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Q&A with Mr JudoCrazy Oon Yeoh

Q&A with Mr JudoCrazy Oon Yeoh

15 Jun 2021 11:00

For the longest time, JudoCrazy was a blog and a Facebook Page. Journalist Oon Yeoh long wanted to turn it into a full-blown website but as they say, there’s a right time for everything. In the past, He didn’t have the right platform to do a full-blown website. Now he introduced the new JudoCrazy website with a key focus at five different athletes. He will tell you more about his approach of judo.

JIC: First of all, I have to ask: What did you think about the World Championships?
JC: I followed it, to the extent that I could, but it wasn’t so easy to do so because there were a lot of problems with both the individual clips on JudoBase as well as the livestreams on YouTube. There were certain days when the videos were unwatchable. The first two days were okay but Day 3 was when the problem started. The JudoBase clips on Day 3 were all jumpy and really unwatchable. At least two of the livestreams on that day kept on buffering every few seconds. After that there were a few more days when the videos were faulty. This went on until Day 7. Quite frustrating.

JIC: Technical issues with the videos aside, what did you think of the competition?
Any world event is exciting but because the Olympics is like a month and a half away, there were many top champions missing from the competition. So, it didn’t feel like a typical World Championships. Besides the fact that some key players were missing, there was also a sense that for some of the players, this was more a warm-up before the Olympics. The top players who had already qualified for the Olympics didn’t have to be there so if they were there, it was a kind of preparation for the Olympics.

JIC: But don’t you feel there were some who fought all out as well?
Of course. You had some players who had not yet qualified and needed to do so, like Aleksandar Kukolj of Serbia who came out of nowhere to get into the final of the -100kg division. You also had someone like Jessica Klimkait, who had qualified in terms of points but had to get past her domestic rival, Christa Deguchi, to earn a spot on the Olympic team. Lastly, you had those who weren’t chosen for the Olympic team and wanted to prove they could be No. 1. Many of the Japanese players fall into that category. Joshiro Maruyama, Ai Shishime, Sarah Asahina — all of them had something to prove. And they did so, with gusto!

JIC: You’ve just launched a new version of What can you tell us about it?
JudoCrazy was a blog and a Facebook Page. I’ve long wanted to turn it into a full-blown website but as they say, there’s a right time for everything. In the past, I didn’t have the right platform to do a full-blown website. A blog and a Facebook Page are easy to maintain and there’s nothing to build. A website is a different kettle of fish. You have to actually build the site. There’s development work involved and design work too. Also, I was working as a journalist so there wasn’t much time to manage a proper website. That’s why it took so long for this to happen.

JIC: What changed that made you able to do it now?
Well, the two key stumbling blocks could now be overcome. Back when I started JudoCrazy, in 2011, to build a customized website would have cost an arm and a leg. I simply couldn’t have afforded it. But recently I got to know a young web developer who runs a company called BewderTech ( I referred some web projects to him. Out of gratitude he gave me a really good deal for building and designing the JudoCrazy website. Since it was affordable, I decided to go ahead and do it.

JIC: And are you no longer too busy to run a website?
Well, we’re all too busy! And I could never do it alone. But over the past 10 years since I started JudoCrazy – gosh, I can’t believe it’s actually been a decade – I’ve gotten to know a lot of other people doing interesting things in judo. So, through collaboration, I believed it would be possible to generate enough content to sustain a website.

JIC: There are a lot of judo channels out there: websites, blogs, podcasts, video channels, Instagram pages, Facebook pages. How do you plan to differentiate?
You have a point. There’s a ton of judo content out there, on YouTube and on social media. This is great but the quality varies a lot. Some of it is very good. Some of it isn’t. I’d like to think that because of my journalism and publishing background, I’m able to offer consistently high-quality content. Of course, that’s not enough. You can’t compete just on quality alone because some judo fans are not so discerning. They might not care that much about quality. They just want content. So, you really can’t compete on quality alone. You have to differentiate, as you pointed out. On JudoCrazy, we have a lot of content that some people are already offering, like news, competition clips and so on. But there is one thing that is very unique, which is what we call “Judo Diary”.

JIC: Is Judo Diary a blog?
Its name may give the impression it’s a kind of blog but no. I envision it as a channel whereby judo fans can get a peek into the life of high-level judo athletes. Most judokas are not high-level players. Many are recreational players and some may be those who aspire to become high level players. But professional judo players are quite rare. The things that high-level athletes have to go through, and the lifestyles that they lead, can be quite fascinating. I wanted to give judo fans a glimpse of what that an elite judoka’s life is like.

JIC: I see that you have five athletes under the Judo Diary channel. Did you know all five of them before asking them to take part?
I knew four of them because I had interviewed them before. Amandine Buchard, Maria Centracchio, Aleksandar Kukolj and Andrea Stojadinov were players I had interviewed last year as part of my “Judo in the time of Covid-19” series. Naomi Van Krevel, I got to know through her mother. She had followed my Instagram page and I noticed that her children were involved in judo. I thought Naomi would be a good fit so I invited her to take part. 

