Saturday, July 9, 2011

Under Pressure

I love Judo. There is something about the beauty of a perfectly timed throw that sings of poetry in motion. Here you have these two people who both want to throw the other, but every move one makes could be opening a throw for the other. Judo is, after all, a game of using an opponent’s force against them. It’s the competition I really admire in Judo; where the other martial arts I practice are mere demonstrations, Judo is pure application.
Despite what I have just written, I will now make a confession: I hate competing. It is both what I most admire and most dislike about the sport. When the referee yells “Hajime” and the match begins, somehow my brain shrivels up, my heart and lungs stop functioning properly and my world is populated by two people: myself and my opponent. I have to rely on instincts I’ve gained during training to carry me through the match. Fortunately, I’ve done enough conditioning over the past few years that I can survive three or four minutes without air.

Today I participated in a shodan shinsa shiai [初段審査試合] or shodan examination tournament. This is a tournament in which you earn points toward obtaining your first degree black belt. Under the university rules, which are recognized by the Kodokan, a person needs six points to earn their shodan. Entering a shodan tournament immediately earns you one point and each consecutive win is then worth another point.

My first match was called three minutes after the tournament began. I quickly grabbed the sensei in charge and explained, “I have to start from kumikata”. Under official rules, blind fighters start with both opponents having an equal grip at collar and arm. The sensei made sure to explain this to my opponent and before I was even aware they were ready, the referee yelled “hajime”.
My opponent was a very muscular rugby player who we’ve seen in the gym… lifting more than my body weight. I was taken a little off-guard by the sudden start of the match and before I knew it my opponent was shoving me around. He finally threw me over his hip and landed on top of me, ending the match.

Frustrated would be a mild way to put my feelings after my early loss. I took this frustration, therefore, and carried it into my next match. Here is a video; be careful not to blink:
Second match

The technique I used is something between an ashi-guruma and a koshi-guruma, (leg or hip circle).

My third opponent seemed to think he was going to win. He certainly tried to out muscle me anyway. This time I was more prepared, though, and I attempted a sacrifice throw. This is when you try to pull the opponent on to your leg and flip them. It’s a great throw when someone is pushing hard into you. As you can see in the video
Third match

My tomoe-nage was not successful. The kosoto-gari (outside foot sweep), however, was very effective. My favorite part of this match came right after the video ends. My opponent looked to the side toward his friends and yelled, “Majide?” (Really?) As in “Really, I just lost?” I wanted to tell him, “Well, you are the one on his back now.”

My camera man left after this match to support some of our other friends, so I do not have videos of my fourth and fifth matches. Neither one lasted more than thirty seconds, however.

One person went home today saying “I just beat up a blind man."
Four people went home today saying, “I just had my ass handed to me by a blind man.” Just the thought warms my little heart. I scored five points in total, which means I will be guaranteed my shodan at the next tournament I enter.

I would have liked to win my first match. If I had played the same person during my second or third round, I think I would have. Judo, for me, is partly a game of beating my opponent and partly a game of beating myself, however. Losing one match and thinking I was done for the day really put things into perspective. Its just one more step up the latter; one more experience under my belt.

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