An interview with National and international Judoka Champion

“There’s no shortcut to Knowledge”

#BingusQuote #EyeOfTheTigerMode #WorkSmart #16WhenHeStartedMedicine #NationalJudoChampionAt25

Who are you? I am Brian Bingen, 29 year old, born in Den Helder, I attended Etty Hillesum College in Den Helder and I moved to Visser ‘t Hooft Lyceum (Leiden) when I was 13 years old. I started studying Medicine at an early age of 16 years at Leiden University. This is because I skipped 2 classes during primary school: 2nd grade and 8th grade.

You are a professional judo player. What awards have you won? How did that career/passion start?

I have won a gold medal at the Dutch National Championships in 2012 and won several awards at the European level championships. When I was at primary school, most of the kids went to Judo. And close to home, my sister’s godmother’s son also attended Judo. This enthused me to go with the flow and attend. At that time I thought it was the coolest sport you could do. Every one, at one point in their lives, has had a childhood dream such as being a fire fighter. I thought by going to Judo I could be that tough guy with sleek fighting skills. And I guess those with the greatest passion and the greatest judo tactics survived till the end.

Medal list:

Not everyone makes it to the top. What did you do to get there?

Talent, dedication, inspiration from the ‘big guys’, an expert training environment, fighting smart are all factors which contributed to my success.

It’s a general rule that the more you train and the greater the supervision and guidance, the better you become at that skill. Hence, when we moved to Leiden, I obstinately told my parents that I didn’t want to move unless I was able to attend the Academy Kenamju in Haarlem. This is the best Judo academy in The Netherlands where judoka heroes such as Henk Grol (former European champion), Guillaume Elmont (former world champion) and Dennis van der Geest (former world champion) trained too.

Academy Kenamju in Haarlem gave me the most optimal training environment. During training I would work with others in my same age group, but when I wasn’t training I loved watching the ‘Big Guys’ train. Generally 13-17 year olds trained at 18:00 and the older, highly-skilled judokas trained from 19:30. You can always learn something from observing the champions, so seeing them train became a regular habit for me.

Judo Strategies

Generally, during competitions I would try to conserve my energy as much as possible until the end. It’s important to know the strategies and maneuvers adopted by your opponent. Hence, I would watch their fights and during the match I would keep the pace low until they become tired and sleepy. And that’s the moment when I would fire back and attack!

What was your week like when training to be judoka?

  • Monday: Judo training in Haarlem, 1.5 hours.
  • Tuesday: Strength training in Haarlem, 1.5 hours.
  • Wednesday: Central Judo Training in Utrecht, 1.5 hours.
  • Thursday: Judo training in Haarlem, 1.5 hours.
  • Friday: Judo training in Haarlem, 1.5 hours.
  • Saturday: Strength training in Leiden 1.5h, University Sport Centrum.
  • Sunday: Rest Day.

And when I wasn’t training I was studying for exams or preparing for the well-known ‘self-study assignments’ in preparation for our ‘workgroups’ at Leiden University. Thankfully, I am a fast learner. This gift helped me immensely to combine studying for Medicine with my strict judo-training regime.

What sacrifices have you made as an athlete?

I don’t feel like I was making a lot of sacrifices because I was following my passion. During the tournament season, I was often in the ‘eye of the tiger’ mode. Everyone who has watched the Rocky Film series will know what I mean by this! Once tournaments were successfully completed, I would party like the others.

What have you learned in general from being an athlete? What life lessons has it taught you?

“Work hard, play hard”. If you fall down you get back up and try again infinitely until you get it. By being an athlete, you learn how to effectively deal with failure and this you can use in every aspect of your life.

I learned how to fight smart and working smartly can be applied to all aspects of life. Let me tell you a small anecdote. During my PhD I spent two years working 70 hours a week in the lab. In the beginning you are learning how to carry out each experiment so every experiment can take hours to design and complete. Luckily, during those 2 years I learned to be more efficient and to work smartly. I learned to do less (unnecessary) experiments and trained myself to only implement the essential ones. This meant I could spend more time per experiment. Planning is so essential. I started to spend more time planning each experiment in detail so as to prevent having to do multiple repeats (due to unwanted outcome or accidentally missing key experimental steps). Consequently, I could spend less time in the lab and more quality time with my family and friends.

You are not a professional judoka anymore, how are you spending your free time now?

