The sport of judo is starting to make waves in Saskatchewan, and the Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo club is right on the crest of it’s development.
Long known as a martial art which focuses on throwing and grappling your opponent into submission, judo — which, when translated from it’s Japanese origin, literally means ‘the gentle way’ — has started to attract attention throughout Canada as an athletic endeavour.
One of the major reasons for that is the massive exposure judo has received at the Olympic Games. The success of Canadian judo player Nicolas Gill, a bronze medalist at the Barcelona Games, only helped to raise the bar of recognition.
But while the rest of Canada has been gradually climbing on the judo bandwagon, Saskatchewan has been relatively slow to develop. That’s something which the province’s high performance coach, Ewan Beaton, thinks could easily change in the near future.
“You look at our clubs on the provincial scene and you’ll see we already have some very strong players, even though there isn’t a large number of people taking part in the sport,” he said.
“I think that shows what could happen if there was more development, with more people taking it up at a competitive level.”
Beaton, who was in Moose Jaw to scout the third Koseikan Invitational Judo tournament, has the credentials to back up his claims.
A fourth-degree black belt, Beaton, 29, has competed for Canada at two Olympic Games, finishing ninth in Barcelona. He has also won five national championships in the under-60 kilogram category and has enjoyed high placings at several top-level international competitions.
With his depth of experience, Beaton has seen many successful clubs in other countries. He looks at Moose Jaw and the Koseikan club’s relatively youthful base and he sees the potential for a serious leader in the sport.
“You look at what this club has done in the last few years, it’s amazing. They only had something like eight members a couple years ago and now they’re up around 60 or 70. Plus, they’re the first club in the province to find themselves a corporate sponsor (Investors Group recently signed on), which could really help them develop even further,” Beaton said.
Cliff Wiens, one of the men most responsible for the renewed success of the local club, points to the number of young rising stars in the club as one of it’s reasons for success.
“You look at Kailey (Large) and Stephanie (Legault), how much success they’re having, and they haven’t been in judo that long,” he said. “We have a lot of younger players, seven and eight year olds, who are going to be very, very good. As they improve and become successful, I’m sure there will be even more interest.”
As with any sport, one of the best ways to improve in judo is through competition, something the Koseikan club is very involved with. The Invitational attracted more than 120 competitors from throughout the province, of all degrees of ability.
As a result, it has become one of the largest tournaments in the province in only three years of existence.
“Competing can make a big difference in the development of a judoka. It gives you a chance to test your skills and see where you stand in relation to other players, as well as showing you what you need to work on,” Beaton said.
“There’s no question the more tournaments we have in the province, the better it will be for the development of the sport.”
While the sport aspect of judo is what many clubs are focusing on, the fact remains it is a martial art first, something most clubs still keep as a major part of their training.
“Judo is a very difficult to learn and at the same time anyone from eight to 80 can take part in it. And like any martial art, it develops many traits you can use in everyday life. It has many, many benefits both as a sport and a martial art,” he said.
“As long as it continues to have a lot to offer to those who practice it, I think judo will continue to grow and gain recognition.”
Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo Club results from the Moose Jaw Koseikan Invitational Judo tournament, held during the weekend at Central collegiate.
Cadet girls (12 years and under)
Under 30 kilograms — silver, Kendra Kurp; bronze, Heather Walker.Cadet boys
Under 55 kilograms — gold, Marisa Kerr; bronze, Danielle Pakula.
Under 22 kilograms — gold, Matthew Byer.Juvenile Women (12 to 15 years old)
Under 25 kilograms — gold, Matthew Byer; silver, Tyler Mutlow.
Under 30 kilograms — gold, Chris Gerry; silver, Connor MacDonald.
Under 35 kilograms — gold, Leigh White; bronze, Aaron Walker.
Under 40 kilograms — bronze, Jarryd Denne.
Over 55 kilograms — gold, Andrew Rininsland; silver, Christopher Kuntz; bronze, Andrew Deyme.
Under 42 kilograms — gold, Merrisa Kurp.Juvenile Men
Under 45 kilograms — silver, Merrisa Kurp.
Under 48 kilograms — bronze, Stephanie Legault.
Under 52 kilograms — gold, Kailey Large.
Under 40 kilograms — bronze, Garth Rivers.Junior Men (under 20 years)
Under 74 kilograms — bronze, Kelly Gower.
Over 74 kilograms — gold, Brian Smith; silver, Mark Kerr.
Under 81 kilograms — silver, Matthew Bespalko.Senior Men (Open)
Under 90 kilograms — silver, Brian Smith; bronze, Steven Erickson.
Novice under 81 kilograms — gold, Jarrod Robinson; silver, Alex Carleton; bronze, Jeff Robinson.
Novice under 90 kilograms — silver, Dan Orescanin.
Advanced under 90 kilograms — silver, Ken Blandford; bronze, Dan Orescanin
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald Jan. 11, 1999