Hi there. Today I want to tell you a story. But First, Here is an update on my life. I've made my first World Judo Championships this year. Thank you everyone that has contributed to this success. After 25 years on this planet, wondering and daydreaming on subway rides and in classrooms, I finally did it. The tournament was located in Tokyo and it was a real honor to fight in the birth country of Judo.
Along with that accomplishment, I medaled in my first world cup tournament in Venezuela and I fought close to 10 international and domestic tournaments in the past 10 months. WOW.
Truth be told, as much as I love it, it has been an arduous road. Between the heavy competition schedule, the pressure of making the Olympics and of course the grueling hours of training, it has been pretty taxing on my mind and body. So when I am Gripping distance close to a story which I am about to tell you, it refreshes everything and Truly inspires me. Here it goes.
When I was 11 years old, A man named Chris entered the Dojo. He started Judo. He was very diligent. He drilled hard and fought ferociously. Some say his Judo style was that of a savage. His Favorite throw... The DTSTO. The drop twisting spiraling tani otoshi! The man stood tall at around 6'2. Weighing 230lbs, he was definitely no puppy weight. When I was 12 years old, we both entered the promotional tournament.
Promotional Tournament: As you would have predicted, the objective of the tournament is to move up in rank. Basic brown--middle brown--high brown--first degree black--second degree black... That is the natural progression for intermediate to advanced Judo belts. To promote to the next level, you must have certain amount of Time-in-grade and victories over your fellow contenders of the same rank. But this criteria is superseded by the most prestigious, Batsugun. This is where you win a certain number of matches in a row back to back. basic to middle brown is 2 in a row. middle brown to high brown, high brown to black is both 3 Ippons a piece. To promote to higher black belts, it requires 5! You can imagine how hard it is after winning your first 2 matches and having to defeat your third opponent who is fresh and ambitious, foaming at the mouth to bury you into the floor.
Anyways, We both fought in the tournament. I was 12 years old fighting grown men. The odds had it. Vegas was right. I got mangled. Chris on the other hand was another story. He trained hard consistently and he was very well prepared. He dominated his adversaries and he batsugunned twice over the course of the next 2 promotionals (held twice a year) bringing him to the level of advanced brown belt. I admired him much. He was always fun to be around and taught me in so many ways how to be a vicious competitor.
However, when i was 13 years old, Chris left the dojo. In my eyes, he disappeared like the many fallen victims of Judo discouragement: the discomanglatized fingers, the kani basami knees, the disc slip, labrum tear, financial shorts, the life lemons, you know. I never knew what it was at the time. But i later find out that Chris was battling demons. He took his time crushing lemons life threw his way. Every now and then he would show up at the dojo, but his stint never lasted more than a few weeks/months. When he came back close to a decade later, my father was hesitant to allow him to join again. Chris promised this time it was it. That he came to finish what he started and to dedicate himself once again. My father reluctantly agreed to Chris' passionate appeal.
Chris came back. He is now 1 tournament away from being a Judo Black belt. However, he is older now. 12 years to be exact. His training began again. He was persistent and yes resilient. His old knees were hurting. Fluid built up. A Harai goshi, pancakes his body into the tatami, Rib sandwich. Torazo (our KBI young stud) threw him on his shoulder and he experienced pain there too. Adam Marcus' seoinage. And most of all, I was no longer a 12 year old boy wishing for Chris to come back. I spiked his face off the ground many times for his own good. Now married with a son, holding his Job of teaching chess while getting his Masters Degree, Chris fought with the youngsters at the Dojo Monday, Wednesday and Friday night. A man on a mission. How do you think he did his first promotionals back?
Once again, his Come back training commenced. He asked for private lessons, and he was a great student. He excelled with every lesson. It wasn't uncommon for him to have 2 judo a day. He hit the weights. Lifted intense. 6 months after his failed attempt at his first promotionals back, He tried again.
Gripping was on point. Just how we have been drilling. His hands shot out to the right positions, controlling his opposition. He side stepped, shook. Foot sweeps and sasae swayed the gigantic men before him. With a swooping motion too quick for the untrained eye, BOOM! Osoto Gari. here we go. Another one. 2 matches won consecutively. 1 more for black. Unfortunately, Chris' back and that yellow tatami must have had magnets in them for that match because they were stuck together. 2nd round is coming up. I can see the disappointment from the first round in Chris' eyes. He waits patiently. He is up.
Boom Boom and ? Third match once again. This is for the Big black! Exchange of throws attempted. Tries at counters, flurries of motion. Combined 500 lbs banging the wood underneath the mat. Big man goes for seoinage, Chris lifts him off the floor and there it is! BOOOOOM!
The crowd erupts in applause. 10 or so dojo guys all there to support him mat side. My team cheers and gives Chris a big hug. He's waited 14 years for this. He conquered his demons and returned to the mat. Overcame so much! As all of the dojo guys gathered to celebrate Chris' Blackbelt at a korean bbq restaurant, I realized how grandiose of an accomplishment this was. Now with a wife, son, job, almost Masters degree and a Judo blackbelt, Chris has achieved it all. I wonder what his next endeavor will be. Maybe Chess Grandmaster? anything is possible.
So that is the end of the story for now. I am so very proud at this moment to have such a great student. Everyone dreams, fights, strives, works, laughs, cries, lives and survives. Hope this story inspired you to reach your own personal greatness. What is your judo black belt? Mine is the Olympics.