It is never easy to change your routine, especially for professional athletes. The pandemic has forced everyone to live differently. How to maintain physical and mental balance? How to keep enthusiasm and avoid depression? The sensei's responsibility is much greater than usual. They have solutions and have been generous, as is the remit of the coach, to answer our questions. In this second episode we talk with Yuko Fujii, Brazil's Men Head Coach.
Yuko Fujii

Were there any specific instructions for athletes concerning dietetics? What has been the impact?

Our team nutritionist has done some work with the athletes regarding what to eat and what not to eat to strengthen their immune system. We have been trying not to pressure them on losing or maintaining their weight too strictly, as it can cause huge stress and a weakened immune system.

How important is psychology in keeping judoka focussed in such a difficult period?

I think it is one of the most important aspects, especially in this situation. So many uncertainties prompt people to think about a lot of things and they have time to reflect and worry. This can take them away from their primary focus. However, I believe that the top athletes have a strong mentality to keep them on track, even though they are facing difficulties. As they have already overcome so many difficult situations to reach the elite level, most of them know how to control their way of thinking and maintain positive mental health.

What did you tell them in order to keep them training and to not lose hope?

1, Do what we were needing more time to do during the busy competition routine: study their fights and the opponents’ fights and make notes for making adjustments with their movement, timing, kumi-kata, techniques and so on. Now, we have plenty of time to do it.

2, Think of strengthening yourself day by day, progress it instead of the physical preparation being calculated back from the competitions.

3, Focus on what is inside yourself.

4, Think of your strong points. Usually, I tell them to find and face their week points, so this is a real departure for us.

How about you? What did you tell yourself?

“You have to be calm and strong and think about what we could do to be back on the mat stronger.” The athletes are already trying to do their best, although they have been suffering from the fallout from the pandemic, losing their high-level training environments.

Are you staying together to train continuously?

No, we are not. Brazil is a country of continental size, so here the athletes train at their clubs. We used to get together with some regularity but with Covid-19 we had to stop.

Yuko Fujii

If you’re not together, how do you keep contact? I contact them by phone or virtual meeting. The important thing at the moment is that they stay mentally and physically healthy. The Brazilian Team staff keep in touch with the judoka daily and we are monitoring any needs which the athletes have. How do you handle your time now? Is it different? Time at home versus time at work? It is very different. I used to travel a lot and rarely have a chance to be with my family. Now it is the opposite and I realised that looking after two young children is harder than any travel or work I hope that this period delivers some great memories for my children. What is your personal feeling/thought about the global situation and how do you see the future of judo looking? Nothing will be how it was before, that`s a fact. Not only in Judo, but also in many aspects of life. Judo is evolving constantly. Although we are traditional, we are adaptable. It is very difficult to predict what our future will be like. Have you modified the specific judo techniques used in training for the team at this time? No, I have not. What training equipment do you like judoka to use when training alone/in isolation? (Such as Uchi-Komi bands, kettlebells, rowing machine, Bulgarian bag, wobble board, Swiss ball or many others) It depends on what they need to improve. However, even when you don`t have such equipment, you can be creative and still do some nice work. It is part of the athlete’s life to be creative. Do you think there are some positives to take from this challenging global situation? Which positives apply to you, your life or your work? Life could be much simpler and we could feel happiness. We have been consuming much more than we have actually needed and wanted more and more. We need to focus more on providing rather than consuming; in other words, giving rather than taking. Solidarity could be a key word, and Judo philosophy pretty much teaches us all about it. This global situation made me think of it. I have been thinking about the value of contact sports, such as Judo. Which judoka really impresses you at the moment and why? All my Brazilian athletes impress me. The strength in their heads and the perseverance they have is impressive. We will come out of this much stronger

If you found Aladdin’s lamp and were granted 3 wishes, what would you wish for? Wisdom, serenity and a joyful life for all children.

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