Ciara Gildea – Why I do Judo
Hi there. My name is Ciara Gildea and I am a second year Chemistry with Forensic Science student. Like the three previous entries, I only began Judo in September of my first year.
I was not a sporty girl growing up. I was the one they put in minor positions for P.E., you stand there and block things, essentially. So I focussed more on artsy and academic pursuits, at least there I couldn’t accidentally run into a wall after a misjudged corner in rounders (a genuine event and not as far back in my past as I am willing to admit.) I did attempt Taekwondo to help my sister settle in her class but I got soundly beaten up by a fellow, slightly larger eleven year old in full sight of my father who had come to collect us. I didn’t go to a second class. I threw myself instead into piano grades and stage performances.
Around came college and the motivation to try something new, to finally get into a sport. I wanted to give a martial art another go, partly because I associated them with self-defence. I only barely break 5 foot and could just about lift my school bag; I wasn’t the most frightening thing out there. I was coaxed on Clubs Day to “throw myself into something new” and join judo. With my one vague memory of taekwondo as my only guide, I went to the Maradyke for my first judo session.
And I loved it. As it was first class of term, it was relatively light so as not to “frighten away” newbies like me and to settle the more experienced judoka (person who does judo) after a summer of intermittent trainings. We did practise some of the more basic throws and got to throw each other (gently and onto soft crash mats) at the end. Nothing feels like your first successful throw. Temporary weight on you, you move and the weight is gone, replaced by the satisfying sound of your partner safely breakfalling on the crash mat, flat on their back. While judo does enable you to throw people bigger than yourself (and being the size I am that means most people) there is also the wonderful feeling of being able to practise with someone your size which I am very fortunately able to do. Not to mention so many amazing people who help me improve my techniques, both attacking and defending. People who have turned from strangers to friends to lovably weird pseudo family.
I achieved two things that year that proved to me that all my trainings were beginning to come to fruition: my yellow belt and a bronze medal in the <52kg women’s category from our Intervarsities held here in UCC. Getting my yellow belt gave me a chance to mix my old hobbies with my new one. It’s a performance with an audience of one, a dance where each step is choreographed. My cues came now from myself and my partner instead of a director. I responded to “Ma-te” rather than “Cut.” My technical movements changed from wrist height and elbow distance to step length and straightened shoulders. It appealed to my inner perfectionist. My bronze medal however, showed me to apply my technical knowledge practically. Admittedly, things didn’t start too well for me as teams and belt categories came first and I was sat on and dragged around the mat by bigger girls by turn. But I persevered and won against another girl by holddown, finishing joint third with my fellow UCC judoka, Rosemine.
So yeah, I throw like a girl. Straight for a winning Ippon 😉