Monday, 2 May 2011

The Judo Challenge: The Everyman Olympian Charity Day

The day before The Judo Challenge I met up with Stuart at Camberley Judo Club for our final training session, this would be our last chance to size each other up, to hone our skills and devise our strategies. As Coach Skillcorn put us through our paces one thing became absolutely and unquestionably clear - we were both completely crap at Judo!

I think the pressure of the day ahead and the fact that we were attempting such a mammoth task on the back of so few hours in the dojo were taking their toll on us mentally - we were both thinking about the big day too much and this stopped us concentrating on all we had learnt.

Judo Central
The Everyman Olympian Charity Day

I arrived at Camberley Judo Club to find the place buzzing with activity; some of the girls had been busy baking cakes to sell for donations, a barbeque sat gleaming on the decking, and young judoka were already gathering on the mats for the training session they were about to receive from Sophie Johnstone - Team GB hopeful for the real Olympics.

Trust me these kids are streets ahead of yours truly
After the childrens technique session had finished they each took part in the Sponsored Throw Event; the older kids would do 20 throws in 45 seconds (how amazing is that!!), while the younger ones took turns to throw 'opponents' onto a crash mat - they all seemed to love it and managed to raise funds while they were having fun.

Youngsters eh? Just throw their money around!
Coach Skillcorn loves a bit of cooking so it was no surprise to see him providing lunch from the barbeque in the midday break. I stuck to pasta which I'd eaten earlier - it's all about the prep you know for us 'Olympians'.

The first adults session of the afternoon took part as the hot day reached its peak, we were melting in our thick gis and Coach Skillcorn wisely inserted water breaks between each exercise - though he didn't hold back, the session was full on.

After a tough session which included many training techniques, the sweaty group had a half hour break to cool down and catch our breath, outside my dad remarked, "last time me and your mother rolled around like that, we produced you".

With my ribs at 95% fixed I wanted to put them to the test before the fights - they didn't hold up very well but worse was yet to come...

Right from the outset Coach Skillcorn had been accomodating and helpful, and in fact he was the one that had come up with the concept of a charity day where we could benefit the club and adhere to my wish to base all challenges on the actual sports as they are played out at the Olympic Games.

Vince was also the one who'd convinced the lovely Stuart Baldwin to start a sport his son Oliver already enjoyed- just so that he could mirror my route to the event and fight me on the same terms in the final!

Here's how The Judo Challenge for The Everyman Olympics would actually work...
  • 5 Fights each for Stuart & myself
  • The Final (the 5th fight) to be fought against each other
  • 3 minute fights. Standard Judo scoring rules apply
By 3pm a crowd had gathered in the dojo (space had been cleared to allow spectators to be seated), as ref Coach Skillcorn announced the rules and the fights began...

Fight #1

Daniel vs The Everyman Olympian

I would start the competition off with a bout against Daniel, a Blue Belt in Brazillian Jujitso no less - I'd only just met the guy that day, he wouldn't be taking it easy...straight in at the deep end then.

Man against bearded boy
I got swung around till he found an opportunity to throw me - landing awkwardly on my left side I heard a crunch in my rib cage and feared the pain signalled the worst.

Needless to say I went on to lose the first bout in what may seem to Daniel as the easiest of wins. Slightly winded yet afraid of letting everyone down I gave Coach Skillcorn the nod that I would carry on.

Stuart vs Essa

England vs Finland as Stuart took on Essa - another newcomer to the sport, Essa had been on the mats for around the same ammount of time as us, though in truth we both felt Essa had taken to this like a duck to the wet stuff.

Essa (left) looks eager to get on the mat.
Essa used his strength to great Stuart retook his position on the sideline after the loss I can't say I was disappointed he'd had almost as bad a start as me (sorry mate).

Fight #2

Both of us fought Fraser Chamberlain, a double hard Judo Black Belt...he could probably have fought us both together but graciously took us on one at a time.

We BOTH managed to throw him! (I smelt unfair play but I wasn't about to acuse a black belt of anything).

I developed a new method of throwing for this one.
Fight #3

Matt Allen vs The Everyman Olympian

During my training sessions Matt (a Judo Yellow Belt) had often been a source of advice and guidance, today though we'd be enemies (well at least for 3 minutes).

Matt threw me with the consumate ease of a chap puttin his rubbish out for the bin man. But I managed to fight back...and somehow - don't ask me how - I actually won.

Coach Skillcorn confused us both for a sec by uttering something in Japanese
Stuart Balwin vs Stuart Brown

I'd come up against Stuart Brown during an earlier randori, he's as solid as a wall made by a British builder, I didn't fancy Balwin's chances.

Stuart put in a good fight against Stuart but in the end Stuart won...I'll let you guess which Stuart was the victor, but let's just say that my suspicions proved fairly acurate.

