On the 15th of November, a large group of CUJC players went down to the London Area Universities & Colleges open.
The day started with the women, who had travelled down early in the morning for an early weigh-in. Having braved the bad weather driving down, Maddie faced a strong 1st dan and didn’t manage to put up too much resistance. However, she rallied in her second fight to get a nice victory by ippon. Suffering with an injury she had previously sustained, she retired injured from her third fight and despite the intervening rest managed to lose her last fight convincingly…
Marine had 7 players in her category, who were divided into two pools. She started well by winning a first fight with a double waza-ari, scored on a sloppy harai-goshi and a powerful o-soto-gari. Her second fight was much harder, against a 1st dan from Strathclyde university and lasted longer, but despite many good attempts at getting her opponent off balance ended by being thrown for waza-ari followed by a hold. Finally, she faced the current Oxford Judo president and struggling to get out of a very strong pin, meaning unfortunately she was eliminated before reaching the knockout stage.
This left just Suvi: the -57kgs were another large category, with two pools of three. In her pool, Suvi fought two 1st kyu opponents, winning with two waza-ari dropping throws and an ouchi-gari for ippon. Out of the pool, Suvi then fought a 1st dan, who (after some grip fighting) Suvi managed to throw with a tani-otoshi/ura-nage-hybrid backwards, followed up into a hold. Her final opponent was Tara from ARU: Suvi didn’t manage to get her techniques working, and lost to Tara after a throw and strong hold. She was still, however, very pleased with silver and her first points as a 1st dan.
Alex, competing in the “youth” category, missed weight by a few hundred grams so had to fight up a weight category, as -81kg. He won most of his fights with reverse kesa-gatame: his opponents would reach over to get his lapel and he would clamp, roll, and pin for ippon. He had a tough fight against someone who he learnt judo with at the Budokwai, but otherwise didn’t have too much difficulty. He won the final in the last 7 seconds with the trademark reverse kesa-gatame, leaving him with a gold medal. He felt slightly disappointed with how he had fought, but a gold medal is certainly not to be sniffed at!
We met up with a friend of the judo club, Andrés, who has now left to study at Durham and who was also competing—he won his first fight easily, throwing with morote for waza-ari and finish with a sumi-gaeshi for ippon. This put him straight through to the semifinal, as he had got a bye in the first round. This was a tough fight which was very technical and grip based, and he ended up being thrown for ippon 20 seconds before the end of the fight. His opponent went on to take the gold. Entering into the repechage, it was only one fight away from the bronze, but Andrés went for a sacrifice throw and foolishly fell in his back in such a way that his opponent was awarded an ippon. Such is judo…
Josh and Rio were fighting in a very competitive -66kg category. Josh lost his first fight to Ben from ARU with two yoko-tomoe-nages, having failed to really get started, and then was up against Rio in the repechage. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rio won with a strong osoto-gari, but went on to lose to Imperial’s João Pela with a ippon seoi-nage.
Finally, Yermek was competing in the kyu grade -81kg category. Having had to do some last-minute weight cutting and still hurting from heavy training the previous day, he got two or three shidos in his first fight because of passivity, and then ran out of energy and lost by ippon to a tai-otoshi. In the repechage, he won his next fight quickly with an osoto-gari, but was then pinned by the eventual bronze medallist, knocking him out of the competition. The gold was won by a brown belt with 15 years of experience.
Overall, it was a fun day—everyone fought well, and more importantly came away with some lessons (and bruises), whether about fighting in competitions or how to prepare for them. It was also great to catch up with Andrés again!