T Nation

A Judo Tale

A Man, A Plan, A Canal …

October 2004: 2005 is planned out for me. I’m going to compete at the US Judo Nationals and do better then I have any right to. I’m going to get my shodan ranking (black belt) in April. I’m going to solo the Long Trail in Vermont (270 miles). I’m going to get my PhD. I’m going to finish Durant’s “Story of Civilization”. I’m going to bring many things to a close and open many others up.

I had taken some time off of lifting. I had been doing 4-6 sessions of judo training a week. I had come back on lifting with a goal of hammering the Olympic lifts. I was starting to hammer them. It was all planned out. Through the end of the semester I would keep focusing on Olympic form with some build up in auxilliary exercises (snatch DL, front Sq, push press). Start working on tactical and strategic judo concerns. Get some more HIIT going to prepare for 5 minute rounds. It’s all planned out.

Keep working on the dissertation. Get the day-to-day teaching duties done. Keep reading Durant. Keep planning for the hike. Nationals is in April. After that, the summer is spread out in front of me – free and clear for hiking. A 70 mile solo to start the summer. Some group hiking in the middle. The Long Trail in September. How will I stay strong? No worries – strength comes in many forms and these trips aren’t meant to pack on muscle. These trips are meant to build strength in the face of uncertainty – in the face of the unknown about myself, about the environment, about my limits, about nature.

Finish the disseration. It must be done. The motivation is solely from myself. No one demands it of me. It is only there for the taking if I choose to take it. I must take it. I must focus. April would be great, but August if most likely. I will finish it in August and then disappear from the world for a spell. Come back from hiking and rebuild my strength. Restart judo with a new fire, a new

The best laid plans of men …

Saturday morning, October 31: Judo practice – nothing too serious today. Some kata (formal choreography) to warm up. Then many uchi-komi (repetitions) of fundamental techniques. A break. “Do you want to do some randori?” Randori is free practice – essentially a wrestling match from standing. “Sure. Let’s keep it light.” Get a
grip. Turn and throw. Too far away. Didn’t break his balance. Getting countered. No worries. Take a fall – get up and get it right. Relax and fall.

Relax and fall.

Something’s wrong. I’m falling. But something’s wrong. Something with my leg. A glance at the leg. That’s not right. More pressure …

More pressure…



I’m down. Pain – severe pain. “What happened?” My partner spoke, “this is bad. I heard a loud pop.” Others heard it too. The pain is severe. “Get him off the mat.” I gasp, “take me to the couch.”


My fibula was broken at the gap between the talus and tibia. Of course that’s where it would break! That’s the weakest spot – it’s unsupported. Of course, it took hours at the ER to find that out. But I knew. My ankles and I have … have had issues. I know my
ankles. And this wasn’t a sprain. It was a low break on the fibula, right on the borderline of surgery. Fast forward a few days. The specialist says that surgery will likely yield a better reduction.

Call my father, a retired physician. He is always my counsel. We discuss. Do the surgery. Crutches for 2 months. Walking cast 1 month. Hell for 4 days. Most likely, a metal plate and screws for life.

Physical Aftermath

First week of November: The first days are a drug induced stupor to deal with pain … and the pain still wins. I drop the drugs because I can barely remember shit. I can’t think – it’s all incoherent. So, I drop the vicodin and I drop the oxycontin. I get on with life. The pain is back. Deal. It is life. It reminds me that I’m alive
and that I’ve got things to do. Things to do like teach a college programming course from a chair. I can’t move around … I can’t provide the students with energy that makes the class “work”. Must compensate. Get the students active. Make them feed each other. Motivate them somehow. Don’t worry about control.

I must do something … even if I can’t walk … circuits in my office (push up, lying rows to a table, crunches, supermen) finally burn off some excess energe. I’m finally tired … I get the grime off with a bath. “It’s good to be alive,” I mutter and then I chuckle. If I can say that, I’m back on the path.

But I can’t keep it up at home. Except for the CoC (Captain of Crush). “T” is a good workout. “1” is beyond me. Keep working. Must do something. Can’t deal otherwise. Move the goals. Slam
through Durant like a torando. Finish last book and a half by Christmas. Keep working the pushups. Always had a weak upper body. Always needed a stronger grip. Keep working it. Keep working it. Louder music. Keep the motivation. Work the shoulders. Rehab the nagging rotator cuff. Make progress where I can and when I can.

Lose the motivation. Same exercises. Want to get strong. Can’t do it here. I need weight not reps. Son of bitch. This sucks. Whine. Moan. Groan. Gotta get to the gym. Gym on crutches? Could do. I don’t. I am weak.

December 21. Lose the cruthes; Get the motivation. Rehab the ankle. Pumps and circles. Circles and pumps. Good grief. No motion at all. Ankle is frozen. Gotta keep going or the Olympic lifts will never come back. Pumps and circles. My back is out of kilter from the crutches and the cam walker. If only I could deadlift, it would get better. Regardsless, gotta work it, gotta use it. Get it back. Get it strong. Keep going. Keep working.

