This is a picture of me in my judogi, taken, as they say, in happier times (i.e. in the summer months). Judo, as you are probably aware, means ‘the gentle way’. There’s some cobblers about this meaning ‘yielding’ or ‘giving way’ in order to use your opponent’s strength and weight against them. I now know the truth. Judo is the gentle way because we have MATS.
Unlike karate. Or at least the species of karate I seem to have strayed into in my quest for new things in 2011. I turned up last night in my judo suit (having established over the phone that this was not a breach of dojo etiquette that would require me to commit sepuku), but wearing the lowest grade belt I could find in the dressing-up box (yellow), to signify that I was a humble novice and please don’t kick my head in, all you scary 9 year old black belts. The class was held in the same bit of King Edward’s leisure centre as my Monday judo class.
But no mats, no mats! I haven’t run around on a highly polished wooden floor since gym lessons at Aylesbury High School for Girls. Hideous flash back. At least I wasn’t in navy gym knickers and white aertex shirt. But as you will know, those of you who suffered barefoot PE back in the 70s, it is only a matter of time before the friction rips the skin off your feet. Still, there will be no throwing, no breakfalls onto the wood, I consoled myself. Wrong! Have I picked the wrong kind of karate, or something? I thought it was all fancy high kicks and snappy punches.
My performance so far: utterly crap. I am hopeless at translating verbal commands into physical actions. (I’ve been failing to master a simple waltz for 40 years.) My brain gets in my way. I’m too busy trying to think it through. So wait, hang on, left foot forward, left arm punch, no, yes, is it right arm left leg? I should know from judo that the only way to master new techniques is to have a go, and then another go, and then a thousand goes, until it’s in your muscle memory. But there is clearly a much higher formalised muscle memory content in karate than in judo. In judo you can learn a couple of throws, then have a good old scrap with someone.
And it’s back to scrapping tomorrow, when the Oak Park judo clubs starts again. I will kiss the mat and sob in relief.