Efficient Judo Interview: Neno Avelov & Peter Yeo

I was introduced to the gentle way of Judo back when I lived in Manchester by a fantastic coach. Her name is Sophie Cox. Sophie is a great and very pedagogic teacher with a ton of patience and an iron will. I feel very privileged that I got my start with her (all the way to my 2nd Kyu (Blue Belt)) but more importantly that I can call her a friend.

Since moving to London, the little time I still have for judo has been spent mainly at The Tokei Martial Arts Centre (with a session here or there down at the Budokwai). The reason I ended up at Tokei is, without a shadow of a doubt, the people and the vibe. Two of the coaches and players there that really exemplify this vibe are Mr Neno Avelov and Mr Peter Yeo so when I discovered they're working on an online judo project, I thought I'd put together a quick interview to shed some light on what it is they're hoping to achieve with it.

Interview with Mr Neno Avelov & Mr Peter Yeo:

- Hello gents. Why don’t we start by you telling us a little about yourself?

Neno: Originally from Bulgaria where I was a club judo coach for CSKA Judo club and National Junior Squad coach. Now living and working in London since moving to the UK in 2001.
I spent some time working for the Metropolitan Police where I was fortunate enough to participate in the National PSUK competitions, something I continue to be involved with. Through the Met I was introduced to Tokei Judo club where I currently train and coach.

Peter: I’m from Sheffield and was living there before moving to London in 2012 for work. I started training at the Tokei on recommendation from a work colleague which is where I met Neno.

- Are you currently working? 

Neno: Yes, working full time in London as a property manager.
Peter: Yep, working full time in the tech industry.

- You also set aside time to practice a sport. Which sport(s)?

Neno: Judo all the way for me I am afraid. :)
Peter: I’ve trained both Judo and BJJ for coming up to 10 years, about a year ago I started to train a little Greco-roman wrestling too.

- How long have you done that?

Neno: I started at the age of 14 and I'm still coaching and competing as a veteran. I gained my black 25 years ago.
Peter: Yeah about 10 years.

Have you met my friend Harry? Harry Goshi!

- Have you competed much?

Neno: Mostly at the national level back home doing judo. I’ve also done Sambo international competitions as a junior. Now I compete a few times a year in veteran Judo competitions.
Peter: In the last year I was working hard to get my 2nd Dan in Judo so was competing regularly to get those much needed points, but before that, I had around 5 years without competing.

- Do you feel that you have to compete to get a black belt in combat sports / martial arts?

Neno: Definitely. I feel you need to get that fighting experience to be able to understand the principles of martial arts.
Peter: I’m not so sure, you have to, but I think everyone should. It a different feeling when competing, standing on the mats opposite someone whose only intention is to defeat you in combat. It shows you what you're made of.

He hangs out with this other lad, Garry. Kouchi Garry!

- How do you manage to fit your training around work, study and family time?

Neno: I am very passionate about judo so it's about discipline and commitment. Keeping the right balance is paramount. I'm very fortunate that my partner understands my passion for Judo.
Peter: It's not easy, my approach is to be flexible with training, committing myself to train X number of times per week rather than fixed days, meaning if a work call or family event happens I can adjust accordingly. I also don’t do any training that isn’t a BJJ/Judo/Wrestling class, i.e. weights, running etc.

- What is the greatest thrill you have got out of practicing your sport?

Neno: When competing, it's all about overcoming your opponent, winning in the best possible way!
From a coaching prospective it's about seeing my students’ response when they achieve what they set out to do.
Peter: I don’t think I have one greatest thrill, it's those little victories that keep you going, finally getting a technique you’ve been working on to pay off.

- Give us your top tips for time-management (to fit exercise around life)

Dedicated days for judo
Organise your diary and workload
Know your own routine
Rest well
Balance relationship time with personal time

I have to agree with Neno there, I’ll just add:
Prioritise - You can’t do everything, so you need to decide what matters most to you.
Set short term Goals - By having a focus the time you spend on the mats becomes more productive.

- Do you feel that there is a difference in style of performance of judo from academy to academy? What do you think is the reason behind that? What about from country to country?

