Shonie Carter…Judoka at Heart
By Jarvis Cherron Kolen
His 32-15-6 record sounds like it might not be the greatest and then you look at the names on that list…Matt Serra, Karo Parisyan, Mike Pyle, Jonathan Goulet, Ron Jhun, Nate Marquardt, Fernando Vasconcelos, Jesse Jones, Dave Menne, Adrian Serrano, Chris Lytle and Pat Militech.
Shonie Carter is far more than just another flashy fighter, he is a determined, hard working, underrated and deeply humble Judoka and life long wrestler. In this interview I hope to shed some light on some myths like those that he doesn’t train hard anymore, his background and most of all his Judo pimp personality.
JI-Shonie, how are you, man?
SC-I’m doing outstanding, a little hungry, but oh well.
JI-First of all I want to say for all Judoka and Wrestlers out there that we appreciate the way you represent both arts and that you are a pleasure to watch.
SC-it’s been a first for me to learn something different and wrestling and Judo go hand in hand.
JI-First of all, what is your actual background because I know there is a misconception that you are primarily a kickboxer that started grappling, when to my knowledge it’s actually the reverse, correct?
SC-I was a wrestler who then started doing Judo, then Jiujitsu, then boxing. Karate and kickboxing were actually last.
JI- Where did you start Judo?
SC-I started off at Triton Community in Rivergrove, IL, then I got a full scholarship to Carson-Newman in Tennessee. That’s where my actual formal studies in Judo and Jiujitsu started. It was traditional Japanese Jiujitsu (Shingitai).
JI-You have a fight coming up soon don’t you? What organization is that going to be in and who are you fighting?
SC-Yes, sir. WEC, Friday 13th, Mike Pyle.
JI-Shonie, let me ask you a question that several people I know told me I have to ask you…do you think being black has affected your ability to get certain fights or get invited back to certain organizations. Do you think as a black fighter that it is just tougher to get some fights.
JI-How did you first get involved in Judo?
SC- When I was at Carson Newman, but my Uncle knew Judo and my Dad was in the Navy. My first style was “Ghetto Roman”, LOL. When I started doing Judo at Carson Newman it was under Dr. Stephan Karr, he was a Nidan and his wife was a way overdue Ikkyu, she should have been a Shodan in 1996, but she just didn’t want to test. I took to it like a fish to water because I was a wrestler and mostly Greco-Roman. Now, I get to grasp clothes. YEAH!!! Dr. Karr could tell I had some experience before other than just wrestling. The only thing was I didn’t know all of the traditional names and stuff. After a semester of doing Judo, Dr. Karr was talking about the state championships. I was like I want to do it. Everybody thought I was crazy, they were like dude, you haven’t been doing it long enough. I showed up at the tournament and registered for the white-green, brown and black belt divisions. Dr. Stefan Terrell, he was Dr. Karr’s instructor at the University of Tennessee, was the head referee. I swept through the white-green and won the state title. Dr. Karr thought I was done, but I said I’m not done. The Brown belt division felt easier than the white-green (I had 4 matches in brown). I was catching everyone with Harai Goshi, Uchimata and Hiza Guruma. I Ipponed one person with Yoko Shiho Gatame. I had 7 matches, two state titles now. At this point I was a yellow belt in Judo (Rokkyu). I was the only person that placed from my dojo. I told Dr. Karr I entered the Black Belt division and Dr. Karr advised me not to do it.
I had three matches in the black belt division. I made it to the finals against a Godan and he had been watching my matches. I tried for Osoto Makikomi and I slipped. We stood back up and I shot the Morote Gari, he countered me with Taware Gaeshi. He got a waza ari and I was like “ahh”. Then I scored a couple of Yukos and he got me with Ippon seio nage and I tried to turn out. I didn’t and they awarded him waza ari-awaseta-Ippon. Dr. Terrell came back after discussing it with Dr. Karr and I was awarded my Ikkyu (Brown Belt) on the spot. Two state titles and a runner up. I won a state title in North Carolina. I had extra money then, I was in the Marines…I fell in love with Judo.
JI-what year do you think this was.
SC-All this was in 1996, I still have all my trophies and medals.
