Home > Events, Interviews, Martial Arts > Interview: Maki Tsukada – Olympic & World Judo Champion

Interview: Maki Tsukada – Olympic & World Judo Champion

“The more confident I am, the more strict I am with myself!” Maki Tsukada

Female judoka Maki Tsukada has become one of the most revered figures of the popular martial art deviced by Jigoro Kano. During her competition years, Tsukada was a force to be reckoned with – an absolute powerhouse who has won a mass of awards. She won the 2003 World Judo Championship Games and became a gold medallist in the Women’s Judo +78kg catergory at the 2004 Athens Olympics and a silver medallist in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The unequalled nine consecutive All-Japan female champion (2002 – 2010) – a record yet to be beaten –  recently retired from competition and now expresses her passion for the sport through coaching. She was sent to the UK in September 2011 by the Japanese Olympic Commitee and made a special apprearance at the three day event, Hyper Japan 2012 Spring (24th – 26th February), where she gave an impressive demonstration of her exceptional skills. An imposing figure, Tsukada is also a gentle, kind person with a warm smile, which she openly shared with the audience.

Thanks to the organisers of Hyper Japan, Diverse Japan was granted a one-to-one interview with Tsukada on the afternoon of Sunday 26th February, and is presented here for your pleasure.

Interviewer: Spencer Lloyd Peet (Administrator)

(Photo ©James Fielding. All rights reserved)

Why did you want to learn judo in particular and have you trained in any other styles of martial arts?

The reason I chose judo was because a friend of mine was doing it. I haven’t trained in any other styles of martial arts.

What is it about judo you love so much?

The training is strict and very hard but my friends who I do judo with is why I love it.

When did you win your first trophy – how old were you?

It was at a district championship when I was 16.

How long did it take you to reach the level of black belt?

I started judo when I was 13 and received my black belt 2 years later.

Judo demonstration at Hyper Japan 2012 Spring (Photo ©James Fielding. All rights reserved)

Do you have a particular favourite technique?

Osoto Gari.

What has been the worst injury you have ever received during a judo competition?

My worst injury was probably a torn ligament in my elbow.

How much time and effort do you give to mental training, and what kind of mental exercises do you do before a competition?

I haven’t really done any mental training, but I do tend to watch my own videos before a competition. Watching myself doing well in a match puts me in a good frame of mind.

How do you mentally cope with defeat in competition?

There are two things I do. The first is I need to take a complete break from judo. The second is where I know what went wrong and I know what my weakness was and can focus on that and learn from it. But in the case where I take a break, I need a break from judo, and get back my passion for it. It’s not so much that I hate it, but it’s such a shock mentally that I need to escape from the reality of the fact that I have lost.

(Photo ©James Fielding. All rights reserved)

Who has been your toughest opponent?

There is a Chinese lady that I have never managed to beat.

What is it, do you think, that makes you a champion?

I listen to what people tell me. I also believe in my own potential which makes me strict with myself in training. The more confident I am, the more strict I am with myself. I try and keep the balance between being confident and cocky.

Do you belief that the learning of judo and other martial arts is on the decline in Japan? If this is the case, what can be done to change this?

I can’t deny the fact that the number of people doing judo in Japan is going down. So what I want to get across to people is that through judo you can nurture that sense of wanting to better yourself. And also the friends you make in judo…  you can’t get that kind of relationship anywhere else.

Which country outside Japan do you think has the most passion for judo?

I think the country that has the most people doing judo is France; they’re all very passionate about it. In France, judo is part of the education system. I also feel there’s a lot of passion for judo from the Brazilians.

(Photo ©James Fielding. All rights reserved)

(Photo ©James Fielding. All rights reserved)

Fear is one of our worst enemies. What can a judoka do to eliminate these fears during combat?

That feeling of fear that I felt when I started judo, I think I faced the fear because when you start even the big people get thrown. You learn how to fall and so you learn from that and get stronger and you realise that it doesn’t hurt. If I had run away straight away I wouldn’t have learnt that. But I faced it and realised I could carry on and not be afraid anymore. I think there are many scary things in life but the important thing is to focus.

With so many martial art schools opening and closing all the time, how can someone be sure that their school is being run correctly?

I think if a teacher is actually taking part then that’s a good thing, although, some are older and can’t take part, so it can be quite hard to tell. I think if you see the other people in the school smiling, and if after the lesson they tell you they enjoyed it, I think that’s a good way of knowing. Apart from that, I don’t really know. I’d like someone to tell me (laughs).

Will you be taking part in the London 2012 Olympics, if not what role will you play or how will you be involved?

I’m retired now from competition so I won’t be competing in the 2012 Olympics. But my role, if you like, will be to support judo and encourage kids to take up the sport.

Thank you very much. Please enjoy your stay in England.

Yes. Thank you.

(Photo ©James Fielding. All rights reserved)

Photography by James Fielding

Related Posts:

HYPER JAPAN 2012 Spring Photos Now Uploaded!

Interview: Minoru Kanetsuka Sensei 7th Dan British Aikido Federation

Video Interview: Antony Cummins – Author & Ninja Historian

Event: Martial Aid 2011 – Unite For Japan UK Martial Arts Demonstration

  1. Ayodeji Alabi Solomon
    April 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Please keep me updated on the AJU championship,precisely the -60kg class.


  1. May 15, 2012 at 4:22 pm
  2. September 29, 2012 at 12:36 pm

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