  Taraje was in a MUST win situation at the Pan Ams where he had to place in order to qualify the 60kg division for the 2008 Olympics. There’s a huge back story to that which I cannot get into but I’m telling you right now that my house was like a pressure cooker.

We went to the Pan Am Championships in Miami.  Taraje, got 1st or 3rd and qualified the division and Brian fought well and ended up with a Bronze Medal in the Team Championships.  It was a great weekend.

And afterwards, it was back to the house for more training.

And then…… it was time for Brian to leave and go back home for a few days.

He left with his training schedule, all of his notes, his reports and his knowledge.

We were over confident.

Vegas here we come.


The Olympic Trials is probably one of the most saddest times that many will experience in life, well at least at that point in their lives.

What you must understand is this.

In that arena full of people. Only a handful of folks, family members and competitors will LEAVE happy. Others will leave in a state of shock, disappointment and disbelief.  They will leave as statistical losers and will have to find a way in life to use the experience to live as winners. They will all go through a massive state of depression which requires requires treatment but there is none available.

Could you imagine what it would be like to go through medical school and fail your board exam or law school and fail the bar exam, WITH NO OPTION OF TAKING IT AGAIN UNLESS YOU WENT TO SCHOOL AGAIN!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Well, THAT is what the pressure of the Olympic Trials is akin to.

And THAT is what I try to tell people who try to make a comparison to Ronda Rousey in MMA with the other women who do it.  They have not INVESTED as much as she has. Nor do they understand the finality of a loss because for them, there’s always another match or another organization. Ronda has competed where she understand that a loss will alter her life and she cannot replay this match again. See, Tate lost to Ronda and got to fight her again and another fight, although not marketable, is still a possibility.

As I digress……

I arrived in Vegas where the Olympic Trials were with my wife Traci and my son Rufus.  I had to immediately drop them off at the hotel and attend to the wrestling clients that I had at the time and the Judo clients (Taraje and Brian).  I had to make sure all the paperwork was done and that everybody was registered and the all persons made weight.

Things were great and on schedule.

On Saturday the trials would begin and at the end of the day, I expected to have 4 Olympians in the stable.

Here’s how the day went….

(check me tomorrow for part 3. I’m writing this as I go and it’s getting long and my mind is a little jumbled on the details. Some of the stuff I have blocked out and I know I’m going to cry when I write the next part but I’m going to write it anyway.)

Check out part 3 tomorrow.  Take care and God bless.