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How the First Thing You Learn in Judo Can Help You Rise to the Top of the Copywriting A-List

Those of you who have gotten to know me over the years know that I wrestled in high school and college and earned black belts in both  judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

There are many life lessons these sports give you that you can apply to copywriting.  That’s why I love to share them with you. 

One of the biggest business building lessons can be found in the very first thing you learn in judo.     

And when it comes to learning this lesson, I can think of no finer person to learn from than my coach, two-time Olympic coach and two-time paralympic coach Willy Cahill.  

Over the past 50 years, Willy has coached over 1,000 national champions, two Olympians, and one world champion, AnnMaria De Mars, who was known as the queen of arm bars long before she was known for being the mom of Olympic bronze medalist and former UFC champ Ronda Rousey.

In other words, Willy knows what he is talking about.  He’s like the godfather of modern judo–and one of the nicest and kindest men you will ever meet. 

One day I was hanging out with Willy in the office before class.  In walks some seven-year-old’s jerk parent who started questioning Willy’s coaching methods. 

Here’s the lesson in a nutshell.

I think we were maybe two weeks into a new class session where we teach the kids lots of fun games including falls and rolls.   So the dad asked to talk to Willy, and I couldn’t believe what I heard come out of the guy’s mouth. 

He asks/tells Willy that he would like him to teach his son the throws first.  Willy responds with, “That’s really not the way we do it here.  We teach them the rolls and how to land first.”

But the guy pressed, “Yes…but I would like my son to learn the throws first.”  

Willy responded, ever so nicely.  “I understand, but I have been doing this for 40 years and we always teach the kids how to roll and land first.” 

The father, who clearly (like many parents today) did not get it, continued to press with what he wanted for his son–to learn the throws first.  

 Finally, Willy says to this dad, “Do you know why we teach the kids how to land first?”

The father, dumbfounded, says, “No.”  That’s when Willy replied, “Because everybody gets thrown.”

The fact is, success in judo does not begin with your ability to throw somebody.   It begins with your ability to bounce back up after you get thrown. 

Which is why the first thing they teach you in judo is how to land. 

That way, you can bounce right back up unscathed. 

The fact of the matter is, no matter where you go in life, you are going to get tossed on your head… You are going to get ripped off… You are going to be fired or laid off… 

As they say, sh*t happens. 

You have two choices: 

You can either lay down and take it… or you can get back up and go ahead again, maybe even harder.

So that one day, you can be on the throwing end instead of the landing end of judo.

That is the first thing they teach you in judo.  How to land.  Not just on the mat, but in life. 


The  same thing applies to your copywriting career. 

You are going to get rejected out of hand… 

People won’t like your copy… 

You’ll get confusing directions from marketing directors and publishers… 

You will do everything someone asks for, only to be disappointed.

You have a choice. You can: 

  1. Lay there in a fetal position, shaking and not knowing what to do next, or
  2. Get back up and hit it again with 100% unwavering confidence.

On the AWAI Facebook page, I see a lot of people who are new to copywriting who are frankly frightened to seek out new business.  

As a result, they’re either: 

  1. Worried about approaching a client
  2. Nervous because they don’t know what to say
  3. Clueless as to what to say when they hear NO
  4. Uncertain how to overcome rejection

Sound familiar?

Forget all that. 

You may get pounded, but so what?

Just get back up again… and make the next call.

Remember: Just like the direct response promotions you want to write, it’s a numbers game.

That brings me back to learning how to land when it comes to copywriting. 

Write down all the NOs you will hear and your answers to these objections. 

Here are a few objections you should have answers for… 

  • Now is not a good time…
  • You don’t have enough experience…
  • You’re too expensive… 
  • I just hired someone….
  • I’m talking to a few other people… 

Then practice and rehearse your response over and over.  You should know them as well as you know your own name.  

Consider these your counters to being thrown!

So when they try to throw you, you already have your counter right in place to reverse the situation.

You don’t think I rose to the top of the A-list on a wing and prayer, do you?

No way.  I was 100% prepared.  All the time, every time.  

Fact is, you will never win every job.   I didn’t either.

But I bounced back with a vengeance each and every time. You can do the same thing too.

It’s a lot simpler than you think:. Just like the direct response promotions we write, pitching and winning business is a numbers game. 

And that is what I learned from judo that you can use to rise to the top of the A-list. How to land, get back up, and get back at it.

You can do this!

All good wishes,


P.S. If you feel that you could use some personal sales coaching, I’m giving away my $3500 How to Sell Yourself as a Copywriter when you sign up for my Million-Dollar Copywriting Formula copywriting coaching course.

That way you’ll not only learn the best ways to find and pitch work but also take your copywriting skills to the next level.

For more information,  Click here and you’ll find a complete review of my program.

Doug D'Anna

As a seasoned direct response copywriter, Doug D'Anna has created more than 100 widely-mailed control packages for the world's largest specialized information publishers—generating over $100 million in direct sales.