It was January of 1980 when my friend Joyce and I decided to take a self-defense class at the YMCA in Kalamazoo. I was a single Mom working nights at a trucking company, so taking a Judo class sounded like a good idea. Barney Fife came to my mind from the old Andy Griffith Show, when he said he probably would have to register his body as a deadly weapon because he knew Judo.
Walking into the dojo in our judo gees one thing was obvious, we were the only women in the class. So much for the self-defense aspect. Not that we wouldn’t learn some great techniques, but these guys were there to wrestle!
Each week we learned a new hold or throw and paired up with someone in the class to practice with. It was a lot of fun, taught us some self-discipline, and to always be aware of what was going on around us. The secret was to get below your opponents center of gravity and throw them or trip them to escape.
One night I was paired with a cute blond guy who appeared to be 6’4″ and weighing in around 220. First of all, what is this person doing in a Judo Class? The holds on the floor went okay, had him right where I wanted him. Then came the throws. It was easy for me to get below his center of gravity and he hit the mat like a rock.
Now it was my turn to be thrown. A shiver ran down my spine when I realized I might be sailing over his shoulder at a high rate of speed with a 6 foot plus drop.
There was a 16 inch difference in our heights and he was perplexed as to how he would get beneath my center of gravity. He decided to get on his knees to execute the move. Aah, I thought, this won’t be so bad.
When you land from a throw you are supposed to slap the mat to absorb some of the shock.
Okay, I didn’t slap the mat. Okay, I couldn’t breathe. The fall ended up being more like 4 feet and it knocked the wind out of me.
All of us in the class went on to earn our Green Belts. And the big blond guy?
Well we will be celebrating our 26th Wedding Anniversary in May and I couldn’t be happier.