Neno: There are differences. I can obviously compare my previous experience as a club coach in an Eastern European country to teaching judo at local club level.
I found it difficult to adjust to the different way of training. In Bulgaria I was coaching elite athletes and here it's more about fitness and exercise. Coaching style also makes a lot of difference to overall performance and enjoyment. Coaching elite athletes requires different methods and motivation to what I have experienced here. It's about understanding your students’ technical ability and developing and improving that.

Peter: In my experience one of the most interesting things I’ve found is the difference across BJJ, Wrestling and Judo and the way the flow of each of these classes is very different. The balance between taught technique vs sparring, and the amount of drilling specific movements. With BJJ, I see generally a 50/50 taught technique / sparring. Wrestling places heavy emphasis on drilling, and building up the intensity so there is a lot of flow to a wrestling class. While with Judo, techniques are often broken down into segmented drills, Uchi-komi, Nage-komi, Combos etc. Its definitely an eye opener from a coaching perspective.

Forget it. I'm just gonna go ask Barry. Okuri-ashi Barry. He'll know.

- Tell us how you started in the martial arts?

Neno: It was between playing trumpet in a brass band or judo! Funnily enough I chose sport to music :-D
My mum was not pleased! :)
Peter: My first experience in martial arts was BJJ, probably similar to a lot of guys, I watched some MMA and found the groundwork fascinating and signed up to my local club, from there I picked up Judo after moving to a town that didn’t have any good BJJ but had great Judo.

- Why do you train?

Neno: Fitness, passion for the sport and my own well-being!
Peter: Because I enjoy it, I’ve got to the point I just can’t imagine not training.

- Why do you teach?

Neno: For the satisfaction from the results from my students. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with others to help them improve their Judo.
Peter: Partly because Neno thought I’d be good at it! I decided to make the transition to coaching as I’m approaching 10 years since I started training, and it made me feel like it was time to give something back.

-I understand you’re currently involved in a major judo related project. Tell us a little about that?

Neno: Yes I am very excited about Efficient Judo. I always wanted to share my experience and knowledge with others and Efficient Judo gives me a platform to do this. I started the project about 3 years ago and I'm really pleased Pete (Yeo) has now come on board with his knowledge and expertise. Thanks to him the project has evolved and we're looking forward to the future.

Peter: So the project comes in two parts, the first are the great seminars Neno has been conducting for the last 3 years under the Efficient Judo banner which we continue to deliver.
The second part is our range of online content. As a BJJ practitioner you can find a plethora of free online video content related to the art, but there is surprisingly little Judo content online, which I found really puzzling. So between myself and Neno, we’ve decided to build our range of online content aimed to fill this gap.

- When did you put together the current syllabus you teach?

It started fairly recently after Peter and I spent time discussing what the new concept should look like.

- What is this syllabus like? What is the focus?

Neno: Our mission is to improve the skill base of our subscribers and students whether they are beginners or competitive players. Through our seminars and videos we can help take their judo to the next level.
Peter: Crucially, our approach is to build structured content, by which we mean a linked set of lessons that allow our subscribers to develop their game. We’ve started by focusing our instructionals on the techniques most used in competitive Judo, the likes of Seoi-nage, Tai-otoshi, Osoto-gari etc. Each technique will form a Series where we then cover Basic Principles, Sets ups and Competitive variations. On top of that, we’ve also recording clips of all the 67 throws of Kodokan Judo as resource for Judoka and grapplers alike. These are just our starting point, we’ve got a number of great content ideas on our roadmap!

- How can we find out more?

Peter: It depends:
If you want to check out our current range of content you can subscribe to our YouTube channel.
If you want to  keep up to date with what we’ve doing and any seminars we’re holding, follow us on facebook.
If you have a club and are interested in hosting an Efficient Judo seminar at your club email us at seminars@efficientjudo.com

- Finally, do you have any regrets?

Neno: Not really. I don't dwell on the past. I would rather focus on the present and look forward to the future.
Peter: Agreeing to do the video editing!

I'd like to take a moment to thank these fine gentlemen for their time and I don't mean just for the interview. They never shy away from answering my questions whenever we share a mat and my judo much richer for their help, input and encouragement.



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