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Try doing this:
-When you go to a complete stop. Engage the clutch and put into neutral.
-Then disengage and re-rengage the clutch, while still being in neutral.
-Finally, throw it into first.

If it doesn't give a "shock" (your going to have to do this over and over to make sure it's solving the problem) then your slave cylinder could either be low on fluid or needs to be blead. IMO, it sounds like a clutch issue and possible it not wanting to sync up with the #1 shift fork, hence why 1st and occasionally 2nd kinda suck.

It kinda sounds like what happens when you put an automatic car into drive on a cold day. It delays, then it kinda makes the car "jump" a bit. Is that what it feels like? (I understand your car is MT, just trying to understand what the car is actually doing)
 

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^ does that happen when you go you are downshifting or when you are at a complete stop? If it's when your downshifting, it's the ECU's attempt to protect the transmission (kinda like traction control, where it will "kill" power) also called the Transmission Control Module. But if your at a stop and it's doing it, then it's your slave cylinder (your car shouldn't be moving at all if the clutch is truelly engaged).
 
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