Peter Senerchia, better known as “Taz,” is widely regarded as the greatest World Heavyweight Champion in the history of Extreme Championship Wrestling. However, before Taz threw people around the wrestling ring as “The Human Suplex Machine,” Taz threw them across the mat as a competitive judoka.
During a professional wrestling career that saw Taz perform as either an in-ring or on-the-mic talent for ECW, WWE and TNA Wrestling, Taz was famous as one of the top trainers of wrestling talent, and his skills were put on display before a national cable television audience on shows like MTV’s “Tough Enough.” Presently, Taz is the voice of Impact Wrestling, and he can be heard every Thursday at 8:00 p.m. on Spike TV. However, if you were lucky enough to get close to Taz during a training session and asked him what it takes to be successful at judo, the Brooklyn native probably would have told you the following five things.
1. Train yourself to pull with power
Nowadays, most athletes are heading to the gym and attempting to build additional strength to help them compete in their particular sports, and judoka are no different. While there is always a temptation to focus on the muscles that are easily visible when looking into a mirror, Taz says that judoka need to focus on the muscles they can’t see if they want to be effective.
“In the gym, judoka should work on any pulling motion,” Taz explained, “which means training your biceps, and mainly training your back. Pulling movements are conducive to the sport of judo because they help with grip strength, pulling your opponent into your body for many throws, or mat play with regard to chokes.”
2. Learn to love yoga
Not too long ago, yoga was considered a fitness option only suitable for women, but in recent years, yoga has gained a groundswell of support for a variety of reasons, including its ability to simultaneously strengthen tendons, ligament and muscles while also rehabilitating injuries. However, when Taz talks about yoga’s sport-specific benefits to judo practitioners, his reasons for recommending it are simple.
“Judoka should do yoga because it gives you flexibility, and it will bring control to a judoka’s body,” Taz said. “Flexibility is the key to staying injury free, especially in judo, and it also helps with quickness.”
3.Make a run for it
The running track and the football field may seem like training grounds that have nothing to offer to the training of a judo practitioner, but Taz says otherwise. In order for judoka to develop the conditioning necessary for the rigors of competition on the mat, a trip to the football field of the local high school may be precisely what is needed.
“Gassers are basically a running or short sprinting cardio exercise that you would do on a football field,” Taz explained. “They’re short burst sprints back and forth average 20 to 30 yards. It’s a high-intensity heart conditioning drill that will help with the thumping your heart goes through during randori.”
4.Learn to wrestle
In an era where kids are being taught to pick a single sport and stick with it year round, it probably sounds counterintuitive to suggest that athletes cross train with another sport, even if the sports are closely related. In this case, Taz gives his advice based on his experience noticing the consistent advantage some judoka seemed to have over others, and it all stems from their having trained in wrestling.
“In my experience, the better judokas were the kids that also wrestled,” Taz observed. “Collegiate-style mat work with the proper coaching is a huge advantage for the sport of judo. Wrestling is the best way to perfect one’s reaction time, hips, hands and feet in any form of grappling.”
5. Oxygenate with the right food
It doesn’t really matter how good you are at your sport; if oxygen isn’t finding its way to your brain or to your muscles, your body won’t be able to perform at its peak. For Taz, getting oxygen to the muscles starts with what the athletes are putting into their stomachs, and some food options are far more welcomed than others.
“Nutrition is an extremely important tool to any athlete, especially in a sport like judo where your cardio is vital,” said Taz. “Water fresh fruits and veggies would really help getting that oxygen to your muscles. Avoid fried foods and heavy, sugary stuff. In my opinion, Gatorade is overrated. If you want to drink it to recover then cut it with water; there’s too much sugar in that stuff.”
The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a multi-sport, Olympic-style event(s) that welcome athletes regardless of age or ability level. The Games embody the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living.