Judo in the world today
Los Angeles, United States
American Judo embraces students of all races, ages, and gender
America: center of the world, and launcher of trends.
In recent years, Judo has joined the ranks of boxing and Karate as interest in the martial arts increases here. Judo has become a subject of university courses, and there is even a University in Texas that offers a Judo scholarship.
In Los Angeles, home of Hollywood, movie capital of the world, there are numerous Judo schools where legions of students eagerly learn Judo regardless of their race, age, or gender.
A martial arts boom has sparked an interest in Judo
American Judo traces its beginning back to 1905 when Jigoro Kano himself first introduced Judo here.
Judo was subsequently selected as an Olympic event by the American Judo Yudanshakai, thereby greatly increasing American interest in Judo. And now, riding the crest of a martial arts wave, interest in Judo has risen to new heights, with the United States fielding Judo teams at all the summer Olympiads.
At the moment, women's Judo in the USA is in the limelight, with the emergence of a new rising star, Rhonda Rousey. She took the silver medal in the September, 2007 World Championships, and great things are expected from her in 2008.
America's youngsters are active competitors, too!
2nd grader Michael Burch began Judo two and half years ago at the age of 6.
Michael explains that he was smitten by Judo the moment he saw a friend performing an impressive Judo Waza. And now, with 30 contests already behind him, he has won an amazing 20 or more medals. With an angelic expression, he informs us that he wants to compete in a "cool" fashion.
"My Dad records all my contests on video. Later, the whole family watches them, and we discuss how I could do it better the next time." Michael's 13-year-old sister has started to participate in Michael's practice sessions, too. "On weekends, we practice out on in the yard," he explains, his eyes bright.
Judo is effective for self-defense, strengthening the mind, and for pointing children in the right direction
In a country where many children are at risk to obesity, many turn to Judo initially as a form of exercise. Many others are attracted by the "cool" maneuvers of Judo.
Michael intends to keep practicing because, "I want to become strong. If someone attacks me, I want to be able to defend myself. And if my friends are attacked, I want to be able to help them."
In this manner, Judo also strengthens the student's mind, leading gradually to self confidence, greatly benefiting a child's growth.
"Judo practice should be fun"
The "Gardena Judo Club" that Michael attends was founded in 1951, and is America's second largest.
The club has 180 students, and holds practice sessions every Monday and Thursday. Michael's group (ages 6 to 12) practices from for 1 hour and 15 minutes beginning from 6:30 PM. His 100 fellow students are a racial rainbow of Caucasians, Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics, and one-third of these are girls.
They practice in a team contest format, with the motto that "practice should be fun". Adopting an incorrect posture, the instructor will ask them, "How about this?"
"Wrong!" they shout with vigorous voices and laughing faces.
The spirit of "respect" widens the circle of volunteers
The "Gardena Judo Club" teaches students to focus on mutual respect rather than on winning and losing.
As a result, Michael and his fellow students are strikingly well mannered. It's not surprising, therefore, that the number of students continues to increase by word-of-mouth to the point where there's now a long waiting list. Unable to enter this school, many others are forced to find another school.
The "Gardena Judo Club" has continued operating for 57 years on a volunteer basis with support from the students' parents who actively cooperate in fundraising events. The practice sessions of Michael and his friends are being supported in the background by a spirit of volunteerism.
Michael's message to the Japanese
"I love to practice the Seoi-nage! I like the excitement I feel after the throw.
I received an orange belt last year, and now I'm training for a green belt. And I'll be competing in a tournament soon!
My goal is of course to earn a black belt. Then, when I grow up, I'll be able to help those who are attacked! To all the Japanese students: enjoy your practice."
The Gardena Judo Club Inc
- AddressJapanese Cultural Institute-Gardena Valley, 1964 W. 162nd Street, Gardena, CA 90247-3640
- CONTACTYuki Fujita 310-329-5028 (English only)
* The above information is current as of July, 2008.