I like playing all kinds of sports and I enjoy spending time with family and friends.  I love oil painting! My legend and painting inspiration is Bob Ross. He has the great ability to paint huge, eye-opening landscapes within 20 minutes! From the age of 9, I have always enjoyed copying his painting styles and after starting Judo I kind of let this hobby go until my knee got injured when I was 18. I couldn’t do anything so I got my painting gear out again and decided to paint flowers in my own style. First, my mother’s godmother bought my paintings. Next, my granny wanted one and that’s how I ended up making the whole family a painting! The sweet part is that they still have my painting on their walls. Furthermore, I enjoy attending whiskey festivals (roughly twice a year). I enjoy collecting good whiskey. However, please note that I don’t drink excessively (max 1 unit per month). So students, it’s important to enjoy, but always drink within a limit – “genieten, maar drink met mate”.

Tell me about your PhD, where did you do it? What is the most important conclusion from your PhD. How did you get your PhD project? What has doing a PhD taught you? What is your advice to students/doctors interested in doing a PhD?

–      I did my PhD at the department of cardiology (laboratory of experimental cardiology), LUMC.

–      It is difficult to summarize my entire PhD into 1 sentence. The most important conclusion is: up until now there’s no therapeutic intervention that is purely anti-arrhythmic. Every intervention has a pro-rhythmic side effect. For example Flecainide is a sodium channel blocker which works by decreasing the conduction velocity. This makes it easier to introduce new re-entry circuits, which can result in atrium fibrillation. This means that flecainide cannot be given to patients with structural cardiac abnormalities who intrinsically have an increased chance of developing re-entry circuits. In such circumstances, the pro-rhythmic properties of the drug will outweigh the antiarrhythmic properties.

–      Feel free to read the introduction of my thesis:

–      So how did I get this PhD projects? Well I had a friend who was doing a PhD and I was looking for a place where I could do my compulsory research elective. He suggested that I could start my elective at his lab. My research elective extended to become my PhD project. My greatest tip to students is: if you know you want to do a PhD in the future then choose your research elective placement wisely. Know the field where you wish to do your PhD in and then approach various people of that lab. Once you have chosen a desirable project, work hard during your research elective to prove your worth. Most importantly, during your feedback sessions with your supervisor, notify him/her about your interests in completing a PhD. You are more likely to be chosen for a PhD project if they already know you and if they feel comfortable working with you.

–      What have I learned? I learned that the first 3 years of any PhD is exciting. After that you experience a period of annoyance. This is because you will have to deal with all kind of things that are not necessarily related to science. That’s when you realize that life is not just about working and that we sometimes let the more valuable things in our life slip. It’s important to have a good work-home balance.

–      Also, in the beginning you think that your PhD is the best and that it is the most interesting, ground-breaking topic on earth. However as the years progress, you find out that your PhD project is actually the smallest and incremental contribution compared to the vast knowledge that is already known.

Life goals/principles

When I start something, I want to be the best I can be in that field. As his interviewer, I feel as if the competitive nature of an athlete indirectly becomes ingrained in their genome. I also wish to teach others the best possible knowledge; this is why I really enjoy teaching my medical students and sharing knowledge with them. I also feel its important to treat everyone, regardless of their background with respect.

What is the most exciting thing you did this year? What is the most memorable memory of 2017 for you? Why was this so special?

I had a patient who was admitted for the second time and they were very happy to see me again as their doctor. It’s often the small things in life, which makes me happy. Hence, I truly enjoy receiving the smallest tokens of appreciation that my patients give me, every now and then.

Do you have any habits that you follow daily/monthly? What are they?

Morning ritual: stand up, go to the shower, in the shower brush my teeth, eat oatmeal, get dressed, at exactly 6.58am ride my bike to Leiden Central Station. When I go to bed, I have to watch TV for 5 mins. Then I can fall in sleep better.

What motivates you at work? My patients and their appreciation of my work.

How can we develop discipline in life when our mind is like a monkey?

–      By planning and setting “realistic” goals

Do you have any tips to our prospective medical students who will be applying to university to study medicine in 2018? How should they prepare for exams? Do you know any effective learning methods?

  1. Read the suggested readings as stated by your lecturers.
  2. Do self-study assignments, check whether you can know the answer before exposing yourself to the expected answer.
  3. There’s no shortcut to knowledge. If you want to know something you have to gain knowledge by reading it. (Brian is so impressed with this piece of advice that unexpectedly rolled out of his mouth, that he is going to share it with all his future medical students!)
  4. Finally, you can’t learn by just doing past paper exams.