Olympians’ Clinic a Unique Gathering – and a Huge Success

October 14, 2019

Senseis Burris, Morris, Bregman, and Williams


by Chuck Medani


Nearly 60 judokas, from novices to 7th and 8th degree black belts, gathered at Sport Judo on September 15th in Springfield, Virginia for what was billed as the “can’t-miss clinic of the year”.


They were not disappointed.


James Bregman, one of the four legendary members (along with Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Paul Maruyama, and George Harris) of the first US Olympic Judo team in 1964, two-time Olympian Pat Burris of Oklahoma, four-time Olympian Jason Morris of Scotia, New York, and US World Team member, Olympic alternate, and current IJF-A rated international referee David Williams of San Jose, California spent the day speaking about and demonstrating a wide range of topics including training, competition, general approaches to high-end judo competition, and understanding the role, development, and perspective of referees.


The principal clinicians kicking off the day’s discussions with a panel addressing a wide range of topics of interest to coaches


The initial plan, discussed by Bregman and USJA coaching certification clinician and education authority Rob Reilly, Ed.D., was to have a USJA coaching clinic run by Sensei Bregman.  But, combining efforts with Roy Englert, president of the USJF’s Shufu Yudanshakai, the three worked together with the three major national judo organizations, and, bringing in several other subject matter specialists, it morphed into a day with multiple Olympians, international referees, and kata, teaching, and coaching experts sharing invaluable information with attendees, and becoming the first coach certification event that included certifications for the USJF, USJA, and USA Judo.


Rounding out the clinician specialties for this three-organization coach certification was an additional impressive group of judokas, including 2019 PanAms kata double gold medalists and US kata world team members Rob Gouthro and Lisa Capriotti, Ph.D., Shufu vice-president and USJF master instructor for coach and teacher certification Eric Spears, Roy Englert, Esq., and former Shufu board of examiners chair Tad Nalls, Esq.

Roy Englert, Esq., and Tad Nalls, Esq., conducting a panel on legal issues


The curriculum included interactive panels, perspectives on high-level shiai and kata competition, learning and teaching processes, competitive skills in nagewaza (throwing), newaza (matwork), scouting opponents, and match strategies, and legal aspects of coaching, teaching, and running a judo club.


Jim Bregman, talking about the mechanics of his spinning uchimata

Sensei Bregman and others had a number of comments regarding this unique event.  “I thought the clinic was a tremendous success and was very well attended”, said Bregman.  “The presenters and other clinicians did an outstanding job.  Jason Morris and Pat Burris have past experience at many different levels of judo, and were extraordinarily successful on the

Jim Bregman demonstrating set-up movements

international scene.  So in that regard, I think the actual teaching of competitive techniques went very well.  Rob Reilly did a tremendous job with the coaching program, as did Eric Spears and the other presenters.”


Pat Burris, one of the long-time leading teachers and coaches of USA Judo, expressed a sense of humility when asked about the meaning of such a clinic.  “To me this is very, very important, and it was such an honor to be in the same room with Sensei Jim Bregman.  It’s an honor to be here and it is good for all of judo.


“It doesn’t matter what organization you are with, it means that you are with judo, and that’s the most important thing. That we’re all working together for a common purpose, and I think that’s for sharing – I’ve learned a lot already, and only half the day is over.  So it has been really nice to share with my judo friends.

Pat Burris demonstrating subtleties of newaza


“Any time you can see Jason Morris demonstrate his “sticky foot”, that’s exciting in itself.  But it was great to hear Sensei Bregman’s eloquent and well-done talk at the beginning saying basically how we all feel about judo and what a great sport it is.  That it is not just about winning matches, it’s about learning, growing, and the human experiences that we have along the way.  Sensei Bregman has been a hero, I think, for every judo person in America, and to be able to share the mat with him has been an honor.”


When asked about Bregman’s comments that we as coaches and teachers shouldn’t coach for the Olympic level, but for the development of good men and women, Burris was firmly in that camp.  “Absolutely, and the bottom line is that that’s exactly right.  The Olympians will rise on their own – with good coaches and assistance they’re going to make the team.  But the important thing is that everybody has the opportunity to learn the great sport of judo and to live that life.  That’s really kind of neat.”


Andy and Edie Connelly were two judokas who were not familiar faces at Sport Judo.  That’s because they had traveled from The Woodlands, near Houston, Texas just to attend the clinic.  Andy, certified as an IJF-B (Continental) referee, gave some of their reasons for traveling so far.


Andy and Edie Connelly

“We saw a clinic with Jim Bregman, Pat Burris, and Jason Morris and we decided that we needed to be part of this.  We put the trip together and we’re here watching history being made because these gentlemen have been before us on the judo mat and they are helping to pass on their knowledge so that the young judo people can also continue to make their history.”


Edie, a US National referee, added, “I’m making new friends, seeing people I haven’t seen for a long time.  But I agree with Andy that we’re gaining a lot of knowledge.  That’s why I’m videotaping, to take that knowledge back to our judo school.  I’m hoping to give the kids there something to think about.”


