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Martial Arts Legend “Judo” Gene LeBell Talks Old School Training

Ronda Rousey

Recent or casual MMA fans may not be familiar with the name “Judo” Gene LeBell, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a fountain of awesome stories and info in every interview he does. LeBell is not only a martial arts legend who has helped develop many fighters, including UFC champ Ronda Rousey, but he’s also one of MMA’s pioneers. The 80 year-old, Judo guru also trained in jiu-jitsu and wrestling, and fought top ranked boxer Milo Savage back in 1963, in what was billed as a  judo versus boxing bout (LeBell ended up choking Savage out).’s Mark Jacobs recently spoke with the legend, and Lebell talked about his martial arts roots, his match with Savage and cross training. Here is what LeBell had to say about old school training techniques and how they could benefit fighters today.

How to be a sadistic bastard and also how to practice things over and over. Look around at the gym and out of 30 people maybe there are 3 or 4 that are doing a technique over and over. When I teach a group of students, as soon as they practice one hold, most are looking to learn a new one. People think they can take a pill and become a champion. But the harder you work, the luckier you get. You have to work a move hundreds or thousands of times. People don’t do that anymore. When I trained, we’d work out for 6 hours straight, my partner and I would do a hold 100 times back and forth. We’d also work a lot blindfolded so we’d learn to go by feel and know what part of the body we’re going to squash.

Some solid advice no? And here’s what the experienced stuntman had to say  about why being “sadistic” as a fighter is important:

If you fight for a living you can’t give a damn about the opponent because they’re trying to take food out of your mouth and your kids’ mouths. (Lou) Thesz told me life is grappling. You’re in competition with everybody. I tell my grandson if you get an A in school and someone else gets a D, he’s going to be a waiter and you’re going to own the restaurant. The trick is, just don’t let them know you’re competing against them.

In the second part of the series, LeBell will discuss the aforementioned Rousey. You can check out the interview’s first part by heading here.

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