Martial art is life and soul for veteran judoka Mike Liptrot who eyes future Olympic coaching success (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Martial art is life and soul for veteran judoka Mike Liptrot who eyes future Olympic coaching success
JUDO is described as a hierarchical martial art where seniority of the judoka is dependent on progression through the kyu-dan ranking system.
The basic instinct of the sport, created by Dr. Jigoro Kano in 1882, pits competitor against competitor, with the overriding aim to immobilise or subdue an opponent.
Considering the ardent focus on rankings, order and chain of command there might be a tendency to believe a competitor’s default setting is self-preservation and promotion.
But one man who has lived and breathed this particular martial art for the best part of half a decade prefers not to dwell on his own achievements.
Mike Liptrot is the chief coach at Kendal’s dojo and sees his role to arm the stars of the future with the necessary tricks of the trade to succeed.
“I’m involved in an individual sport and my main job is to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, to help that one individual get better,” he said.
“And the theory is if you improve that one person and advance each individual then the whole team around you becomes stronger and massively improved.
“We have Michael Horley here at the moment and he is number one for England for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
“He’s also ranked number one for the European Cup in Germany and to put that into perspective it’s like having a Championship football team in Kendal.
“Our aim is to keep producing high-level athletes, allow them to get to a certain level and reach their potential before letting them go.
“Unlike other sports there are clear pathways for kids to progress, I get frustrated with some other sports as those pathways are not there. My aim is to improve others.”
But Liptrot is no philanthropist. Starting at the age of six, he went on to be seven-time North West under-65kg champion while also winning medals at the Scottish, Welsh and German Opens.
He made his international debut at sixteen when he fell foul to a left Uchi Mata by Russia’s Olympic and World champion Nicolai Soloduchin.
The 50-year-old cites Tony MacConnell – Great Britain’s team manager at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow – as his mentor and a major influence on his career.
And working alongside Sophie Cox, who competed at the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games in Athens and London respectively, he hopes the Kendal dojo can be the breeding ground for Olympians of tomorrow.
“I was happy with my competitive career although I didn’t fulfil all my potential as an athlete but I was told by Tony that I would make a better coach than player,” he added.
“The high point was the success, winning medals and honours, with the low point when I missed out on Great Britain selection for the 1984 Olympics.
“I deemed that as a failure. I was on the team for ten years but it’s no fun getting a letter saying you’re not going when you’ve put your heart and soul into it.
“And that’s what people don’t understand with the scenario of Olympic Games, it doesn’t just happen.
“When I get a young athlete walk through the door at the dojo, I’m thinking I’ve got 20 years to make him into a senior athlete, those are the timescales you need.
“It takes a long time to produce an athlete and you want to see it through and see that fulfilment, help kids realise their potential.”
Kendal hosted the Oceania Olympic team prior to London 2012 with the likes of Sisilia Nasig from Fiji and Raymond Ovinou from Papua New Guinea using the dojo as a base for pre-tournament training.
And Liptrot was given the honour of carrying the Olympic torch on the first leg of its journey through the town and has plenty of tales to tell.
“I didn’t really want to be the Olympic torch bearer, it’s not really my kind of thing but in the end it was terrific and one of the best days,” he said.
“With the Oceania connections here, I went to the Games as adviser to the Oceania Olympic Committee.
“I remember the boy from the Solomon Islands, Tony Lomo, going to the opening ceremony against my advice.
“We were stopping in the village right outside the stadium with all the fireworks going off at the end.
“It was 1.30am by the time he got back and he had to be up at 6.30am to compete and I was banging on his door in the morning and nearly kicked it down.
“He won his match against the lad from Mozambique and got to the last sixteen in the world and that’s a massive thing for Oceania.
“All those countries will be coming back ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year on the back of last year.”
But rather than dine out on past glories, Liptrot is fully-focused on the future and even after all his years of experience is keen to refine his coaching technique for the benefit of judoka around the globe.
“For some people I am the best coach in the world, for others I’m the worst. That’s the way it works,” he added.
“I have always believed in never telling an athlete lies, he or she knows if you’re giving out false praise.
“I have taken a little bit from each and every coach I have come into contact with.
“That’s crucial in order to keep evolving. The moment you think you know it all you’re finished.”
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