If you are not prepared to see how everything you ever thought about the judo/sex equation is wrong - stay away from this essay.
Otherwise, welcome to the new frontier. Welcome to the sexual revolution. Say ‘hello’ to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the sport that likes to get up close and personal.
I remember my first gay judo experience as if it were yesterday, as if it were now. I was twelve, filled with hormones and energy and undirected desire. I put on my gi - soft on my body, cool on my skin - and stepped out onto the mat.
I was filled with purpose, overflowing with vision. I wanted one thing, and one thing only.
Days before, I’d discovered the martial arts section at my local library. There were judo books there. Lots of them. One in particular had caught my attention, in much the same way The Joy of Sex must have caught the attention of many a straight boy over the years.
The book was called Olympic Judo: Groundwork Techniques, by Neil Adams and Ray Stevens. It was the most beautiful, most sensual, most intimately homoerotic publication I’d ever seen. Every page resembled something out of the Kama Sutra; every description was laden with sexual terminology. The further I progressed, the more arousing its subject matter became.
Here was a photo of Neil thrusting his arm deep into Ray’s crotch: yoko-shiho-gatame. Here was an image of Neil tearing Ray’s jacket open, exposing nipples and chest and navel and abs: kami-shiho-gatame. And here, here was a picture that burned itself into the physical fabric of my mind; a picture that was clearly all about sex; a picture that crystallized my definition of the word ‘dominate’; a picture that irreversibly, irrevocably fused the concepts of sexual gratification and judo in my consciousness.
The mount. Cross-body hold. Upper four quarters pin.
I brought the book home. I looked at it for a long time. And then I read the acknowledgments by Neil Adams, the man who had now come to represent the very zenith of homoerotic male sexuality for me.
This is what he said: ‘...many thanks to Ray Stevens for his magnificent role as Uke in the photographs...we also acknowledge the splendid work of David “Clicky” Finch, some of whose shots range from the indecent to the plain pornographic (if you sell those pictures to the newspapers you can expect a visit from “the boys”...’
But I did not bring the book back. Because, secretly, I knew what ‘pornographic’ meant. I knew what Neil Adams meant. I knew what judo meant. But mostly, I knew what tate-shiho-gatame meant.
Which is why I was so single-minded as I stepped onto the mat of the dojo that Sunday afternoon, three days later.
The kid I picked to be my uke was perfect - good looking, strong - just like Neil Adams’ uke, just like Ray. My whole body trembled with excitement as we sat back to back for groundwork, waiting for the shout of ‘hajime’, waiting to battle for position, for power.