Justin Rader Interview Takeaways: Training Culture, Building Confidence and Mental Toughness

I did a podcast interview with Justin Rader. Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes. The following are three post-interview thoughts I finally got around to writing up.

1: Wrestling Culture vs Jiu Jitsu Culture

“The wrestling environment can truly be summed up by ‘kill or be killed’.” – Justin Rader

corrida_quees_holl.gWrestling is about two things: (1) growing up on a farm and (2) grinding down your opponent until he breaks.

Jiu jitsu is about three things: (1) efficiently neutralizing force with technical trickery, (2) surfing, and (3) philosophical introspection.

I’m generalizing, but there’s no denying that there is a culture that permeates each sport, and the culture is different for each. The level of brutality is different. The hatred of losing is more pronounced in one than the other.

Rader has trained a lifetime in both wrestling and jiu jitsu, and we talk about this distinct difference. Part of the difference is that wrestling is often run as a school program and jiu jitsu is part of a standalone business. When you pay money directly to the instructor, the relationship changes. After all, it may not be a good business practice to make a student quit by pushing him/her too hard. In wrestling, this is a much smaller concern. In fact, trial by fire is standard operating procedure.

2: Believing In Yourself


Loss is part of life, and it sure as hell is a part of sport. There is no way to escape it. In the end, what every champion shares is a unshakeable belief in himself and his goal. For many people the road to achieving that level of confidence is a long one. After all, winning matches is really the only effective way to build that kind of self-certainty. It’s hard to fake it. I would say impossible even. You can visualize all day, but without a lot of big wins on your record and on your brain, confidence will never sprout.

Like I said, the road to winning can be a long one, and this is where most people quit. It’s daunting. When you suck month after month, year after year, you get to thinking. Thinking leads to doubt, and at that point, most people are able to rationalize quitting, and so they quit. Of course, the problem is: quitting is perfectly rational. In a cold rational sense, success in sport in meaningless. Who cares if you can throw a ball into a hoop better than a million others? But it does matter. It matters because of the genetic history of our brain. It matters because doing something hard, and succeeding, provides a deep sense of satisfaction, happiness. A life full of sacrifice is also a life that can have the greatest moments of pleasure. The chase of the dream and the dream realized is the essence of life.

That said, a good support system can help carry you through the long road of struggle: coaches, friends, family. And that’s what Rader talked about. In his life, his parents and his coaches (both in wrestling and in jiu jitsu) were instrumental in their unwavering belief of his potential. When a coach believes in you, it is that much easier to believe in yourself, until the wins start racking up.

3: Cutting Weight

wrestling-weight-cutting-philosophyCutting water-weight, when taken to the extreme level that many wrestlers take it, can seem unhealthy bordering on dangerous. But having made big cuts myself and talked to many who have done it, the lesson is simple: your body can get used to anything.

Rader and I talked about the tough cut he went through for the 2013 ADCC tournament, and how he believes that the cut did not drain him for the actual matches. Sometimes you do have to suffer. You may be just two pounds away but too exhausted and thoroughly dehydrated to do the long 40-60 minute run that might be needed to make those 2 lbs disappear. That’s where the suffering comes in. You get up and do it anyway. The doubt, exhaustion, and any negative thought has to disappear and you just do it. One step at a time.

The statement in the picture to the left has some important insight. Perhaps the weight cut is less about the weight and more about mental toughness, training it, proving it to yourself, and eventually, to your opponent.

0 thoughts on “Justin Rader Interview Takeaways: Training Culture, Building Confidence and Mental Toughness

  1. Jim Caruso

    Lex, love the “believing in yourself” paragraph. I am in the midst of a thinking/doubting phase now, so this was helpful and inspiring.

    Even in regards to general physical training/conditioning, I often wrestle (no pun intended) with the question of whether I am wasting time working out as seriously as I do, especially being in my 40s, rather than just doing “enough” to sustain general health, avoid becoming overweight, and function as a business person… But I want more than that… I wrote a blog post on this theme, about perceiving yourself as an athlete and not “just” as a professional, a parent, or whatever… But yours is much more inspiring. I am going to quote and link to it in a future blog post of my own. Thanks and Happy New Year!

    1. Lex Post author

      Jim, I read several of your posts just now, and added your blog to my small list of blogs I read. Very good. You and I struggle with similar things. The “thinking/doubting” is a recurring stage. We just have to have discipline to ride it out and not quit. Smile and enjoy the journey. Good luck!


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