Spain is different / IJF.org

“Spain is different,” says the Ministry of Tourism. For millions of foreigners, Spain is sun, gastronomy and flamenco, a little more; lots of hedonism and a nap every day because life is short. You have to understand the national idiosyncrasy and that means that a priori, judo is Don Quixote fighting the windmills. Spain is football, football and a little further, even football. Then come basketball and tennis, motorcycles and Formula 1. Several kilometers behind, judo makes its appearance. This is where the adventure begins precisely because Spain is different.

Quino Ruiz

For someone who has just landed on Planet Judo, the Spanish system is like an 8-level sudoku puzzle without a pencil. There is a national federation with a high-level center in Madrid, whose essential mission is to promote judo among young people, whose licensees reach 120,000. The number is high given the absence of judo in the media and the preponderance of other sports. This is a topic that could be a challenge for any marketer. There are many clubs and regional federations, but above all two main poles, the spearhead of Spanish judo. One is in Brunete and the other in Valencia.

Brunete is a city of eight thousand inhabitants, thirty kilometers west of Madrid or, what amounts to the same thing, the highest concentration of talent per square meter in the field of judo. A Spanish legend reigns there, Quino Ruiz, sixty-four years old, fifty of whom with judogi. In its early days, the United Kingdom became a member of the EEC and Richard Nixon visited China, marking the first official visit by an American president to that country. Quino is known worldwide for having held the best record in Spanish judo until 2018, with a world silver medal and a European title and for having been the coach of the double world champion, Nikoloz Sherazadishvili. However, the Quino Brunete Dojo is made up of over four hundred students between the ages of four and sixty. It is an institution, the sporting motor of a city and an elite school that rubs shoulders with the best. What interests us is his method.

Quino Ruiz and Fran Garrigos

It’s nine in the morning and it’s been pouring rain for days as the rest of Europe basks in the sun. Quino prepares coffee in the kitchen of his house and explains his vision of judo. “For me, the key word is affection,” says Quino. “Take care of the students so that they are happy. We do everything with passion. I try not to miss anything.” When the club’s budget does not go far enough, there is the president of the Spanish Olympic Committee, Alejandro Blanco, a former judoka and, for Quino, “our guardian angel”. Then, when the committee does not show up either, Quino always has the unconditional support of his wife, Maribel, who does everything for the good of the club “She is my moral and economic support and the students are like her children.”

Quino’s dedication is exclusive, six days of training a week and no holidays. He even interrupted his honeymoon to console Niko and Fran Garrigós, who had just lost in the first round of a tournament.

Laura Martinez

Every day we watch videos, study opponents, try to improve and practice new techniques. His workouts are personalized, as in the case of Niko. “He is very smart when it comes to incorporating new things because he has a natural talent and a great capacity for work. I add other very important details like ground work.

A training session is really nage-komi with mattresses to avoid pain, perfect techniques, defense and attack and uchi-komi in a real way. There is also the ne-waza and the transition from the foot to the ground. “What I’m looking for is to create the same atmosphere and the same intensity as in a tournament because I consider that to be the best you have to fight how they train.” His students say that Quino sees everything, that he realizes a state of form or mood at a glance. “I’m like a pain in the ass, I pay attention to everything. During a match, from the chair, I watch my judoka, the opponent, the referee, even the referees’ table.

Passion is obsession and Quino’s is to do things well, but always with an exquisite and very close, familiar treatment. “I don’t conceive of judo without treating people with kindness. Respect is not submission.

Niko, Fran, Cristina Cabaña and Laura Martínez are the cream of the club. They won important titles and medals. They also watch Quino from their position. “It’s from the heart, says Niko, from consistency and high standards because he’s the first to give everything. Now we are better, especially mentally.

Nikoloz Sherazishvili

Fran, Cristina and Laura agree with Niko; for them, Quino “transmits confidence and motivates like no one else. No matter the day of the year, whether it’s a personal or professional problem, he is always there to help us no matter what. There is something more, according to them, in treating everyone. “He knows he won’t get anything out of me by shouting,” says Laura. “I, on the other hand, need a harsh word once in a while,” Cristina says. Quino looks at them all the same way and makes them better judoka because with him every dream is possible because he believes it. Plus, he cooks well! Quino’s Chicken Rice should be a recipe for any starred restaurant.

Quino is a distillation of kindness, love, high standards and sporting ambition. It is also a claim. Quino is arrested in the streets of Georgia and for some time he has had a Georgian judoka in his service waiting for Spanish nationality. Continuing in this way, the bilateral relations between the two countries will end up being negotiated in Brunete. “They are very good judokas but they did not manage to integrate the Georgian first team. I am giving them a new opportunity”, underlines Quino. The difference and, without a doubt, the key to success is that the judokas who come from abroad do not just take their new passport, compete with another flag, thank you and adiós, in Brunete they go to school, learn the language and eat like the rest of the Spaniards. It is a total immersion so that the adaptation is absolute.

Niko Sherazadishvili and Tristani Mosakhlishvili

The last pearl is called Tristani Mosakhlishvili, Tato to friends. Now that Niko is taking his first steps at -100kg, Tato has taken over at -90kg and on the mat he is a monster. “Sometimes Niko struggles to manage it on the mat,” Quino admits. As we do not believe it, Quino invites us to attend a randori between the two of them. “It’s an animal”, says Quino, “I haven’t seen anything like it for a long time” and precisely, the day after our arrival, Tato has to swear to the Constitution of Spain.

It’s still pouring rain and cold, but Quino doesn’t flinch and his students sweat in a workout designed to improve and have fun. We left him there with the promise of seeing each other again soon and the certainty of doing something great this year. “If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t do this.” Thank you for everything, the rice was divine, the coffee woke us up and the hospitality was legendary. Ok, we don’t have an umbrella, but we are going to Valencia.

To be continued…

Laura Martinez and Cristina Cabana

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