Last Saturday, my team and I went to International School Manila to join the judo invitational competition that the said school hosted. We assembled as a team in front of McDonald’s Katipunan at around 5:15 in the morning and after our coach said some words, we headed off to ISM. It was really chill for all of us at that time as we didn’t feel any pressure joining into the competition because as our Coach Ali said to us, “Guys, just have fun and make this a learning experience for all of you.” We made it past the entrance gate being guarded by really strict security officers and after climbing 4 floors from the parking, (which looks really similar to a mall’s carpark building) we were in the High School Gym.
For those who are not familiar with Judo, it is a martial art that originated from Japan and it involves throwing and/or making them submit to you on the ground with a joint lock or a choke or pinning them on the ground with their backs flat on the mats for 25 seconds. Despite its translation as “The Gentle Way,” it is quite nerve-racking to see an actual match as judokas give it all on the mats in order to win and it can’t be avoided that people get hurt in the process. Judo is a sport that is played in the UAAP and my team, The Ateneo Judo Association or AJA as it’s known in the Judo world in the country is the official student body that represents the Ateneo in the UAAP.
Going back into the competition, it is a one-day event with divisions depending on the age of the participants. The divisions are as follows; Kids, Cadets, High School and Juniors, those who are aged 19 and below. AJA entered participants into the HS and Juniors division where I myself also joined. Prior to the start of the matches, people from all the different clubs and us were waiting for one thing: the official weigh-in. Because people went to ISM at an early time and to avoid having weigh-in problems, judokas usually don’t eat breakfast and even drinking is something to be avoided. Because of this, judokas early in the morning are usually grumpy, out of energy, restless and impatient. Competitors are really quiet and most are seen sleeping on chairs or on the floor. Lucky for us, we got a spot where a mat gymnastics mat was present so we had a place to sleep. It can be a really risky move to talk to a judoka because of his or her hunger so don’t be surprised if he or she acts like an ass.
After everyone had their weights checked-in, people rushed to restaurants or in our case, the cafeteria, to grab breakfast. This is the moment in a competition when you’d see judokas as really happy and ecstatic because after all the diets and weight management to prepare for the competition, they can eat as many meals as they like. In my case, I ate pork adobo and cheesedogs with a “waffle egg,” which is more commonly known in the streets as Kwek-Kwek, and 2 cups of garlic rice. (We were in ISM and in this place where sons and daughters of diplomats and foreigners ruled, things in the campus were really “sosyal.”) I ate that much despite the expensiveness of the food because I was just too hungry to even worry about going bankrupt.
At around 10:45 am, the matches officially started and the competition started with the kids and cadets divisions. The young judokas gave everything they had in them and the spectators, which were made up of other judokas and parents of the competitors, screamed at the top of their lungs to support the players. From time to time also, people also reacted in unison because someone threw his or her opponent in a really badass way. Also, teammates of the participants can be seen rooting heavily for their teammate by cheering and screaming to let them know that they are there to support him or her.
Based on how the people supported the competitors and from my point-of-view as a judoka and a participant in the said event, they all knew how hard these guys trained and pushed themselves beyond their physical limitations in order to prepare for their matches and of course, these guys all want one thing; a gold medal, and they need all the support they can get in order for them to achieve what they’ve been working really hard for. These competitors sacrificed so much time and energy, spending extended hours after school in the dojo and coming home late, getting thrown to the mats and feeling pain, going to the gym to carry heavy weights and a lot more; these guys have put in their lives to judo and winning is one of the best feelings any athlete can experience.
After a really long day and after all the matches were over, everyone went home having smiles on their faces because everyone gave it their all. As people would say, “Winning is just a bonus, giving your all is the more important thing” mentality was carried by all the judokas. Medals were awarded to the athletes who stood out from the others and they truly deserve the respect that they earned. AJA went home with much pride and honor as a lot of our competitors won medals. Three of our three participants from the Women’s Team won gold in their divisions and most from the Men’s team “brought home the bacon” as they say.
As a bonus, I also won a bronze medal, my first one as a judoka! Hihihi! :>
Carlo Martel C. Agustin