Like any sport, sometimes the best way to learn in judo is to test yourself against the best.
Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo club competitor Michael Herbert had a chance to do just that at the recent Swift Current Open, as the 16- year-old made his first foray into ranks of senior competition.
And while the results weren't as impressive as they were compared to those against fighters his own age, coach Jim Wiens pointed to the experience Herbert gained as invaluable.
"Any time you're that age and you get a chance to get to go up against (former national and international) fighters like Logan Thiessen and Ian McDonald, you're going to learn something," Wiens said. "It was a great opportunity for Michael, and he actually did a really good job against those guys."
The performance came on the heels of another gold medal run through the Juvenile men's under-73 kilogram division, where Herbert continued to establish himself as a favourite for the Saskatchewan Winter Games.
"He was probably the most dominant one we had this weekend, he went through his division with absolutely no problems at all," Wiens said. "So hopefully this is a sign of things to come."
Given the ease with which he's performed against those his own age at recent meets, Wiens and his fellow Koseikan coaches felt Herbert would be well served to see a higher level of competition - hence his entry into the Senior men's division.
His first fight in that category was against Thiessen, a black belt competitor who has fought internationally for Canada.
"He was so worried before he went out there, 'I have to fight Logan Thiessen, what if he throws me' and I was like 'So? He's thrown me before and I'm still walking around'," Wiens said with a laugh.
"But Michael went quite a ways with him, out of the five-minute fight he went about three-and-a-half minutes, and to last that long in there against a guy like Logan is pretty good."
Herbert would go on to finish fifth in the division, a respectable showing for someone of his age and experience.
"The biggest thing for him now is to work on his technique and that's the whole point of fighting up like that, you get a chance to see what it's like at that level and what it takes to compete," Wiens explained.
The club also saw a solid performance from first-time competitor Cory North, who went undefeated on his way to winning the Senior Men's Novice under-90/100 kg division.
"He did really well for himself," Wiens said. "He was a little overwhelmed at first but he was still able to come through with a couple of wins, so it's nice to see someone get off to a start like that."
The club finished the event with 16 medals, including six gold and seven silver, out of 18 competitors. They also won the award for largest number of competitors at the event.
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald Feb. 8, 2006