Ski-trip to Zakopane

Here is Max’s report on the ski trip (check out Jamie’s report below!)

CUJC returned this month to Zakopane in southern Poland for a week of skiing, judo training and relaxing. Having taken an early flight from Gatwick on the Sunday, we were welcomed to Poland at Krakow airport by the club’s local alumnus Janek. Though mostly current members of CUJC, the group also included club alumni and friends from Marburg and Helsinki.

One sleepy coach journey later, we arrived in Zakopane in the Tatra mountains, Poland’s biggest winter-sport destination. We stayed once again at the Palace hotel, a specialist sports hotel complete with a dojo, where we trained every day. Matt coached the tachi-waza sessions, and Kane and Jamie took ne-waza/Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes. In typical judo club fashion, we made good use of the hotel’s jacuzzi and sauna to relax in the evenings.

We visited several ski resorts around Zakopane, though with temperatures rarely dropping below freezing, skiing conditions were not as good as they had been two years previously. Experience levels ranged from complete beginners to advanced, and everyone had an exhilarating and exhausting time on the slopes.

Other activities included a day of ski-touring just across the Slovakian border, a hike into the mountains, and a trip to the town’s Aquapark. The week was also spent enjoying the delights of Polish pork-and-cabbage-heavy cooking, including pierlogi (dumplings) and various delicious soups. This culminated in a meal at a meat-grill restaurant, where militaristic determination was needed to overcome the vast portions.

The Saturday was spent relaxing in the town and shopping for souvenirs and Polish vodka. Several of us also enjoyed a Thai massage. Most of the group went home on the Sunday, though a few stayed in Krakow for a night to see the city and visit the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

All in all it was a fun trip, and a great chance for pre-term training and team bonding ahead of a busy schedule of competitions. Many thanks to Rob and Janek for organising the trip, and to Matt, Kane and Jamie for their coaching.


Skiing, Judo and other Calamaties (Jamie’s report)

January 2011, Poland

Cambridge, Gatwick, Krakow, Zakopane. A full days travel bought some twenty CUJC club members, alumni and foreign friends from Finland and Germany, to the inappropriately named ‘Palace Hotel’- a Spartan winter training retreat for various Polish national sporting teams. When we were last here two years ago, an alcohol fuelled miss-understanding nearly lead to club coaches Nick and Chris taking on the entire Polish National Youth boxing team. This year the hotel is being occupied by the Polish Girls Wrestling team. In the evenings the hallways are full of over excited adolescent girls, who look completely normal until a sneak peak in the gym during their training session reveals them throwing medicine balls the full length of the hall, all while being barked at by an improbably squat Polish Gentleman. Drunken miss-understandings are best avoided.

Several hours earlier and the weary eyed Judoka assemble at Gatwick. The camp seems split between the sensible, who travelled down early, and the less so, who spent the night in the terminal for the 7am flight. CUJC President Rob, appears to belong to the latter, and is ranting incomprehensibly about Rhianna, and a long running dispute concerning a copy of Cosmopolitan. Even more surprisingly, Men’s captain Kane is actually reading a book, for about the third time ever. Ok, its entitled “The Winter Warriors”, but growth is growth.

Safely ensconced in ‘the Palace’, a temporary bout of confusion has lead Dave Saxton to believe that he will be occupying the only double bed in one of the shared rooms. Fortunately Jamie is on hand to explain things to him, and the natural order is quickly resolved. Then its down to the Ski-hire shop to pick up the weeks equipment. Skis, poles, snow boards, but most importantly, hats. The shop is well stocked with a selection of ridiculous hats. Much discussion ensues, resulting in Matt and Jafar purchasing some excellent ‘Rooster hats’.

Silly hats

Morning. CUJC captain has decreed a 7am rise for breakfast in time to hit the slopes early. Snow is at something of a premium in Poland this year, but the first day’s slope is just fine. CUJC, it transpires, has some impressively proficient skiers. Unsurprisingly, Kane and Matt, but also the self-effacing Marianne, Jafar, Catarina and most of the Finnish and German contingent. Janek, aside from acting as an essential linguistic bridge, also turns out to be a helpful ski-instructor, who refreshingly doesn’t seem overly reliant on simply shouting ‘bend ze knees’ at hapless beginners.

Back at the Palace and its judo time. This year sees Matt taking on the Lion’s share of the coaching duties, and true to form he has taking his duties seriously, with a carefully mapped out weekly training schedule. Which doesn’t really explain how the first session involves a bizarre game of ‘medicine ball’ rugby, followed by ‘British Bulldogs’. Over exuberance and minor injuries follow.

The following day on the slopes, and Kane has decided that there is insufficient snow to facilitate ‘fun’. Therefore we will need to improvise. This involves various skiing related stunts like doing circles in threes and “the caterpillar”, in which everybody forms a line in snowplow formation and traverses the slope as a unit. Until Max loses it at the base of the caterpillar, and sends everybody flying. Jamie sustains a thumb injury that causes him no small amount of pain, and gains him no large amount of sympathy.

