Being a sports reporter, I know more useless facts about various sports and athletes than anybody should now, but I realized that I know virtually nothing about judo. Heck, I've never even put on a gi before.
So I was excited when I went to the Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo Club, the members of which were kind enough to allow a fresh faced newbie like myself to attend two of their training sessions.
Jim Wiens, a second degree black belted instructor at the club, gave me a traditional judo training outfit, or a gi, and tied a white belt around my waist. Although I had no idea what I was doing or what I was in for, I felt powerful and indestructible wearing that gi. I felt like Bruce Lee. I was going to unleash the dragon on somebody.
That feeling quickly wore off after I met Dan Orescanin, the instructor for the class. He couldn't wipe the grin off of his face when Wiens told him I was from the Times-Herald and was going to be joining in on the training.
Let's just say I know why he grinned. My abs were throbbing, my heart was racing and my cheeks were rosy . . . after the warm-up.
I talked to instructor Derek Porter after one of the practises and he said "You have to be in ridiculous shape to get far in this sport."
He wasn't kidding.
After a water break, the class started to do some rolls on the floor, lunging forward and rolling on their shoulders. I nervously watched and slowly made my way to the corner, hoping nobody would notice. No way am I going to be the dumb rookie that breaks his neck trying to roll.
Garth Rivers saw me quivering in the background. He approached and said "it's actually quite simple," and showed me the proper technique.
After the 15 second crash course, I was flipping around like a Slinky. Then Orescanin changed up the technique. Now we had to start in a handstand and roll out of it.
Rivers was there again. "For this one, you do this . . ." He was helpful.
Then instructor Orescanin gave a quick lecture on grappling techniques and after he was done with the class, he gave me a one-on-one lesson.
Then we did some ground work, or ne-wasa. This was easily my favourite part of the class, despite the fact that I got caught in about eight submissions in my first round that lasted a minute.
It's so intense down there. You're sprawling this way to defend, you're shifting that way to move and throw your opponent and grunting the whole way. My mom used to yell at my brother Bryan and I for having moments like these, but in the judo dojo, this is mandatory. It's my kind of place, that's for sure.
We did some ground work sessions together and Orescanin was a little bit bigger than me. He would get on top of me and I would have no shot at getting up. But apparently in judo, that is no excuse.
Adam Langdon is a 15-year-old who is only 60 kilograms and will compete at the Saskatchewan Winter Games. I am 24, six foot, three inches and weigh about 85 kilograms and this kid tossed me around like a Frisbee.
What I admired most about my experience with judo is the amount of respect there is between everybody. You have to bow every time you come on or off the mat, in respect for everybody else. Also, after you spar with an athlete, it is usually followed by a high five, a handshake or a pat on the shoulder.
And no matter how many times I made a mistake, or forgot a step, or asked a question, all the instructors and fellow students were there to help. They even asked when I would be back.
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald February 12, 2010