JI-How long have you been doing Judo?
SC-10 years and while I’m out here in California I’m doing Judo a little bit
JI-Speaking of that, who is your current Judo instructor?
SC-Bob Schirmer, The Combat-Do gym founder.
JI-Right now you’re training at the Pit with Chuck Liddell, how do you feel it’s going to help you in your next fight.
SC-With me it’s just the conditioning and getting to work with a proven core of guys coming from a proven, successful camp. I have to work with them.
JI-I hear a lot that you don’t always come into your fights in the best of condition, what do you say to that?
SC-I think it’s just the timing. People can think what they want, I can’t prove to anybody that I’m in a certain kind of shape. A lot of my fights go the distance, could I be out of shape and do that…no, I would be gassing. There are a lot of guys out there that are already famous that haven’t been doing it that long…would I have been able to fight for 20 years if I was out of shape. When they see me on HDTV on Friday, they’re going to be like “what the hell, Shonie made 170?”. I don’t blink my eyes and make 170…I had to workout. When other people are asleep or doing what they do I’m in the gym. I worked in a health club where there are treadmills, weights and machines. None of these people really know me.
JI- Have you been able to work out with Chuck Liddell?
JI- Does his confidence as champ right now help you at all? You’re pretty self motivated so I doubt it does much, but success breeds success.
SC-Yes, I’m always glad to work out with so many talented guys and I just appreciate having him there to work out with me.
JI-What are your favorite Judo techniques?
SC-Harai Goshi, Uchimata, Hiza Guruma and Tani Otoshi. Oh also, I love Yoko Wakare!!! I love that stuff.
JI-Who was your favorite International level player to watch.
SC-When you first get into Judo you know the common names like Swain and Pedro, but you know who I really like, this little Japanese girl, she has these little pig tails sticking up.
SC-yeah, the little thang. She was so cute, but boy she became a giant on that mat. I remember watching Yoshida, I remember seeing the other Japanese Judoka. I have had a few times to go to the Kodokan, I was like this is Mecca. I told my other training partners, you don’t know what you’re missing, you thinking you know Judo, you don’t know nothing until you go to the Kodokan. When you get to see Dr. Kano’s workout clothing and books, behind glass, but it’s still awesome.
JI-Last, but not least what do you think Judo provides or adds to your MMA game?
SC-It gives you the ability to take your opponent down without the typical shoot or clinch. You don’t see too many Judo players getting kneed in the head. It makes it a much more efficient way to take someone down off of their feet.
JI- Also, with you, your takedowns tend to be high amplitude!!! I’ve seen you launch some people.
JI-Here comes the tough one, all of my buddies at Groundfight, MMA.tv and Judoforum want to know, what is your opinion of Tony Cecchine?
SC-I like him. I don’t know if he has offended other people or people question his technique. I have learned a great deal from him and the things I took from him will stick with me the rest of my life. I remember when he helped get me in shape for Matt Serra. We worked exclusively on submission escapes.
JI-Now you’re saying your ability to defend a world class BJJ black belt’s submissions came from working with Tony Cecchine?
SC-I learned a lot from Tony, I already knew how to escape submission before I was with Tony, but I picked up some different opinions on things and how to escape things from Tony. He wasn’t the only one who helped me, I had a deep nest of training partners, because I am a Ronin, I know Carlos Newton calls himself a Ronin, but I can go anywhere TAG kickboxing, a pro boxing gym (Windy City boxing gym), Northwestern University wrestling practice, Combat-Do.
JI-Shonie, all the Judoka I know want to wish you well and we hope you land Harai Goshi in your coming fight, but whether you do or don’t we wish you victory.
SC-Thank you so much.
JI-Finally, you have any sponsors you would like to thank or any shout outs?
SC-My training partners at the IronAcademy, the guys at the SLO kickboxing, John Hackleman, Chuck Liddel and the Pit…and WindyCity boxing gym. If anybody wants to holler at me I’m at Shoniecarter@yahoo.com, and musclemayhem.com…you can e-mail me about the underground fights I’m always talking about. You can see me throwing guys with all kinds of crazy stuff.