In every country around the world there is disruption and loss and grief; even the safe havens have had to stomach lockdown, as we have seen in Australia this past week. Nowhere is exempt from upheaval and so we are here, one year on, still not sure how our future will look, vaguely holding on to the only vision we can understand, that we will return to ‘normal,’ ‘soon.’ These terms are the ones we all use, but they don’t really mean anything and yet they have somehow infiltrated our unconscious attendance in sleepy conversations. “How are you?” “Fine, thanks, you?” “Yeah, fine, looking forward to being back to normal soon.” “Yeah, have a nice evening. Stay safe.”
It is both hopeless and full of hope and maybe only our morning coffee can tell the difference. Wake up, scroll, coffee, exercise, shower, breakfast, scroll. The day rolls on, the days roll on.
So what is it that unites us as each of our countries and states experiences waves of change and unfamiliar stability? Where can we feel settled and at home? Where can our team-mates, friends and colleagues meet, metaphorically and digitally, to be together? Where do we all feel the same?
The answer? As judoka we have a mobile home, one that can be with us no matter where we are. It’s like armour, protecting us and giving us strength, feeding our confidence and enveloping our whole selves. Our judogi is recognisable. It is our shield, our chosen weapon and also our meditation chamber.
“When I put on my uniform, I feel I am the proudest man on Earth.” ~ Roberto Clemente, baseball hall-of-famer
And it is not a singular pride. The collective pride is felt by all of us and is shared and acknowledged with every bow and judogi adjustment. We feel like the watchful parent over our beautiful sport, while also feeling like it’s student, it’s novice; vulnerable and open.
When we force our hand through the sleeve and cross the lapels we accept a whole, global community, a history, a work-ethic. We are reminded of our values and we take pride in securing the knot perfectly every single time.
A uniform emits the message of commitment to a group, a movement, a value set.” ~ Ciara Lowe-Thiedeman, Image Coach, Western Australia
Yes! We must admit that we feel safe in our judo suit. It hugs us when we are at our most competitive and it shines like the flickering indicators on any vehicle with an intention; in our case the intention to work through our challenges with integrity. The judogi shows we will not give up, we will learn.
“Putting your judogi on is a physical act to call for a change of mindset.” ~ Ciara Lowe-Thiedeman
So we are here, now, in the present and as the temporary becomes longer and longer and we can breathe again but in a new environment, our judogi is our constant and inside it we all know where we stand. It is our leveller.
“... there is no longer a business manager or a worker, nor any ethnic or religious affiliation. There is no longer any discrimination linked to gender or disability, but there is a community of judoka, a family in white outfits.” ~ Nicolas Messner, IJF.
We can quieten our questions and solve our unfamiliar protocols, guarded by the safety that is wrapped around us by our black belts... our white belts, our blue belts...
“Motivation is when dreams put on work clothes.” ~ Benjamin Franklin, former US President
Its expectation is work, is honesty, is respect. We are all of those things and we offer them to our friends and colleagues. We must also offer those themes to our reflections, especially now.
“There are no big social occasions to dress up for right now. Use judo as your one occasion to get properly dressed, honour the occasion, the sport, the values.” ~ Ciara Lowe-Thiedeman
That’s it! Put your judogi on, tie the belt with a crisp finish, folding the ends neatly into your usual sharp, flat knot and train creatively, with honour, with pride. Look yourself in the eye and know that regardless of the circumstances your judogi will always ground you and set you firmly within the familiar. It is home.