Here is at first a video introduction of our latest guestblogger Neil Eckersley orgininally from England but now lives in Norway! Further down comes our interview. Enjoy!
A Interview with 7th Dan olympic medallist Neil Eckersley;
Can you tell me a little about your norweigan club Sandnes judo club?
Sandnes Judo Club was started in 1980, one of the co-founders Harald Monsen, is still today active and a board member of the club. In 2010 the club took initiative to rent and renovate an old production hall that is now converted into a 800 square meter dojo. Since then the club membersship tripled, and there are currently about 250 members in total spread across 10 different classes covering an age span from three to the mid sixtees. In addition to being among the top largest clubs in Norway, it has both representatives at the regional board as well as at the board of the Norwegian Judo Federation.
Why and when did you move from England to Norway?
I left England in 2014 because of an amazing opportunity that came up in Norway to be involved within the sport of judo again. I’ve been out of the sport for a number of years so felt this was a good opportunity to once again use my expertise and knowledge to support and help the next generation. I have never worked as a coach at a club level and I thought this was an area where I needed to gain experience. I really enjoy and love the challenge of teaching, coaching all levels of judo players and I feel this experience has added a different dimension to my coaching style.
What is your role in judo right now?
I am both club and regional coach for the West area of Norway and hopefully with a new appointment of a sports director for the Norwegian judo Federation, I may have stronger technical involvement with the national programme. I also work for a top sports school “Stavanger WANG” which allows our athletes to train four mornings a week before their studies begin. It’s probably one of the best educational programs we know and we have had some amazing academic and competition results.
Do you practice any other sport than judo today?
I don’t specialise in any major sport other than judo but I do work out in the gym and practice on the mat on a regular basis just to keep up my agility and mobility, but nothing too serious all fun.
How would you describe your artwork?
My work is abstract. I specialises in colour, light and movement. I have been compared to many artists notably Roy Lichtenstein, Francis Bacon and Yves Klein. The environment really inspires my work and I’m quite happy painting landscapes as well as cityscapes. I also work with two different mediums acrylic and digital. Form opinions of your own. Research my work on my designated Facebook site Neil Eckersley art.
How was it to have your exibition of art at the IJF World Championships in Budapest?
In one word ”amazing”. Initially I was invited to attend the Paris Grand Slam by the IJF present Mr Marius Vizer. At this even Mr Vizer kindly asked me to take part in the exhibition called ‘A Celebration Of Art and Sport’. As you can imagine this was an amazing honour to have my work represented at such a spectacular event. It was also a great honour to represent my sport, because Judo has given me so much.
How did they react to your coloured Green Hill Gi-piece?
The reaction to my painted Green Hill Gi piece was amazing and I had some very complimentary and positive comments by some very notable names within our Sport. The reaction really surprise me due to the fact that this piece was totally ‘left field and out of the box’. Of all the pieces I exhibited in the exhibition this piece gave me the most restless nights, because of its complexity. But all the positive comments and kind words in relation to this piece made it all worthwhile.
Who were your biggest opponents when you were at the top of your career?
The usual suspects; Japanese, French, Korean and Russian players where the most predominant nations within judo at that particular time. I was placed in the top five so the results were a matter of who was on form on that particular day. What’s really amazing is to see my old competitors and their reaction to me when they know that I’m a professional artist. But to receive compliments by your peers is truly humbling and amazing. Just goes to show that the respect and admiration still continues amongst my judo family.
What are you most proud of through your career?
Of course the answer has to be, representing my country in Two Olympics and winning an Olympic medal. What makes me feel really immensely proud is the fact that I have never complained or demonstrated against any decision that didn’t go in my favour, and this attitude and respect has made me the man I am today.
What people have meant the most to you during your 42 years of judo?
Seriously there are so many people to thank, so I am trying not to offend anybody by not mentioning them personally in this paragraph. But if I had to I would really push my first Judo coach Phil Massey for making my first experience of Judo so impressionable that it’s kept me involved for such a long period of time. My parents need a special mention for their financial and physical commitment in the early stages of my judo career. Tony McConnell for making a very rough and dyslexic street kid into an Olympic medallist. Colin Draycot for being my main sponsor and providing me with employment after retiring from Olympic judo.
Who is your number one favourite judoka through all time and why?
A light weight Russian player in the late 80s called Yuri Sokolov. I had the pleasure to train with him and witnessing some amazing finals he was in. What impressed me the most was Sokolov had an awesome armoury of techniques and he never gave up, and has as the player he was so respectful in both defeat and victory.
What do you think about swedish judo right now at the world tour?
They must be doing something right as Swedish Judo, manage to qualified quite a few players for the last Olympic games resulting in a fifth place which is pretty amazing considering the numbers of players they have in Sweden to choose from. And they had some exciting young players developing and gaining results as well, like all organisations it will be interesting to see which path they go down in order to continue and improve this success.
What advice would you give the coaches of today?
Be professional, work hard and keep true to your beliefs, keep your standards high, try to uncover every stone in order for your athlete to gain their true potential. Most of all it’s essential to remember that this is not your journey, but the journey of your athletes you’re role as a coach is to provide a doorway in order for them to pass through to gain ultimate success.
Do you think the changes of rules the past years is good or bad for the judosport?
There’s been lots of debate over the new changes of the rules, in my personal opinion, the changes have not only benefited judo but they have also made our amazing sport more watchable, therefore gaining a bigger dare I say it a global audience. Which in my opinion is crucial and essential to continue the development and growth of our amazing sport. We are now in a position where we are competing against the big boys in the sporting industry and I expect it’s no easy task developing a centries old tradition sport like Judo within a modern forward thinking and ever changing sport world, but as a judo player and artist I think we have it right “only time will tell”.
What would you like to say if you had the whole judoworlds attention?
Embrace with open arms what a fantastic Judo family we have the privilege and pleasure to be part of. And remember “The Underlining ethics of Judo” is very unique in a modern beautiful but slightly scary world we live in today. Embraced the new changes, celebrate and champion our traditions. And most of all remember why we all started this journey in the first place.
What are your plans for the nearest future?
Phew that’s a difficult question, I very much live in a mindfulness way of living very much in the moment. But my plan is to establish my own professional in-house art studio to make my work more accessible to a wider audience. So I’m looking for like-minded patriots to offer their support and guidance. I’m also working towards having a exhibition in New York maybe early next year.