Chuck Jefferson Talks About the Sport of Judo and His New Gym in San Jose
Starting his martial arts journey at the age of five, Chuck Jefferson unquestionably is one of the most successful American judokas of our time.
Known for his superb technical skills as well as his incredible heart in battle, over the course of time Jefferson would develop into becoming an accomplished and well-respected grappler on the national level accumulating many high prestige accolades along the way.
Helping out many others through his venture as an instructor Jefferson has guided many practitioners in Judo, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and MMA toward acquiring a great wealth of success in their careers. Now taking his wealth of knowledge and experience in hopes of continuing to build great champions on and off the mat, Jefferson has unveiled the opening of his new dojo in the heart of San Jose, California.
In this exclusive interview USCS got the opportunity to speak with Jefferson as he discusses his judo journey that has lead him to the assembly of his new dojo.
You've been involved in the sport of Judo since the age of five. With all of the experiences of traveling, competing, and teaching how has it contribute to you role as an instructor?
Chuck Jefferson: I've always felt that my life experiences through Judo have shaped the human being I have become. Although I did many different sports as a child, Judo was always my passion. I never got burnt out and I always liked to practice. Judo provided me with an abundance of opportunity that would not have come about it I were involved in other sports. Through Judo, I have made friends around the world and I have traveled to almost 30 countries. All of these travels were for Judo, either training, competing or teaching. With my new dojo, I am happy to share my 30 years of Judo experience with my students. My experiences give me the confidence that I can provide my students with the highest quality instruction and mentorship.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge for you as an instructor and how were you able to improve on those flaws?
Chuck Jefferson: Working with adults comes very naturally for me as I have spent a lot of time over the last 15 years working with adults. As we all know, Judo is very popular with kids. I really enjoy working with the kids and they teach me new things every day. Kids all have different capabilities and motivation that drives them. Learning how to read the cues and feedback from the children after each exercise or activity is a crucial part of constantly trying to improve curriculum and teaching styles. How do you run a class that is beneficial to everyone when there are only four kids? How about when there are 15 kids? These have been the most challenging aspects for me. The key is to keep it fun, but it must be challenging and educational at the same time.
Recently you opened your new academy Chuck Jefferson Judo, after so many years of teaching at various academies, what motivated you to open your own school?
Chuck Jefferson: I have always known that I would have my own Judo club to me it was just a natural step. Judo has been part of my life since I was just five years old. Now, I also have two boys of my own (2 and 4-years old). Judo is a sport that a family can do together. The odds of getting out on a soccer field or a baseball field for practice would be pretty slim. I can only hope that my boys end up enjoying judo. It's something that we can enjoy together for many years to come. Aside from that I really enjoy being a teacher. I would have gone into the teaching as a profession but I could not handle the bureaucracy involved in the public school systems. As a competitor, winning is one of the ultimate highs. As a teacher, I feel a great sense of accomplishment seeing someone learn. Seeing the happiness on a kids face when they finally get an "effortless" throw is what it's all about on the mat.
What can you tell the viewers about your new academy?
Chuck Jefferson: Our club is very new, so things are changing quickly as we are going through a growth phase. Currently, I teach almost every class. I always have an assistant instructor that helps me during each class as well, this allows for a lot of individual instruction. Each of my instructors are very accomplished Judo players. David Torres, who will be graduating from San Jose State University this spring is one of the top five Judo players on the USA Judo roster at 73kg.
My other instructor is Cori Geier who graduated from San Jose State University last year was a top three player on the US Roster and a College National Champion. We just started at our new location just last week and we had a class with five Black Belts on the mat, one for every beginning student. We emphasize safety and we have designed our facility with that in mind. We have a 10x12 meter area with a raised wood sub floor, 7/16" Poly Urethane foam base then a 5/8" Crosslink foam topped with 1.5" Olympic Grade Swain Grappling mats. Our objective is to create a positive learning environment that is safe and fun for people of all ages.
How important is it for you to be on your own starting from nothing to build a great academy?
Chuck Jefferson: Starting from scratch is never easy. When I first started teaching, day one I had zero students. The second day I had one kid that was four years old. The first few months were very hard. Now we have a good solid base of students and I hope to see the growth really take off during the next year. I didn't start this club because I wanted to "be on my own" I always wanted to teach. I coached the Judo program at San Jose State for almost eight years (2000-2008). I would have loved to be a full time Judo coach at SJSU. However, my first son was born in 2008 and the limited budget for the self-funded program at San Jose State does provide financially for a coach.
So in 2008 I stepped down and took a step down and just did judo and a little BJJ for fun on the side. This allowed me to spend most of my evenings with my family. As time goes by you can only stay off the tatami for so long. A real estate opportunity came up that was too good to pass up, so I jumped in with both feet and secured my own location. I have a small space that is within 20,000 plus square foot fitness facility with many like-minded people who want to take care of their bodies. We are very excited about our program and hope to see some huge growth over the next couple of years.
What should a student expect training under Chuck Jefferson?
Chuck Jefferson: Day to day, I want people to feel comfortable knowing they will be getting some of the highest quality Judo instruction available. Everyone will always have an opinion of who is a better teacher/coach etc.... but I am confident, that our staff has the knowledge and ability to teach judo at the highest level. In the bigger picture, I feel an obligation and a sense of pride to share my unique experiences with my students. As I spoke about earlier in this interview, Judo has provided me with an amazing amount of opportunity in my life. I hope to share my knowledge of Judo that I acquired through all of my training, travels over the course of 30-years with all of my students. As I share my stories, lessons and techniques, I hope to encourage my students to pursue judo as a way of life. I had a coach in college who had a quote, "Judo owes you nothing, you owe the world to judo" For some it may be hard to understand what he is talking about, for me it's something I live by.
Are visitors such as out-of-towners or even BJJ practitioners welcome to come train also?
Chuck Jefferson: Absolutely, anyone is welcome to join us. Anyone from out of down is always welcome to drop in. Shoot me an email anytime Chuck at Cjjudo.com. I have dabbled in BJJ a little bit, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit as I have always liked newaza. In 2009 I tore my ACL at a BJJ practice, a real fluke. After I had surgery, I couldn't do much judo for a while so I did about six months of BJJ while I was rehabbing my knee. I earned my blue belt under my old judo buddy Dave Camarillo at that time. After my knee got better, my second son was born and my time got zapped. I will eventually make it back into the BJJ world, I would like to earn my black belt at some point.
Finally as time progress what is the overall goal you want to accomplish with your school?
Chuck Jefferson: The goal of my judo school at this point is to introduce the sport of Judo to as many people as I can. I feel that I have been lucky to find such a gem of a sport. I think there are others out there that would enjoy judo so long as they were introduced to it in the right way. My long-term goal is to create judo champions, however, in the beginning competition should not be stressed to heavily. The more important thing is to build a solid foundation and have fun! I see myself in 30-40 years, just like my Sensei Ernie Smith from my hometown of Barstow, he is now training kids that are second and third generation students at his club. He has become a pillar of the local community and many people want him to train their kids. He does it for the love of the game, but ends up with some pretty amazing results.
Well that wraps things up, any final thoughts?
Chuck Jefferson: Thank you very much for your time. If you are ever in the San Jose area, please stop by the dojo and join us for a practice!
for more information on Chuck's dojo visit- http://www.cjjudo.com