Judo Justice: How Judo helped these new lawyers pass the bar

These Filipino judokas say that their judo training helped prepare them for the bar examinations.

The bar results are in, the oaths have been taken, and the Philippines has a new generation of lawyers. But you probably didn’t know that a number of these new lawyers are actually judokas who took what they learned in the dojo and applied it inside the class room.

Take these judokas-turned-lawyers for example. They grinded it out in law school and overcame the bar exams, and they credit judo for what they’ve achieved.

Atty. Raphael Pangalangan

Raphael is a judo black belter who competed for the UP Diliman Men’s Varsity Judo Team. The recent UP Law grad, AU scholar, and incoming Oxfordian likens preparing for the UAAP Judo Championships to preparing for the bar exams.

judo law

“Judo taught me that for every maneuver, there lies a counter-maneuver–a milieu greatly similar to law. It isn’t enough to memorize the law as it is written, the same way how memorizing the steps of the harai goshi does not assure an Ippon in an actual bout. Like Judo, the law must be read in light of an ever-changing context. Like the lawyer, the Judoka must adapt to the cards he is dealt.

Competing in Judo also prepared me for the bar exams. That restless anxiety the night before the big day. The early-morning call time. The months-long preparation for a days-long bout. Sound familiar? The Judoka/bar candidate will definitely think so, in more ways than one.”

Atty. Anton Paguio

Anton is a former team captain of the UP Diliman Men’s Varsity Judo Team. He’s a graduate of Arellano Law School and he says that judo instilled values he’ll carry on outside the dojo.

judo law

“Judo had such an invaluable influence in my experience of getting through law school and even now at work.

Judo taught me to keep a beginners mind. It also taught me to maintain my composure even at the most ill-fitting circumstances/ situations–similar to Judo tournament matches, sometimes your last few seconds turn out to be game changers. Judo also taught me the value of proper pacing–it’s not how you start, but how you finish.

Those are some of the key principles we used to be reminded of everyday in training that helped me hurdle the bar examinations. And I am grateful to have a judoka’s resiliency and discipline to constantly strive for improvement.”

Atty. Tobie Reynes

Tobie is a judo black belter and former competitor for the UP Diliman Men’s Varsity Judo Team. He graduated from UP law and now works in one of the Philippines’ top law firms. He says that Judo prepared him for the stress and rigors of being a law student.

judo law

“One of the basic concepts I learned from Judo is adapting to the forces around you, and using those forces to your advantage. During my 4-year stint in law school, I have lived by this lesson. The rigorous day-to-day recitations and often impossible exams are the everyday forces that I had to use to my advantage. For every failure or triumph, I had to learn from them and move forward.

The bar exam, however, was a completely different animal. During my 6-month review, I had to manage my own time with no professor to guide me. You could say that law school and bar review were the everyday training with constant uchikomi and randori, and the bar exam was the big 4-day competition. Fortunately, I, together with 3,746 other competitors, was able to score the big ippon and pass the bar.

Much like a single competition, the bar is only one event that I had to go through. Moving forward with my budding career in the legal profession, I know I still have a lot of forces to deal with, to use to my advantage. I might have to fly and slam the mat some days, but I also know that I will cherish every hajime and ippon that will go my way.”

Atty. Gerard Teruel

Gerard is a former UAAP Champion for the De La Salle University Varsity Men’s Judo Team. The Judo black belter says that the number of new lawyers who were once student-athletes debunks the notion that varsity athletes do not excel academically.

judo law

“Judo made me become determined, focused, and disciplined. These values made it a lot easier for me to go through law school, the bar review and the Bar Examinations itself.

As in my case, I used to be a hard core student-athlete back in the college days. When I started playing Judo, I saw it as a very physical sport, but eventually, I learned that the more important thing is the mental aspect. After I joined a couple of tournaments, I came to realize that I was successful because of how I think and how I mentally prepared for it.

When I was in law school and when I reviewed for the bar, it was like a gold medal match. I gave it everything I got, every single day. It was hard, but I kept my eye on the prize, and I never doubted myself. In the end, I was right, all of my hard work eventually paid off.

To those student-athletes who have doubts in pursuing law school, don’t let that hinder you from pursuing your dreams! Fight and prove that you can become what you want, may it be a gold medalist in your sport or passing the bar examinations, which is allegedly one of the most difficult exams in our country. Student-athletes can excel academically if they want to. You just need to put as much effort and patience as you have given in your sport.”

Photos care of Raphael Pangalangan, Anton Paguio, Tobie Reynes, Gerard Teruel and uaapsport.com (Paguio and Teruel judo pictures)

Gab Pangalangan

Gab Pangalangan is a former collegiate national Judo champ and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of DojoDrifter.com. You can find his other works in the Philippines' leading magazines and websites.
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