Judon’t Wanna Mess Around (Part 1): Bringing Home a Double Championship

by Qiu Kexin (16A13A)
Photos by Nicolette Ang (16S03P)

It was late morning, soon passing into the heat of the afternoon. At 1 pm, Hougang Secondary School was abuzz with chatter as spectators crowded into the Indoor Sports Hall and canteen, while awaiting the start of this year’s Judo Championships. There was a thrum of anticipation as competitors readied themselves for their most important Judo matches of the season, which would either make or break them. Nevertheless, if the determined and confident looks from the various participants were any indication, they had come well-prepared both physically and mentally.

In Judo, the team that secures at least three out of five bouts will be crowned the overall victor for a competition. Each bout lasts 3 minutes, and is played between 2 opponents from the same weight category. In the course of each bout, competitors aim to score an ippon, which is done by throwing (as opposed to merely forcing) one’s opponent flat onto their back, or holding for 20 seconds. An ippon is the highest possible point in Judo, and when a competitor executes it successfully (by no means an easy feat!), it ends the match instantly and the victory for that bout is awarded to them.

A DIVISION BOYS
Having defeated Catholic Junior College in the semi-finals, Raffles Institution’s A Division boys were now competing against formidable opponents from Nanyang Junior College. Expectations were high for the boys due to their triumph in last year’s finals, and the Rafflesians there were hoping that the results this year would be in favour of this victorious streak.

The competitors representing Raffles Institution were as follows, in order of ascending weight category:

  • Feather (-60 kg): Yong Kang Ren
  • Extra Light (-66 kg): Ong Jia Xiang
  • Light (-73 kg): Wu Bo Dong
  • Middle (-81 kg): Chen Yuan Bo
  • Heavy (+81 kg): Ryan Chong

In the first match by the A Division Boys, Kang Ren tackled his opponent with much vigour. His Nanyang competitor attempted strong grapples to win an edge, but Kang Ren eventually gained leverage halfway through the bout to pin him down to the floor, after which the 20-second countdown for his pin started. His resolve paid off as he was successful, earning Raffles the victory for that bout.

Kang Ren trying to hold his opponent
Kang Ren trying to hold his opponent

Next up was Jia Xiang. He was a competent fighter who managed to get his opponent down many times while also preventing his opponent from holding him down. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury to his mouth – the bout was temporarily paused to allow it to be taken care of. Despite his significant efforts, he lost the bout narrowly by only a few points at the end. Still, the tenacity he showed during the bout was truly the mark of an honourable judoka, and he had put up nothing short of a good fight.

For the third bout, Bo Dong used his strength to tackle and counter his opponent’s attacks, while staunchly wrestling with control to try to bring his opponent down, but he was eventually overpowered and thrown for a full point.

Fourth in the line-up was Yuan Bo. His display of skill was spectacular, evading his counterpart while parrying attempts to overpower him. He was able to score a major point when he gained on his opponent by pinning him to the ground for 20 seconds; the bout was subsequently won. This turned the tide for Raffles. Having fought back to parity, the morale of the team’s supporters lifted considerably after this victory, in eagerness for the final and decisive bout.

Yuan Bo throwing his opponent
Yuan Bo throwing his opponent

In the last bout, Ryan Chong and his contender faced off in an intense match that saw both of them fighting to pin the other down as swiftly as possible. The referee renewed the bout when the two competitors were struggling with each other, none apparently able to gain on the other. After the bout restarted at the centre, Ryan made the first attack and quickly brought his contender down through a series of steadfast grapples. He secured a win after that, amid roaring cheers from the audience.

Ryan holding his opponent down
Ryan holding his opponent down

It was with pride that, with a score of 3-2, the Rafflesian team had beaten Nanyang Junior College in an ardent series of duels and emerged with the title of national Champions. For the excellent win this year, the boys’ captain Kang Ren (15S03E) credited “each one of us in the team, our coaches Mr Tan and Mr Low, teachers-in-charge, and most importantly… everyone.”

The team commented after the bouts that they truthfully had been feeling “terrified” before the competition, but the support from their coaches and one another helped “calm them down” to be ready for their bouts. The values of discipline, determination and team spirit advocated by Judo were poignantly summed up in this statement by one of the A Division boys: “We had put in so much hard work for the past six years and also suffered together, so when it came down to this, we just wanted to fight for everyone, to show something for our efforts.”

