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Judo in the time of Covid-19: Reda Seddouki
2 May 2020 08:30
French Champion U66kg Reda Seddouki is now a senior. He won French titles as a cadet and junior, so touches his career stepping stones. He started to win regional championships at a young age and is now at the level he has to fight his own coach Kilian Le Blouch. That is a good reason to talk to the French talent. Oon Yeoh of JudoCrazy walked with him through his development years.
JIC: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
RS: I’m 21 years old and just turned senior. I was born in Asnières, a suburb of Paris but I grew up in Clichy, another suburb of Paris. I start judo at five years old in a club called ASJJ CLICHY.
JIC: Did you come from a judo family? Why did your parents want you to do judo at such a young age?
RS: Nobody in my family did judo. I was the one who wanted to do it. I saw my neighbor’s kids doing judo and I felt jealous, so I told my mother I wanted to do judo too. My mother didn’t have a lot of money to spend on judo classes but she agreed to enroll me with the condition that I must continue training until I get a black belt. After two weeks of training, I felt like quitting but I couldn’t because of the agreement I had made with my mother!
JIC: Which club are you with now?
RS: I’m in FLAM 91. I’ve been here since 2012, my first year as a cadet. We have a very good team and it’s like a family there.
JIC: Why did you join this club?
RS: It’s a famous club which has produced good results. But mainly I wanted to train under Kilian Le Blouch, a relatively young coach who guides the young talent at the club.
JIC: Can you explain the club system in France? For example do you pay to train at FLAM 91 or do they pay you as an elite athlete?
RS: In France all judokas have to be a member of a club and there are about 5600 clubs spread all over the country. As a young player if you want to do high-level training, you will usually join the Pole system and train at the sports school there, not at your home club. Later on you can join a top judo club — there are 10 to 15 of them, all in the Paris area — and if you have good results, the club will give you some money to be part of their team.
JIC: Did you go through the Pole system too?
RS: Yes, when I was 14, I was in the Pole Espoir in Bretigny, and one year later I was in Pole France in Orleans. I have very fond memories of those days. We trained twice a day, five days a week. You grow up very fast there because you are forced to be independent.
JIC: Do you train at your club or at the national training centre?
RS: We train every day at INSEP, which is our national training centre. But one day a week we will go back to our club for training.
JIC: How are you training during the lock-down?
RS: I can’t do any judo so I just do physical training. It’s necessary to keep fit.
JIC: What made you want to do judo at such a high level?
RS: When I was younger, I didn’t really like judo much. In the dojo you have to be disciplined all the time and I wasn’t that way so I got punished by my coach a lot. I really did not like it but I had to continue because I was far from receiving my black belt. Over time, I developed a taste for judo, especially competition, which I enjoyed a lot. The adrenaline, the excitement, the feeling of accomplishment when you win. I quickly became addicted to it.
JIC: What does your mother think about your judo career now?
RS: Nothing much. She’s happy as long as I’m happy. But she would sometimes say, “You know, I don’t get to see you much. I didn’t get to see you when you were growing up. And nowadays you don’t come home often.” It’s a bit pressurizing, to be honest!
JIC: Are you a student?
RS: No, I am working. I’m a policeman but I’m not always on duty. The police force gives me about 70% time off to train in judo. The other 30% is when I’m at work.
JIC: You’re now a senior competitor. What’s the main difference between junior and senior judo?
RS: The main difference is that at senior level, even the slightest mistake will cost you a lot. There is no room for error.
JIC: What’s the first big goal you have set for yourself?
RS: I’m aiming for my first medal in the Grand Prix or Grand Slam. If I achieve that, maybe I can get past Kilian Le Blouch, who is the top -66kg player in France right now.
JIC: Wait a minute, isn’t Kilian your coach?
RS: Yes, that’s right. Last year, when I won the French National Championships for the first time as a senior, Kilian was there as my mat-side coach. Actually, he’s been my coach since I was a cadet so he has seen me grow up as a player. And now that I’m a senior, he is also my rival. It’s a beautiful story!
JIC: Isn’t it unusual for a coach to be a competitor as well?
RS: Yes, it is, even in France. Kilian’s case is very unusual. He started coaching at a very young age. And he was not a top player in his youth. He never medalled in the Cadet Nationals or Junior Nationals. But now he is the top senior player in the country.
JIC: The life of a competitor is a hard one. Do you sometimes wish you had a more normal life like other boys?
RS: When I was young yes, I felt that way but certainly not now. I lead what I would call a “dream life”. Yes, it requires sacrifices but it’s not a high price to pay for what I get in return. I get to travel around the world, I have good people around me. I don’t envy other guys my age because I was not meant to live their lives. I was born to be a fighter.
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