近海る (Kin Kairu)

JET, Japan, Journalism and other J words

The Judo Club

I had mentioned in an earlier post that one of my goals throughout this whole gig was that I was going to get active, in or outside of the school. This meant checking out as many school clubs I could, but there was one in particular that took no time and forced me to participate: the Judo club.

It was still during summer break when I first watched the club, and they were more than welcoming letting me come and visit. However, it was on my third arrival where the head coach approached me and said “you’re trying it today.”

Despite being completely caught off guard, I hesitantly agreed and changed into a (clearly used) Judogi or “the thing that looks like what The Karate Kid wears” for the uninitiated.

Yes, I know they’re different!

My first practice, was, well…it sucked. It really sucked. Between awkwardly figuring out what the rules were, how to effectively do the moves and learning how to fall without breaking my neck, I was not feeling well an hour in. If there was any indication that I was out of shape, my body let me know right then and there “Hey fatty! It’s been a while since you’ve done something like this!”

But it was the sparring time that really did me in. After a couple of (massively) failed bouts, my body just couldn’t take it. I actually ran into the bathroom, rushed to the “hole-in-the-floor” Japanese styled toilet and waited for the nutrition to come out of me. I heaved a couple of times, but nothing emerged. I imagined myself in a Truman Show-like situation: a camera hovering over me, an audience silent from the sheer embarrassment.

After resting a bit and finishing about two bottles of water, I finally gained the energy (and courage) to go back out and practice. My first practice was just under two months ago and, I’m glad to say, I think I’ve significantly improved. Enough to the point where the head coach said I should shoot for the black-belt exam next year in June. Sure, I’m still knocked on my ass a lot, but at least now I’m not so sore after every throw.

What also made me lighten up to this club is the fact that it’s the smallest group in the whole school, with a total of 7 student members. They’re really a cast of characters and they seem appreciative every time I come to practice. Maybe I’m just really good throwing material.

The Captain This kid seriously looks like he’s 24 and is certainly worthy of being the captain of the club. He’s really good and we’re both close in weight, so it gives us both an opportunity to spare against someone of equal mass. He’s also really proactive in trying to speak English with me, even when it comes to the obscure terms of Judo.

Dani Obviously I’m making nicknames for all these kids, but Dani is the student I think I’ve gotten closest with. He’s always really eager to spar with me and gets excited every time he sees me around school. One morning, when I was returning a clean Judogi, he ran up to me and said “Mr. Kyle-sensei!” (he always calls me this) and gave me a huge hug. I wasn’t sure how to react, but it was sweet.

The Giant Seriously, this kid is huge. I think the last time I saw his weigh-in, he was around 85 kilos (188 lbs~) and has a good couple of inches on me, too. He’s also one of the stars, but it’s funny how calm and quiet he is. When he does talk to me, he always avoids eye contact and speaks in a very soft voice. However, when we spar I can always see a shit-eating grin on his face right before he throws me over his shoulder.

The Sidekick: I refer to this member as a sidekick to The Giant, because, while not as tall, he’s about as portly as his partner. He’s also a really good member of the team and has won many of the matches he’s been in. However, as I write this, he’s
currently out on a foot injury.

The Young Captain: Young Captain is a first-year and could easily (and most likely) become the captain of the club next year when the third-year members retire (third-years at middle schools typically stop participating in their sport in the fall semester to prepare for entrance exams, which is why I never met any). He has a more odd demeanor whenever I practice with him, barely saying anything or not acknowledging at me at all when we spar. However, once we leave the mats, he’s one of the most talkative members.

The Underdog: Underdog, god bless him, is not one of the best judo players (?) out there. Granted, he’s only a first-year, very short and doesn’t have a lot of strength and every match I’ve seen him in has been very one-sided. He is very spirited, though; He always tries to
go for the more complex throws, but he just doesn’t have the muscle yet. I think he’ll get a lot better after he hits his first growth spurt.

The Girl: “You can’t just label the only female member of the group The Girl!” I imagine someone yelling at their computer. But, really, she’s one of few. Yes, there are
other middle-school girls that practice Judo, but they are
overshadowed by the mass of boys. But as a first-year, she has a lot of potential. She’s taken me down a fair amount of times and is really good
at guarding/dodging. She is very shy and barely interacts with the rest of the members, but I can understand the loneliness.

I’m mainly writing about the club because I can only imagine there will be some interesting situations/conversations with them in
the future and I only think it’s only fitting to give a brief introduction to the cast. Even then, Judo is the first major activity I’ve gotten myself into since I’ve moved here, and I can only imagine that trying my hand at something that has no relation to anything I did back in the states will create their own interesting anecdotes.

But, seriously, someone had a sick sense of humor to call it “the gentle way.”


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