Interview with John Clarke
John Clarke is one of Great Britain’s most successful Grapplers, a 3rd Generations of Judo/Sombo Masters
Interview with John Clarke 4th. Dan
By Colin Carrott 3rd Dan
I know that you have recently returned from The World Sombo Wrestling Championships in Prague, where you competed as Captain of the British team. What was the competition like?
John Clarke: As you can imagine it really was world class and the standard was the best I have ever seen, and with over 42 different countries there, it will be an experience I will never forget. For the record I came 7th out 25 so I got into the world rankings.
What other big Sombo tournaments have you entered, and how have you got on?
John Clarke: I did the world championships in the USA and got a silver in the under 16 years group and then a 5th place 3 years later in the worlds in England under 19 years group. Also British champion 9 times.
I have heard Sombo Wrestling described as “Judo with no rules”. Is this true? What is the difference between Sombo and Judo?
John Clarke: That comments comes from people that have never done or seen Sombo. Judo and Sombo are similar in the fact that they are Jacket Wrestling Sports with different rules making them two different grappling arts.
As some-one who is still competing at the age of 34, what ambitions do you have for future tournaments?
John Clarke: Well this year I am 35 and able to compete in the veterans so I guess that will my next path I follow
Aside from Sombo Wrestling and Judo, what other grappling styles have you tried?
John Clarke: I was twice London Open Freestyle Wrestling Champion, twice British Kurash Champion, Grand Open Kurash champion once and twice British Belt Wrestling Champion. plus I competed in Weightlifting, Football, Karate and Boxing.
What are your greatest achievements in all of these sports?
John Clarke: Coming 2nd in the Worlds when I was 16 was one and being British Champion at Sombo and Kurash in the same year for 2 years running was another but I think becoming the British team captain has to be up there.
As a third generation grappler, at what age did you start?
John Clarke: I started Judo when I was 5 years old
What made you start, was it something you wanted to do for yourself, or was it peer pressure?
John Clarke: Well I and my 2 sister all did Judo as kids, but the girls stopped when they were about 16/17 but I carried on I loved it and still do so to answer your question “I do it for myself”.
Outside of your family, who have been your biggest influences?
John Clarke: That’s easy a man called Mick Poole from the Isle of Wight who is a 6th Dan in Judo and a great wrestler. He looked out for me when I turned senior and he was a great mentor to me and I will never forget that.
What has it been like, growing up as the son of an 8th Dan and the Grandson of a 6th. Dan?
John Clarke: I was really close to my granddad and when he died it hit me hard and as for my Dad well who could ask for a better coach and roll model, he is a great man who has done pretty much all there is to do in the grappling world. With them both I would not be the fighter I am now.
Are any other members of your family Dan grades?
John Clarke: My Nan (Oma) was a 4th Dan at judo and my uncle (Nobby) a 3rd Dan at Judo and my mum is a 3rd Dan at Jiu Jitsu and my sister Susan is a 1st Dan at Judo.
What are the chances of a fourth generation of grapplers?
John Clarke: Both my boys Lewis 8 and Harry 5 do Karate but I hope soon they will see the light and come over to the dark side Ha Ha.
Do you have ambitions to go higher in your judo grades?
John Clarke: Hell yes I have always wanted to be the 3rd generation Clarke to become a Judo 6th Dan (red and white belt) and it will happen I am sure. What a result that would be 3 generations of Re/White Belts not many families can say that.
You talk mainly about Sombo yet you started in Judo and want to be a 6th Dan Judo, why the conflict?
John Clarke: I enjoy both disciplines but prefer to compete in Sombo as the rules allow a lot more variation of technique. Saying that I have won a lot of medals Nationally and Internationally at Judo. Sombo is about grappling and competing Judo is a Physical and Philosophical approach to life.
As a coach, what is your favourite technique to teach?
John Clarke: Uchi Mate I used to hate it as a kid but love it now to use and to teach.
Where do you think the future of grappling sports lie, in particular judo?
John Clarke: Kids today do not seem to have no drive to better themselves and the way no one really seems to want to go that extra mile to succeed! well it does make the future of grappling look bleak.
I notice that you are now taking a bigger part in the I.B.F. What is this organisation and what are its prospects for the future?
John Clarke: The IBF is the International Budo Federation is a world wide Martial Arts Organisation founded by Dutchman Peter Schonewille 10th Dan in the 1960’s, my Grandfather Nobby was the 1st IBF GB President, my father Martin is the current IBF GB President, one can only guess who the next President will be? As for the future of the IBF my father has handed over the Technical side of Judo to a committee of Senior Dan Grades and they have elected me Chairman, I have lots of idea’s to help bring the association forward and with the help of the Executive Committee I feel the future looks good.
Is there any sort of link between your grappling and the type of work you do for a living? Is there ever any conflict of interests?
John Clarke: I am a PE teacher at a local high school where I live and although I have brought Judo into the school there has never been any conflict of interest at all.
Outside of the dojo, what are your aims and ambitions?
John Clarke: To be a great father to my 2 boys and to make my friends and family proud of me in everything I do.
How important to you is socialising of the mat?
John Clarke: I love socialising it has been known for me to have a few beers with my Judo friends ha ha.
If you could be any-one else in the world, fictional or non-fictional, who would you be and why?
John Clarke: Super Man who would not want to fly and have super natural power.
Finally, a couple of one word answers, Ground work or standing?
John Clarke: Standing.
Sombo or Judo?
John Clarke: Sombo.
Arm locks or leg locks?
John Clarke: Arm Locks.
Running or weight training?
John Clarke: Running.
Coaching or competing?
John Clarke: Competing.
John Clarke: Fight night training.
Least favourite exercise?
John Clarke: Weights.
John Clarke: Chops.
Favourite musician and favourite song?
John Clarke: Bon Jovi and Blaze of Glory.
John Clarke: 13th Warrior.
Thanks John for the interview may I wish you all the best for the future and I am sure we will be hearing a lot more about you.
John Clarke: YOU BET.