Instructor Spotlight: Rick Hysell
Alliance AZO has deep roots in Judo dating back to when many of our competitors and instructors trained at Southside Dojo in Portage. Rick was a big part of the team then, and when we opened in 2011 he became one of our Judo instructors. He has been a huge addition to the team, and works tirelessly with our youth and adult programs. Team Rhino Judo is growing!
The following is an interview where Rick opens up about training, competition, and a lifetime of Judo.Tell us a little about your background in Judo. Where and when did you start, who where your instructors, how long have you competed?
I started Judo when I was about 20 years old. I had a group of friends I would meet up with every Friday night that were coming from Montcalm Community College always talking about a guy throwing around other guys that were a foot taller and 100lbs heavier than him. That guy was Jim Peacock, a Yondan that had made somewhat of a name for himself competing nationally and internationally through the 70’s and 80’s. I didn’t have much direction in my life at that time and Judo under the guidance of Jim Peacock gave me a sense of and purpose. I knew from that point forward that Judo would always be a major force in my life.
I started competing almost immediately with moderate success on local and regional levels in Michigan and the bordering states. It wasn’t until I earned my Shodan that I started to compete on a national level. It was at that time that I started training in Kalamazoo with a group of friends I had met through competing that took Judo as serious as I did.
You competed at the 2013 US Nationals. How did you do, can you tell us about your matches, the tournament?
Honestly, I didn’t do as well as I would have liked. I had my sights set on one match in particular, and I fell short in that match during a newaza exchange. But I put that match behind me as I fought for the Bronze medal and hit probably one of the best throws of my Judo career. It was a very gratifying feeling made all the more better having my wife there to witness that match.
Have you competed at Nationals before?
I have competed in five USA Judo National Championships
• Cleveland, OH – 2002
• Las Vegas, NV – 2003
• Virginia Beach, VA – 2005
• Irvine, TX – 2012
• Virginia Beach, VA – 2013
What sort of training did you do to prepare for the tournament?
For a tournament like US Nationals? I start preparing three to four months in advance. I change my diet to be cleaner so my body can perform at optimal levels. I do a lot of running to keep my endurance up, along with Olympic lifts to keep my core strong.
When it comes to Judo I put most of my faith in my coach Steve Smith to set the pace for my training cycle. Steve does an amazing job of making certain my conditioning is solid and that I peak at the proper moment before a tournament. I also try to get in as much time on the mats as possible. This usually entails making trips to other Judo clubs like Michigan State University.
Lastly, I do a lot of pre-visualization/mental training. Meditation, really. I visualize myself doing the throws I use in competition over and over to help build strong muscle memory.
What has competing taught you that relates or affects judo or your daily life?
Anything worth doing; anything worth having is never easy. It takes a lot of hard work to compete successfully at any level and the results you achieve are directly proportionate to the efforts you put into your preparation. I hold this same value in my personal Life as well.
Do you have a favorite technique that you use?
I have two techniques that are my favorites that I use almost exclusively.
Uchimata (Inner Thigh Throw) has always been my number one favorite technique. I have devoted thousands of hours training and studying this one technique above all others.
My second favorite technique is Ogoshi (Major Hip Throw) because it is a very powerful throw that can also be used to set up many similar hip techniques.
Who have been your main influences in Judo?
I draw influences from many Judoka for different aspects of Judo:
• For Newaza I always reference Koji Komura who is a specialist in Kosen Judo, a style of judo that focuses primarily on pinning and submission techniques.
• For Tachiwaza I draw a lot of influence from Hiroshi Katanishi. Katanishi has an amazing way of making the most difficult Judo concepts seem so simple.
• For Olympic Judo I have drawn influences from Mark Huizinga, Kosei Inoue, and Hitoshi Sugai. Judoka that have amazing Uchimata techniques.
• Currently, my favorite is Illias Illiadis from Greece. Illiadis has a very close quarter style that he uses very effectively to setup a myriad of powerful techniques. I have drawn a lot of influence from his style that I incorporate into my own Judo.
What message would you give kids who are practicing judo?
Never, ever give up. Keep your head up and always move forward. There will be times when you have trouble learning a new technique. There will be times when you lose matches and don’t place at tournaments. There will even be times when you have trouble standing back up. What defines you as a Judoka is your ability to stand up, brush yourself off, and Keep. Moving. Forward. Keep learning and keep living Judo.
How do you manage your time, who are your supporters that help you pursue your goals?
Managing time can be a difficult balancing act if you try to do too many things at once. And as you get older time becomes a very valuable commodity when you have a Family and career to think about, so I have to make every minute count when I’m on the mats and in the gym. During a tournament cycle I try to devote 4-6 hours a week to training, and that is not nearly enough for the level I would like to compete on.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of my wife who reluctantly understands my goals and ambitions and allows me the time I need train properly. She acts as a secondary coach and pushes me to the gym and to workouts, which I know can be very difficult when she has to see me beat up and battered after hard workouts. I couldn’t do any of this without her.
I also draw a lot of inspiration from everyone at Alliance AZO. From the coaches and athletes, to the parents and students. It is a very solid support network. Most important is the support I get from my longtime friend and training partner Dusty Moran. I know that during any given training cycle if I can crush his spirit and break his will at least once, it’s going to be a good season!