Tag: El Toro

“Ok, I’m good. I’m ready to fight, now.”


I have been on the fringes of my husband’s passion for judo for years.  When we met and married, he had been long retired due to a C-4 injury and was coaching at UC Irvine when his disability rating made it no longer possible for him to coach.  After moving to North Carolina, he tried a couple of things.  He volunteered at the local universities for a class or two and  at the Children Home of North Carolina in Oxford to help the children there.  He volunteered at a dojo in Durham before  his former coach, Sensei Mayfield reached out and asked him to travel with him to tournaments and camps as  an assistant and “coaching liaison”.  More recently, he and two friends organized the El Toro Judo Club.  El Toro was my husband’s original dojo.  The Marine base in California has long since closed and the club in California retired with his original sensei’s passing.  Given the opportunity,  he wanted to honor his first dojo and first sensei.  El Toro Judo Club holds classes at Bushido Karate Shotokan  in Raleigh, offering two sports to the interested martial arts community.  More importantly, it gave him an outlet to pass his judo along to others, to stay involved and contribute in his way,  not just to the students in his classes, but to the community.   The club has a fundraiser, El Toro Fall Bash, a golf tournament that I have been involved in organizing for the last three years.  Which means, now I no longer live on the “fringes of Judo”.

I remember exactly how it happened, my no longer existing on the fringes.  It was Sensei Mayfield’s tournament in Jacksonville, three or four years ago.  I had dropped my husband off at the tournament, as was our routine, and went on my way to Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, the base PX, and back to the tournament.  I was given a chair on the floor level  near one of the mats where the adults were competing.  There was one competitor who looked like he might be active duty personnel, who forcefully and smoothly, took his opponent down and next thing I know match was over.  I had just witnessed my first choke hold, and I was done.  I was a judo fan.  I know it should have been more complicated than that, but it was not.  It was the not an earth shattering experience, it was not a demonstration of pristine technique,  it was just pure strength of one man against another.

So, imagine me, this last weekend, when some kid I don’t even know, was taken down to the floor by his opponent and the match is stopped while the first aid representative looks him over.  The match resumes, the kid is taken down again and the referee stops them in their action and raises his voice and asks the kid “how old are you?” Kid yells “Thirteen”.  Referee responds telling them to carry on.  Kid gets choked, “taps out” and match is over.  Kid gets up holding his neck, bows out after the referee signals that his opponent won, and walks to the sidelines where his dad is.

He was visibly shaken, trying to catch his breath.  I looked away, because as a mom, seeing kids in distress,  no matter if your own son is 36 years old, you are taken back to when he was 13 and trying not to cry after losing a baseball tournament, or your brother when he lost a Pop Warner football game and the kids from the opposing team are in the car in front of you, watching your brother breaking down in the seat next to you.  Seeing this judo kid keep his composure until he got off the mat and then start to break down, took me back to those moments in time and I coward that I am, looked away.

Later in the afternoon, he competed again and after what was a long, drawn-out, tough match won.   And he knew it.  He knew he had won.  He jumped up and screamed, fists clenched, at no one and at everyone.

Afterward, when I talked to my husband about him, he told me what had happened when he lost the first match, when I had looked away.  He had gone up to the kid and his father, who was trying to calm him, help him catch his breath and regain his composure.  “Excuse me, sir” my husband said to the dad, “may I try something”.  The dad said “ok” and my husband told the kid, “stop breathing and count, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, now breathe.  Again, stop and hold your breath.  Count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. ”  The kid did it a third time, looked at my husband then looked at his dad and said “Ok, I’m good.  I’m ready to fight, now.”

The First Step


   October 15, 2011, came without even the benefit of an alarm clock.  Chester and I  were much to nervous to wait for it to go off at 6am.  I was up at 5:30am to get to our sister-in-law’s house to pick up two pound cakes for the dessert table of the golfer’s banquet we were having after the tournament.  I had also wanted Krispy Kreme donuts for the coffee table to have for the golfers, before the tournament.  My dilemma was that the new store about twenty minutes from my house, and my sister-in-law’s house was fifteen minutes north of mine,  and I knew I would be hard pressed to do both and be back to my house to pick up my friend Katie, who has more tournament experience than I, and was helping me with registration, by 8:00am.  I am sitting there in the parking lot of our corner store about a mile from Evansridge, the engine of the TC a low rumble, as dawn was lightening the sky around me,  I made an executive decision, and instead of going south, went north to my sister-in-law’s.  My plan was to pick up coffee items and Krispy Kreme donuts in a box at the nearest Food Lion.  

      My husband concerned about no one from the tournament would be there to greet golfers, that he left before any of the rest of us, and as it turned out, when he arrived, he only one there besides the grounds keepers.  Jimmie, Katie’s husband, took time to get a bite on the way, while we brought up the rear of our group, with the registration paperwork and coffee pot.  

     We had only a couple of teams sign up.  However, the people who came were old friends from past tournaments, another cause, another force of nature…our friend Cecil, who succumbed to cancer after a valorous battle six years ago.  These guys, along with Jimmie, Cecil’s cousin, supported us and the tournament, the moment we contacted them.  The balance of the teams were made up of judo athletes who played golf and one of Chester’s Veteran’s group participants and his friends.  

   The volunteers, who were friends, family and judo friends, help Katie and I make coffee, set up tables, set up the banquet room, take pictures and get the guys on the course.  Then, they all found a cart and followed Chester and our other sister-in-law who, not only made the golf quilt for the tournament raffle, was also taking the tournament pictures.

     I have always said, some of the most peaceful places on God’s green earth are National Parks and golf courses.  They are also some of the most beautiful pieces of land you will find.  

Bullcreek Golf Club is one of the few minority owned courses in the U.S.   It was farmland that was worked on by the families that invested in the dream of having a local golf course.  Having the tournament the second week of October allowed for the fall foliage to dress up the course.  It was a mild fall day.  We could not have asked for better weather for the golfers. 

    My good friends, Halima and Shelia, came to help in any way I needed.  They had never been on a golf course before and loved the friendly competition of the team they followed.  Our daughter, Courtney and her boyfriend “Boston”, gave us moral support and blessed us by just being there.  Danielle, my new young friend, helped strategize about the banquet room and hang up the Judo banner.  We had Bushido Judo of Durham dojo members come to the tournament to support us, and then were recruited to help set up the banquet room.  Others came from the dojo to participate in the banquet and see the results of the competition.  Everyone that participated voiced the common theme of the good time that was had by all and looking forward to the next year.  

  Looking back at it now, it seems so unnecessary, all our worry.  The reality was, we had only participant experience in golf tournaments.  To have Chester’s plan, that I put on a legal pad back in February, be realized that Saturday, was a feat by itself.  To have all the participants, volunteers and family express their desire to be included the next year, was more than we had hoped for.  We left the site of El Toro Fall Bash 2011, good wishes and the good will still very much present in our minds and hearts, looking in the rear view mirror course…until next year.