- Six countries represented.
- Over 500 competitors.
- 65 coaches and coaches-in-training attending 16 hours of on-the-mat, classroom and practicum education
- Four mat areas of clinic taught by clinicians aged 16 to 73, from three countries.
After four days of clinics and competition, a week of visitors from around the globe where that leaves me personally is with 20+ papers to grade, 181 unanswered email messages and a voice mailbox that is full.
It was all worth it, though. The photo above, of Crystal Butts showing how left harai goshi should be done, was one of many, many amazing displays of judo during the tournament. This blog is part of my behind-schedule-life at the moment. Over the next few days, I will post more about the tournament and maybe even in an organized fashion- as we learned from Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium - anything is possible.
One of the highlights of the tournament for me was watching the Japan versus U.S. Team match. I know that some were expecting it to be an all-out wipeout of the U.S. in the first thirty seconds of every round. After all, this was the #5 high school team in Japan versus some guys from L.A. Aaron Kunihiro tied the first match. The third match, Ross Nakamura threw his opponent for a yuko and was ahead until getting thrown in the last four seconds. The next match, Gary Zakarian threw his opponent for ippon. In the last match of the team competition, Kai Ishisaka also threw his opponent for ippon. The Taisei High School team was very good and they did end up winning the team competition. However, the really important point to me is that in similar matches I have seen, all of the American players went out expecting to lose to the Japanese. In this case, they did not. Some of them went out with every intention of winning.
A second highlight of the tournament was seeing the young women and girls line up to fight Kayla Harrison and Ronda. In other tournaments, players would cut weight for hours to keepfrom fighting someone who is a top competitor. I have always noticed this difference about USJA clubs and tournaments, and it is a GOOD difference. More than others, they emphasize not being afraid to try over results. Rather than hearing people say,
Oh,no, I have to fight Ronda
There were several players I overheard say,
I get to fight Kayla and Ronda
Kayla and Ronda each took a line-up of four players in a row. The youngest was Sarah Crosby, a 13-year-old who fights 63 kg. She didn't win, but she didn't give up, either. As I told Sarah's coach, the first step is not being afraid to go out and take on players like Ronda. After you have done it a few times and realize you didn't die, you start to think you can beat them. Thinking you can beat them is the second step. Crystal certainly thought she could beat Kayla Harrison. She almost did, too. Four minutes into the match, Kayla went for sumi gaeshi and Crystal went for ko soto gari. The match was called for Crystal but then they changed the ippon for Kayla. The point, though, as Kayla said afterward with real respect,
"That girl is so young and she isn't afraid of anything."
Speaking of Ronda (even though we weren't) she had some beautiful throws in the tournament. I'll see if I can find some pictures and post them.
Ronda is in Japan right now at the Kano Cup. So, if you are Catholic, say prayers and light a candle for her. If you are atheist, bite the head off a chicken and mutter or whatever it is that atheists do instead of pray.