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