Back in elementary and middle school, I took Judo at the local recreation center.

I don’t really remember what caused me to start taking it – probably that my sister took it, so it seemed like the thing I was supposed to do. I dutifully went one night a week and did the warmups (push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks – yeesh, I was probably in amazing shape) and learned all the moves. I recall learning how to fall into a roll and end up standing on your feet, and how to fall from a flip in such a way that you didn’t really hurt your back, but slapped the ground.

I showed off my falling into a roll and ending up standing at the end years later and was quite proud of myself for still being able to do that. I am afraid to try it now because I feel as if I’d just end up a twisted mass on the ground after my back gave out. The years have not been kind to my back.

Our class would occasionally visit another class or a dojo and compete against others. I was often the only girl in the room in these situations, but didn’t really think anything about competing against boys, because I practiced with them every week. I remember one dojo where were very competitive. I lost my round in what seemed like seconds. I hated losing so quickly. I didn’t mind losing, because it happens, and I often was paired with someone who’d been taking Judo longer than I had.

One year, though, our class entered a shiai (a Judo competition) in Yonkers. It was on St. Patrick’s Day, which I have always found amusing, because it was called a St. Patrick’s Day Shiai, in the true melting pot-ness of New York. The competition was structured by weight class and separated into boys and girls.

There was one other girl in my weight class, and I was a full belt rank above her (I think at the time I was an Orange belt, and she was Yellow). I knew her, too – she wasn’t in my class, but as two of the few girls in any of these classes, we’d run into each other enough and had become friends. So, for the first-place trophy, it was her against me.

I won.

I received a trophy, which has long since fallen apart. After somewhere in the neighborhood of eight to 10 moves, it completely fell apart. It had been kept in a box every move anyway – I would take it out to see what it was, remember it was my trophy, and it’d go back in the box, wrapped up again until the next move would come and I’d be unpacking that box. I probably could have fixed it – most of what fell apart just needed to be screwed back together, and the rest could have been glued – but what was the point?

It’s not as if it was a family heirloom. I stopped taking Judo sometime after that. Again, not really sure why. I think I was just entering an extremely shy phase and the idea of continuing was painful. Also, I was about ready to rank up to a green belt and I recall being somewhat nervous about whether I’d pass my tests. Which is lame that I’d choose then to quit. But I did.

Maybe I’ll try falling into a rolling standup this weekend to see if I’ve still got it.

Or maybe not.

Photo by Stefan Schmitz via Flickr Creative Commons.

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