Q&A with Hannah Martin (USA) -63kg
JudoCrazy: At what age did you realize that competition judo is something you wanted to do?
Hannah Martin: I really loved competing from the very beginning, which was around eight years old. My desire to compete at a high level was not really triggered until I moved to the Jason Morris Judo Center when I was 18 years old. I went to the Junior World Championships and saw a whole different level of judo and decided I wanted to reach that level.
JC: Are you a full-time player and if so, how do you get your funding?
HM: I used to study Psychology at university but I’m not studying at the moment. I’m literally in a different country almost every weekend during competition season, so it’s impossible to be a full-time student that way. I consider myself to be a full-time judo player now. So, my job is to train.
American athletes do not get funding from the government, we get all our funding from private sponsors. Sometimes we might get some trips paid for by the national governing body, but for the most part, we’re on our own. At the beginning of my career, most – practically all – of my trips were self-funded. I am lucky enough now to have many wonderful people who support me financially so I am able to compete or train overseas. One of my major supporters is the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) – they have been supporting me for about eight years now!
JC: Do you go for lots of overseas training camps and how important are they?
HM: It is very necessary to travel abroad and participate in training camps. They are the best places to get your hands on the best players in the world, without a referee standing in the middle of the mat. At home I do not have the partners and bodies, so I train mostly with boys. At international training camps and in dojos abroad, I get quality partners every single round. That said, I also believe it’s important to have a home base where you can work on the necessary techniques and little details that you cannot work on when you are in a foreign place.
JC: Do you go for long stints abroad or just short ones?
HM: I have done many long training stints abroad. I think it is good to mix it up and get out of your comfort zone. In 2014, I trained in Israel at their national training center for a week. In 2015, I spent a lot of time in Europe, so in between competitions I would train in Denmark since my boyfriend is the national coach of the Danish team. One of my longest stints was a six week trip where I competed in the Paris Grand Slam, trained at the international Paris camp, trained in Denmark, competed in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix the following week, and then back to Denmark before I competed in Portugal. In 2016, I trained at the Olympic Training Camp in Mittersil, Austria for 10 days. This camp is at the beginning of the year, with two practices a day for about two hours per session. It's designed to help all the athletes get into shape after the winter holidays.
JC: What are your thoughts on the IJF rules in recent years which banned leg grabs?
HM: Everyone complains about these new rules but I am a HUGE fan! I love that leg grabs are banned because it's better for my style of judo.
JC: How much training do you do a day and what’s it like?
HM: I train twice a day Monday to Friday. The mornings involve strength and conditioning, then judo at night. Sometimes I have three trainings in a day, which consist of a run or a lifting session, followed by a technical session and then a two-hour judo practice. I typically train four to five hours per day. Saturday, I either do judo or go to the gym. Sunday is my day off unless I missed a lifting session during the week.
JC: What are your thoughts on BJJ?
HM: I have never done BJJ. I wouldn’t mind doing some cross training but it’s a question of finding the time.
JC: Do you sometimes feel that as an elite athlete, you have to make too many sacrifices?
HM: Judo is a lifestyle and being an elite athlete is also a lifestyle. Some people think I am a “trooper” for sacrificing my life for the sport but I like to think of it as a lifestyle choice that I made – a positive choice. I choose to wake up every single day to train my ass off to become the next Olympic champion, and it is actually a lot of fun and I really enjoy it.
JC: When you first moved from -57kg to -63kg, you struggled a bit in competition. Was it mainly the strength factor that made it hard for you to win in your new weight class? Do you still have to cut weight these days and what’s your diet like?
HM: Moving up to -63kg was a little rough in the beginning. It wasn't so much a strength factor as a confidence factor. I was not confident in my abilities and I only thought I could do better at -57kg because I had been in that weight category since I was 14 years old. When I started believing in myself, I started to win again.
I made the decision to move up because I was cutting between 7kg to 8kg before every competition, so that obviously had to change. These days, I do not have to cut weight anymore. It's a beautiful thing.
I do not have a specific diet, but I try to include lots of protein, especially after hard workouts, also lots of coffee! Coffee keeps me going through the whole day!
JC: Many of your wins are on the ground. Do you prefer newaza?
HM: For the past five or six years my coach has placed a lot of emphasis on improving my newaza. I am really confident in newaza so when I see the opportunity in a match, I go for it.
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