Don’t Flip Out: Judo Championships 2017

By Lee Yun Ning (17A01E)

Additional reporting by Cylene Tan (18S03C)

Photo credits to Iffah from Raffles Photography and Judo.

Hougang Secondary School’s hall was alive with anticipation as our A Division Judo team waited to battle it out in the National Interschool Judo Championships last Wednesday. The qualifying matches (or, in the judo context, ‘bouts’) had been played the previous day, and stakes were high as the judokas that made it through now vied for the bronze, silver and gold medals.

For the uninitiated, there are five different weight categories in Judo—featherweight, extra lightweight, lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight. During the game, three types of points are awarded:

  1. A yuko when one throws their opponent onto their side, or holds their opponent back-down for 10-14 seconds
  2. A waza-ari when one throws their opponent onto ½-¾ of their back, or holds their opponent back-down for 15-19 seconds
  3. A ippon when one throws their opponent fully onto their back with considerable technique and force, or holds their opponent back-down for 20 seconds. Two waza-aris also constitute an ippon.

The match ends once someone scores an ippon. If not, the winner is determined based on the number of points scored after the 3 minute bout, or the number of penalties (referred to as ‘shido’) given if no one was able to score.

Bronze Matches:

Featherweight category

Girls: Ho Cheng En (17S06B) vs Oh Jun Teng (17S03A)

Guys: Asai Taisei (17A01C) and Gabriel Lee (18S06M)

The first bout saw a faceoff between two RI players, Cheng En and Jun Teng. Although Jun Teng had a lead at the start, scoring a yuko and a waza-ari against Cheng En, the latter’s determination led her to deliver a waza-ari immediately followed by a 15 second hold, thus winning the match with an ippon.

Cheng En and Jun Teng fighting it out

Next up was Taisei, whose energy and agility shone through in his attempts at tackling in succession, allowing him to gain control of the bout. This resulted in a shido to his opponent for not attacking, and led to Taisei’s win at the end of the three minutes.

Last in this weight category was Gabriel, up against longtime rivals from Hwa Chong Institution. Gabriel quickly made full 180 degree rolls onto all fours whenever his opponent tried to pull him onto his back to pin him down, earning cheers and sighs of relief from the spectators. He won by scoring a yuko. 

Extra lightweight category

Girls: Sarah Ang (17A01A) and Yeak Jo Wann (17S06Q)

Guys: Tseng Chen Yu (17S06H)

First in this category was Sarah, whose persistent efforts at attacking her opponent showed her admirable resolve. However, her opponent won the bout with an ippon at the last minute. Jo Wann came next, cleverly countering her opponent’s attempts at throwing and scoring two waza-aris from counter attacks, finally winning with an ippon.

Sarah flipping her opponent over

Chen Yu also demonstrated a similar level of skill when it came to defense—after his opponent stumbled after missing an attack, he took the opportunity to deliver a smooth counter, throwing his opponent fully on his back and earning an ippon.

Lightweight category

Girls: Cylene Tan (18S03C) vs Emily Thong (17S06C)

Guys: Galen Ong (18S03G) and Jiang Zi Xing (17S06A)

The initial tandstill in points as Cylene and Emily tussled on the mats was punctured when Cylene finally managed to throw a yuko. She followed this up shortly with a waza-ari, accompanied by a 15 second hold, winning her the match.

Cylene (blue belt) and Emily (white belt) struggling against each other

Galen’s bout also saw both sides struggling determinedly against each other for the first half, which was concluded when Galen delivered a clean harai goshi, scoring an ippon, and winning the bout. Zi Xing exuded confidence and enthusiasm throughout his bout, throwing an ippon towards the end of the bout just as his opponent seemed to be leading with one yuko.

Zixing (white belt) gets a grip on his opponent

Middleweight category

Guys: Tu Xia Yang (17S06J) vs Austin Zhao (18S03H)

Both players in this bout happened to be from our school too. Despite his rib injury from the previous day, Xia Yang played with perseverance, consistently attacking and defending well. However, when Austin attempted to score an ippon by pinning Xia Yang down after throwing a waza-ari, Xia Yang had to tap out (ie. Surrender) of the bout due to his injury, allowing the win to go to Austin.

Heavyweight category

Girls: Sharmayne Lim (18S03F) and Soh Rui Min (17S03I)

When Sharmayne stepped on with both her ankles wrapped up, one could tell it was already going to be a tough fight. And a tough fight it was—she managed to hold her ground until 2 minutes into the bout, where the opponent scored a yuko. However, her determination must be commended, shown in her persistent attempts to attack, and her ability to still play competently despite her injuries.

