Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Judo = fun

originally an email

Thinking about it, I realized that I really aught to say more about judo.
Sometime early on I had expressed an intrest in taking a martial art. It turned out that there are both a karate class and a judo class held in the neighboring town of Katsuura. I thought it would be more fun if I went with someone else who spoke the same language as me, so naturally I asked Tom which one he would like to do, if either. He had done judo before, and thought it would be fun to give it another go. Moreover, because of the way the classes were scheduled, he could not have gone to the karate class anyhow. Then I found out that said karate class was of the non-contact variety. There are full contact karate classes in Tokushima-ken, just nowhere near where I live. Given the choice between non-contact karate by myself or full-contact judo with another english speaker, I naturally opted for the latter.

In the first class we took, we borrowed judo-gi (clothes) from the sensei (teacher); of course they were too small. That we both skipped the next class, and with directions from Mrs. Nakanishi (the JTE i work with), we were able to pick up our own, fitting, judo-gi in Tokushima-shi.

That first class was easy; Takagi-sensei, the judo guy, speaks only a little english, so it took a while for us to get the hang of it.

After the class Tom and I were talking about how we hadn't broken a sweat.

The second class was killer. At the end of the class Tom and I faced off against eachother to fight using the two or three throws we had begun to learn. Whereas in soccer you can pace yourself and slow down when you need to, when you are in a fight there is no such option. We were both choking for breath after our three minute fight.

Without a doubt, Tom won. I think he threw me three times, earning himself three points.I did not throw him even once. He was trying things we had not seen in class; obviously being in a match brought back old memories and tricks.
Koji was there that day too. He had not come on out first day. Koji Yamano is a grade 10, 16 year-old student who is a black belt in judo and is unusually large for a Japanese person. He is tall, perhaps 5'10" or 5'11" (160cm?) and bulky in the sense of looking like he lifts weights. Tom is nearly as tall as I am, and our hight (especially our long arms) is the only thing that gives us a fighting chance against him.

In that second class, after wearing ourselves out on eachother, Tom had to go against Koji. Tom went against him, seeing as how he won against me. Tom was cooked after that. He did ok, but I think he was probably coughing well into the night as his lungs tried to catch up.

After class we were talking about how we hadn't broken a bone.

At the end of the next class, we faced off against eachother again, Tom won, and then it was my turn to be on the recieving end of Koji's throws. However, Koji made one fatal mistake before we fought; he let me know that he was intimidated. That gave me a lot of confidence, and confidence wins fights. I think I threw him once to the four or five times he threw me, but it was so much fun.

I think that to date, we have been to only 5 or 6 classes; there are two classes a week: one on Tuesday and one on Friday.
Last week, at the Tuesday class, when facing Koji, I was trying to perform the new throw that I had learned during that class. He is really good at making a turnaround, and he ended up throwing me. However, I had a wrong thought as he threw me. I thought"If I go down, you are coming down with me." In judo, it is imperative that you land well. When you fall, your first thought should be regarding how best to land, and then from there to foil the next attack by countering or rolling away. Because I had the wrong thought, I hurt myself. I still hurt from that fall. I am glad class is over for the winter break, because I need the time to get my shoulder sorted out. Then, the major irony of that fight was that koji managed to throw me using the very throw I wanted to get him with. I landed wrong again, with my feet too close together, and hurt both of my big toes. That ended the fight. My toes are fine now (though one of them had swelled up afterwards and bruised a little) but my shoulder still hurts.

I had to miss the friday class because I was out of town, and that was just as well. This past monday I went to the hospital to get an xray to make sure I had not fractured anything; I was surprised that my shoulder still hurt. The xray showed nothing, so the doctor gave me some analgesics (painkillers). I asked him if I could still do judo, and consenting he gave me a kind of tenser bandage thing to put around my chest. So I went to Judo yesterday.

Tom was not at class because last night he was on his way to Kansai airport to begin his winter vacation trip to Cambodia and Laos. As a result of that and the fact that I was a little hurt, we had a more relaxed class with more technique. At the end of class, however, I still faced off against Takagi-sensei and then Koji. We avioded one or two throws on account of my shoulder, adn the fights became slower and more strategic. Even so, it was at least helpful for me because I was able to get a feel for what certain tugs, pulls, leans, and pushes can lead into. It was good.

I love going to judo. After every class the endorphins keep me soaring for a very long time. I highly reccommend it for anyone. There are even four or so little elementary kids who come to our class, though it is rare for all of them to be there at once. Koji said he started when he was their age.

So that's Judo; one of my great joys here in Japan. For those of you who know me well, it ranks up there with soccer and driving.



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