My Judo Career

I got picked on a lot, once upon a time. But one day, when I was 13 or 14, I bought a paperback called Combat Judo Made Easy by Claude St. Denise, and was immediately intrigued by a throw called O-Goshi (“major hip throw”), I think because I really dug the name: as in “Oh, gosh!”

I studied this for a while, and when my friend Jimmy came back from a summer vacation in Florida, I suggested, “Let’s wrestle.” And, wonder of wonders, I tried an O-Goshi and it worked like a charm. Jimmy was impressed. With all my friends, we practiced a lot of other throws out of the book: Hiza-Garuma (“knee wheel,” “as if you were turning the steering wheel of a car”), Seoi-Nage (“shoulder throw”), and all the other basics.

My father got interested and signed me up for lessons at Judo-Kai, with great instructors who had trained in Japan. I took to it, and halfway through high school, I won the only trophy I ever won in my life–the Judo-Kai school championship, with three schools competing. Meanwhile, I got great prestige in high school by throwing guys around. One former enemy thought it was so cool, he had me throw him several times.

In college I joined the Rutgers judo team and, in a state tournament, had my proudest moment. Our team was going to win a third-place trophy, if only we could beat a very tough team from Menlo Park–anchored by one Dr. G., a 5th-degree black belt. We were half a point ahead, and it was my lot to go up against the doctor. If I could manage a draw against him, our team would win the match–and probably the only trophy that any Rutgers team would win that year (we got clobbered in the NIT basketball tournament). I did it, and Rutgers won the trophy.

But I got soured on the whole business by a special brown belt promotional tournament, sponsored by judo’s regional governing body. It was set up so that all I had to do, to win the right to take the brown belt test–which I would have easily passed–was to win three matches in a row against guys who knew as much judo as I did and were as big as dinosaurs. This, I thought, was a very raw deal. The dinosaurs won, and I dropped out of organized judo.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve thrown anybody, and I’d probably do myself a mischief if I tried it now. But I do think I’ve still got a few O-Goshi’s left in my bag of tricks. You don’t forget the basics.

It was fun while it lasted, and it did get the bullies off my back.

About leeduigon

I have lived in Metuchen, NJ, all my life. I have been married to my wife Patricia since 1977. I am a former newspaper editor and reporter. I was also the owner-operator of my own small business for several years. I wrote various novels and short stories published during 1980s and 1990s. I am a long-time student of judo and Japanese swordsmanship (kenjutsu). I also play chess, basketball, and military and sports simulations. View all posts by leeduigon

6 responses to “My Judo Career

  • UnKnowable

    Sounds like politics as usual.

    Like

    • leeduigon

      That promotional tournament really cheesed me off. According to the rules, I had already won the right to take the test by winning at least three matches during the year. But then they changed the rules to bring everybody into this tournament and charge an entrance fee. And after making us all sit around for two hours while they tried to get their act together, the decided to get rid of weight classes and line the contestants up by height. Really!

      Like

  • Watchman

    I got picked on a lot in school too. I was taller than most, but I was shy and didn’t know anything about self defense. That got me interested in martial arts in high school. I was never formally taught, but I did read a lot. I think I learned a lot too. These days my interest has shifted, but there are still aspects of martial arts I enjoy.

    Like

  • SLIMJIM

    Man I loved this totally; thanks for this snapshot of the young Lee Duigon!

    Like

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