Oughton picking up James Zikic at Lee Hasdell's Grappling
Challenge, photo by Pooch
interview has been 2 years in the making. When this website
we were looking for interviews, Geoff's name kept cropping
up from promoters and fighters alike.However , getting
actual info from Mr Oughton wasn't easy. He's friendly
but elusive, laughing off attempts of an interview with
"nah, no-one would be interested". Those that
know him will also know he's very low key and not at all
keen to "toot his own trumpet".
But dogged persistance pays off, LOL and finally here's
1 - Pre Japan
: Hi Geoff, it's finally good to get this interview started
with you. Let's start from the beginning - at what age
did you start training and why? (Some people start because
they are sporty, others because they are bullied, others
because it's school activity, etc...) Also why judo? Was
it the only martial arts around at the time?
Oughton : I think that i was about 13 years
old when the Bruce Lee craze hit the UK. after initially
wanting to learn kung fu/karate or something like that
i was pointed in the direction of judo by my father. There
were a lot of kung fu "cowboy" instructors springing up
all over at the time, my father wanted me to learn from
a bona-fide teacher and had some contacts in judo circles.
: I understand one of your judo instructors was the legendary
John Gallon. Please could you illuminate us on Mr Gallon?
Some history about him? What made him special? You've
mentioned that he understood TRUE judo? What is that in
Oughton : There's
a lot of people that won't have even heard about Mr Gallon.
Its just the way of things in sport, and life generally,
that its very easy to be quickly forgotten. But to me
he's right up there with whoever anyone else wants to
rate as the best British judoka. There's so much to say
about John Gallon but sfuk'ers might find it interesting
to know that Mr Gallon studied under Kimura-sensei at
Takashoku University in Tokyo.
"True" judo? Hard to define really but imo its somehow
a spiritual thing with a physical embodiment. Is that
: erm, nope...... So, as I understand it, from asking
around, you reached a very high level of judo at a young
age. Was the UK very strong at that time? Wasn't it the
heyday of Neil Adams?
Oughton : I
competed at Junior, Youth, and Senior National level winning
medals at various events but nothing spectacular really.
I'm not sure that the UK has ever had real strength in
depth but we have managed to produce some very good individuals
from time-to-time. Neil Adams was phenomenal and, at his
weight, in a gi would have been a match for anyone, anytime.
: Japan must be a natural pilgrimage for any top judoka
- however it must have also been quite an intimidating
prospect as well. What made you go over?
Oughton : Actually,
Japan has long ceased to be a "pilgrimage" for judoka.
In the 1980s there was a very definite move away from
training in Japan - at least for extended periods. The
national squads tend to only go there for one month training
trips to take advantage of the large numbers of high-level
opponents available there. Long periods there were felt
to be counter-productive for a number of reasons. Quite
a few knowledgable people tried to talk me out of following
that path - and from a competitive point of view i suppose
they were right really.
: What year did you go and how old where you?
Oughton : In
the mid-80s I initially went for a 6 week training trip;
thought that I didn't care particularly much for Japan
at all - then went back again as soon as I was able to
raise the money! That next time I stayed about 16months
then came back to the UK for a while before returning
to Japan again. By the late-80s, for a number of reasons,
I was back in the UK permanently. Things are very different
living in Japan for an extended period as opposed to just
going out for a month or so.
: It must have been a culture shock, Japan is still so
different even in these days of global economies. Where
there many westerners out there training Judo?
Oughton : Yes,
a big culture shock. But then you get it again the opposite
way when you return to Europe after becoming used to Japanese
wasn't too many "foreigners" out there training. As I
said earlier, the international teams used to only visit
for short periods a few months before major events like
Olympics, Worlds, etc. - although two notable exceptions
were Van der Walle (Belgium) and Seisenbacher (Swiss)
who both used to stay for a few months a couple of times
there was the occasional foreigner passing through to
combine training with a vacation; and a few people who
had originally came to Japan to do judo but ended up getting
jobs, marrying, etc. whilst still practicing judo but
: OK....Where did you train?
Oughton : Primarily
at Kokushikan University out in the Tokyo suburbs. At
that time Kokushikan had very tough reputation and was
not a place where foreigners generally trained regularly.
