James Puopolo earns judo brown belt, speaks of cross-training in light of Pan-Ams

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James Puopolo with his judo professor Andy Huang after his brown belt promotion. Photo: Personal Archive

James Puopolo with his judo professor Andy Hung after his brown belt promotion. Photo: Personal Archive

What most high-level athletes do with their training extends outside of training Jiu-Jitsu. Drilling, conditioning, wrestling, crossfit are all ways in which competitors can raise their skill levels for tournaments and becoming well-rounded martial artists.

For James Puopolo, a black belt competitor under GMA member Rafael Lovato Jr., judo has been a great addition to his training routine. In fact, he just received his brown belt from Andy Hung at Portland Judo in Portland, OR so we decided to ask about his training.

James recently won double gold at the 2014 IBJJF Houston Open on Feb. 22-23 and will be competing at the Pan American Championship in two weeks. See how he trains and constantly improves his skills:

GRACIEMAG: How long have you been training Judo and why did you seek out that martial art?

JAMES PUOPOLO: I’ve been training judo for about three years. It’s been great supplementary training. Like any of my training my main motivation was to find another way to win. Almost all of the great champions have judo. Saulo, Xande, and Rafael all have great judo.

What other ways do you cross train?

I do a lot of cross training since I’m out here in Oregon. I do a lot of strength and conditioning, tons of yoga/ flexibility training, and I’ve recently added pilates twice a week which has been really helpful.

Does training  judo give you confidence to stay standing with opponents in competition?

At this point I feel like my judo is getting to where I feel confident standing with most guys. I would definitely still consider myself a guard player, but I have seen judo as a long term project that I will use a lot in the future.

Besides stand-up, how does Judo help your Jiu-Jitsu?

Judo has really helped my grips. Once I started training with Lovato I realized I was getting destroyed by his gripping. Also, I think judo helps your base and being able to manipulate your opponent’s weight on sweeps.

What has your training been like for Pan-Ams?

Training for Pan-Ams has been awesome. I just got back from a ten day trip to OKC training with Rafael and Ben Baxter. Houston was a great prep tournament. My nutrition is good right now and I’m feeling strong. Can’t wait to show my progression down in Irvine.

To compete alongside James at the Pan American Championship, go to www.ibjjf.org to register!

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