One could be forgiven if they don’t automatically associate the word fighting with making friends, becoming a better person and potentially travelling the world; however, for members of the UNB Judo Club, these are just some of the many things that come with their participation in the physically and mentally demanding sport.
Two members – Andrew Blaney and Alex Colpitts – can attest to these potential rewards. They were two of four judokas to represent New Brunswick at the Francophone Games, which were held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast from July 21-30.
For Blaney and Colpitts, earning the opportunity to travel to the Ivory Coast and participate in an international competition was just the latest in their list of accomplishments—but it was one they both cherished nevertheless.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Blaney, who made sure to soak in the event’s atmosphere—the type that all athletes dream of competing in but so few ever get to experience.
“They basically lined us up and we had to walk up to the tatami, and you actually had to step up a little ladder. There’s a whole bunch of people watching you; that really energizes you and it just gets you more excited to fight.”
Outside of the glitzy opening ceremonies and large crowds, both athletes knew they had a job to do on the mat and much to gain from the experience of competing at the international level.
“Getting out of North America is good because you fight a separate pool of fighters,” noted Colpitts. “It’s hard to get a reference point of where you fall until you’re fighting internationally. It’s nice to see how things work against people who haven’t seen you before. You just don’t know anything about them.”
Blaney went 0-2 in his matches and Colpitts went 3-2 and lost in the bronze medal match.
While both were happy with their performance and the experience they gained, they have already begun looking ahead to their next challenges. Blaney listed the Edmonton International Judo Championship as an event he is looking forward to. Colpitts, meanwhile, is aiming for a return to the Francophone Games and eyeing a potential move to Shanghai, where he hopes to compete on the Asian circuit.
Due to the discipline and determination needed to succeed in the sport, the judo club’s members often possess a desire to improve and persevere.
“Getting thrown a lot can be a crushing experience both physically and mentally, but you get back up a lot. [Judo is] one of those things where you’ve just got to keep pushing,” said Colpitts, while Blaney added “There’s no secret to judo other than dedication and hard work.”
Despite the challenges—or possibly due to them—the club engenders a very close bond among its members.
“The atmosphere here is really friendly. We all hang out outside of the club a lot. We’re a pretty tightly-knit group,” said Colpitts.
“You have to have the dedication, but it’s also a very fun sport to be involved in. Just be dedicated and work hard and one day, you can make yourself a great athlete,” added Blaney.
Correction: A previous version said that Blaney went 0-5 in his matches and Colpitts went 2-3. The correct results were 0-2 and 3-2 respectively.