Judo Exchange 2011

This year’s exchange kicked off fairly slowly, with the Germans arriving in Cambridge at 9am on Saturday. They hadn’t slept for 24 hours, and I believe there was beer involved somewhere. Nevertheless after some mugs of English tea had been shoved down their necks, and they’d had a slow tour of Emmanuel College, they were up and ready for the weeks first judo session. Afterwards we descended on Archie’s house with the recently arrive Finnish contingent, and made our first dent in the week’s £500 stock of beer. The Germans dropped away quickly, but the Finns drank into the early hours. Regrettably in all the confusion, a large thistle/weed was damaged in Archie’s garden. It was a portent of things to come.

Everyone loves nage-waza

It had been decided to hold the week’s judo sessions before noon, on the basis that a morning in bed is a morning wasted. So Sunday saw an early rise for training. Nick took most of the sessions, with German Max and Finnish Marcus taking one apiece. Post-training we took advantage of the Mediterranean-like weather to take our guests punting. Lamentably it turns out that judo ability does not translate well into punting ability – it’s a good job that everyone could swim. On the other hand, Timo demonstrated some excellent bridge-climbing talents. That evening we took over the basement of a local karaoke/Chinese-food establishment. Top marks go to Archie for his tenor vocals.

Punting in Mediterranean conditions

On Monday it was decided that the previous two days had been too healthy by far. Luckily Britain has a cure for this, in the form of fish & chips. Having eaten our fill of cholesterol, it was time to teach our guests how to play cricket. Initially bowling actions ranged from interesting to just plain dangerous, with no hint of legality in between. By the end, some had gotten the hang of medium pace seam. I think we’ll leave leg spin until next time. That evening we hit some of Cambridge’s finest free houses, in a determined effort to get all of our guests drinking English ale by the end of the trip.

Tuesday saw the inevitable English rain come to Cambridge. Thankfully it was of the spectacular storm variety, rather than the miserable all-day downpour type. This provided a perfect opportunity to treat our guests’ sauna-withdrawal symptoms, with a trip to a local spa. That evening we had a second barbeque (rain had just about cleared up), followed by a private booking of Cambridge’s finest whisky bar, complete with its own twister set. It turns out that Twister doesn’t exist in Europe. It also turns out that top-level judo players are extremely good at Twister. A few Finns came out that evening wearing leopard-skin leotards – this seemed oddly appropriate.

One happy coach

It was decreed that a rest day from judo was required, so on Wednesday we took our hired bikes and cycled to Ely. However club coach Nick decided that “rest from judo” did not mean “rest from exertion”, and therefore planned a suitable arduous route. Ignoring the paved national cycle route from Cambridge to Ely, he instead led us on a rough but scenic footpath along the river. Much saddle-soreness resulted. As the owner of one of the few mountain bikes in the group, the author was secretly pleased that the route allowed him to keep pace.

By Thursday the week’s activities were starting to take their toll, and that afternoon after training we enjoyed some much needed free time. The sensible ones spent this sleeping in preparation for that evening’s tour of the Milton Brewery. The tour was superb. For £20 we got beer-food (pork pies, pasties, etc), all the ale we could drink in three hours, and an in depth talk on the beer making process. By this stage of the trip, all but a few of the guests had developed a taste for ale, so the evening was a resounding success. Afterwards a few hardy souls went to the Fez Club. This turned out to be a mistake, as the club was hosting what I believe is termed a “rave”. Music too loud to even shout over was killing our spirits, until we managed to take over a mattressed area in the corner. Ne-waza inevitable followed, until the author was knocked out by a strangle. My companions didn’t even notice.

More free time was enjoyed on Friday morning, before the week’s last training session. This was pencilled in as a mammoth four hour effort, but Nick made sure the intensity stayed suitably low, and the emphasis was on technique. With training over, some of the group went to dine in a traditional English curry house, before we all headed to the Graduate Union for a farewell party. Things started slowly that evening, but the traditional boat race (won by Cambridge) and the introduction of face/body paint ensured that by 10:30 things were getting messy. Clothes were removed, and lamentable dancing and limboing ensued. By midnight we were forced to leave the Union, and naturally headed to Kambar – Cambridge’s premier nightclub. End-of-trip adrenaline kept us going as we danced the night away through the early hours.

Body paint is a great icebreaker

All in all, the exchange was a great success. Bring on Marburg 2012.

Rob Blackburn – President