My kids participated in a judo tournament in Mill Bay last weekend.
The more judo tournaments I attend, the more I like. We’ve been to a couple in Nanaimo, we’ve hosted two at our club, and we even went to one in Victoria last year.
The Mill Bay tournament, though, seemed a different premise right from the start. As a kid I hung around Mill Bay, though it was very small then. I wondered, therefore, where the judo club might be? We were told there would be only one mat. We were also given the impression that everyone really liked going to the Mill Bay Tournament.
Two hours south of home, we pulled off the busy highway onto a country lane less than a kilometre long. We parked on the side, then walked back to a building reminiscent of a small barn. We approached the open door that led in from the south end.
Reaching the stairs, I was immediately impressed. Looking up from a clipboard, a kid in his late teens asked us who we were and from what club. We answered, then entered. A man behind a desk asked us again who we were and from what club. “Just double checking,” he smiled.
We noticed that our kids’ matches had already been planned and posted on the bulletin board.
When you come from out of town to attend a tournament, reassurance that you are in the right place – and that you are expected – is key. Now, we could find seats and relax.
The surprises didn’t stop coming, however. We walked up a few steps into a club unlike any I’d seen. The place was made entirely of wood. Although it had only one mat, it was spacious and comfortable. The spectators sat in dim light so familiar if you’ve been in a barn in daytime.
The matches got underway. During breaks in the action, you could look out the far window at a flowering maple tree.
My kids did alright: one silver and one bronze. This time, my younger got the silver. My older son fought four times – the most he’s ever done in a tournament. He lost two split decisions. He took them hard, but you’ve got to learn to lose. Of course, it’s easy for me to be philosophical: I wasn’t competing.
Overall, even my older son could tell he’d done pretty well. He’d earned his bronze medal and some valuable experience against more seasoned opponents.
The trip itself showcased some differences between the North Island (where I live now) and the South Island (where I lived from the mid-80s until the mid-90s). The Mill Bay judo club – all-wood, set beside a rich pasture of lush grass just off a major highway – echoes qualities typical of the South Island. The relaxed, comfortable wealth, set right beside bustle – it’s what I remember. Though it has its spots, the North Island’s more rugged.
Here’s a sensei from that club. He’s drawn from memory, like all my drawings from judo tournaments. Thanks, Mill Bay, for putting on a great tourney and having us all come.