The Yukon judo community gathered for the 2018 Judo Yukon Open Championships at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on April 14, marking the end of the judo season.
A total of 65 athletes from seven clubs took part in the meet that included 98 fights in total.
Athletes from Golden Horn Judo, Shiroumakai Judo and Northern Lights Judo — all in Whitehorse — joined those from Carmacks Judo Club, Hiroshikai Judo in Carcross and two Alaskan clubs, Anchorage’s Mountain View Judo and Juneau’s Capital City Judo.
Aaron Jensen, tournament director and sensei at Shiroumakai, said the tournament is the last judo event in the Yukon before the summer break.
“It’s our big showcase, so to say, for the Yukon,” said Jensen. “A lot of the clubs … they’re shut down now for the summer season and start back up in the fall, with the exception of my club. I have all of the older kids and we’re still preparing some of them to go to the Canadian Nationals in May.”
Each club hosts a tournament over the course of the season, but this one is unique in both setup and content.
The Judo Yukon Open is a little more formal and complex in its organization and it’s also a standing-only tournament, meaning all participants are required to have a yellow belt.
“We run this tournament specifically like a larger Outside tournament to give the younger kids that sense of what a large tournament is like,” said Jensen.
New this year, the tournament used computerized scoreboards and draw systems.
Jensen said there was a “learning curve” to the new system.
“We did have a few glitches with that,” said Jensen. “I think overall, everybody was pleased with the way things worked out.”
The only complaint was that the automated draws meant that matches could be quite spread out, meaning athletes — and parents — had to stick around longer than at other tournaments.
“When we dealt with paper draw sheets, we could say, ‘We’re going to do this draw sheet first’ and we could do three divisions at once,” said Jensen, adding athletes weren’t able to leave after only an hour or two at the event with the new system, but that it might not be a bad thing.
“What we find, especially younger kids, is they leave. They want to get their medal and go. Why don’t you stay and watch the judo? Maybe you’ll learn something, too.”
Unlike tournaments earlier in the year that featured groundwork, this event included stand-up starts to each fight.
“Judo Canada recommends that we don’t let anybody do standing fighting unless they’re a yellow belt,” said Jensen. “It typically takes a kid a full season, at least two-thirds of a season, to attain the yellow belt level. It signifies that they’re at a reasonable level, that they’re not going to get hurt from a liability point of view.”
Competitors all had to have at least a yellow stripe and the formal OK from their coaches in order to take part.
The event ultimately ran on time, despite the new systems in place, and Jensen said volunteers played a huge role in the success of not only this tournament, but Judo Yukon as an organization.
“We have a parent committee to help with selling t-shirts and pins,” said Jensen as an example of what volunteers do for the organization.
“Our organization is getting more organized with more people involved, so that one or two people aren’t doing everything.”
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