Maria Liana MutiaPara JudoNews

Liana Mutia Uses Her Brain, Not Her Brawn, To Excel In Para Judo

by Luke Hanlon

Liana Mutia competes during the women's judo competition at the Parapan American Games Santiago 2023 on Nov. 19, 2023 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Joe Kusumoto)

The Paralympic Games Paris 2024 are still months away, but Liana Mutia has long begun her preparation for possible opponents she might face in the French capital. 

A self-described nerd, the 25-year-old visually impaired judoka has a thorough scouting process when it comes to getting ready for a specific opponent, which can begin up to six months or a year before she ever faces them. 

“Information has always been the greatest commodity for me because I don’t have the luxury of time that other athletes (do),” Mutia said. 

That lack of time is due to Mutia’s full-time job as a software analyst for Comcast. After waking up at 6 a.m. and either exercising or scouting opponents, Mutia works from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. before training for judo for two hours each night. 

While her job limits the amount of time she can spend training for judo, she utilizes her technological skills to prepare for matches. 

When she’s scouting an opponent, Mutia puts together a comprehensive spreadsheet with information on the judoka. That information can be as simple as what country they represent to as complex as their fighting patterns at different times of a match. 

Mutia then uses those tendencies to project how a match may play out. 

“My modus operandi is called test-driven development,” Mutia said. “It’s a specific type of data analysis (that involves) finding an imbalance and finding patterns with the information given … and then within those patterns you’ll find the solutions.”

There are multiple reasons Mutia prepares this way. She doesn’t have personal coaches or video coordinators to help her with scouting, so it’s up to her to do all of that work. 

While this process may sound tedious to some, it’s a passion project for Mutia. Tech is part of her work, but she said it’s truly something she enjoys. In the little amount of free time she has, Mutia sometimes spends it on coding projects or studying for exams to earn her higher certifications. 

Mutia is also forthcoming about her lack of strength — at least compared to her world-class opponents. What she may lack in muscle, she can make up for in brain power.  

Liana Mutia speaks to the media at the 2024 Team USA Media Summit on April 15, 2024 in New York. (Photo by Getty Images)

“I am not very strong, and I am not very aggressive. I’m just an intelligent fighter,” she said. “I’m only ever looking for the correct reaction to whatever counterreaction of my opponent.”

This strategy has worked wonders for the Raleigh, North Carolina, native, who now lives in Philadelphia. Since making her Paralympic debut in Tokyo, where she placed ninth in the women’s 63 kg. class, she’s gone on to make five podiums at IBSA Grand Prix events. Mutia also earned bronze medals at the 2022 world championships and 2023 IBSA World Games as well as a silver at the 2023 Parapan American Games — all while competing in the 57 kg. class. 

Mutia ended 2023 with a gold this past December in Tokyo, which was the first grand prix title of her career. That result moved her up to the world No. 1 ranking in the women’s 57 kg. class. 

After not competing in the first two grand prix events this year, her ranking fell to No. 3. However, she took home a bronze from a grand prix event on May 19 in Tbilisi, Georgia, to officially qualify for the Paralympics. 

Grappling has come naturally to Mutia since she discovered wrestling and judo at 14. She grew up visually impaired, but she started to completely lose her vision while she was in high school. Mutia said she had to make major adjustments to her life at this time, but giving up judo never crossed her mind. 

“Any grappling sport, judo, it’s all based in touch,” she said. “I never had any worries that I would have to stop.”

Mutia is now headed toward Paris in the best form of her life. Despite that, she described her confidence level going into the Paralympics as “absolutely zero.”

Mutia knows she can lose any fight, especially against the world’s best judokas. However, she also takes solace in her mindset that regardless of how she performs in Paris, it won’t affect the rest of her life. 

“Before a fight, I’m very, very aware that there is never any risk,” she said. “Let’s say I go out and lose, oh no, I get to go back to my nice apartment and my comfy corporate job. I feel nothing before a fight. And I feel a little bit of happiness and relaxation after I fight. Same goes for if I lose. I’m never at any risk, and I don’t like to take chances in general.”