Originally posted September 1st 2004 on LiveJournal
Judo is a way of life.
That isn't how I planned it, or how I figured to start out, but it is how it ended up. Like I said in the past I originally joined Judo because of a weight problem I still deal with on a daily basis. At the time I was in High school, the end of a lot of jokes since I wouldn't stand up for myself, and I think "Pleasantly Plump" would be a good way of describing me.
I remember when I had done Karate in my past, and that it had always been a good workout and made a conscious decision to try some martial arts as a way to improve confidence and my physique at the same time. Flipping through a local Newspaper I saw an ad that would change my life...
"Kayahara Judo Club, 3 months $20"
I nearly shit myself over the price, I was expecting $25 a month or so for some form of Karate or whatever, and had little to no idea what Judo was, but I figured for that price I'd definitely give it a try. I called up a good friend of mine (still too scared to try something alone by myself) and Chad and I ended up going down to try things out.
Now let me explain something to everyone out there that might or might not have an idea what Judo is about. Judo literally means "A Gentle Way" when translated to English, it's actually a sport and a martial art that was designed by Professor Jigoro Kano as a way to have sporting competitions using Ju-Jitsu, but taking the more brutal aspects of the art out. Judo in and of itself consists of throwing techniques, Arm bar Techniques, Choking Techniques, and pinning techniques. There is no striking in Judo, nor are there any leg bars, or knee bars, except at high ranking levels.
The first couple of classes in Judo are a pure torture of boredom. You have to learn to fall without hurting yourself (yes there is a proper way to fall, and No Pro-Wresters fall a little different since there is give in what they fall on). Meanwhile as you learn this (picking up bruises) you have to watch the rest of the class practice throwing each other around. And of course there's getting used to the workout as well.
I was a pretty fast learner, and the workout got to be easy. I think in my first year I was 3 belts up, or so, and began teaching the new people how to fall properly, as well as their first throws/Pins. This was a bit of a sticky point in the trial that was laid at my feet (this is the trial that ended my Judo Career, Chester Lam VS University Of Windsor Judo Club). I first started teaching the new student when I was only an orange belt, and of course the general view on the Martial Arts world is that you need to be a black belt to teach.
Things at Kayahara couldn't have been better though. We had a good group, some of which I got along with, some of which I could ignore, and being the biggest Non-Profit Judo club in the area we had plenty of money to go to competitions. There was a period of about 3 years where every other weekend I was out of town at some tournament or another, having the time of my life. The best experience I had was being at the US National qualifiers knowing that the 4 people I knocked out of the tournament would not get a shot at the Olympic team this year.
That being said let me explain a little more. While I have always been good at testing in Judo, and demonstrating, as well as teaching the techniques, for some reason when I get on the mat I just don't have that "killer Instinct" that is such a necessity in being a judo Practitioner. My medal collection only holds 1 Gold, and it's probably the medal I'm most ashamed of, seeing that I outweighed the guy I was fighting by about 40 pounds. I do hold a slew of Silvers and a tone of Bronze though. Like I said I wasn't the best practitioner and if I beat those guys at the US Nationals they definitely didn't deserve to be thought of for the Olympic team.
My judo career taught me a lot about team work, and for the first time I truly felt like I fit in somewhere other then with my friends playing video games (something else I used to be very good at). The Kayahara team was more like a second family to me, parents, friends, teachers, pricks; it was like a big dysfunctional family. That's why it hurt so much when they turned on me, or at least I feel they turned on me.
Basically I made it through 3 years and I was a blue belt, starting at the University, this is where I probably made one of the biggest mistakes of my martial arts career.
At the time I was still doing judo 3 times a week, I was in good shape even if my physique didn't quite reflect it, but because of classes at the U it was getting harder to get to Kayahara on a regular basis. I decided I'd try out the University club, and was surprised to see Sensei Ron Hammel was running this club. I had known Ron through his past dealings with Kayahara, and found him to be a nice enough guy.
I started going to the University club more often seeing as I could just hang around campus with my Gi until class started, rather then drive home then go to LaSalle to go to Kayahara. In fact I tried to continue going to both schools for about 6 months before I made my main school The University of Windsor Judo Club. Sensei Hammel was not in good health and he had me teaching, and assisting throughout the entire time.
My ego Stroked by the teaching responsibility I made fewer and fewer trips to Kayahara until the point where Sensei Hammel asked if I was ready to grade for my Brown Belt and take over running the University Of Windsor Judo Club full time. Of course I wasnt going to say no, I had a flare for teaching, and loved the position more then I liked the competition aspect of the sport. I have always been drawn to training and teaching positions, I am still surprised to this day that I didnt end up as a teacher after my education.
Sensei Hammel asked me to get Kayahara to sign my black Book (something we use in Ontario to keep track of our licenses and schools) saying that I was a full time student at Kayahara No Longer. This was probably the biggest mistake I could have ever made in the sense of my current spot in the Judo world. Sensei Mike (Kayahara Top instructor) caught wind of this and assumed that I had turned my back on Kayahara, the fact that Sensei Hammel graded me for my brown belt added another nail in the coffin, and of course showing up at Kayahara with my brown belt on the following week was probably the second stupidest thing I ever did in connection with Judo. Un-meaning too I had trample all over a lot of peoples feelings, and they would more then repay me for it.
I think Ill leave off here and finish this up at another time Have a good one guys.