Judo Saskatchewan High Performance Coach

Michael Horley coaching @ Sask Open 2023

Sensei Blair Taylor has sat down with Michael Horley and was able to ask a few questions about what makes him a High Performance Coach from United Kingdom tick, so our athletes can get to know him better.

Before he was hired by Judo Saskatchewan, Michael did not know what real winter was, but now is a great sport in learning how to stay warm throughout the cold winter months, by doing more Judo. Blair asked Michael to respond to about 20 questions in their discussions:

  1. How old were you when started Judo?

    I was nine years old.

  2. Who was your first coach?

    Keith Smith & Dave Hughes

  3. Where was your first club?

    Kobayashi Kwai, Carlisle, England

  4. What do you like most about Judo?
    I like the feeling of throwing someone for ippon nice and clean. 

    I like the feeling of throwing someone for ippon nice and clean. 

  5. What made you want to be a competitive athlete?

    When I was nine, my coach at the time Keith Smith gave me a poster of the British Judo Team at the Atlanta Games. That poster gave me the appetite to pursue competitive judo. I wanted to be a World and Olympic Champion, it didn’t workout in the end, but that goal was what shaped my life from the age of nine to twenty-eight when my competitive chapter ended.

  6. Who was your favourite coach?

    I was fortunate and had a few coaches (I must have been high maintenance ), but I’m going to give a few examples:

Brian Moore was the GB Cadet (U18) Manager, when I was 13, he used to invite me to GB Squad trainings as a guest, I wasn’t quite at the level, but he always took an interest in me and was impressed with my work ethic. Brian was hard as nails (still is), but also used humor to motivate. He was hard on us because he wanted us to be good people not just good athletes. Brian, when I was 15 suggested I started training at Kendal Judo Club as well as my current club. That is where things really stepped up with Mike Liptrot as my coach. Mike and Brian are good friends and Brian’s club was only an hour away so we would attend Brian’s club once a week.

Mike Liptrot, was a hard task master which made me tough. After a couple of years I went from training their 3 x per week to living and training their full time with a couple of friends for 10 years!. The training was relentless and always intense. Mike, had a lot of patience with my judo, I wasn’t particularly talented but he always supported and believed in my ability. We developed an unorthodox style of judo which suited my physicality and good condition. As I got older, he did a good job of managing my program and we had a good rapport/understanding at competitions abroad where he would often be coaching me mat side.

Both Brian and Mike were there for the highs and lows of my competitive journey and they deserve a medal for their patience and commitment, they always had my back!

Medals Plaques

Go Tusunoda was from Japan, lived in Spain but would work with the British Team at both domestic and international competitions and camps for long stints at a time. His Judo was amazing, despite the language barrier he managed to connect with all the athletes due to his authenticity. He was my mat side coach at Grand Slams and helped me a lot on training camps. He never tried to change my judo to a nice classical Japanese style, but he helped enhance what I already had, he developed a nice step pattern to set up my throws. Go coached me at my first and last World Championships in Tokyo, 2010, the first round I had a strong Georgian who I was beating on Shido’s until the last 40 seconds when he latched on to my belt and threw me for ippon. That was my Worlds over.

I was distraught, I had messed the game plan up and felt like I had let everyone down. Brian and Mike and some club mates had flown out from the UK to support me. Mike, had even phoned me up after he saw the draw sheet the night before to go over the game plan which was basically “keep his right sleeve, keep him off your belt”. As I did what felt like a walk of shame off the mats and through the tunnel to the warm up area Go must have spent ages consoling me. It took me a couple of hours to work up the courage to head up to the spectator stands to see my coaches, I don’t think anyone knew what to say, but as always Brian and Mike used good humor to help take my mind off things. This was our way.

I think this sums up what coaching is. Support through the good times and the bad, I had Mike, Brian and Go supporting me even though I had messed up.


  1. Best advice a coach ever gave you?

    Probably “Keep the right sleeve, Keep him off your belt! 😊” I’ve received lots of words of wisdom. But I think ultimately the quote we have framed in the Kendal Dojo is worth a thousand words it’s a slightly bastardized version of the original by Theodore Roosevelt.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things than to rank with those poor timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

I had a tough final (Open Weight, I only weighed 81kg) at the US Open in 2006. I was in the final against an Olympian who was -100kg and looked like he could tear me apart limb by limb.  Mike just said “Far better it is” as I walked onto the mat, the words gave me a much-needed boost of confidence, I have never done so many attacks in my life, no way was I letting him get in first, I beat him. The next day he threw me around the mat at the training camp like a rag doll, Brian was shouting “Your too late mate” 😊

Anyway, the quote is important not just for competitions but also life, not settling for mediocrity, being brave and always striving for better. Whether its going for a new job, moving to another country, trying something new, sticking up for yourself or someone else, whatever! That is what I take from the quote anyway.


