Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

In a Tight Clinch and Then Thrown over - That's Judo for You; THE OLYMPIC CHALLENGE No. 24; JUDO

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

In a Tight Clinch and Then Thrown over - That's Judo for You; THE OLYMPIC CHALLENGE No. 24; JUDO

Article excerpt

Byline: Lucy Fry

THEY'RE fast movers, these martial artists.

Within half an hour of meeting, British judo champion Alex Farbon already has his head between my legs. But, despite appearances, this isn't some kind of super-intense speed-dating.

"It's just judo," as Alex says. "I do this every day. It's not sexual for me."

I'm not sure if I'm relieved or insulted. But he's right, there's nothing sexy about the thick blue judo gi (suit) I'm wearing, nor about what we're actually trying to do to one another.

We're at Stars Gym in south-west London, where Alex teaches children's judo classes. Today the space is our judo tatami, or arena.

The aim of our grappling is to pin down the other person on the mat for 25 seconds, arm-lock or strangle them. Alex says gleefully: "It's controlled, though, so it's fine." And I certainly feel controlled by Alex, whose strength is impressive.

Still on the floor, we try a sangaku (triangle) position, which is essentially a strangle, and then a juji-gatami (armlock), where I straighten his arm and put pressure on his elbow to try to force him to submit. As soon as he submits, it's game over.

So what happens if a competitor refuses to submit? REUTERS Alex just makes a gesture that suggests that a broken bone might follow.

Next, we're up on our feet, ready to go through some of the standing positions, and he shows me how to get into the starting pose. I have one hand on his collar and the other on his sleeve, and from there we move into a throw called o-goshi. This involves the hips, which I use, from a migi (righthanded grip), to get Alex off-balance and throw him onto his back. I suspect, given quite how enthusiastically his legs fly up into the air, that he may have helped a bit.

He lands with a thwack. Immediately I bend down and anxiously ask if he's all right, ready to administer apologies and painkillers, but it seems he's done this before.

"We learn to fall in a certain way. …

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