Whoever said you can have too much of a good thing clearly hasn’t done judo! On Wednesday night, we held a second round of gradings for our judo beginners and lower grades who weren’t able to attend Monday’s grading and for our blue belts, who had to wait patiently at the back of the queue because they were more advanced. Sorry you had to wait, guys, but just imagine if you were waiting to go for your 10th dan – you got off lightly!

We’re delighted to report it was a successful evening on the mat. Edinburgh Judo Club doesn’t do failure and doesn’t believe in giving in. All those people grading were determined they’d be wearing their colour of then for the last time. Here’s what went down!

Getting ready for battle

No matter how ninja you might be, you can’t just step onto a judo mat and immediately go head to head with your fellow judoka. The warm-up is important. Enter instructor Nick, who got the class going with some somersaults, some cartwheels and some neat little handstand warm-up exercises that could easily make our judo players contenders for the Team GB gymnastics squad.

Then after registering for the grading with our club manager, hardworking Lorraine Cusack-Brown, and handing over the judo books to the examining instructor, Billy, our chief instructor and encyclopaedia on all things judo, it was time to get grading. Actually, no… we waited patiently for instructor Euan to do a quick bit of furniture arrangement, which he did expertly, and then we got cracking.

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White belts practising during the grading session

Out of the starting blocks

It all kicked off with a few more judo beginners cutting their grading teeth by going for their red belt in judo, and red belts going for the next of the judo belts in order, yellow. Make no bones about it, our beginners are fast learners and have quickly mastered the throws and hold-downs on the syllabus, not to mention the judo terminology. Getting your first belt in judo is a magical moment for the student and a rewarding one for the instructors, but knowing the name for the judo sandals in Japanese? * We nearly ate our judo gis!

Stepping onto the tatami next were our yellow belts, ready to execute the techniques on the yellow belt syllabus and leave the judo mat as orange belts. That includes doctor and gentle giant Ross, who proved that as well as having hands that heal, the same hands can deliver a brutal seo toshi when the need arises. Make sure you’re not the one on the end of it. You’ll be scraping yourself off the tatami for days!

Up the ranks

Things got even more serious on the judo mat when it came to our blue belts Steve, Gerry and Mikey, who were going for their brown belt in judo. Achieving this would put them on the black belt trail. Steve treated Mikey to a smashing ura nage rear throw for the grading, and then found himself on the receiving end of one. Some well executed sneaky strangler counterattacks from failed throws, some hold-downs and both Steve and Mikey were a brown belt to the good. Good job, lads!

Gerry, in particular, was a man on a mission. It was almost as if he was playing speed judo! No sooner did Billy request a technique and Gerry tore it up, going through Mikey, his uke, like he was thin air! Of exceptional note were his ashi waza sweeping techniques. Hell clearly hath no fury like a Gerry scorned, we suspect!

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Whirlwind Gerry on his way from blue belt to brown

A word on the randori

Dodging in and out of black belts going hard at in randori, the word that struck us in the session was ‘ura nage’. Everywhere you turned on the mat – whether towards the grading area or towards the randori – somebody was being flipped with flipped a la Hulk Hogan with a rear ura nage. Not that anyone’s complaining – great to see judoka working together and pulling that one off.

Tell you what: why not have two ‘word of the day’s! The second word of the day is ‘perseverance’, and at this point we’d like to give a shout out to the junior squad on this one. Our black belts didn’t get to where they are without learning a thing or two about defence and counterattack, but squad guys like Jason kept coming at them without any respite after being thrown time and time again. As goes the Japanese proverb, ‘Fall seven times, stand up eight’. That’s the kind of fighting spirit we like at the club!

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Black belt Patrick getting the better of his opponent in randori practice on the mat

Cooling down

After an intense session of randori and a successful grading, it was that magical moment of the session when the instructor closes the session by telling everyone to walk around the mat, then to find a space and lie down. There you can just collect your thoughts. For that one moment, you’re an island.

At the bow off, there was more applause for all those who passed their grading, and there was also judo trivia. Do you know why the belts get darker as you go through the belts in order? It all goes back to the old days when judo players had to dye the same belt as they progressed through the belts in order. So you can thank Billy for that little nugget if it comes up in your next pub quiz!

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After a hard judo session, it’s your time to become an island!

Here it’s been a successful week at the club. Congratulations to absolutely everyone who graded this week and took a step further in their judo journey. If you don’t practise judo and are thinking of starting a judo journey of your own, why not pop in and watch a session and then speak to Lorraine or one of our instructors? As well as learn judo here, you get to do handstands – who wouldn’t want that!

By Peter Jenkins

 

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