JIMMY PEDRO: OLYMPIC MEDALIST AND U.S. JUDO TEAM COACH
JiuJitsuMania had the opportunity to sit down with Jimmy Pedro, one of the United States’ most decorated Judo players of all time. Judo was born out of jiu jitsu, and many of the same submission techniques are taught in both sports. Jimmy has competed at the highest level of the sport. He is a two time Bronze Medalist in the Olympics in addition to being the 2012 Olympic Team Coach. Jimmy also is a very successful businessman in the combat sports world.
Give us a bit of background on yourself as to how you got started in Judo?
My father, Jim Pedro, ran a judo school called Massasoit Judo Club in Peabody, MA. It was one of the strongest judo schools in the United States for many years, and I grew up on the mats with a father who was one of the best coaches in the country. It was mandatory for me to do judo as a kid since the age of 5 years old.
When did you know that you had a chance to be one of the best American Judoka of all time?
As a junior athlete (under 17 years old), I won the Jr. National Judo Championships almost every single year, and hardly ever lost a match. However, I knew I had a chance to be GREAT in the sport when I almost beat the #1 American at the age of 16. He (Kevin Asano) ended up winning a silver in the Olympics in 1988, and I lost a tough split decision to him the year before that.
You grew up in a judo family, we can imagine being in the Pedro Family front yard when all hell was breaking loose, what was that like?
Well, to be honest, my sister (Tanya) and I were the best of friends and the worst of enemies. She was one tough cookie as a judoka and she was National Judo Champion at the age of 14 and winning medals internationally at that age. And, since she was bigger than I was, we brawled all the time which made us both tougher. But, the thing that made us great was my Dad’s no nonsense approach to training. He pushed us very hard and demanded 100% effort every day.
Judo has often been compared as “the martial art most close to BJJ”. What are your thoughts on this?
There’s no doubt that Judo and BJJ are very similar – especially in the techniques that are part of both arts. Most people do not know that judo evolved from jiu-jitsu and that all of the newaza (ground techniques); such as triangle chokes, guard and half guard position, etc…are all taught in judo as well. The only difference is that we do not do the small joint manipulations or leg/ankle locks. The big difference today is where the sports have evolved to. Judo competition focuses mainly on stand up or throwing techniques, and jiu-jitsu competition focuses mainly on ground techniques. But, at the core and in training, a good judo school teaches its students many of the same submission techniques that one would learn in jiu-jitsu.
As one of the most decorated judoka of all time coming out of the US, what do you notice most about the high level BJJ competitions that you watch?
Because of my knowledge of the ground game, it is really easy for me to follow and understand the jiu-jitsu competitions and positions/attacks that are made. At the highest level, many matches are won by the smallest of margins sometimes (EG; ADVANTAGES). I would like to see a little more emphasis be given in jiu-jitsu to the takedown rather than allowing athletes to pull guard from the get go. And, it might not be a bad idea to give an advantage to the other person if someone does pull guard. This would probably force jiu-jitsu fighters to learn more takedowns and think twice about pulling guard right away. And, this would make the matches a little more dynamic and exciting.
You hold 2 Olympic Bronze Medals for the United States. What was that experience like?
Those moments were like dreams coming true because I had worked my entire life in pursuit of those medals. The journey to get there, like living and training in Japan over 40 different times in my career, or spanning the globe competing against the best in the world to become the best were the sacrifices I had to make that made me a champion. All of that effort came to life at the Olympic Games and paid off for me. There is no greater feeling than representing your country at the Olympics and knowing that all of your hard work paid off because you achieved your goals.
You also coach a few MMA fighters and in fact we were in the same locker room with you at a Bellator event, how do you approach MMA coaching with your fighters that you coach?
I currently only coach and manage MMA Fighter, Rick Hawn. He is one of the rising stars in MMA with the Bellator Fighting Championships. He was my Olympic teammate at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, and one of my judo students up until 2008. I assist him because I really want to make sure he gets looked after properly. In terms of training and preparation for MMA, it is important to be a true professional. You MUST focus on your weak areas and get better every day if you are going to succeed in MMA. You can no longer just focus on one aspect of your game, and this is the approach we have taken with Rick Hawn. He has a great judo base, but he has been working on his striking diligently with Mark Dellagrotte at Sityodtong and now he can stand and bang with the best strikers in MMA. I look forward to seeing how far Rick can go in MMA. I have no doubt he will soon be a big name in the game.
Tell us a bit about your academy up in Boston.
My Judo Center is one of the official and nationally recognized USA Judo National training sites. We operate as Pedro’s Judo Center for the general public and Team Force for our elite program. Right now, we have the strongest team in the country. I have 10 – 12 athletes who live and train full time at my training center and practice judo twice per day in addition to running and weight training. Among them, we have 2010 World Champion Kayla Harrison, and two of the best pound for pound males in the United States – Travis Stevens and Nick Delpopolo. All three of them should qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London where I will serve as the Olympic team coach. And, I have a few others that have a chance to qualify for the Olympics as well.
Besides having an incredible career in Judo as well as running a successful martial arts acadademy you are also a very busy businessman and constantly an ambassador for the BJJ/MMA world. Tell us about those ventures.
I currently work full time as the VP of marketing and sales for Zebra (www.zebramats.com) – a complete outfitter of martial arts and mma training centers with the best equipment such as mats, cages, rings, and bag racks, and the best customer service in the industry. As part of that job, I am responsible for all of Zebra’s marketing, sponsorships, and strategic partnerships as well as overseeing the sales staff. Additionally, I am a consultant for Hatashita Sports which has a gi brand – FUJI (www.FujiFightGear.com) that has exceptional BJJ uniforms at very reasonable pricing. We are currently making gis for many of the top names in the industry; such as Royler Gracie, Pedro Sauer, Cobrinha, Jeff Curran, and of course, The Armory to name a few. Since I have spent a lifetime in the martial arts industry, I know what goes into making quality products – whether it be mats or uniforms – and have taken that knowledge to help Zebra and Fuji to become market leaders in their industries. I am very proud of what I have helped these companies accomplish, and look forward to their continued growth.
What’s next for Jimmy Pedro?
I will be the 2012 Olympic Team coach in London and I hope to help America bring back its first ever Olympic Gold medalist. After that, I will be fulfilled as a coach in the sport!