A Judo Seminar

Today (11/18/23) a friend hired me to take pictures of the self defense seminar held at his dojo (as in he owns the dojo). He also wanted pictures of the judo seminar held earlier today and was OK with me juggling photography and learning about judo from the guest sensei (instructor). I initially thought, “Good – my camera will be the perfect excuse for me to stay safe and comfortable.”

I was scared.

No, make that terrified. I’d seen judo throws before and no way was I gonna allow that sort of thing to happen to my over-fifty-year-old body. Best leave it to the youngsters, I thought.

My perspective shifted a little when someone walked in with a pad that had to be at least a foot thick. When asked about it, she explained, “It’s for bouldering. Rock climbing. You put it down over things so that if you fall you won’t die.”

I had to laugh. I quipped, “Well now I’m not afraid of Judo anymore. I should be scared of bouldering instead!”

With that shift in perspective I thought perhaps I would give Judo a try. After all, I could still use my camera as an “out” if I thought I couldn’t handle something. I admit I did use my camera as an “out” for somersaults and cartwheels. But not anything else. I gleefully threw myself into shrimping and other basic movements. Ground work wasn’t scary – I’ve done it before (click here and here).

I ended up paired with my friend the dojo sensei. This was perfect because anytime he needed to check on something or do something I’d grab my camera and photograph the guest instructor and/or the seminar participants. I guess I’ve learned to juggle from being a mother. There was one occasion, though, when my friend was taking longer than usual and I’d already taken plenty of photos.

The guest sensei’s assistant came over to me. Participants had just begun the “scary” throws. I knew in that instant that even though I trust my friend I’d feel better about being thrown by someone who’s done it a thousand times. I told the young stranger that I needed to practice being a good uke (receiver of a technique) and requested he throw me.


I got up, looked him in the eyes, and said, “Again.”


“One more time. I just need to face this down, and I’ll be OK.”


“Thank you.”

By this time my friend came back and we went to work. I have to admit that being thrown also helped my fear of injuring my friend. I came to the realization that a modicum of fear was good and healthy. Fear made me mindful of the dangers involved. I tried to make sure I understood what to do and if I overlooked something I appreciated help and feedback. Fear provided fuel for respect – respect for the art of Judo, for the guest instructor, for my friend, and for myself. By shifting from terror to respect I shifted from a closed mind to an open mind.

I learned a lot about leverage and body mechanics. From time to time I drew parallels between kata (karate forms) and Judo. I will be thinking about throws more as I look at possibilities for bunkai (interpretation of forms). That’s all well and good, but more importantly, I learned about myself.

I’ve blogged before about being pushed outside my comfort zone. At least this time I didn’t vomit. I didn’t even feel nausea. Does that mean Judo wasn’t as scary as all those other times? I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sure the prospect of being thrown like a rag doll freaked me out more than anything else to date.

In my series, “More Betterer,” I speculated what being a Shodan (1st degree “black belt”) would mean for me. I listed some of my “inner demons” in Part III. Fear was number 5 on my list. I quoted an online acquaintance:

“The bad news is, you’ll probably be facing those demons for most, if not all, of your time in the martial arts. The good news is, they get smaller (or maybe you get “bigger?”) the further you go.”

Clifton Bullard

    My fear of Judo was a pretty big inner demon, but I’m bigger” now. I’ve had almost eight more years of practice facing down fear. I was pushed so far out of my comfort zone today that I’m certain I grew in many ways. I’ll be discovering those areas of growth for a good long while I’m sure.

    And… I had a lot of fun.

    Wait, what?

    Yes, fun. I had a big grin on my face most of the time. I thoroughly enjoyed solving puzzles with my body. I always enjoy cross training and today was no exception even though initially I was thinking about sitting this one out. My body might not agree with me tomorrow morning, but I had fun. And really, if this stuff isn’t fun, would it make sense to stick with a “strange little hobby of acquiring bruises for funsies” (as Jackie Bradbury puts it)?

    Author: Joelle White

    I began training in Karate in June of 2014 after a 27 year hiatus.

    2 thoughts on “A Judo Seminar”

      1. Thanks, Ando! There’s so much to unpack from this, and I’m so very glad I took the plunge, or the fall, as the case may be 🙂

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