|Laila Jarson, 9, an orange belt, is upended at judo practice by Gary Monto, a seventh-degree black belt. He is president of Judan Judo, which will host the junior nationals championship next year. |
( THE BLADE/LORI KING )
By CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
At Judan Judo of Toledo, all eyes are looking to next summer.
That's when the club again will host the Junior Nationals Championship of the United States Judo Association/United States Judo Federation, the event's joint sanctioning body.
The competition is expected to attract 750 to 1,000 young competitors to Owens Community College June 30 to July 3, according to Gary Monto, Judan Judo's president. They will range in age from 8 to 20.
The Toledo club played host to the championship in 1998, 2001, and 2005, when it was in the SeaGate Centre, but that downtown facility was unavailable for the necessary dates next year.
"You will have some of your up-and-coming Olympians there," Mr. Monto, a retired Toledo police officer and seventh-degree black belt, said. "It's a prestigious tournament."
In the meantime, Judan Judo's young members, who are about 80 percent of the club's membership, continue to train hard.
Brendan Stevens, 11, is among them. Brendan won the state championship for his weight class in May.
The fifth grader at Washington Local's Hiawatha Elementary School said he has been involved in judo for a little more than a year and looks forward to his workouts at Judan Judo's Point Place dojo, or martial arts training place.
"I get a good workout, and I enjoy it," Brendan said during a break between throws and falls in the dojo's mat room. "I'm going to stay with it."
Brendan's father, Patrick Stevens, said his son has benefited physically and mentally from the judo training.
"He's quiet and reserved, but he's becoming more outgoing as he gets confidence. It's hard work, and it really instills a lot of discipline," Mr. Stevens said.
In judo, workouts involve a lot of falling, throwing, and body contact, all adjusted for the age, size, and capability of the participant. Karate, another martial art, emphasizes striking, using the hands and feet as weapons.
Grade school and high school students must maintain a 2.0 grade average and prove as much by bringing their grade cards to the dojo. If they fall below a 2.0, they're not allowed to travel to tournaments or advance in rank.
Darcel Jarson said this requirement was a powerful incentive for her daughter Laila, 9, a fourth grader at Blessed Sacrament School, to keep up her grades. She is an orange belt.
"It makes her study," Ms. Jarson said.
That's true too for Christopher Barker, 10, a student at Bennett Venture Academy, who "comes home and does his homework and knows that if he doesn't do well, he can't compete," said his grandmother, with whom he lives.
Frances Bricker said judo gives Christopher discipline and that he spends five to six hours a week at the dojo.
"He's very dedicated. He's been doing it since the end of July," she said. "We've tried sports - football, basketball - but this is something he really likes."
Christopher, for his part, described judo as a great stress reliever. "It's really been helping me. If I was older, I'd bring my kids here," he said.
Mr. Monto, 63, said he started in judo when he was 7. He founded Judan Judo as a nonprofit in 1991 at the request of Toledo mayor John McHugh.
At the time, city officials hoped the club would take young people off the street during a spate of youth violence. The dojo building was purchased for $1 from the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority.
About 1,400 youngsters have participated in Judan Judo's program since, Mr. Monto said. Just one student failed to graduate from high school, and only one got pregnant as a teenager.
"A lot of our students have grown up, and we have their kids," he said.
Six former Judan students are serving in the military, Mr. Monto added, including as an Army Ranger and Green Beret.
The club's dues are $45 a month, but youngsters are not turned away if their families can't afford to pay.
Fund-raising drives make up the difference. The club's officers and board members are unpaid.
Mr. Monto said the club will have to raise $70,000 to $80,000 to sponsor next year's tournament.
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FONTE: Toledo Blade