My introduction to judo came when I was about 10 years old. I had just started middle school and had joined the school’s wrestling team. I had also just “lost” one of my best friends from elementary school, meaning that he decided to attend a different middle school than me. However, because our parents still lived so close together, we were still able to see each other from time to time and I mentioned that I had started wrestling. After hearing this, he told me I should think about starting judo too. I knew he had done judo for a couple years and that his dad owned a “club” (I didn’t even think to call it a dojo at that point) but I didn’t know much else. My friend told me that judo would make me an even better wrestler and, more importantly, it would allow us to hang out more often; I was totally convinced.

Judo accomplished exactly what my friend promised – I was able to see him more often and it made me a better wrestler. Being a better wrestler was important to me since it was a school-sponsored sport. This meant that if you were good at wrestling, more people in your day-to-day life (e.g. other students) had a certain respect for you. I also really enjoyed how a gym would erupt with “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” after I threw someone in a wrestling match. This admittedly shallow appreciation for judo did not mean, however, that I did not reap other benefits from judo as a kid. The discipline and respect for others that one learns from judo was unrivaled by any other experience I had to that point, and certainly helped me excel academically as well as in my other school-sponsored sports (football, track, and wrestling).

At one point in high school, for whatever reason I thought was good at the time, I decided to stop practicing judo and was not able to return to judo until a couple years after graduating from college. I don’t know exactly how heavy I was but based on my appearance I’m certain that I was the heaviest weight I’ve ever been in my life. I was unhappy with how I looked and felt and knew that I needed to make a change quickly. As if by fate, a well-placed flier in my apartment complex guided me back into the judo dojo. To my surprise, I had held onto a fair amount of my childhood judo knowledge, even if I couldn’t quite execute everything because of my conditioning. Through consistent attendance at practice though, I was able to improve my techniques and conditioning and even improve upon where I was before I quit judo when I was younger.

As an “adult” (or whatever society calls 25-year-olds these days) I feel like I have more of an appreciation for judo as an art, as opposed to a sport (which is how I thought of judo when I was younger). What I mean by this is that when I was younger, as mentioned earlier, my appreciation for judo was shallow. I wanted to become stronger and learn throws so I could excel in other sports and impress people at school. Now that I’ve outgrown the need to impress people I hardly know, my motivation for judo is much more self-inspired. I’m more interested now in improving small aspects of my techniques so I can execute them “cleanly” (meaning with the least amount of effort possible, as judo was first-intended), rather than trying to use judo to become good at something else. Making those small improvements in my technique and perfecting my “art” gives me a sense of accomplishment and is what compels me to keep stepping back on the mat.