Kata weekend in Gimli

This past weekend went like this:

Friday: Work, then pack, then go see Moon.

Saturday: Get up at some unholy hour, before the sun even deigns to rise, go pick up my friend and fellow judoka X, and then hit the road for Gimli. The town’s named for Odin’s shining hall, and it’s a three-hour drive from my house. X snoozed in the car, and I alternated between listening to 90s on 9 and Lithium on the satellite radio.

We arrived in Gimli shortly before the instructor did, so that was good. We got checked in at the hotel, got changed into our heavy cotton pants and canvas jackets, and went down to the seminar room, where they’d already laid out the judo mats. Quick stretch, and a bow-in, and then we covered nage-no-kata for two hours.

Judo kata, for those not familiar with the idea, are essentially choreographed, pre-arranged demonstrations of a set of techniques. Nage-no-kata means “forms of throwing”, and it is a brief survey of some of the techniques you would use to take a person from a standing position and put them ever so gently into a more horizontal position. There are five sets of three throws each, all demonstrated using both the right- and the left-handed techniques. First you demonstrate hand techniques, then a set of hip throws, foot techniques, and finally back and side sacrifice throws. For my brown belt, and then for my first-degree black belt, I needed to know the first three sets. For my next belt, nidan, I will need to know the entire nage-no-kata. So this was a good learning experience for me.

We broke for lunch at about noon. Lunch was delicious: a make-your-own sandwich bar, with assorted raw vegetables and the like. The room where we ate, Meeting Room C, looks out over the beach on Lake Winnipeg. If I recall correctly, Lake Winnipeg is only outclassed by the Great Lakes and Great Slave Lake for the title of largest lake on the continent. This weekend it was pretty choppy — high winds from the north drove waves onto shore. One of the instructors, who comes to Gimli fairly frequently, remarked that there’s usually about another hundred feet of beach in the summer.

After lunch we returned to the mats for katame-no-kata, the forms of grappling. Judo involves a fairly significant ground game, and this kata works through fifteen of the things you can do on the ground: five types of hold-down, five strangles, and five joint locks. X and I had never done katame-no-kata before, but we both took to it quite readily. One of the instructors asked us how often we’d done this kata before. When I said “Never,” his eyes got a little big, and he nodded. I took it as a compliment.

Katame-no-kata, which is required for your third-degree black belt, or sandan, involves a lot — a lot — of kneeling. I was glad that, forewarned, I had purchased knee pads. X, who didn’t have knee pads, ended up going out and buying some liniment. (Horse liniment, but that’s a story for another day.)

After a couple hours of groundwork, we broke for the day. I went for a swim in the pool, then to supper — a roast-beef buffet, with all the trimmings. Then X and I hit the hospitality suite for a while, waiting for 10 PM, when the kids would get kicked out of the pool. From 10 till 11, we swam, or hung out in the hot tub, or (briefly) baked in the sauna.

Sunday was more kata — we reconvened at 10 AM, after a hearty breakfast, to go over nage-no-kata and katame-no-kata again. Everyone was moving a little slower, stiff from the previous day’s workout. Right around noon we finished up, and helped load the mats into a truck.

Then we got a little lost, trying to find the highway from Gimli back down to Winnipeg — I ended up going down #9, when I wanted highway #8 — and that cost us about twenty minutes. Once we were back on track, X fell asleep. We had some lunch in Headingley, then pointed the car west and were back home in a couple hours.

And that, ladies and gents, was that.

Next time: The Writers’ Group meeting