Jorja Bellmore-Smarch from the Carmacks Judo Club controls an opponent during a match at the Carcross Judo Tournament. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

Carcross plays host to first judo tournament of the season

“I think it was a good learning experience”

The judo season’s competitive schedule started on Oct. 27 with a tournament at Ghùch Tlâ Community School in Carcross.

Hosted by the Hiroshikai Judo Club, the tournament was the first taste of competition for many of the 66 participants who registered to compete and focused on groundwork.

Aaron Jensen, sensei for Shiroumakai Judo Club and MC for the tournament, said the format allows for more people to compete and still stay safe.

“What we’ve done in the past five years at least, this first tournament, regardless of who hosts it, we always do groundwork divisions,” said Jensen. “Basically that’s for beginners — people that just started judo this year, a.k.a. white belts — to be able to participate in a tournament at low risk.”

The risk in judo, Jensen said, is falling and getting hurt or getting thrown hard.

“These young kids, they don’t quite understand the whole concept of dynamics and the force that is applied,” he said. “By doing groundwork, it should be a safe, fun environment for them so they get the atmosphere of being in a tournament.”

That atmosphere — the pressure and nerves — is a key part of the sport to Jensen.

“That’s part of the development,” said Jensen. “To learn to deal with that type of anxiety and stress does help build them into different people.”

Jensen said while he hasn’t heard directly from any participants, it was clear the tournament was a success.

“I can tell from the faces and their demeanour afterwards that I don’t think anybody walked away feeling bummed out,” said Jensen. “I think it was a good learning experience.”

The tournament itself was mainly a round-robin format, but age and weight distinctions were somewhat limited by the number of athletes.

“As a learning event, we try to give them as many fights as possible for experience and the round robin is going to do that,” said Jensen.

While divisions may not sync perfectly with what Judo Canada suggests, Jensen said the goal is always to make the matchups as fair as possible — usually within a two-year age bracket and a five-kilogram weight bracket.

“It doesn’t always work out, especially with some of the bigger kids,” said Jensen. “Luckily some of the bigger kids are higher-rank belts usually, so with the higher rank we can give them a little bit more leeway. They have the control and the mindset to be able to work with somebody bigger or smaller.”

That philosophy seemed to work, as Jensen said the only injury of note from the competition was a cut lip.

This was the first of four tournaments currently on the schedule in the Yukon this season.

Next up is the Carmacks team competition on Dec. 1, followed by the Northern Lights Judo Tournament on Jan. 26 and the Yukon Judo Championships on April 27.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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