JIC: Naomi is a good pick, as she is a JudoInsider, proudly wearing the JudoInside logo. How did you go about choosing these five anyway? I know for the Covid-19 series you interviewed dozens and dozens of players.
JC: There were a few basic factors I was looking for. They didn’t necessarily have to be top-ranking players, although a few of them are. They just had to have an interesting profile. Of course, that is subjective. You could argue everybody’s interesting in their own ways, and in a sense that is true. But as a journalist, I have to go with my instincts on what I think could be interesting angles. The other factor is chemistry. Because of the nature of Judo Diary, which is more informal and conversational in nature, there needs to be a good rapport. Lastly, they have to want to do this. If any of these factors were missing, it wouldn’t be a good fit. For example, someone could be very interesting and I could have a good rapport with them but they are too busy to do this or just aren’t very keen, it wouldn’t work. These five had all the factors I was looking for.

JIC: Will you be adding more players over time?
JC: It’s possible but not necessary. I think these five are a good mix so I don’t feel there is a need to add any more. It all depends on whether there is a right fit. If someone could really add value to the mix, why not?

JIC: You’ve also brought a few key collaborators. I’m happy to say that JudoInside is one of them! But I noticed you’ve also roped in JudoData, as well as American Judo System and Judo Fanatics. How did all this come about?
Well, I’ve known you since 2013, when we met at the Rio World Championships that year. You are the most prolific judo news publisher out there, so naturally when it came to news, I wanted to get you involved. JudoData is a new judo analytics firm from Italy, run by Emidio Centracchio. I’m getting him to help me with the analysis part. American Judo System (AJS) is an online coaching site co-founded by Travis Stevens and Jimmy Pedro. Judo Fanatics (JF) is a collaboration between Travis and the folks behind BJJ Fanatics. I do content work for both AJS and JF so it’s natural for me to feature their content, which is pretty amazing stuff.

JIC: Are you open to collaborating with other partners?
Sure, if there’s a right fit. If they are doing something that complements what JudoCrazy is doing and if there’s a good rapport, I’m all for collaborations. Look, as much as we love judo, we have to admit that it’s still a niche sport compared to many of the popular sports out there. And there are only a few of us doing interesting, high-quality work. Instead of working in silos, I think it’s much better we collaborate. When we do, the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

JIC: Can you walk us through the various channels you have and why you included them?
Well, you know what Judo Diary is about now. And News is pretty self-explanatory. Analysis will feature mainly analytical profiles of judo players and maybe sometimes judo matches. Patreon will be where premium content will be highlighted. Olympics is a channel just dedicated to the Games. Ref’s Rules feature official explanations for referee decisions. Coach’s Corner features tips and advice from a coaching perspective. Tutorials are instructional videos.

JIC: The slogan on your new website is: “For Judo Crazy people only!” Does that mean that this website is only for judo specialists with in-depth knowledge of judo?
There’s a lot of stuff we have on JudoCrazy which are very accessible even though the topics may be quite specialized. When I was working as a mainstream journalist covering business and politics, I used to write a column about topics that can be quite complex. My job as a columnist was to convey complex stories in simple terms. So, I have some experience in making things easily digestible for everyone. That’s what I’m trying to do with JudoCrazy. I want to make high-level judo information accessible to all.

JIC: Do you think your background as a journalist was one of the reasons JudoCrazy became popular?
I think it certainly helps that I am always looking for an angle for every story I post. Sometimes these stories are told through the way I edit the video clips together. Sometimes it’s through a longform article. Sometimes it’s through captions. Someone once wrote a comment on one of my Facebook posts, saying that JudoCrazy writes the best captions for judo videos. You wouldn’t think captions make a difference but they do. They help tell a story.

JIC: We all know that making money from judo content is very difficult. Believe me, I know. Despite JudoInside being around for a long time and having great traffic, I barely make any money from it. So why do you do it?
For very much the same reason you do it. It’s a labor of love. We love playing judo but we also love following judo, and analysing judo and sharing stories about judo. It’s for the love of the sport.

JIC: The Olympics are always a blockbuster event for JudoInside. We see traffic go through the roof during the Games. I recall that you made quite a splash with JudoCrazy during the Rio Olympics as well. What do you expect from the Tokyo Olympics?
You are right, interest in judo spikes tremendously during the Games. During Rio, the number of new Likes I was getting on Facebook was ridiculous. I can’t remember exactly what the stats were but I was gaining thousands and thousands of new Likes during that period. Tokyo may be more of a muted affair because of the circumstances we are living in right now with the pandemic and all. But there will be a spike in interest and it’s up to people like us, Hans, to deliver the goods.

JIC: You’ve started a great series called Olympics Overview. Can you tell us more about that channel?
There was a book (now out of print) called Olympic Judo, which was written by my former boss at Ippon Books, Nicolas Soames. It’s a brilliant book with stories about the judo competition at the Olympics. But it only   covers 1964 through 1988. I figure I should cover 1992 onwards to ensure the Olympic judo story is complete.

JIC: So, will you be writing stories about every Olympiad since 1992?
Yes, up to and including the Tokyo Olympics. But it will take time. I’ve not even completed 1992 yet. It requires quite a bit of research and watching judo videos to gather the information I need to write an interesting account of judo at the Games.

JIC: Why do people need to follow you every day?
I’m not sure that people need to do that except for those who are judo crazy. Those people need to. Ha… ha…!

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