Competed in my first Judo tournament yesterday. Got second place in my weight class (out of three). It was a small, informal competition hosted by my school in Braintree.

The very first thing that happened was that one of the competitors got his arm broken. That was an f-ing wake-up call, let me tell you.

We were all sitting on the edge of the mat, watching the very first round. It started standing, progressed to wrestling, and Chuck (from my school) established an “Ude Garami,” also known as the “coil” arm lock, on the ground. It’s a pretty complex position that seems obvious once you learn it. The defender has an arm out, bent upwards 90 degrees at the elbow. The attacker’s forearm passes under that arm to form a fulcrum between the defender’s shoulder (which is under the ground) and his elbow (up from the ground at maybe 30 degrees from the shoulder). The other attacking arm (the one not underneath) feeds over the exposed defending forearm and wrist to grab the other attacking hand.

At this point, the match really needs to be over. If the attacker either cranks forward with the top arm, or simply puts weight on the defender’s elbow, that trapped arm is going to break, bringing the elbow and shoulder to the ground, over top of the forearm underneath the upper arm. That’s exactly what happened.

To his credit, the attacking player hadn’t even begun to crank. He was playing with deliberate control and, so far as I can tell, this was just a freak accident. The position was barely even established, and nobody (including the defender and the refs) was shouting to let go or ease up. Everyone in attendance agreed that this was just a crappy turn of events and that no blame was to be assigned.

Back to my perspective: I’m watching my very first Judo match ever, sitting and waiting my turn. They go to the ground, grapple a bit, and BANG, there’s a loud snapping noise. I look up to see what’s going on and see that redmed is already next to the guy on the ground. Perhaps 3 seconds later, another guy (turns out that he was an EMT) was beside her. At that point I realize that something Bad has happened. I got to watch her play MD, complete with taking two different pulses on the wrist and gently moving control of the situation over to the guys who brought the ambulance. For my part, I sat next to the guy who had broken the arm and told him that it didn’t look like his fault at all. He felt like absolute ass … and was pretty much a basket case for the next few rounds. The crowd wound up cheering for him.

It was a clean break, dislocated, between the shoulder and the elbow. The paramedics (and the owner of the gym) came, and eventually the guy (who had driven down from Maine) was bundled off to the hospital. Jay, who runs the school, got up and explained that for the remainder of the day there would be no arm locks whatsoever. None. Understand? No arm locks. Got it? Everyone? Okay. Continue.

Continue? What the hell kind of sport have I gotten myself into? I’ve signed a lot of different “you could be hurt” waivers, and I’ve never seen anyone get his arm broken … let alone HEARD it. It was a lot louder than I expected. The four other guys next to me (all of whom were also at their first competition) were similarly spooked. On the other hand, it established a very high level of respect and control for the rest of the match. Yes, judo, you have my attention.

Anyway, I fought twice. I threw once and got thrown once. Pictures are here.

Video of me losing. I’m the guy in blue. I get taken out by a hip throw after about 25 seconds.

Video of me winning. Similar duration, but I get him with an inside foot sweep.

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