DOB - 29 September 1958
TOWN/COUNTRY - Coventry, GBR
WEIGHT - 71kg / - 78kg
HEIGHT - 1.77m 5ft 10ins
Moscow 1980 silver -71kg
Paris 1979 Bronze 71kg
Ludwigshafen 1977 Bronze -71kg
Rostock 1982 Bronze -78kg
Junior World Championships
Madrid 1976 Bronze -71kg
Junior European Championships
Berlin 1977 Gold -71kg
Neil Adams is one of the best judo players from the west. Five times European Champion, World Champion in 1981 and twice Olympic silver medallist, he is one of a rare breed, a fighter with a European newaza style and a Japanese tachi-waza style. He has remained one of the best-known fighters in the world through his authorship of many books and as a Fighting Films commentator.
On Adams’ 7th birthday his father Cyril bought him a judo suit and took him to the local martial arts centre, a little wooden hut in a car park in Rugby, for his first taste of judo. A year later, when his family moved, he transferred to Coventry Judo Club, his father acting as coach. At first, his sole technique was Morote-seoi-nage, but after suffering a serious injury executing the throw he began developing right Tai-otoshi. The wide split version would soon become his tokui-waza.
In 1974, aged 16 he moved to London to train at the Budokwai - which was then in its heyday- alongside fighters like Olympic medallists Dave Starbrook, Keith Remfry and Brian Jacks. The charismatic Jacks inspired Adams and it was from him whom Adams learned his spinning Uchimata. He became European Junior Champion in 1977 defeating Ezio Gamba of Italy, by koka from Tai otoshi. Gamba was to be one of his principal rivals throughout his judo career.
The next year Adams would experience something which would ultimately change his judo- and world judo for that matter- when he suffered a humiliating defeat to Frenchman Jean-Pierre Gilbert. Gilbert took Adams to the ground and strangled him using Sangaku-jime, this forced Adams to reconsider his judo. In the following two years Adams worked tirelessly on his newaza. He took inspiration from the Russian Alexander Iaskevitch’s victory over his Japanese opponent in the 1976 Junior World Championships using Juji-gatame. He worked hard to hone his own Juji-gatame, eventually developing a unique version of Iaskevitch’s roll into the technique.
Adam's says of himself, “I was a skills parasite. Whenever I saw an exciting new technique I would pinch it, work on it for months and turn it into my own. I was hungry for as much knowledge as I could get”.
He began to take major scalps in senior competition. Throwing the Japanese champion Takahiro Nishida for ippon with Uchimata in front of the Japanese crowd at the Kano cup in 1978 remains one of his most memorable victories. In 1979 he beat Gamba again to claim his first senior European title. However, at the end of the year the Italian turned the tables, beating Adams by a yuko in the semi-final of the World Championships. The next year at the Moscow Olympics they met again, with the Italian winning a narrow hantei verdict.
At the 1891 Maastricht World Championships, fighting up a weight at -78kg, he produced a phenomenal range of techniques in the best performance of his life. He armlocked Olympic Bronze Medallist Ravdan Davadaali (Mongolia) with his newly perfected Juji-gatame in the first round, threw Baptiste (Brazil) with Uchimata in the second, and destroyed Latreche (Algeria) with two beautifully timed throws: an Ouchi-gari for waza-ari and Osoto-gari for ippon. A Ko-uchi-gari for waza-ari on Kevin Doherty (Canada) took him into the final against the Japanese champion Jiro Kase. Here Adams produced one of the most famous arm locks in the history of the sport, rolling Kase three times before straightening the arm to take the world middleweight title away from the Japanese for the first time ever.
Two years later, at the Moscow World Championships, Adams was to lose his title, on a debatable split decision, to another Japanese fighter, Nobotushi Hikage. Convinced he had done enough to win, it was the most disappointing loss he had suffered to date. But even greater disappointment was to follow at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Having stylishly thrown and arm locked his way into the final, he faced the unknown German, Frank Weineke. With the fight clearly under his control, he underestimated Weineke, and for the first and only time in a contest he was thrown for ippon, with a right Uchimata/left Ippon-seoi-nage combination. It was the lowest point in his career.
In 1985 he went hunting for Weineke, beating him in the final of the German Open. He went on to take his fifth European title, defeating the Russian Vladimir Chestakov in the semi-final, and the Pole Waldemar Legien in the final, throwing him for yuko with Tai-otoshi. At the Seoul World Championships he was disappointingly drawn against Hikage in the first round. The fight that should have been the final was decided by a chui penalty against Adams for stepping out. Hikage went on to win and Adams went through the repecharge to take bronze.
Neil Adams’ contest career ended at the Seoul Olympics. He established his own health and judo club and became head coach o the British Team for several years. He is the author of a number of judo books including Arm locks, Grips and Tai-otoshi in the ippon books Masterclass series. He is also the familiar voice on all Fighting Films judo productions.
“Of course I had some natural ability, but more important than that was my belief that I would win. I made myself train harder than anyone else, so I knew I was better. Now when I am coaching, I can see who is a potential champion: he is on time, trains harder, doesn’t complain and knows he is going to win.”
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