Mental Aftermath

Why me? What did I do? Whine. Whine. Stupid partner. Stupid mat. Stupid teacher. Stupid school. Stupid art. What the hell? What the fuck? Why me?

Indeed. Stupid me. It was my choice to be on the mat. My choice to work hard. My choice to randori. My failure in the technique.

I wouldn’t love it if there wasn’t risk. It would be a risk without pain. The pain makes it real. The pain makes it worthwhile. There was a fear of the idea of pain. Now there is a fear of the pain itself. The pain has been realized and must be faced. That bridge will be crossed in April. When I start back to judo. When I wanted
to take on nationals … and bounce. Instead I’ll be facing fear of pain that has been realized. It must be overcome. Keep working. Keep going. One who has died should not fear death. I should be stronger, not weaker; mentally tough, not fearful.

Phoenix Reborn

January 5. In the cam walker and at the gym. Lost some strength from an already weak upper body. Keep some strength from the crutches. Can’t work legs, not just yet. Work the upperbody. Work it in all three planes … up, down, and horizontal. Push and pull. All three. Every workout. Overtraining? Fuck it. Get a little crazy. Mix up the training method. Superset push and pull. One plane explosive, one plane maximum, one plane repetition/recovery. It’s simple jackass. Work harder. Rotate the variables. Work even harder. Get some balance. I’m now hitting multiple sets of 3 with the CoC “1” in both hands. Almost got “2” closed reliably in the right hand. Make progress. I am working. I am moving.

And Time Passes

February 16. I buried the boot on January 27. I started Sumo DLing from a rack and PL squatting (both of which have minimal ankle bend) almost immediately. I doubt my doc would have approved. But that’s ok. I don’t really mind. Some of those near and dear to me are quite happy with the improvement in my arms and chest. My whole upper body responded quite nicely to getting the hell beat out of it during January.

Of course, now I have to get my legs in gear. I was able to hit some Fr squats today (Wednesday) but the gremlins were out. I scraped my hand across the rack while moving a bench and I tried to scalp my pinkie. But no worries, a tetanus shot later, and I’m good to go (on Friday). I’ve also worked the hell out of my P-chain – like many of us, I need the work and it doesn’t stress the ankle. I’m moving forward – and I even has some momentum.

A Man, A Plan, …

I’ll still be able to hike this summer. Skiing is out for the winter. I had given up on getting my black belt this spring, but my instructor called and told me to hit the books and prepare for the written test when I come back. Judo nationals is most likely out, but I’m not willing to concede yet. But there are other new goals. I’ve still
got the dissertation to finish. I have specific weight/rep goals in the big exercises that I’ll write up some time. Speaking of writing, I’d like to spend some time writing about judo. An enforced vacation for the body really gets the brain involved. I would love to help develop and spread the art. There’s still plenty to do, and there’s
still plenty of me to do it. Time to get moving.


P.S. This was composed over several sessions and many weeks. Sorry if some of it doesn’t flow so well. But please, enjoy!

Hey, thanks for the tale. Very inspirational, and perhaps a blessing in disguise I am guessing?

[quote]BradS wrote:
Hey, thanks for the tale. Very inspirational, and perhaps a blessing in disguise I am guessing?[/quote]

Glad you enjoyed it. It is probably not so much a “blessing in disguise” as a “silver lining” … it still sucks overall, but there is good to be found.


Hey, great to see another judoka / PhD student around here!

Here’s my recap:

Two weeks ago I had a nasty fall while skiing. Nothing broken, just a huge bloody hematoma alongside my right gluteus / hamstring. Was hurting so much that I was unable to sit down or walk.

Last weekend I attended a national judo tournament because I’ve been prepearing for some months now and I didn’t want to miss it. When asked how do I plan to compete with my leg bandaged and in severe pain, I replied that obviously I’ll have to avoid being thrown :slight_smile:

Madness or idiocy? Don’t know. When I started my first round fight, a thought flashed through my head: “Why the f*ck am I doing this? Do I really need to get even more injured?” Tough question which I have been asking myself the entire training career.

Anyway, that first fight was a showcase why judo is such a great art. I threw a black belt (I’m a brown belt) with a perfectly timed sweep in a counter-counter attack when I caught my opponent off balance. I was feeling ecstatic.

After that, I progressed to the semifinals when I was reminded why judo was not such a great art :slight_smile: I was caught in a disadvanteguous guard and my opponet used an opportunity to slam me into the mat with a ippon-seionage.

It took me one whole minute to recover sufficiently to stand up (naturally, I aggravated my skiing injury)

However, I managed to win the bronze medal in the next fight with a uchi mata throw for ippon.

Anyway, the point is that while I’m staying at home waiting to recover (and lifting weights) I can hardly wait for the next training session and even the next tournament :slight_smile:

And that for me is the essence of being a judoka.