Two, 10-year-old girls, each dressed in white gis, bow to each other in respect and wait for instruction.
Smiling like old friends, they rush towards each other at breakneck speed, grabbing each other by their uniform collars, each trying to gain the upper hand.
After three minutes of grappling and throwing one another onto the mat, referee Jim Lewis stops the match and signals Carly Grace Beal as the winner.
Beal bowed once more to her opponent, Isabella Ugarte, and let the next two competitors in line step up to practice judo techniques during a class with the Fayetteville/Fort Bragg Judo Club at the Fayetteville Police Training Center, Feb. 27.
Started in 1985 by former Fayetteville Police Chief Ron Hansen, the club has moved from different locations around Fayetteville and Fort Bragg before settling at the training center, said Hansen, the club’s sensei, and an 8th degree black belt..
“It’s been a long journey,” said Hansen, who has studied judo for more than 50 years. He said most of his junior and senior students are military Family members.
“They like the hard workout and want to enter tournaments. They have a good fight instinct,” he said.
The junior students, ages 5 through 18, learn much more than grappling and throwing techniques.
“I think it’s a great foundation, especially if you want to do some other mixed martial arts. I don’t think you can get a better foundation than judo because that’s your ground, your game, your balance and strength,” said Charla Suggs, mother of two judo students, Gabriel, 10, and Isaac, 11. Suggs’ husband, Bart, is a retired Fayetteville Police officer.
Robin and Capt. Brian Fitzgerald, XVIII Airborne Corps, Long Range Surveillance Company, said they have noticed their son, Tom, 9, become more confident.
“He’s learning sportsmanship, how to win or lose gracefully,” Robin said.
Lauren Sobotincic, a government contractor said she also noticed increased self-confidence in her son, Cameron, 6, who has been practicing the sport for almost a year.
“It teaches him discipline and respect for others. He’s always had those qualities. It’s taught him self-pride too because he has accomplished a few things in judo already,” she said.
Sobotincic started her own lessons in judo three weeks ago.
“I’m doing things I thought I’d never be able to do. It’s kind of a good outlet for me as well,” she said.
Sarah Bogan, wife of 2nd Lt. Ralph Bogan, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, is also a beginner in judo.
“It’s taught me so much more that I can apply to self-defense,” said Bogan who has also taken self-defense classes. “One month here, I felt like I learned more than three months at (her former class,)” she said.
Ron Czolek, a 4th degree black belt and coach for the club, said they are able to keep membership costs affordable to Families and young adults due to an all-volunteer coaching staff and free use of the training center.
All participants must be registered and current with a recognized judo association such as USA, USJI, USJF or USJA. USA Judo has annual memberships ranging from $35 for a new member age 16, to $185 for a Family of six.
To join the club, the cost is $20 per month for children up to age 18, $25 for students age 18 and older and $30 for Families with two or more children. There is also a one-time administration fee of $25.
Students must also purchase an approved judogi uniform that ranges in prices from $35 to $55, depending on size of the student. These are available for purchase at the dojo.
Training/practice sessions are Monday and Wednesday evenings with the junior sessions held from 6 to 7 p.m. and senior trainings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday classes are held from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and announced during the Wednesday session and through email.
For more information, call Czolek at 818–9593, Hansen at 567–4333 or visit www.fayettevillejudo.com, www.teamusa.org or www.myncji.com.