As World Judo Day, Friday was a special day for judokas everywhere.
For Carcross’ Beverly James, it was extra special.
Almost 50 years since first donning a judogi (judo uniform) at the age of 17, James has received a black belt.
“They just announced it at our AGM on Saturday — it was a surprise for me. I cried,” said James. “Aaron (Jensen) and I started judo with Chuck (Mackenzie) in probably 1970. That’s when I started up here, in 1970.”
“It’s a real honour,” she added.
The Judo Yukon executive board, under their mandate as a territorial grading board, bestowed an honourary black belt on James to commemorate her many years of contribution to the sport in Yukon.
James received the belt at the end of Judo Yukon’s World Judo Day celebration, which commemorates the birthday of Jigoro Kano, known as the “father of Judo,” at the Canada Games Centre on Friday.
“It’s been a long time in coming,” said Jensen, vice president of Judo Yukon. “I don’t remember the exact dates, but I remember Bev was a brown belt when I was a kid doing judo here in Whitehorse with (Judo Yukon founder) Chuck Mackenzie. She’s been around forever, she was around when I did my shodan (test for black belt) in ’96.”
James played a pivotal role in bringing judo back to Carcross. More than a decade after a previous Carcross club closed, James spearheaded the creation of the Hiroshikai Judo Club that is now in its fifth season.
“For me it’s a big thanks for getting judo started out in Carcross,” said Hiroshikai sensei Robert Bellon. “Bev is from the community and her grandkids were coming of age to do judo, so she wanted to get a program started. She asked Judo Yukon if there were any instructors available to come out and it ended up I was available.
“She does all the paperwork, funding applications … she takes care of administration stuff.”
James, who took up the Olympic sport in 1967 while living in Saskatoon, has long had enough grading points to test for a black belt. But a bum knee and inconsistency in training have kept her from the shodan test.
“I’m a long ways away. I’ve been helping with judo, but I have a bad knee, so I haven’t been doing a lot of judo,” said James. “For the last 49 years it’s been on and off, and more off than on.”
“Reluctant with age and whatnot, she was never positive to my suggestion that she should grade to shodan because of some of the physical aspects that it takes,” said Jensen. “But nonetheless she stuck around, helps out, sits on the board of Judo Yukon, and without her we wouldn’t have a Carcross club.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org