  1. What makes a great training partner?

    They must be tough and reliable; it helps if you have the same goals so you both push each other on. (A good spotter when your doing bench press is worth their weight in gold…its not much fun being trapped under the bar!)
  1. What is your favourite technique?

    Seoinage (Standing) I had some success with it in Europe and a couple of Grand Slams. Its my favorite also because I won my first round ay my first Grand Slam with it in Tokyo 2009.
  2. What competition are you most proud of and why?

    It would have to be the German European Cup in 2013 for a few reasons. It was a notoriously tough tournament as many European teams used it as a qualification event for the Worlds. The weeks leading into it my preparation was poor due to an old back/disc injury playing up, I could not do full randori and was just doing technical, 400m sprints and gripping circuits for 3 weeks prior. Despite this I had a great day, everything came together, I felt really focused, won all 5 contests convincingly and that pushed my European Ranking to #1. (It was also my Birthday!)

  3. What did you enjoy most about training during your competitive career?

    I enjoyed spending a lot of time with my best friends David Groom and Danny Harper who also trained full time, we lived together, pushed each other but had some great laughs along the way. That along with the process of full-time training and pursuing a long term goal, it was hard mentally and physically but I often look back on those times and smile to myself.

    Challenging Judo

  4. Who was your judo hero growing up and why?

    Graeme Randall, when I was 12, I watched him on TV win the 1999 World Championships on home soil, he won every contest by ippon and it inspired me to try and do the same.

  5. What did you know about Saskatchewan before you moved here?

    Embarrassingly, I hadn’t heard of Saskatchewan, but I hope when our athletes have some more success in competitions abroad, we can put Judo Saskatchewan on the map! I know in the past we have had some Olympians from Saskatchewan Nancy Filteau, Frazer Will. But maybe some of our HP Squad will represent Canada at an Olympic Games years from now!

  6. The first event you attended in Canada was the Quebec Open, how did that event compare to large events back in the UK?

    In the UK we use mat numbers, in Canada you use mat letters. The age bands are a bit different which means most athletes can fight both days so get a minimum of 4 contests, I like this concept.

  7. What is one piece of advice you would like to give athletes in Saskatchewan?

    “Keep the right sl…” Joke. Enjoy the process of being an athlete, it wont last forever so work hard, learn and fulfill your potential! Also…watch more judo! there is so many resources to watch world class Judo, IJF live events/ Youtube highlights/ Instagram, whatever, pick an athlete who suits your style and study! *I’ll be checking up to make sure our HP Squad watch the TEL AVIV GRAND SLAM this weekend. I think its important for young athletes to have judo idols for inspiration and ideas.

  8. What do you think about Saskatchewan Winters?

    Brutal! I have never felt cold like it. My feet are always cold from November through to March. If anyone has any survival tips let me know. I got my car stuck in some snow in the middle of nowhere after living here for just a month! -30 is not much fun.Saskatchewan - Not Quite Cold Enough!

  9. What do you like most about Saskatchewan?

    The people. Everyone was very warm and welcoming when I first moved here. It’s a daunting prospect moving continents, but the Judo Sask community was very helpful. So Thank-you! Also, everyone seems very hard working, It must be the farmer mentality! The steak is good here too!

  10. If you were head of the IJF for one day, what one change would you make?

    I would change the Wazarai score back to how it used to be, for a while now it has just been looking like a bad yuko. It seems like Judoka are losing contests for landing on their front, it just doesn’t seem right when judo can be so spectacular if we let athletes fight and throw for ippon or at least an old school waza-ari!

  11. What do you enjoy most about coaching?

    I like helping athletes, I find it fulfilling, especially when you start to see the improvements. I also enjoy competitions and training camps where we get to test our metal!

    Judo Sask Team

  12. What has been your favourite coaching moment in Saskatchewan so far?

    Something that often springs to mind is when our U14s at the time in 2019 competed in the Pacific Open Team Event the day after they had already fought. We only had a small team, were outnumbered but apparently not out gunned and managed to get a bronze. I was immensely proud; they never gave up although the odds were against them. I guess I am more impressed by fighting spirit than I am talent. Well done troops!

    On the Mat Coaching

Thank you for your time with us Michael and we hope that you will be our coach for a long successful time in your career. If you want to contact Michael Horley you can email him @ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Coaches Committee

  • Blair Taylor (Chairperson)
  • Chad Litzenberger
  • Destiny Gibney