Last Sunday was the 2017 New York Open Judo Tournament, the premier judo tournament in the United States. France, Israel, and the United States sent both women's and men's teams, and Germany sent a men's team. The Israelis, both men and women, won first place, with a really amazing showing by top-flight athletes. While Kayla Harrison, 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medal winner, didn't compete, she was there as a legendary figure, a defining figure in both American judo and women's judo. The entire match was taped by the folks at Judo Market:
The woman doing the play-by-play (audio kicks in around the 23 minute mark) is my friend 'kickass' Sue, who brings the same enthusiasm she brings to the commentary to everything she does. She told me that she felt a little self-conscious about her English, but I assured her that her English is perfect, pleasantly accented even, and that her Japanese vocabulary would be more important on this occasion. She's absolutely great.
One thing that I have to observe is that the players tend to be, to put it bluntly, good-looking. I have to say that I think the best-looking one is the largest of Israel's female fighters, who weighed in at 70 kilograms (174 pounds). I'm not someone who believes that 'traditional' gender roles are beneficial, but I am a straight guy and I have to say that that is one drop-dead gorgeous woman, as formidable as she is. Even one of my female friends, Frenchie's wife, remarked on how pretty she was.
Watching the video, I have to note that the warmups look very aesthetically pleasing- with no resistance, the throws are perfect, they look like dances. Between the preliminary events and the finals, there were some exhibitions- two skilled New York judokas displayed a variety of throws, a couple of Brazilian ju-jitsu fighters did a gi-less demonstration of techniques and related them to both judo and wrestling, and a pair of 7 year-old twins fought two grownups in luchador masks. All throughout the match, old friends from other towns met up with each other and the beer flowed. One friend of mine, a wrestler who has started playing judo noted, "For a bunch of fighters, these people are blissful and Zen-ed out."
The day did have a melancholy moment, a memorial for judo legend Mel Appelbaum, who left the dojo last year. That moment of sadness aside, the mood of the rest of the day was overwhelmingly positive.