Wednesday, 30 October 2013

32. Judo

Event: Judo
Date: 25th October 2013
Location: Colchester Judo Club 
Cost: Four free lessons. 
Rules:  Judo contests last for a maximum of five minutes with athletes attempting a combination of throws and holds to beat their opponent. It's fought on a tatami (mat) 8mx8m. Reflecting it's origins, much of judo's terminology is Japanese. The best score is Ippon, and other scores are for waza-ari, yuko and koka. At the start of each contest the athletes stand 4m apart facing each other on the mat. The referee gets the match underway by shouting 'Hajaine!' and stops it by shouting 'Matte!'.  

The Event:
Sarah: 17 (waza-ari 7 and ippon 10)
Ellie:    12 (waza-ari 7 and yuko 5) 

Sarah: I wasn't expecting too much from judo when we first went along, and came away from the first lesson firmly in the 'not a fan' camp. And the aching over the following two days was crazy! But, something happened over the next three lessons, and I found myself beginning to understand the sport and really get in to it. We built on our throws, falls, holds and strangles (really) each week and by the time the final match came around they all started to come together and make sense. Judo means 'the gentle way'..I'm not sure if I completely agree with that definition; the tactics and strength involved combine to make it a very physically intense sport, but one which I really began to enjoy. 
Ellie: Judo was our first attempt at a martial art and again it was another event that far exceeded our expectations. 'The Gentle Way' really stuck in my head as the meaning of the word Judo as it didn't feel very gentle after the first session. We had skinned fingers and toes and aches throughout our bodies. It was great learning the moves and the tactics - which are further reaching than you could possibly imagine as a spectator. I felt that once we were into the actual match my mind dissolved the tactics I'd learnt and I couldn't think of anything other than trying to stay upright! 

We were made to feel so welcome at Colchester Judo Club, and were so lucky to have some excellent coaching. We were majorly impressed by the dedication and strength of the players; many of whom have been practicing judo since they were small. The club has classes for all age groups, so if you're interested, their facebook page is here:   

Friday, 11 October 2013

31. Waterpolo

Event: Waterpolo
Date: 8th October 2013
Location: Chelmsford Swimming Club 
Cost: Two free sessions. 
Rules:  Waterpolo is a very physical team sport in which the players of each team try to score as many goals against the opposing team. There are seven players on each team, and games are played in four eight-minute quarters, with two minutes between each quarter. The pool has a minimum 2m depth, and players tread water for the whole game; not allowed to touch the sides or bottom of the pool. Each quarter starts with teams lined up on opposite goal lines; on the whistle the teams sprint towards the centre of the pool where the referee throws the ball in to the water. Players can only touch the ball with one hand, and can swim up to 1500m in one match!

The Event:

Sarah's Team (No Hats): 9
Ellie's Team (Hats): 3
London 2012 Winners: USA

Sarah: It's inevitable that we're going to encounter sports in this challenge that we're not as keen on as others. I wasn't a huge fan of trampolining, and I can now add waterpolo to the list. It's an incredible sport, but just not for me! The lessons we had with the club were really great; the warm ups and drills gave us such an insite to the sport. I'm a fairly confident swimmer, but found being out of my depth for so long quite disconcerting. I'm sure it's something that I would get used to the more I did it, but I found that I was concentrating so much on staying afloat that I couldn't get any power or speed behind my throws, and dropped nearly all of my catches! In our second lesson we had a glimpse of the physical contact involved in the sport.. be prepared for shoves and other players leaning on you to get to the ball! We had a short match at the end of our last lesson, and it was great to see how it's meant to be played (it's fair to say that Ellie and I didn't have too much impact on the goal scoring or defence!). One thing that really came through was how much fun the team appear to have, and how well they all work together. Also how much endurance is needed to play the sport; the speed of changing direction in the pool and the power with which the players lift themselves out of the water and hit the ball is really impressive.  
Ellie: What can I say about waterpolo? If someone asked me to describe the sport in three words I would probably say; demanding, exhausting and violent. Waterpolo makes list of most violent sports! Our training sessions weren't too bruising thankfully but they lasted around two hours and as per waterpolo rules, you're not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool. It's another sport that requires far more from the player that one imagines. The agility needed in the water is mad - you have to change directions so quickly and with such speed! Our training sessions were a little grueling but when I was eventually able to score goals or make good passes it was really satisfying. I was sent to mark Sarah during our game, and it became even clearer just what skills are on show by the other players. The ball was constantly at the opposite end to us as we struggled to get up and down the pool! The definite plus point alongside goal scoring - I got to wear a hat!

