We caught up with Rachel Tytler to hear about her journey and experience in judo. She discussed role models, competing across Europe and balancing work with training.

Her foray into the world of judo was sparked by an unexpected twist of fate. After finishing swimming lessons, one of her friend’s dad’s offered to introduce them to the sport. Rachel recalled, “I just tagged along one day with my friends, we were meant to go swimming but the lessons just ended. So he took us to Pro Judo, I sort of fell into it really.”

After three years of training, the competitive element of judo came in. Starting with club competitions and then National Championships. “At The Heart of England competition, at Walsall I got beat, comfortably. It was one of my very first comps and I remember one girl in particular who just kept throwing me and I was desperate for it to be done. But I remember thinking imagine being the other person and being able to throw like this, that definitely motivated me.”

Some self-doubt began to creep in, but thanks to her coaches, she was able to see the bigger picture: “Brian Long was dead encouraging, he kept saying ‘you’re strong, you’re fit, you’ve got good judo’.  He was very enthusiastic and always insisted I do as many competitions as I can. That gave me a huge boost, especially when I was doubting myself and you started to think maybe he is right and maybe I’m not awful. Without his encouragement at the start of my time in the sport I probably would have just left.”

Starting out at club competitions.

The importance of learning how to deal with defeat is certainly not lost on Rachel, as she emphasises how beneficial it can be in your development: “In hindsight, failing at competitions or losing can be used as fuel. There’s a lesson in losing; there are a lot of people who can’t take losing but it’s such an important life lesson that you need to learn how to deal with. With the kids at my club, I say ‘You either win your fights or you learn. The only time you lose a fight is when you never think about it again’. It’s so good for your progression.”

With her confidence growing and performances improving, she began training at JudoScotland. Starting with Tuesday Randori sessions, Rachel, alongside others from her club, would be driven to Ratho by Brian. “By sixth year at school, I was coming in on a Tuesday and a Thursday. It was a great introduction to Ratho. It was hard, going from competing in your club to being against people like Gemma Gibbons, Jodie Mullen and Sally Conway. You went and got a battering, but you learned so much from those three.”

“Once I left school, I started going to Ratho full-time. Being in an environment with elite athletes and seeing how hard they worked would push me every day. It made me want to work harder. I only remember throwing Jodie once, I maybe caught Sally twice and Gemma once as well but that chase drives you as well. I must have fought the three of them a million times and I can tell you on one hand how many times I threw them collectively, which isn’t great! But the environment and training with them was so important to me.”

Training with Olympic medalist Sally Conway.

Off the mat, their influence was crucial too. “They would give me bits of advice, Sally especially since she competed for longer. Gemma was left-handed, and always told me little tips on what I’m doing and what will work.”

“I always noticed Sally’s tattoo on her forearm which said ‘Believe’. I used to  wonder why she got that because looking at her you’d assume she has so much confidence. It was good for me though, it showed me that it can be normal for anyone to have some self-doubt and need a confidence boost.”

As Rachel’s training intensity was upped, she went down in Scottish sporting history in the summer of 2022: “The Commonwealth Games was an amazing experience; I had never done a multi-sport event before. It was really special walking off the mat after my bronze fight. After I bowed I looked at the crowd behind the girl I just fought and I saw my two best pals, then I saw my family and then Euan (Burton) and the coaches from my club. I didn’t know how but everywhere I looked it seemed like everyone was at the right place at the right time. It felt like a sixth sense and was special.”

Winning bronze at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

After the games, it left Rachel with a lot of time and questions: “2022 for me was the best year and the worst year, obviously the Commonwealth Games were amazing, but the whole year I had a goal in mind. But once that was finished, it was a bit like, ‘Now what?’. I had to think of what I wanted to do with my life. I did Sports Science at Uni and I got into Personal Training thanks to one of the parents of a kid at my club. At the moment I’m doing online programming and it’s something I have enjoyed doing and it’s nice to have a bit of a distraction from training.”

Our chat is over Teams, with the Bearsden judoka currently in Spain for the next couple of months, training in Madrid. The opportunity judo has given her to travel and see parts of the world she likely would not have is not lost on her, “When I was finishing High School, I went to Japan for two weeks and it was unbelievable. Some of the training camps we go on as well, you get to see other cultures that if I was doing something else I just wouldn’t.”

We finish our chat with a look to the future, “I would love to go to the Olympics, but generally I want to just get better. Win more medals, I spoke to Euan after the Commonwealth Games about plans I need to decide which route I want to go down. It’s about getting good results and improving my performances and hopefully with that, moving into higher level competitions.”