I don't think I understood a single thing about judo until Saturday night. To me, it seemed akin to a pyjama-clad bar fight that never quite escalated, in the way of all good bar fights, to shouting, punching and threats with a broken pint glass.

However, au fait or not with the sport, I was scheduled to attend the final night of the judo; the night the big boys came out to throw each other about; the judo version of the heavyweight division. I had just left the sevens at Ibrox, where, quite frankly, I knew what I was doing. To now find myself deep inside the SECC halls in a media pen waiting to talk to large judoka was somewhat of a shock. I felt like I had been handed the scheduling equivalent of a hip throw.

Judo has always been a bit like this for me: more a puzzle than a sport. I have tried at various times to follow it when it has ended up on TV, as it does biennially. It is that rare type of sport that looks more surprised to find itself on the telly than the viewer does to be watching it, and I have conceded defeat many a time.

I asked a local cameraman about the rules of engagement. He said he had looked on Wikipedia - the trusted name in sport research - and there was something about no amount of yuko equalling a waza-ari but two waza-ari equalling an ippon. I asked him, what was an ippon? He did not know. There was no point in making further inquiries of the man, he was merely a gun for hire, a Commonwealth Games mercenary, he had no real interest in the gentle way.


I began to panic. Contests were under way. Hall two of the SECC was a cheering, sweaty, humid huddle of humanity and things were happening out on the mat that this crowd knew about. I wanted in on the action. I called in the big gun, New Zealand team manager Graeme Downing, to be my guide. And suddenly, it all made sense.

We watched together, Downing providing the running commentary, as Tim Slyfield took the bronze in the under-100kg division, scoring ippon by way of taiotashi, and Jason Koster took the other bronze through the less spectacular but just as legitimate technique of building penalties - shido - against his opponent. The concession of four shido leads to disqualification.

I talked to Slyfield after his contest - he's done on the mat, retiring. And I talked to Koster - he has unfinished business, he said. I spoke to Ryan Dill-Russell and Sam Rosser too, the other Kiwis in action who failed to win medals on the final night. They were upfront and friendly, disappointed yet gracious.

Ultimately, it was a night to celebrate in a Games campaign - five medals from 10 contests - to cherish. I was glad I asked Downing to guide me through the night.

Judo is now half as mysterious as it used to be. And, given the size and strength of these guys, twice as terrifying.