When retiring from high level competition, athletes across all sports must pass through a number of phases, often including periods of grief, feelings of uncertainty, perhaps fear. There can be excitement too with the expansion of horizons, huge and varied opportunities becoming available in ways that their training and competition schedules had restricted in the past.

Freedom is powerful but also daunting and challenging. The Retirement of Shohei Ono has certainly been no easier than anyone else’s but his foundation has led him to think about global judo a lot. Now based in Scotland but with not insignificant travel to deliver seminars and take part in various judo activities around the world.

Shohei Ono in Scotland, January 2024.

“One day I want to lead seminars for judo coaches too, not just for judoka. So many give strange instructions and it’s ok to have many styles but we must always try to teach correct, beautiful, strong judo. Judo needs ippon and ippon needs to be seen widely as the benchmark, the goal."

Shohei Ono's ippon judo on display at the Tokyo Olympic Games, 2021.

"Now in the world I see a lot that is shido-driven and it is sometimes uninteresting. To be honest it doesn’t look like some judoka are seeking to have the best style. Judoka must throw for ippon and then we can increase the popularity of judo. Immediate results are the most important thing to so many people instead of style, but if they were to concentrate on style, maybe their results would be better.

I like the styles of Matthias Casse (BEL) and Tato Grigalashvili (GEO). They are aggressive and technical and they aim to throw for ippon, often earning no shido, and this is amazing. They don’t have the same style as me and I appreciate this a lot. They found their own judo but obeying the simple principles of positive, ippon judo."

Casse (BEL) and Grigalashvili (GEO) are always seeking positive kumi-kata. World Championships Doha 2023.

"We need to grip but often in European judo the breaking of the grips is very common, even taking up the majority of the contest time. Step by step we must move from the grip to the attack to the throw and then later to beautiful throws, so we must grip positively simply to take the first step. Casse and Grigalashvili do this and we see how it contributes to a strong pace in their contests."

"Recently I have seen many judoka more focused on physical training than technical training but throwing for ippon IS judo, it is the point and we must find a way to come back to this."

Tato Grigalashvili (GEO) is always hunting for ippon.
Tato Grigalashvili fights for ippon and always with respect for those around him.

I want to have a good experience in Europe and visit many places as well as giving many seminars. It is very important for me to talk with European judo guys and to keep learning about different judo methods.”

Whatever Ono chooses to do with his new schedule and freedom in the coming years, his contribution to judo is already more than substantial and having him now contributing to coaching discussions and the delivery of technical judo education events is exciting.

Shohei Ono has demonstrated ippon judo throughout his career and he is now living by his judo philosophies, sharing his principles with others. The chance for judoka and coaches around the world to have some insight into his methods and to discuss his ideas is invigorating for our whole community. Judo itself scores ippon here!

See also