In which I get owned on the mat.

Tuesday and Wed are open sparring nights at my Judo school. Tuesday we start standing up, and Wed is for grappling. Jay, who runs the school, is very informal about a great many things – but he is quite firm on the fact that he teaches on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays … and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays we practice like we’re going to compete in matches.

Generally, Jay sets up an interval timer. Four minutes on, 30 seconds off to find a new partner. People sit out as they need a break. We put rock and roll on the sound system. It’s a good time.

This evening, I showed up and Jay and I were the only ones there.

He looked at me and said something like: “Glad you’re here. You ready?”

Ready? No timer, no nothing. Just 20 minutes of me learning a lot about what would happen to me in an open contest with a really good judo player. It involved a lot of getting thrown, and a lot of getting swept. I would like to think that towards the end of that period I was a little better at keeping my feet out of the way, and that he was having to use more combinations to set me up. In reality, I think that I just got owned.

Somewhere in there a third guy showed up. This was Roger, who was still recovering from his flight back from Belgium. Where he had, oh yeah, been in some big international tournament. I was in need of sitting down, lest I fall down, so he and Jay fought for about 20 more minutes. That was amazing to watch.

Jay is a small guy. I’ve got 30 pounds and 5 inches on him. Roger is my size. They’re of comparable skill, but I think that Jay’s size gives him an advantage of leverage. At one point I’m convinced that I saw Jay reverse a sweep in midair so that instead of landing on his back, he managed to pivot over and land in a perfect pin on top of Roger.

Then it was my turn with Roger. More ownage. Harder, this time. They were both being nice to me, but you can only pitch someone over your shoulder so gently. At one point I caught him looking at something outside the mat area. I tried to seize what I perceived as an opportunity and he tossed me without even looking. It was … humbling.

I like my new sport, but I’ve got a lot of learning to do.

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