Then the couple offered one of their maxims that “The family that fights together stays together.”


Jason Morris also had a number of positive thoughts about the day.  “I think anytime any type of judo event has 50 or 60 people come together and talk judo for the whole day is great. I’ve learned a bunch already – I think it’s phenomenal.

Jason Morris teaching “The Sticker”


“I’m not an organizational guy – I’m just a judo guy, and I think that most of us really are.  We just get roped into doing things and going down a political path, but we’re really just judo dudes.  Most of us are all about progress, about judo in general.  It’s the best sport that exists on the planet, in my opinion, and it needs to be promoted. It’s the job of all of us – I don’t care what organization you are from or what specific agenda you have.


“When I got the call for this, I immediately accepted.  I want to be involved, so here I am.”


David Williams teaches in the departments of Kinesiology and Communication Studies at San Jose State

David Williams

University in California. His focus was especially on teaching the teachers and expanding judo into the university system.  “The whole purpose of teaching is exposing people to new and different things.  Coach certifications are important because you need them in order to help the coaches help their athletes.  So to grow exponentially, I teach the coach.  But if the coach goes home and doesn’t do anything with it, or is incapable of doing anything with it, it hurts what we’re able to do.


“So we started with the coach certifications,  it must have been in the early 2000s, and I’ve continued to watch them grow.  As I started refereeing more, I’ve gotten away from coaching, but not from teaching.  The teacher is always necessary.  In judo we always have to have at least one teacher.


“We do these (certifications) pretty regularly in northern and southern California.  We must do them for our collegiate programs, especially so that when the kids finish high school, there’s someplace for them to go.  We need the same thing done with universities nationwide. “


Maurice Allan, the sensei of Sport Judo and a former Olympian for Great Britain in freestyle wrestling, was very happy with the day’s events.  “I think that an event like this is exceptionally good – you’ve got people like Pat Burris, Jim Bregman, they are very well-known people – Jason Morris – very successful judo player – successful coach, successful club, with great stories to tell.


Maurice Allan


“All of this (teaching) goes back and permeates through the clubs.  Lots of people are taking pictures, they’re on their phones, and sending this out to their clubs and to Facebook.  So all of this stuff is going out there, which is really, really good. And many people may not know Jim Bregman – they may not know Pat Burris.  Burris was in two Olympic Games, is a very successful coach, and is chairman of the coaching program for USA Judo.  I agree with a lot of the stuff they’re talking about – taking care of the kids, making them better citizens and making them better people.


“I think the whole thing today has been extremely successful.  It started on time, and has been well-run.  The clinicians have come in and each contributed their three or four principles, and they presented very, very well.  I think it was a great idea and was very well received.


“And I think that this walk-through journey, this history, is good.  It doesn’t have to be just all about randori and fighting and that kind of stuff, which has its place and is very important, but I think that this was an important day because you have these iconic figures of judo telling their stories.  We should do more of them, find the many other people who have untold stories.


“The word about this clinic is going to go far, because you have all levels in here, and the age group is pretty diverse.  They didn’t have randori but they had technique training, getting things explained in a very concise manner,   So it’s been a great success.”


Near the end of the day, Roy Englert was succinct:  “I’m very grateful

Roy Englert

that we could come together as a judo community and have people from different backgrounds, from different organizations, but have people who have had success in judo talk about what we have in common and about good judo.”

Rob Reilly, Ed.D


Rob Reilly echoed that sentiment:  “This was an amazing effort by many judo leaders from the USJF, USJA, and USA Judo to create a premiere clinic. I have never worked with so many judo leaders who all worked so well together for a common goal.”


The day ended with a free-form Q&A with the principal clinicians filling in many of the answers for the attendees, and certainly leaving everyone with enhanced enthusiasm for not only elevating their teaching and coaching skills, but with the satisfaction that the three judo organizations could come together, and in the words of Roy Englert, be a tide that “raises all boats”.





A final note:  During the day, an NBC video team interviewed the three Olympians in preparation for the run-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Japan.  Watch for the broadcast next summer!

NBC crew interviewing Sensei Bregman

All images © 2019 Charles Medani / Refreshing-Images.com













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Coach Certification

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Hilaire Notewo Seeking Donations for Judo Programs in the Ivory Coast, Needs Gis and Equipment

Longtime Shufu Judo member Hilaire Notewo is planning to relocate to Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Africa in late November/December. He will be supporting judo programs, but equipment (esp. judo uniforms) are difficult to come by.  Hilaire is looking for gently used judo gis and other equipment.  Hilaire will also be visiting and donating goods to orphanages.  Should you have gently used shoes, clothes for teenagers, youths, and toddlers, kindly make them available to Hilaire.

If you would like to donate to this effort, you can send your donation to the following address:

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7401 New Hampshire Ave. #1003

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Or contact him via his email address: hilson79@gmail.com 202 945 3781.