Trial Week review: Judo

Spending the day as a white belt

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two people grappling on the floor
PHOTO: Joshua Jamias / Unsplash

By: Kaja Antic, Sports Writer

The spring 2024 trial week had several appealing options — from dance to yoga, and various martial arts. It was a difficult choice to make personally, but I ended up going with judo.

Judo was created in 1882 by Japanese scholar Jigoro Kano after he had studied the ancient martial art jujutsu and decided there should be a defensive martial art with educational benefits. In the literal Japanese translation, “Judo” means the “gentle way.”

Organized Judo is also celebrating 100 years in Canada, after Shigetaka “Steve” Sasaki immigrated from Japan to Vancouver in 1922, opening the Tai Iku Dojo in 1924. Judo was the fourth martial art added to the Olympic Games after debuting in 1964

The PEAK Judo Club runs out of the Lorne Davies Complex on Burnaby Mountain and offers programs for children and adults at varying levels of judo proficiency. The trial week was for the AIR program, which is for beginners aged 14+ and focuses on key aspects of judo: the art of falling safely, self-defence, working on one’s physical health, and executing the art’s moral principles

When entering the class, I was given a judogi — the traditional uniform used in judo — and the beginning exercises began. There were many different warm-up cycles of various exercises, including multiple somersault variations along with practicing the various fall techniques used in judo.

Since most of the techniques largely consisted of throws and grappling, the person on the receiving end, known as the uke, must be familiar with the breakfalls to ensure their safety. These falls serve many purposes, with the mae ukemi (forward breakfall) protecting the head, the ushiro ukemi (back breakfall) protecting the head and back, and the yoko ukemi (side breakfall) protecting the sides of one’s body — often the area landed on when the uke is thrown.

The next step in the class was to partner up, working on the first step of any technique — holding the judogi. There are different stances when participating in judo, but the basics of each stance are similar: one hand stays on the opponent’s collar, while the other grabs the extra fabric of the opposite sleeve. 

After this, we worked on various ways to unbalance your opponent, known in the judo lexicon as kuzushi. These steps were all built for the main champion of the evening class: the throwing techniques, also known as nage waza

One of these throws taught in the class is called o goshi, which is a major hip throw in judo. Classified under koshi waza (hip techniques), this move has the tori — the person performing the technique — positioning their hips below the uke’s, throwing them over one hip after grabbing the back of the uke’s judogi. In this exercise, it was my first time getting thrown in a martial arts setting, and honestly, it was pretty fun.

We were also taught various foot techniques — also known as ashi waza. These were harai tsurikomi ashi (lift pull foot sweep), deashi harai (front foot sweep) and kosoto gake (minor outer hook). The last techniques of the night revolved around grappling, known as katame waza. This involved pinning (osae waza), choking (shime waza), and joint lock (kansetsu waza) techniques. This was the only technique I was semi-familiar with, as it reminded me of fighting with my siblings when we were younger.

After this instruction was done, the class was organized on the mats in order of belt level, facing the senseis (instructors). I was part of the end, as I was wearing a white belt, usual for a beginner. We were taught the proper way to kneel with your feet crossed behind you, and how to bow to senseis following instruction.

Overall, I would like to thank the PEAK Judo Club for hosting the session, and the leadership team for being patient with me as I learned how to do martial arts for the first time. It was a great experience and I recommend that SFU students and community members check out the group’s events and programs throughout the semester.

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