Fight #4

Oliver vs The Everyman Olympian

The crowd may have enjoyed the fact my opponent was of the slightly shorter variety but I'd seen Oliver do 20 throws in 45 seconds, and I was bricking it.

I too was thrown in record time.

Even the great fall you know.
Stuart vs Toby

Stuart gave an equally pint sized opponent a tougher test than myself but he too was dropped in a heap, much to the delight of audience.

The Final

Stuart Baldwin vs The Everyman Olympian

Earlier in the day we'd sized each other up like a couple of angry lads arguing over the last pint in the barrel...

Both shattered from the mix of the hard early afternoon training session, the sweltering heat and the speed of the competition we stepped up to the mat and bowed for one last battle.

Stuart opted for the fast and aggresive approach, while I banked on him burning up his low energy reserves which was a dangerous tactic and lead to him getting the first throw in - though I managed to redirect the flow of his throw and this would be prove a deciding factor.

Twice we hit the deck and had to be restarted - the second time Stuart opted for the defence of pinning himself face down on the mat and to be honest I didn't have the skill or the strength left to maneuver him.

With 15 seconds left on the clock we were again restarted, I hadn't a clue who was leading, all I knew was that inside I felt overjoyed...

We'd managed to raise over £1000 for charity, the club had put on an excellent show, Coach Skillcorn's teachings and effort to aid his beloved team and myself had been amazing throughout, Stuart was clearly loving a sport he'd promised himself to start a number of times (I genuinely feel this will be a life changing moment in the Baldwin household  - maybe not Hollywood-esque but definitely diffferent to before), I'd learned from a former National Champion and fought in front of actual Olympians - The Judo Challenge was already a massive success, regardless of the outcome of the final.

Wiery yet buzzing we saw out the last quarter of a minute with little on show in the way of skilful technique but when Vince called time we hugged and knew that we'd given this everything.

Then Coach Skillcorn put the icing on the cake when he raised his hand to indicate that I had claimed the victory!

Overwhelmed I thinked I hugged Mr Baldwin once more...The Judo Challenge Achieved.

All this and I've not even mentioned that between Stuart and my own bouts, we got to see the other judoka fight one another, there were some really great moments, not least from Tony Baxter & Big Matt whom neither of us newcomers fault.

From Left: Fraser, Daniel, Essa, Toby, Big Matt, The Everyman Olympian, Coach Skillcorn, Stuart Balwin, Oliver, Matt Allen, Stuart Brown, Tony Baxter.

The day needed no other highlights but an unexpected one came my way, and it came from a geniune Olympian:

Olympian Karina Bryant presents me with a Team GB top from the 2008 Beijing Olympics
With huge personal thanks to:

Vince Skillcorn - What a Coach! Check out his blog here Good Luck in London 2012!
Stuart Baldwin - Top Man! Really appreciate you taking up Judo for this crazy idea.
Samantha Lowe - Couldn't have done this without your help, good luck at London 2012!
Sophie Johnstone - Inspiring work with the young judoka, good luck in London 2012!
Luke Preston (Head Coach at Camberley Judo Club) - Thanks so much for the hospitality of your great club!
Karina Bryant - Wow! Still shocked at the generousity of that top, good luck in London 2012!
Fraser Chamberlain and Nathan Burns - thanks for the tips gents and good luck in London 2012!
My opponents on the day and supporters throughout The Judo Challenge:
Daniel, Essa, Big Matt, Toby, Oliver, Matt Allen, Stuart Brown & Tony
A really great bunch and I hope to see you all training hard in the future (while I watch on from the sofa if you don't mind ; )
Ash Stocker for the sports massage after the fighting was over, which helped me feel normal again.



  1. Sophie Johnstone3 May 2011 at 12:22

    Brilliant write up of a highly memorable day! Was great to meet you! Congratulations on your spirited judo endeavours and good luck for your future sports!

  2. Had a great day watching, Vince and co were absolute gems and I cannot wait to watch the Judo next year in London at the Olympics!!!!! A pleasure to meet such a nice bunch of people, Jess x

  3. Well Said mate!

    Although you was a bit ambitious thinking the fights lasted 3mins we had a 2 minute rolling clock! But you still got through it and should be proud of passing this challenge - a brilliant effort.

    I wish you the best of luck for the rest of your challenges and will be following how you get on.

    All the best Coach Skillcorn

  4. It was a fantastic day and your write up captures some of the highlights perfectly! Your determination to complete the Judo challenge despite minimal training and a horrible rib injury was admirable! Well done and thank you for giving us a good excuse for a fundraising day, it was an absolute blast.
    Good luck with the rest of your sports. We'll be following your progress.

  5. Theodoros Michaelides4 May 2011 at 16:49

    I was there to witness this great day and share it with the most Hospitable attitude from players of Camberley Judo Club. The atmosphere was fantastic and the talent and enthusiasm of everyone at the club was great to see. Boris, you did great and this write up truly does capture the day! All the best with the rest of your challenges