Home > Judo, Life > How Did I Become a 29 Year-Old Green Belt?

How Did I Become a 29 Year-Old Green Belt?

I love judo. Like, seriously love judo. At times, it feels a little like I’m in an abusive relationship with the sport, but being both the descendant Irish Catholic stock and of Eastern European Jews, I’m really the most happy when I’m suffering miserably. (Is there really any other way to suffer though?) In a way, judo feels as much of my heritage  as my parents’ religious and ethnic culture.

My family first lived in Southwest Philly, where my brother, at age six, got beat up by older kids basically everyday. Each time, he would run home crying to my parents. While my parents did not think it was very cool of the neighborhood kids to beat up my brother everyday, they also did not think my brother’s go-to plan of running home crying was effective. So after some research, my dad enrolled my brother in the kids’ judo program at the YMCA in Lansdowne. After watching the first few of my brother’s classes, my dad decided that he did not want to one day have a mouthy teenage son who could smash him.  (Don’t judge; keep in mind that we were living in Southwest Philly where my dad was born and raised). This prompted my father to enroll in the adult judo program at the Y.  I was taking kids’ gymnastics at the Y and would stick around to watch my dad and brother. I felt ripped off. Yes, somersaults and cartwheels are fun. But smashing people seem like a superior form of fun. I wanted to take judo, too. However, being four years old, I had to patiently wait until I was six. Do you know what two years are like for a four year-old? Two years is an unfathomable measure of time. I made it through, though.

I loved judo from the start. Being on the mat felt natural. I loved all the people my family met and we developed into a little judo family, which exists to this day. I loved competing. I must note, though, that I loved competing because I loved winning. So three or four years into my practice, when I fought in some tournaments where I did NOT win, I started to hate judo. Like, seriously hate judo. At first, I was angry. My anger, of course, prevented me from learning from my mistakes. So I stopped progressing. So I kept losing. My anger then turned into insecurity and anxiety and I lost all the confidence I gained from judo. At about age 10, I decided I’d peaked and my judo career was over. The only sensible thing to do was to bow out before I disgraced myself any further. In my mind, I was done with judo.

Fast forward to March 2006. I was living in Athens, Georgia at the time, but I had to go home to PA suddenly because my mom died. After a 13 hour car ride where I spent most of my time feeling stunned and worrying about my dad, I stepped through my front door and felt relief. Why? I saw my dad was surrounded by our judo family. After a twenty year friendship, I knew they knew how to take care of him. In a way, I felt like I was six all over again, with multiple moms, dads, brothers, and sisters all around me. It felt right. About a week later, I went with my dad the the Liberty Bell Judo Classic. Seeing all the competitors warming-up brought back that feeling of terror and excitement. I was in awe of all the great athletes getting ready to fight. I realized I missed judo. I need to start practice again, immediately.

However, when I got back to Georgia, I couldn’t find any judo programs that were remotely close by. So I had to wait again. A few years later, I finally moved back up to PA. In March of 2010 when I was 28, I had my first practice with the Philadelphia Judo Club. I was nervous about starting again, but once I was there, I was so happy and so excited. I couldn’t believe I’d left judo for so many years.  I started going to practice one day a week. Then by June, I was at the club every day except Wednesday and Saturday, but that was only because there were no classes. I didn’t really see it happening, but judo took over. I felt like myself again.

Around the  same time that I made this amazing rediscovery, I also started a master’s degree in social work.  I had been told that grad school would dominate every facet of my life, but I have a delusional sense of self which allows me to believe that I can do everything all the time all at once without ever having to compromise. So when my fall semester started, I “cut back” my training by going to practice four days a week instead of five. My mid-term paper grades, however, brought to light that I was an idiot. I realized that I could not go to practice four times a week while taking four classes and spending three days a week at a stressful internship. So this past year has been rough because I feel so incomplete going to practice only once or twice a week because sometimes judo is all I can think about.  But it’s summer break! So now I can go to judo all of the time until the first week of September. Of course, I jumped in too soon and too hard and ended up injuring myself, but maybe I’ll learn from my mistake this time. I am hoping that the desire to bounce back from mistakes is the advantage of being a 29 year-old green belt. As a ten year-old orange belt, I never considered such a radical concept.

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Categories: Judo, Life
  1. Miles
    May 23, 2011 at 16:09

    In my opinion, there are very few people who should have blogs. You are definitely one of them. If blogs were fedoras, you’d totally be Indiana Jones.

  2. jesse
    May 23, 2011 at 16:52

    you can still write, that’s for sure. The first half of this made your new obsession – which, like all obsessions, is intrinsically personal and therefore hard for others to take interest in – suddenly very interesting. I had no idea. Great use of blog. I hope you stick to it better than i ever managed to.

    • May 24, 2011 at 00:01

      Jesse, without you, I wouldn’t have been able to become a better writer. It was nice having an editor in my youth.

  3. Ali B.
    May 23, 2011 at 23:54

    “I am hoping that the desire to bounce back from mistakes is the advantage of being a 29 year-old green belt.”

    figure I can apply this to my life as well…just the desire to bounce back, now that we are older and wiser.
    I am excited to keep reading these Lori.
    I was going to start a blog, “I’m not yelling, I’m from the East Coast”

  1. March 4, 2013 at 22:08

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