August 07, 2020

How I Came to Throw a Police Officer to the Ground

My journey into martial arts started when I was 15 years old.  My little sister asked our parents if she could take Judo lessons and my mother said “yes.”  However, unfortunately for me, I was told that I would have to do it as well.  I was not particularly fond of martial arts at the time; if given the choice, I definitely would have said “no.”  Nevertheless, I donned the uniform with my white belt and showed up.

Judo, meaning “the gentle or yielding way” in Japanese, was not so gentle in my eyes.  In fact, I became friends with an African boy at Judo, but that friendship wholly consisted of him throwing me to the ground.  Needless to say, I didn’t have much fun at all, but I continued to go to the classes and eventually earned a yellow belt.  As for my little sister, she continued on to the highest belt.

Fast-forward to 15 years later, at the age of 30, I came across an article in the newspaper about a young woman in Barrie, Ontario, who had a black belt in karate.  The blonde, petite woman that I saw in the picture was quite possibly the last person I would have imagined to have a black belt at the time.  As a result, reading her story piqued my interest and I inquired at the Dojo about joining.  Since my son (who was six) wanted to be a Ninja Turtle, then husband used to be a boxer, and daughter (who was nine) was also interested, the whole family ended up joining.

All of us showed up for classes each week and we all progressed very quickly.  The whole family had earned high belts, was well-regarded, and even did public demonstrations at events on behalf of our dojo.  Specifically for me, my highest level of achievement in karate came on October 20, 1995, when I earned the Shodan-Ho (Provisional Black Belt).  However, I never turned out testing for the Black Belt and instead went on to train in other martial arts.

My next chapter in martial arts was in the Zodiac Fighting System, which was an early attempt at putting together a system of mixed martial arts (MMA).  Considering that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) started in late 1993 and only started to become popular in the mid-2000s, my instructor and I were way ahead of the times.

During my training in MMA, my instructor would constantly stop me and make me start over and over again until I did the movements perfectly.  He would also use me as a test to see if his new fighting style was working; if I, as a small woman, could do the move on him, who was a man nearly twice my size, then he knew that the move was effective and would therefore include it in his system.  Throughout my time training with him, he continually gave me appraisal, feedback, reinforcement, and follow up; altogether, he was an amazing teacher.  After having reached the third level in his MMA system, life circumstances made me stop training, but I am certainly grateful to have learned what I did.

Now that I think about it, I remember one specific point in time when this MMA training especially came in handy.  It was back when I applied to work as a Security Guard and had to take a self-defense course run by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in order to be hired.

During this self-defense course, the instructor had showed us how to take someone down and was walking around the room observing pairs of students who were practicing the techniques.  At one point, he came over to correct me and my partner because he heard me hitting the ground very hard.  Everyone in the class stopped to look as he used me to demonstrate how to more carefully take someone to the ground.  However, to his and everyone else’s surprise, I made an awfully loud noise when I hit the hardwood floor.  Everyone around the room gasped.  Little did they know that all I was doing was a break fall, which is a method of falling in martial arts that protects you by safely transferring force through and out of your body.  I was not hurt in the least!

Since that method of teaching didn’t go as he had planned, the instructor decided that we should try reversing our roles.  After I took him down the first time, he told me that I was being too gentle.  So the next time, rather than taking it easy on him, I lunged forward with all of my weight into the back of his elbow and he did a face plant onto the hard wood floor.  After that, he never tried to correct me again and I turned out passing the Basic Defensive Tactics course.

So then, many years after being a young girl getting thrown to the ground in Judo, I was a grown woman throwing a defenseless Police Officer to the ground.  And all of this is thanks to my experience with martial arts.

Have you had any cool experiences with martial arts?  Or how about sports in general?  Let me know in the comments below!

- Johanne Levesque


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