A Division Boys in first place
A Division Boys in first place

A DIVISION GIRLS
This year, the Rafflesian girls’ team was up against Hwa Chong’s team, after defeating Nanyang Junior College in the semi-finals. Both school teams had had a long history of being favourites in the annual Judo inter-school finals, and it was clear that they would put up a tough fight to the teeth for the title of Champions.

Our A Division girls had won Silver in the previous year’s finals, barely losing to Hwa Chong Institution by just one bout. There was thus evident stress placed upon them to try their best to pull through for a victory this year. However, the girls maintained a resilient and positive attitude in the face of the difficulties ahead. Joyce Lee (15S03F), who competed in the semi-finals, expressed that, “We didn’t focus much on winning this year because it was our last Nationals together. There were times [when we felt demotivated] but remembering our whole batch’s effort in training helped drive us.” In hindsight, valuing the journey more than the outcome could have been what gave them the necessary motivation for their triumph this year.

A Division Girls facing their opponents
A Division Girls facing their opponents

The competitors representing Raffles Institution were as follows, in order of ascending weight category:

  • Feather (-48 kg): Charis Tay
  • Extra Light (-52 kg): Lim Yong Ling
  • Light (-57 kg): Fadhillah Md Faizan
  • Middle (-63 kg): Tania Forichon
  • Heavy (+63 kg): Joey Low

In the first bout by Charis, she rapidly brought down her counterpart with a throw, for which a half point was awarded to Raffles Institution. The bout was restarted after that in the centre. Her competitor hit out with the first strike, but Charis was ready for it, and maintained control over her movements even as her competitor tried to bring her down. She did not concede and, through skilful manoeuvring and adroit balancing, avoided being thrown. Eventually, she then gained yet another point when she successfully threw the Hwa Chong competitor to the ground. The bout was thus won for the Raffles team.

For the next round, Yong Ling displayed adept skill in groundwork, using well-timed foot sweeps a few times in order to bring her opponent down. Many times, the two competitors struggled on the ground, each fighting fiercely to gain leverage over the other. Unfortunately, in the last few seconds of the round, Yong Ling was awarded a penalty, which earned her contender an extra point that gave Hwa Chong a small margin for the victory for that bout. Nevertheless, Yong Ling had been a spirited fighter and had given her best for the team.

Next was Fadhillah in the third bout. As soon as it started, she fought relentlessly to cut down her opponent. Her opponent similarly exhibited much prowess in her movements and attacks. However, Fadhillah was quick on her feet and at one point, she was able to swiftly overturn her opponent onto her back even when it seemed imminent that she was about to be pinned down. Fadhillah’s footwork and careful balance helped in bringing down her opponent several times, for which points were awarded. In the end, she won another bout for Raffles.

In the second last bout, Tania continually hit out from the start to try to assert a strong grip on her opponent. Her competitor similarly took swings at her with offensive moves. Tania was a force to be reckoned with, expertly defending against numerous attempts to bring her down while also dodging sweeps. The atmosphere was tense but exciting, with Tania lunging at her opponent at one point to throw her onto her back. Eventually, the Hwa Chong competitor conceded the bout to Tania.

For the last bout, Girls’ Captain Joey Low faced stiff competition from her opponent. She took on a more defensive stance initially, with the first attack coming from her opponent. It was a fierce neck-to-neck duel, but she pressed on, refusing to be held down to the ground in spite of a few close calls. She showed great competence, cleverly taking advantage of a moment when her opponent was struggling to grapple with her to pin her down. The tide turned in the middle when Joey successfully countered twice, which scored half point each to make one whole point for Raffles. Thus the fourth bout was won, and with it, Raffles Institution’s place as Champions was also secured.

Seeing everyone’s faithful commitment to the team, it felt as if this year’s Double Championships were truly a well-deserved reward in return for their unfaltering dedication to their sport. Both the Judo teams have done well above all expectations, and we wish to congratulate them for their great sportsmanship and tenacious spirit. Good luck for the individual bouts, and may the path of the Gentle Way lead you to more fruitful avenues!

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