The sport of judo has been around for more than a century since its birth in Japan.
In Red Deer, the history isn’t so deep with a judo club around the region for more than 40 years.
“The original sensei I think was a fellow from Britain by the name of John Cousins,” explained Al Schaefer, the current president of the Red Deer Judo Club.
The club numbers about 65 judokas (members) ranging in age from five years old up to 60 and they train out of the former River Glen School.
“The junior class is probably the biggest (5- to 15-year-olds), there’s probably 40 members in that,” he said.
Schaefer says judo is a good sport for kids because it’s dynamic and it’s structured around coordination, movement, a bit of socialization and some fun games.
The word judo translates into ‘gentle way’ but Schaefer says while the sport can be less intimidating for younger kids, some mixed martial artists will add some aspects of judo to their arsenal to use in the octagon where things are a little less gentle.
“We’ve always had a few athletes who have come in to practice judo, specifically because they’re competing in MMA and they learn the grappling techniques,” he said.
“It’s synergistic with a lot of martial arts.”
Judo has been an Olympic sport for more than five decades and will be a part of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.
“It’s a sport that is taught to the military and the RCMP as a method of self defense so its popularity is substantial.”
As far as judo within the Central Alberta region Schaefer says the numbers have been steady especially with the younger classes.
“Even if they are in other sports the dynamic fitness model in judo is transferable regardless of the sport they’re doing.”