“There are a number of strangles you can do from this position” are somewhat ominous words. It’s apparently all good fun though, since this is strangling in the name of sport!
So, Judo. Roughly translated from Japanese it means “gentle way”. It’s a competitive fighting sport where the aim is to either throw your opponent from their feet (see the video at the end of this post for an example) so that they land on their back, hold them down with their back to the ground, or force their submission with an arm lock, choke or strangle. Gentle indeed. This year, the sport has for me has been a source of satisfaction, exhaustion, pain, and even my tentative steps into poetry.
Following my decision in September not to venture down to the river each morning to row (much as I enjoyed it, rowing was simply going to be too much of a time commitment), I was looking for a new sport to do at the beginning of last term. There are a venerable plethora of sports clubs at Imperial; after the freshers fair I found myself trying everything from Cross Country running to Muay Thai Kickboxing. It was, however, Judo which kept my attention.
Prior to trying Judo, all I knew of the sport came from my memories of other children doing it at my local leisure centre when I was young. They wore pyjama like suits and seemed to do a lot of rolling around on mats. At my first session “Rolling around” quickly revealed itself to be either viscous ground fighting, or a falling technique to avoid getting injured every time you find yourself approaching the floor at speed (which is often). The pyjama like suits… well I don’t know about you, but I’ve never worn a set of pyjamas that I could describe as being suitable for repeated forceful lifting, pushing and dragging the wearer. (If you have, then your pyjama based activities are clearly not meant for sharing.)
After a warm up, and often a silly game to work on balance (trying to “surf” a partners back as they crawl on their hands and knees seems to be a favourite of the coach), we get to training. This typically involves going over techniques or learning something new from the enormous library of moves, the mind boggles to imagine how the numerous inventive ways of strangling were thought up for example, or doing some fitness drills. This builds up to the latter part of the session where there is free practice: we take turns to fight with one another in standing or ground fights (competition fights tend to transition from one to another).
This is an exhausting, adrenalin filled test of the mind: getting past an (in my case usually far more experienced) opponent’s defences means thinking fast and knowing just what move to try in the situation at hand or, more usually for me, some good luck. I get thrown quite a bit. Thankfully, its amazing how polite someone can be immediately after they have just unceremoniously lifted you from your feet and driven you into the floor. To stop players being killed or injured all the time, fighting and training is done on shock absorbent mats. Still, a good throw always knocks some of the wind from you. One doesn’t dwell on this though, at Imperial Judo Club you get up (your partner perhaps offering a hand) and you get back to fighting. I have to admit, the feeling of satisfaction when you finally successfully throw or hold your partner is always fantastic.
We meet for training twice a week: On a Monday evening at Imperial’s sports centre Ethos and on a Wednesday afternoon at an impressive historic purpose built Dojo in Chelsea (which is frequented by at least one Olympian). In the first term there was an extra session on a Thursday night or beginners, to teach us some basics.
All of this builds up to competitions, where we compete against players from other clubs and universities. I’ve so far competed in one, a terrific team effort at which Imperial won the overall trophy for the most medals. This was one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever done, easily comparable to racing a boat down a river, but also a complete adrenaline rush. I only realised how knackered I was when the fight was over. It was my first win that partly inspired the aforementioned poem.
So, if I may use this blog to plug something, it’s to say that you should try judo. Or, if you come to imperial, try a sport! There are some fantastic clubs here that perform to a very high standard (more plugging: several of the clubs, judo and the boat club included, are some of the best in the country). The (free) gym here is great too.
I hope this (rather long) post goes some way to make up for my lack of them of late. One thing to know about Imperial is that it knows how to fill student’s time! Must do better. Still, now the world knows that I know a number of ways of throwing, strangling and generally inflicting pain on people. Come to think of it, is divulging such information that wise..?
Lots more pictures, including a team photo (at the very end) and a video follow:
Video Below: Practice standing fights. The coaching is really good. Notice that whilst everyone is practising, our coach (the Scottish voice in the background) keeps giving advise.
Thanks to Christophe for taking some of the photos which have me in them.