The players and coaches at Chelmsford Swimming Club were very patient and accommodating for us, so a big thank you to them! If you'd like to give waterpolo a try, have a look at their website:

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

30. Weightlifting

Event: Weightlifting
Date: 5th October 2013
Location: Hamiltons Fitness Centre, Colchester 
Cost: Three lessons; first free, then £7 per lesson. 
Rules:  The women's event first appeared in Sydney 2000. Weightlifting consists of two moves, completed in order. First the Snatch and then the Clean & Jerk. Each athlete can have three attempts at each movement, and their best performance in each are added together to give an overall score. The Snatch lift sees the athlete lift the barbell from the platform to locked arms overhead in a smooth continuous movement. The barbell is pulled as high as possible (typically to mid-chest) at which point it's flipped overhead. The Clean & Jerk consists of two movements; the Clean park sees the barbell lifted from the floor to a position across the chest. The Jerk involves lifting the weight above the head until the arms are straight and the bar is stationary.
The Event: 

London 2012 Olympic Gold:
Gold medal combined weights range from 205kg-333kg for the various weight disciplines.
Sarah: Combined weight lifted: 28kg  
Ellie: Combined weight lifted: 28kg  

Sarah: Whatever you do, don't look at the weights we lifted compared to the Olympic Gold weights. No, really, please don't look. I'd like to think that we're not as weak as those numbers make us look! We had no idea what to expect when it came to weightlifting, and went along to our first lesson feeling a bit nervous about stepping in to the unknown. We were quickly put at ease by our coach Tom, and had three brilliant lessons.  We were taught the techniques required for the lifts (including a spot of bench-pressing where Ellie pressed a whopping 30kg and I managed 25kg), and the movements were broken down and practiced in parts before putting everything together in our last lesson. I can honestly say that the achievement I felt when I did the Clean & Jerk was the most victorious so far during our challenge! We both loved our lessons and learning the disciplines of this event. I found that if I over-thought the moves; which I did regularly, then I would start getting nervous about the weight. It's best to just throw yourself in and attack the weight. Tom was full of facts, incite and knowledge that really broadened our understanding of the sport, including lots of stories featuring various dislocated body parts. I came away feeling that we've been given such a thorough introduction, and it's really changed my perception and understanding of weightlifting.         

Ellie: So, another event ticked off the list and this is one of the first were the feeling of accomplishment is lessened by the fact that I’ll really miss these training sessions. My impression of weightlifting really changed when we first started. Alongside the sheer power of the athletes, the balance and technique needed to compete is staggering; which is funny seeing as we staggered around a lot while trying to lift these weights! Our coach, Tom, was really enthusiastic and our sessions were amusing as well as energetic. Weightlifting certainly gets the gold medal for best erminology- snatch, jerk - brilliant. But seriously, these are skills that you must be spot on with as referees can disqualify competitors for small inaccuracies.
Clean & Jerk - my trouble started straight away. Although my upper body strength is good, if I say so myself, I have zero balance and the beginning position is a very low squat with both heels on the floor. I am totally unable to do this. However, we were able to get my bar started on higher blocks and so I didn't need to start so low down. The first and second movement brings the bar up to your chin and this is best as a swift, smooth motion keeping as close to the body as possible. Then it gets scary. You have to split your feet, one back and one forward, and use the momentum to get the bar above your head- without smashing your chin or nose. It's terrifying before you do it and then elating once it's done. 
Snatch - This is an even scarier method. It is one fluid motion from floor to above the head with a low dip in the middle to help propel the bar up. Again I couldn't manage the starting stance and also struggled with the dip but even using the training bar the sense of achievement when you stand with the bar held high is amazing!   

Huge thanks to Tom at Hamiltons for making the lessons so much fun. We'd really recommend their gym; especially for the massive tyres you can try to shift in the outdoor training area.