Oh God: The caterpillar

Evening means judo time, and Kane and Jamie are taking a BJJ class in their own inimitable fashion. Kane explains that the best bit of the ‘base-ball-bat-grip’ choke is “getting to look into their eyes when they tap out”, while Jamie discusses the intricacies of the “unstoppable half-guard-pass-of-death”. Much hard sparing ensues.

Judo time

This amount of physical exercise would be intolerable were it not for the hotel spa, where the Palace hotel starts to live up to its name. A hot tub, hot sauna and very, very cold plunge tub are the perfect antidote to tired muscles. That, and ‘Desperado’ tequila spiked beer, that is inexplicably popular in these parts. What seems like the entire club packs out the hot tub at the same time, confirming CUJC reputation for friendliness, and much local wodka is passed around. All goes swimmingly until club coach Chris tells a joke so revolting several people feel the need to leave, and the rest to take a shower. Chris can’t work out what the fuss is all about.

After three days on the slopes the group splits into two, with a hardy group of ski- tourists heading into the mountains, while a more relaxed group head for the piste. Christian belongs to the former, but wishes he had opted for the latter: Over a beer he confesses to Kane: “If you would like to go touring again, I’m afraid that I am no”. He seems sincere and one senses that it was not an easy day. Fortunately, after another hard session in the gym with Matt, a more relaxing night is planned: CUJC hit the town to find some night life. However this is a Wednesday in January, and there isn’t much to be had. Never mind, one underground bar and several jager bombs later and things are moving on nicely. Marianne appears to lose the ability to speak properly while defending herself on unsubstantiated charges of ‘ball-cupping’ during randori, while Rebecca loses the ability to speak at all. Catharina is waking lyrical, probably about the joys of bear-baiting, while Rob appears to be persuading Matt and Kane of the wonders of coal. Chris is winding Max up about something liberal and Dave and Anna disappear suspiciously early. The evening ends when Kane and Jamie decide to re-enact their semi legendary piggy back race for the one mile back to the hotel with semi-willing volunteers to act as ‘piggy’.

Strangely Nietzscherian for a pair of Guardian reading liberals

By now a familiar pattern of fun skiing and hard judo, all washed up with a long spa session has been established. But with the sheer level of physical exertion, things can’t go right forever. BJJ sparing is in full flow when something goes wrong. Performing an otherwise innocuous turn over on Rebecca, Max accidentally dislodges her knee cap, resulting in a very painful, and frankly scary looking injury. Fortunately, Jafar is on hand with his extensive first-aid expertise, and calming demeanor. Polish paramedics arrive and Rebecca is on her way to hospital. Several hours and one pair of crutches later, she is back at the Palace alive and well, although skiing, and rather more crucially, showering, are out of the question for the rest of the holiday. Rebecca displays an admirable stoicism, especially considering that an absence in lifts and cars lead to her being carried in shifts by the judo boys.

Also off the agenda is dancing, which is a shame as on Friday night the CUJC take over a local dance floor for a lamentable display of shape throwing. This followed a now traditional trip to a Polish meat restaurant. Five judo boys elect to have a mixed grill intended for seven people. The waiter looks skeptical. What does he know? Jamie’s eating leadership takes a decidedly dictatorial flavor as he allocates ‘work’ in order to ensure that the meat smorgasbord is consumed. Matt can’t take anymore and leave the aforementioned glutton, Dave and Max to finish up the fattiest sausages known to man. More fool him, as an over exuberant dance with Catharina leads to him sustaining a nasty elbow injury on the solid rock Polish dance floor. Over dinner it emerges that when Judo couple, Dave and Anna, went to visit her parents over Christmas, Dave was forced by Anna’s Father (a PT) to undergo a grueling circuit before dinner. Dave was doing splendidly up until the dinner itself, when he promptly threw-up at the table. One more pork-fat sausage and there may be a repeat performance.

Gentlemen of Cambridge

Towards the end of the week things finally start to take a more relaxed tone. Kane, fresh off an ice-mountaineering holiday in Switzerland before heading to Poland, finally appears to have reached exhaustion point and spends nearly an entire day asleep. Following his lead, most choose a relaxing day, Catharina heads for the shops, Rob and Max look to swap massage notes with a local Thai practitioner (don’t ask) and everybody else enjoys an easy day in Zakopane. Making up for lost time, Kane, Dave and Jamie head to a gym for a boxing sparing session, before joining the rest for a final judo session. A last night on the beers affords some time for reflection. It’s been an eventful week for the club, some good judo, bad injuries, lamentable drinking, passable skiing, un-passable snow-boarding and all around good times. If we can just find a another hotel in a ski resort that has a spa and a fully laid dojo for twelve pounds a night, we could be on again for next year. Silly hats optional.