Rui Min’s groundwork showed her remarkable strength and tenacity. However, her bout ended abruptly when her opponent tried to choke her, resulting in the disqualification of the opponent and allowing Rui Min to clinch the bronze medal.

Final matches:

Following these bronze matches came the most crucial and exciting part of the championships—the finals. The mood of the hall became increasingly excited, and the bouts were more intense. As the Cheers from spectators became louder, the competitors felt a greater pressure to perform and clinch the gold medals for their schools.

Extra lightweight category

Girls: Julina Seet (18S03D) vs Jessica Halim (18S03I)

Guys: Iain Lin (18S03C)

The first bout saw, yet again, both competitors from our school fighting against each other. Both were incredibly skilled and focused as they took turns attacking and blocking throws, tussling from one end of the playing mat to the other. Jessica’s agility and composure certainly stood out, along with her special back-grip playing style. They were neck-to-neck the entire bout, with Julina winning in the end due to two shido incurred by Jessica.

Jessica (blue belt) and Julina’s (white belt) intense bout

The next match with Iain against HCI was equally intense, his skill evident in the execution of his throws and measured movements. However, scoring discrepancies at the start of the bout where HCI obtained an extra yuko and at the end where Iain’s yuko score was reduced from 2 to 1 led to much displeasure amongst the spectators. Regrettably, not much could be done, and Iain lost the bout with a score of one yuko to his opponent’s three yukos.

Lightweight category

Girls: Chan Kar Mun (17A01A)

Guys: Ace Ang (17A01B)

Both Kar Mun and Ace put up a strong fight against competitors from HCI as they both battled it out for gold. Kar Mun’s strength and stamina was commendable, having to play the entire 3 minutes as both she and her opponent tried to one-up the other, only to be met with an equally skillful block of any attack. It was a great pity that she lost the bout solely due to a shido incurred.

Kar Mun (white belt) pushing against her opponent

For Ace, although his opponent scored a waza-ari early on in the match, he came back stronger with two yukos in succession, followed by a clean uchi mata which won him an ippon in the final 12 seconds of the game.

The face of victory– sportsmanship is important too!

 Middleweight category

Girls: Jolene Song (17S03G)

Jolene’s incredible strength and technique was admirable in her bout. After blocking an attack from her opponent, she managed to roll over and win the bout by pinning her opponent down for 20 whole seconds, spurred on by cheers of “HOLD! HOLD! HOLD!” from the spectators.

Jolene (white belt) holding her opponent down for a remarkable 20 seconds

Heavyweight category

Girls: Chan Jia Yi (17A03A)

Guys: Eu Chun Kang (17S06P)

With their bouts determining whether RI’s teams would snag the champion trophy, both Jia Yi and Chun Kang were definitely under an immense amount of pressure. However, Jia Yi remained composed, her determination evident in how she attacked without hesitation and won with a wazari at the end of the bout.

 

Jiayi diving (blue belt) in an attempt to flip her opponent

Chun Kang was also equally collected, and proved to be tough competition with his skillful attacks and defenses. However, his counter attack and potential yuko scored was negated after a long consideration by the referees—during which both RI and Hwa Chong spectators engaged in a cheering showdown—and thus lost to his opponent by one yuko.

 

Chun Kang (white belt) and his opponent try to get a hold on the other

The overall results are definitely worth rejoicing over. The boys’ team emerged as runners-up, while the girls’ team managed to win the champion title with 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal and 4 bronze medals.

Although these tangible achievements were definitely one of the main goals, something more irreplaceable would definitely be the experiences shared between the teammates, and subsequent bonds that have emerged. As girls’ captain Jolene Song (17S03G) put it, “It doesn’t matter whether they made it to the medal masses, because for the past 6 years (or even the 2 for the JAEs) the trainings have been valuable and our performance does not necessarily encapsulate all the memories and camaraderie shared in these years.”

“I’m very thankful for everyone. It’s very rare for you to find a family who can give you so much as long as you can put a little bit of yourself back in,” she continued. Chan Jia Yi (17A03A) added that “[their] efforts definitely paid off. The entire CCA—all the juniors and the entire A division— trained so hard for this.”

The Judo coach, Mr Tan Yi, had similarly encouraging words for the team. “Congratulations to the winners. And for those who lost, it’s okay—there can only be one winner, and losing their bout does not mean they are losers.”

Raffles Press would like to congratulate Judo on their outstanding performance, and wish all the other sports CCAs the best in their upcoming competitions!

The Judokas of RI

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