Judo beginner kick starts fitness

TOMORROW brings spectacle to Ipswich Cornhill in the form of a judo demonstration - which you can join in. SIMON TALBOT, who is MC for the Ipswich Gets Fit series of events, had a taster to prepare himself for the big day.

TOMORROW brings spectacle to Ipswich Cornhill in the form of a judo demonstration - which you can join in. SIMON TALBOT, who is MC for the Ipswich Gets Fit series of events, had a taster to prepare himself for the big day.

MY body is like a coiled spring - but already I'm confused.

Smiling parents sit on benches, behind a row of tiny shoes, as a collection of small people who can't be any older than seven skillfully throw themselves on to soft matting.

“I know it's not about how big you are, but which one am I sparring with?” I ask a visibly bemused Dave Martin.

“None of them” he replies, “this is Kano, our introduction to the sport of judo for the under eights.”

Club chairman Dave is a fifth dan black belt and so well versed in Judo that he referees internationally. He told me that the word Judo translates as “The Gentle Way” and (to my surprise) that it is not a martial art but an Olympic sport. It is also one that you can learn at any age.

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Secretly comforted by the knowledge that I was not to be flung into the air like a rag doll by someone who goes to bed at 7.30pm, I agreed to don suitable clothing and join in with the senior group later in the evening.

Naively, I had always thought the judo suit was little more than a sportier alternative to paisley pyjamas, but the jacket was surprisingly heavy and my belt seemed determined to leave me pinioned and helpless before I had even begun. It turned out that it was actually a bit too small, so my instructor Stuart loaned me his.

Proudly sporting his black belt, but feeling like the worst kind of barefoot fraud, I took to the mat.

To begin with Stuart taught me how to fall. I have spent many years perfecting the ancient art of remaining upright, so it did not come easily but it is essential to be comfortable with the idea of being thrown and know the correct way to land without getting hurt.

It's all about balance or rather keeping your opponent off theirs, Stuart - who is half a head shorter than me - had an effortless knack of putting me in a position where my only option was to end up in a heap on the floor.

It was an unsettling feeling and I wanted to know how it was done.

Initially, I was dreadfully polite about throwing him myself, adopting the fighting stance of someone who is waltzing with an elderly relative at a family wedding. However after several attempts, my hip throw had Stuart flat on his back.

It was a move that my gran would not have appreciated, but it proved the point that judo is about creating maximum effect with minimum effort.

At the end of the session Stuart popped me in a farewell arm lock, and explained that judo is more than just an excellent way to keep fit, it also teaches you respect, discipline and self defence. I nodded in reply, my neck being the only part of my body I could move.

The Ipswich Judo Club meet on Mondays and Thursdays at Northgate Sports Centre. The classes are fun, accessible and taught by highly qualified instructors, judging from the atmosphere at the end of each session it also has a lively social scene.

When it came time to leave, one of the junior club members came up to me and with a look of awe asked “are you a black belt?”

For a moment I was tempted to say “yes” but then I glanced over to Stuart and remembered that judo is a sport you must work at if you want to progress. I also remembered something unpleasant he told me - he could do to an opponent with his thumbs so I replied: “No, but one day I could be.”


For more details go to the Cornhill tomorrow, or call Anna Storey club secretary on 01473 712543 or David Martin club chairman on 01473 832411.

Weblink: www.ipswichjudoclub.com

Ipswich Judo Club will bring Ipswich Cornhill alive, from 12noon to 1pm tomorrow with the second of 12 Ipswich Gets Fit events.

You can watch how it's done, and have a go yourself with expert help.

From 1pm to 2pm there will be a demonstration by the Taoist Tai Chi Charoty, and Team Ipswich Swimming Club and Ipswich at Play will be in the marquee, along with My Juice for refreshments.

There will also be a chance to try the Speed Kick competition and win prizes with the Evening Star.

We joined forces with Team Ipswich - the borough council's sports initiative - to launch Ipswich Gets Fit. The campaign aims to show the people of the town how they can improve their lives through physical activity. It is also an opportunity for a number of sports clubs to showcase their activities to attract new members.



950 people are taking part in Walk to the Moon, attempting to collectively walk 240,000 miles in just 12 weeks. See www.eveningstar.co.uk/walktothemoon.