If I was a whippet then, I must be a St Bernard now

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This week I inhaled a distinctive and fetid smell that I haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying for exactly 30 years.

It was the smell of a thousand litres of human sweat soaked into a martial arts mat.

Many, many moons ago I was a judo student at St Cuthbert’s Church on Hayling Avenue.

I’d walk the seemingly endless road in my judogi (my friends insisted I was walking the streets with my mum in my pyjamas), before warming up and getting into a good ol’ tussle.

Looking back, we learned so much; technique, discipline, respect for others, the understanding that brute force won’t win the day.

Oh, and some pressure point pinches that could reduce even an adult to a crumpled heap.

The teacher was a cheerful chap called George.

He was 8ft 11in and had sideburns that would overheat your hedge trimmer. He was a gentle yet direct fella.

Trying to teach us must have been like herding cats.

We were willing, but our brains were hot wired with Star Wars, BMXes and Happy Shopper Cherryade.

One slap of his gargantuan hand on the judo mat would send shockwaves through your skull and chest cavity.

It would also release the odour of generations of judo players that had been sweating on those very mats seemingly since the Romans were busy going toga to toga.

Bizarrely, that pungent whiff has stuck with me all these years and, walking into a martial arts centre this week, my brain cast me back to 1980.

I’ve recently started getting to grips with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which in essence isn’t a million miles away from judo and wrestling.

Lots of grappling, discipline, applying controlled strength and new procedures/techniques.

It’s been a reality check though because the last time I was on a martial arts mat I was a lithe, nimble 10-year-old.

If I was like a whippet back then, I reckon I must be more like a St Bernard with an ale and Tunnocks teacake addiction now!