Relax. Must relax, no pressure, just get in there and do it.
Everyone has been saying donít worry about the size of the guy or the colour of the belt, but man, a green belt right off the bat . . . oh well, nothing I can do about it now. Just get in there and fight.
Brian says the guy is a big drop-down seoi nage fighter, so really watch for that, the minute he turns, get the weight down.
Blair Dymtrow and Randy Palmer, youíre up
Okay, letís go, no more thinking about it. Action/reaction. All according to plan, Iíve done a bit of drop seoi nage so lets see how that works right off the bat . . .
Step inside the fighting area
Get the grip, get the grip, step in and DROP!
Aw, hell, Iím too far away, maybe I can power through it . . .
Matte (stop and stand-up)
Okay, try that over-the-top grip we were working on the other day, maybe thatíll give me the leverage I need. Get the grip . . . oh, jeez, there he goes, straight down, drop seoi nage. Hang on, hang on, weight down, weight down . . .
Alright, got through that one, letís see if I can get this to the ground, maybe if I fall back and try tomoe nage Iíll throw him, or if I miss I can pull him into my guard get that arm lock.
Down to my back, aw damn he went around the leg, this is trouble, this is trouble . . . heís going for kesa gatame, no way, heís not getting it, get his arm and keep him from my head, oh geez, heís slipped around and got the arm. . .
Osae-komi! (hold down is on)
Gotta keep fighting, maybe I can drag him out of bounds, no time, just got to try and rip my arm free, keep fighting, keeep fighting, man it must be getting close to 30 seconds. Keep pulling, gotta get on knees, almost free, almost free . . .
Sonomama, sonomama, donít move. . . no motion!
The officials, theyíre discussing something, maybe Iím getting a penalty for that hands to the face earlier in the fight, naw they would have done that right away . . .
Okay guys, thatís it. Timeís up on the hold down.
So goes a first-person account of my first competitive judo match this past weekend at the Koseikan Judo Clubís annual tournament.
And as you can tell, things didnít quite go my way. Actually things didnít quite go my way all day as my 1-6 record attests to (donít let the Ďoneí fool you. Dymtrow, a green belt from Melfort, hurt his back in a later fight and decided to withdraw. I would have met him again but instead got the victory by default. Hey, Iíll take íem any way I can get íem). Preparation
Before you start thinking I pulled a George Plimpton and just jumped right in there without a clue, hereís a bit of background ó Iíve been training at the Koseikan for about two months, having taken my first class at the beginning of December. The first promotion, to yellow belt, came at the end of that month.
So the basics of judo were there ó courtesy of Koseikan senseis Cliff Wiens and Vern MacDonald ó but that didnít make it any easier come the night before the tournament.
Despite all the physical and mental preparation leading up to the weekend, I was still more nervous going into it than any sports competition Iíve participated in.
Athletes in other sports sometimes do things to get their minds off the big game, but I figured the opposite would help going into this ó being familiar with the whole situation would help me relax, that kind of thing. So I helped a group of other guys from the club pick up extra mats from Regina (Wiens and MacDonald along with Dan Orescanin, Brian Smith, Mark Kerr and Desi Smith - hey, after the amount of work to took to get those darn things to the Heritage Inn, they better get their name in this column) and go through the entire set-up process. It helped calm the nerves a bit ó otherwise I probably wouldnít have even managed the three hours sleep I got Friday night.
The younger age divisions took centre stage at the start of the tournament, beginning at 11 a.m. and wrapping up their portion around 4 p.m.. Then it was time for the seniors, including yours truly, to take to the mat.
The first fight of my judo career lasted about two minutes and ended when Dymtrow kept me in a single arm hold down for 30 seconds. I actually escaped just as the referee called sonomama, Japanese for Ďdonít moveí, in order to confer with the judges but by that time it was too late.
After that first fight, the rest of the tournament was a breeze nerves-wise. As for physical conditioning-wise, that was a completely different story, as I found out my very next match against Reginaís Derek Porter.
I knew going into the tournament I wasnít in the kind of shape I needed to be for something like this ó Iíve spent many a moment at the club flat on my back gasping for air after only a few minutes of ground work.
While that didnít come into play during my match with Porter ó which he won by using kesa getame, an arm and head hold ó I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get my wind back.
Which wasnít a good thing going into my next fight ó against Koseikan brown belt instructor and 100-plus kilogram division competitor Jim Wiens. To say the least, I hoped there had been a horrible, horrible mistake when our names were announced.
As sensei Wiens ó Jimís father ó told me after the fact, my reaction was priceless. Something like Ďyouíve got to be kiddingí. But at least I didnít use profanity.
As was explained to me by drawmaster and Times-Herald co-worker Michelle Wiens, the open draw was designed by Saskatchewan high performance coach Ewan Beaton, who wanted to set things up so the top competitors would meet in the later rounds.
Ewan, it seems, is also a bit of practical joker when it comes to having members of the media fight in his tournaments. Ha, ha, real funny, guy.
Anyway, Wiens made short work of the fight ó I followed Brian Smithís advice and tried to keep moving but that seemed to work too well, so I decided to hold my ground for a half second. One thigh-sweep-from-hell later and I was flat on my back with this strange tingling sensation in my spine.
That was it for my appearance in the under-81 kilogram division but at least I had time to recover before my next bout, against clubmate and fellow tournament newcomer Graham Peterson.
Now, Iíll admit that going into the match I thought this was one I could win ó Graham had just started a few weeks before and was still a white belt.
Instead, I took more physical damage in that one fight than the rest all weekend ó a scratched and bruised eye, three split and cracked fingernails, knuckles carved up like hamburger and after planting wrong on an attempted throw, a twisted knee. All in five minutes.
To top it off, I lost the fight ó leading by an eighth point with about 30 seconds to go, I tried some sort of arm drag take-down (even now Iím not really sure what the heck it was) that Graham resisted almost perfectly. In judo, you get points for throwing but can also be penalized for not properly executing a throw, and Grahamís counter earned me a chui, negative half point. By that time I was almost to gassed to stand up yet alone try and get that point back and Graham earned the victory.
That set up a tilt with Koseikan orange belt Shayne Hogaboom. Take the last syllable of his last name and you have the sound I made when I hit the mat, literally 10 seconds into the fight. Not much else to say other than that.
Six bouts down, one to go, and by this time Iíd had enough. I even considered withdrawing from my final bout against yet another Koseikan clubmate, Colin Waynert. In part because Iíd seen Colin ó who took up the sport the exact same day I did ó paste four or five guys to the mat with his ambidextrous ippon seio nage (one-arm shoulder throw), something most yellow belts just arenít capable of doing. So that bout wasnít something I was looking forward to.
Still, rather than just give things up, I went for one more fight. And while Colin won (he took a pair of silver medals at the tournament) by ippon, it lasted a lot longer than I expected. Iím sure it being his sixth fight in an 45 minutes had something to do with it, but at least I managed to escape the tournament with some sort of credible performance. Aftermath
As everyone experienced in judo has pointed out in the last seven days, the first tournament is for learning more than winning, and to say the least, I picked up a lot.
What works well, what doesnít. Never, ever, ever stop battling when in a hold down. The importance of breaking your fall when coming out of uchi-mata (thanks, Jim).
And no, Cliff and Vern, I donít have any first-person perspective shots of the ceiling to go with this column.
The most important thing of all, though, is knowing I want to keep going and keep improving. This first tournament was a blast and despite the physical pounding, I know Iíll be back for more.
Because, hey, I canít quit until I win one for real, right?