Alright, so I've made the 2 biggest mistakes in my judo career ever: Signing off from my main Judo Club and Showing up with my newly awarded Brown Belt a week later. But everything held together for quite a while past that point. The Kayahara People Led by Sensei Mike, and Sensei Bryce were still very nice to me, and helped me out a lot, allowing me to continue to train at Kayahara when I got a chance to get there. Allowing me to hang out and feel like I was still part of the team at Kayahara, I even thought about some kind of a joining of clubs or something seeing as I wasn't collecting money for the university club or anything anyways.
We had some good talent at the university; they had gone to competitions here and there and were undefeated in tournament play, almost 100% taught by me. I guess that shows that the saying is true, though who can do, those who can't teach. But let me paraphrase something here, I'm not so sure that I couldn't compete in the Judo world, I think I have a much deeper rooted issue at work that makes me not give 100% on the mat.
I'll probably talk about that some other time as that's a column all to itself. As I was saying the class size at the University was about 8 or 9 people, nothing too big allowing for a lot of personal attention between student and teacher, and I have been told by everyone involved that I did in fact do a phenomenal job teaching while I was there.
While I was teaching judo I had also dabbled into other Martial Arts at the University, Ju-Jitsu for a year (would have loved to take more but Sensei Mike Pisano finished at the U of W and moved on), and Aikido. It's funny because the night of the end of the University Judo Club we were actually sharing the room with the Aikido club. It was September, sometime in 1996, not too cold outside, the ground was frozen but there wasn't any snow. I guess nothing was too out of the ordinary. Before I get into the big incident that basically ended my Judo career let me give a little background.
The class before the big day we had a new student come in. I can't remember his name off the top of my head but he was a complete shit head. He had a background in Amateur wrestling, and firmly believed in the policy of Power over technique. I literally almost kicked him out of class several times when I was trying to demonstrate something with him, and he resisted as if we were actually competing. Something tells me he was actually trying to make me look bad, but I have no idea why.
I had taken over full instruction duty of the class about a month before hand and was running this class without Sensei Hammel nearby; in fact he was at home getting ready for, or recovering from, his quadruple by-pass. Being a tolerant person I put up with this dick heads antics figuring someone with an amateur background would be a good addition to the class, injecting new techniques. As that class came to an end we decided to do some ground work (basically the wrestling part of Judo).
Normally New students on their first day are not allow to participate in this for their safety, and I remember the guy asking me very nicely if he could try this since he had an amateur background. I let him, and before the class was done he had dislocated someone's shoulder. Performing a routine flip this dickhead pulled the arm against the body then drove into my student with all the force he could muster burying his shoulder into the matt and dislocating it.
I talked with him after class about how he had acted and how we wouldn't put up with that sort of behavior from anyone, and we left it on that note. Now I realize that's kind of a light slap on the wrist, I mean he just dislocated the guys shoulder right? But the thing is that this is Judo, where we pick people up and purposely slam them down on the matt, you win by inflicting pain on a joint until the guy taps, or the joint breaks (doesn't happen often but it can happen). This isn't a sissy sport.
I talked with the injured student as well and he re-assured me that everything was okay and that he wasn't upset over what had happened. Now fast forward 3 days to the Thursday class. Sensei Hammel was there (he must have been recovering from the heart surgery before come to think of it) to collect dues, and get liability waivers signed. Talk about irony, Chester Lam signed his liability waiver before stepping onto the mat that night, as did the unruly student from last class, and the friend he brought with him Jeffery Piasic.
Sensei Hammel left shortly thereafter, tired out from the paper collecting. Class actually went very smooth, no big issues I had Jeff and his friend practice together (this was something I had discussed with Sensei Hammel) seeing as they were both bigger guys and both had the "amateur" background. Nothing too huge.
I had a bunch of homework, and actually wanted to spend a little time with my girlfriend at the time Lori, so I called class about a half hour early so that I could do those things.
Heres where things started to go all wrong.
The doors to the multipurpose room in the St Dennis Center were never locked. I had even been there during the day in-between classes to practice Ju-jitsu in front of its mirrors, as well as using the room to film some Judo throws to help students learn the proper way to do them.
On this night in question we also had another class running on the other side of the room (there was a divider between classes.) We did the formal bow out and dismissal for the class, everyone bowing to me and to the front of the class, where in a normal Dojo there would be a picture of Jigoro Kano. This is a signal that the class is over.
As I was leaving the class a couple students asked me if they could use the room some more. I told them straight out that I had no say in that, but if they did they were on their own and had to clean up afterwards. Probably not the best thing to say I know, but in the situation even if I had locked to door anyone could have just as easily gone a gotten the key at the front desk.
I can only put together what happened in the room from the accounts I've heard, as I was in the bathroom changing when all of this went down.
AS far as I understand it Chester Lam, an advanced student who had recently achieved his orange belt, approached Jeff Piasic and asked him if he would like to do some ground work. They went at each other for a couple of minutes until Chester ended up on his hands and knees with Jeff Behind and on top. This is a hugely common position in Judo and Wrestling, and also the point where everything went wrong.
Jeff went on record later that night saying that he went for a chin pick, trying to turn Chester Lam onto his back by rotating his head around. It's almost funny but at the trial 4 years later that isn't what he said happened, at the trial he said that he was reaching for Chester's Gi (or the collar of it to be precise) slipped and grabbed his chin on accident and yanked.
Here how I think this happened. Jeff is riding Chester (that's what you call this position) and he's trying to get Chester to either flatten out or turn over so he can pin him. At the time Jeff is controlling Chester by weight alone, and he grabs Chesters Jaw from overtop of his arm. Pulling as if he's just grabbed his arm I think Jeff never thought that a move like that could do damage to someone, not realizing it only take about 20 pounds foot pressure in a rotating manner to snap someone's neck.
I was in the bathroom changing into my street clothes when Jason ran into the bathroom telling me that Chester had been hurt bad. I don't even know what I thought at first, I mean this is Judo, people do actually get injured quite a bit, lots of broken limbs, and yes there had been some deaths in the past from broken necks, but on the top of my head I figured Chester had a broken arm or leg.
As I walked out of the bathroom I heard Jason's father say "He's not moving" and I started to hightail it.