When I was 5 my parents sent me to ballet class. As coordination wasn’t something I was known for, they weren’t sure how long I’d last. I was the kid that went left when all the others went right. I was also the kid that didn’t have a proper leotard. I was doomed from the start. I just didn’t look like the others in my matching singlet and undies. I guess mum and dad knew it wasn’t a goer, because they said I could get the right gear after 5 lessons. I lasted 2.
Similar experiences followed with modern dance and jazz ballet. I was the kid that danced around in the background playing the part of the monster in the show. Still, mum and dad always came and cheered for me.
One day, in an act of altruism, they told me that they suspected I would be better at judo. They were right.
I had never really noticed up until that time that I was the only girl. The boys treated me the same, and we just took gender for granted. In the whole time I trained, I had never fought another female.
So competition day dawned and I headed down for my weigh in. I was pretty small – 47kgs. It wasn’t until the draw was posted that I realised there was only one category for women – Open Weight. I wasn’t concerned… my coach had faith in me. He was running me through my warm up when my opponent stepped up to the mat. I stopped breathing for several minutes. Or maybe time just stopped.
She was a behemoth. Honestly. She must have weighed about 80kg, and not much of that was muscle. Anyway… the beauty of judo is that if you have the skill, you can use that to your advantage. Plus, she was only a yellow belt. Still, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely crapping myself.
As soon as the ref called hajime (start) I knew I was in trouble. She kind of galloped towards me with her head down. I stepped in for a basic hip throw – no point. She just charged me down. After some ne-waza (floor wrestling) that looked like some kind of cruel WWF joke, we got up again. At this stage it became apparent that my best bet was to tire her out. I bounced around the mat, attempting to sweep her legs. Just before her impending heart attack she picked me up, swung me round and threw herself onto the mat on top of me.
There was a popping sound, then I passed out. I woke up several seconds later to find my nose flattened across my face and my coach dragging me off the mat. Most people would find this excrutiating. It was not the first time it had happened to my nose (in fact, it wasn’t the second time either – but that’s another post) so I was more irritated that I couldn’t breath. Especially when they sent me back on…! (There was no such thing as a blood bin in those days).
Needless to say, it didn’t go on for long.
The fight was called off. My first competition match.
I never went in another competition again.