The One Where I Train for a Year as Judoka

I was promoted on Feb. 22, 2018.  On Feb. 25, 2018, I completed the item, “Train for One Year as a Judoka.”  Which is very cool.

I probably have no real business doing judo.  It is hard on the body, and let’s be honest, I haven’t done a real good job of taking care of this body over the last 38 years.  Busted up knees, busted up ankleS (yeah, the right one is pretty much garbage now), busted face and head, messed up pinky finger.

Plus it is a sport of repetition.  It really is something you start getting good at after 10,000 hours.  Which is frustrating.  When I am at training sessions, I see these teenage kids… basically toddlers, who are fast and quick and confident and fearless and strong and it’s hard to imagine a world where that could be me.  These kid brownbelts have put in so much time.  Some of them are judo training 5 days a week.  I just really wish that I had picked it up 10 years ago.

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I am not really sure why I decided I wanted to start doing judo.  Other than, that with Dave and Nico doing it, I felt like this would be a good way for us to hang out as a family.  And it has been.  Going to tournaments, while stressful when all of us are competing, is fun.  Like little mini-vacations together.  I am glad that I started doing judo.  I hope, deep down, that my desire to learn new things will help keep me “young”.

So, I had a pretty successful tournament at the end of January, in Milwaukee.  There were four women in my division (three white belts and a black belt).  In my first match, I tried to throw taniotoshi, but my opponent was a bigger than I was, and I ended up pulling her on top of me and she won by ippon.  In my next match, I fought another white belt and went for my osoto.  I ended up with a wazari before ending the match with a pin. I remember getting into osekomi and feeling like I had to switch my legs into kesakatame.  In a rare moment, I heard a coach yelling at me to move my legs and when I did, I could also feel a huge grin come over my face, because it was my first competition win.

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In my final match, I fought a black belt from Chicago.  The match went on for a while, which was new.  Up to that point, most of the matches I had been in, competitive and exhibition, were over in a minute.  But ours kept going.  The thing is, that I felt more and more confident, the longer I was in the match.  I had been looking forward to matches going longer, because I feel like I am a lot stronger on the mat than standing, so I felt like I was going to get a chance to do newaza.  The problem was,  that this blackbelt was good on the mat.  I wasn’t going to turn her.  She played smart defense and basically just let me tire myself out.  Finally, with about a minute left to go in the match, I just yanked her sleeve and drove to the mat.  I don’t remember or understand the physics of how it worked, but all I know is that I had her in a pin and was using every single muscle in my body to keep her there.  She ended up tapping and I am still, a month later, in disbelief. Because three of us ended up going 2-1 in the division, we ended up tied for first, which was awesome.

Because of the result and the time that had passed, our sensei was basically, “It is time.” Dave had been off of training for a couple of weeks, while he rehabbed his pulled groin. At the next session, he was surprised that I was in the mix in terms of taking falls- which I didn’t even realize that I had started doing.

I was nervous about the test- I was going to be tested on techniques I hadn’t done.  So, I had to learn them quick and I actually had to do some book learning.  So, I sat for my yellowbelt test.  And I passed.  Now I am the same rank as Nico.

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So, that is done.  It’s weird though, because I feel like some of my technique, even on the things that I am supposed to know, is garbage.  I feel like it should just always work.  And I still get frustrated- especially when the very few things I know how to do don’t work. Like, on Saturday, in our training session, I got manhandled by pretty much everyone.  Nothing I tried worked.  At all.  But I was also going against black belts and bigger athletes.  Which I have to remember only makes me better, unlike the rare occasions when I get to go against smaller women, who I often just muscle around.

I am looking forward to the next year.  Right now, we have a couple of judo events on the calendar: a tournament in Kentucky in mid-April, and then the Indiana State Championships in late-April.  We’re also planning to do one of the national championships in Grand Rapids in the summer.  I have also decided that when I go to tournaments, I need to be more fit, so that I can do multiple divisions, when they are available.  So, for right now, I am backing off of only weight-lifting and am adding more crossfit style workouts.  I am hoping to also start playing in the field some, when I play soccer.  Not for the teams that I am on now, but for pickups. Jesus take the wheel, JBR playing in the field… like the good old days.

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