It was one of the top judo universities in Japan and had
produced the famous champions Moriwaki, Nishida, Hikage,
and Saito - all of whom were still either training or
teaching there whilst i was in Japan.
visited a number of other universities and also the Keisicho
(Tokyo Police dojo) for occasional practices. I also did
a stint living out outside Tokyo and training full-time
at Tokei University as well as training out in Ibaraki
with Mr Okano and at Katsuura (I.B.U.) with Mr Kashiwazaki
- both near-legendary in Japanese judo circles - and i
am grateful for those experiences.
wrestled at Kokushikan when the Olympic Champion Mr Jiichiro
Date was Head Coach and studied sombo-wrestling under
the tuition of Mr Furukawa, former President of the All-Japan
: John Gallon was well known and respected in Japan, did
this give you an advantage? - as I've read that Martial
Arts schools were not easy for foreigners to get into.
Oughton : Not
really, although it certainly would have done had I utilised
it via proper "introductions" at certain places etc. Instead,
as has tended to be my way in life (for better or worse!),
I went about things my own way.
: What did the japanese judoka make of you, as person
- a foreigner coming to learn judo, and technically as
a judoka? Was it easy to train?
Oughton : Its
always hard to tell what the japanese actually think of
you but I made some good friends anyway. In fact some
of the very best friends and very best times of my life.
: The discipline and severity of training in Japan is
famous....so did they beat you up? :+)
Oughton : Yes.
And on a regular basis at first. Things can get pretty
rough in those university dojos beleive me. That thing
about judo being "the gentle way" is a crock of shit!
: What was the standard of your training partners and
how did you measure up against them?
Oughton : Ha!
That was a laugh!! I initially went out there thinking
i was pretty slick - being unbeaten in my area, international
youth tournament winner, senior national medallist, etc.
But after getting beaten up just about everyday, everywhere
i went on that first 6-week trip my ego was rock bottom.
very tough mentally being out there alone and having to
go back everyday for the same treatment. This is one of
the reasons the national teams go as a team and for short
periods; they don't have to come to terms with the mental
adjustments that can ruin you as a competitor - especially
when you are young. But it does build the mental toughness
that you don't get when you're having things your own
way; the Japanese are big on "fighting spirit".
I returned later that year for a longer stay the coaches
initially made me do extra newaza practice with the High
School Team before the University Team practices in order
to bring my ground game up to scratch. Prior to Japan
my judo had been very much a standing game and the matches
i'd lost in competition had tended to be on the ground.
Japan sure changed a lot of things for me and that was
one of them.
I quickly raised my levels and by the middle of my first
year I was attending the Japanese National Team Gashuku's
(special training camps) as part of the Kokushikan University
contingent. I even represented the university team in
an inter-university "friendly" one time. Nothing important
but i felt flattered that they even asked me as its not
something they generally do with "foreigners". Once you
are "accepted" things change.
course, the main benefit of the training there is the
comparitively vast quantity of high-level training opposition
and, especially when you are a foreigner, a lot of the
so-called "practices" are pretty intense! After my transition
period there I went up against a lot of tough guys and
generally did quite well.
: There's been a lot written that BJJ is basically old
style Judo - would you agree with that?
Oughton : Very
definitely. Anyone who this opinion offends please accept
my apologies; I dont want to get into a piss-fight about
: Today, modern judo concentrates on throwing and many
feel the newaza has become neglected - how was judo trained
when you were there in Japan?
Oughton : About
50/50. A typical session at the university would be warm-ups;
some light uchi-komi and nage-komi; 10-12 x 5-6min newaza
bouts; 10-12 x 5-6 min tachiwaza bouts; a series of ippon/nippon-dachi
- where various players (usually the university team members
and contenders) had to fight a series of challengers and
score either 1 or 2 points to win and go onto the next.
the length and severity of this drill would depend on
what tournament was coming up or just how pissed the coaches
were that day!; then a series of calisthenic and/or body-weight
exercises followed by a cool-down. The session would usually
run close to three hours, occasionally more!
wrestling and sombo training I did were scheduled along
similar lines but obviously focussing on different skills
: You've said many times that Japan is your spiritual
home, can you express why that is so and what the Japanese
culture has left imprinted in you?
Oughton : Its
just too difficult to do mate! At least without rambling
on and boring the pants off everyone!!
to say that my experiences there affected me profoundly
and etched a deep mark in my heart, changing me as a person
- for the better i like to believe! Like muich in life
its a bitter-sweet thing though as there's always things
you'd like to have done differently. Hindsight is an absolute
Oughton Interview Part 2 - Post Japan and MMA competition