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Judo assignment brings journalist down to earth

When Cannock & Rugeley Mercury reporter Andrew Wragg got a call from former British judo champion Andrew Smith it didn’t take much persuading to agree to doing a feature on his judo club.

But when Andrew arrived to join the beginners class at the club in Heath Hayes, near Cannock, he got more than he bargained for.

For a start the 6ft 1in ‘action man’ reporter found himself hoisted in the air by the slightly-built Emma George, (25), who represented Wales at the Commonwealth Games, for the Mercury photo session.

She is also Andrew Smith’s girlfriend and the pair demonstrated some judo throws for the photographer, taking even award-winning snapper Allan Williamson by surprise with the lightning-fast speed of their moves.

But before it was reporter Andrew’s chance to get to grips with judo he was almost felled by the warm-up.

He wrote: “It began with a gentle jog around the mat. Sidestepping, kicking up our heels, lifting our knees.

“All well and good I thought. Ready for a bit of judo now.

“Unfortunately, I was wrong. The warm up hadn’t even started.

“Ever tried pyramid training? Climbing a pyramid would probably be easier.

“Next came a 20-yard sprint with press ups at either end. First five, then four, then three, then two, then one.

“And just as my jelly legs and bellowing lungs were about give in, the process was reversed.

“Then the muscle-burning routine was repeated for sit-ups and squat thrusts.

“I hit the deck with exhaustion… and the judo hadn’t even begun.”

After being given a short time to recover, Andrew, (28), found himself paired up with forty-something brown-belt Mick Hill – a ‘big lad’.

“I, on the other hand, am tall, light and puny. The match was kind of David meets Goliath with David having forgotten his sling and rocks.But despite the size difference I was told judo would give me the skills to fell this giant. It seemed unlikely.

“But thwack. A few seconds later he was down. And at that point I realised the efficacy of this art.”

Encouraged by this and with a few tips on the judo principles of using an opponent’s bodyweight and momentum against him, Andrew went on to try some more complex throws.

“And although I didn’t throw him completely over my shoulder (I wasn’t quite ready for that). I did manage to lift him off his feet and onto my back. Quite a feat when you take into account the weight difference.

“Mick then showed me a couple of holds and thankfully I was released before my face turned purple.”

“The name ‘judo’ – which translates to ‘the gentle way’ – now seemed wholly inappropriate.”

  • Ouch – not Andrew the reporter this time, but judo stars Andrew Smith and Emma George
  • Despite his exertions, the reporter still had some breath left to ask Andrew, who was coached by world champion Neil Adams, about his approach to teaching the sport he loves.

    “I know for a fact I will take some of these kids all the way,” he said.

    “I’m a little bit arrogant but I am sure I will get them to a great standard of judo and I am aiming to get them into the British teams.”