Judo’s faithful find home in Northglenn

Brian Miller
Posted 7/16/12

NORTHGLENN — On a recent Tuesday evening, the gymnasium at the Northglenn Recreation Center came alive with shouts of instruction and …

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Judo’s faithful find home in Northglenn

Posted
NORTHGLENN — On a recent Tuesday evening, the gymnasium at the Northglenn Recreation Center came alive with shouts of instruction and encouragement, and the repeated thump of bodies falling to the mat.
For the few dozen participants of the Northglenn Judo Club who make regular appearances here two to three times a week to train, these are moments to cherish with a sport that has a small yet devoted following locally and in the United States.
As the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London draws closer, judo falls into the ranks of least publicized of the 28 sports that will be part of the games. While judo has been referred to as the most widely practiced martial art in the world, its origins and techniques are often misunderstood.
“The United States will have one or two, maybe three people place in the Olympics this year,” said Dennis McGuire, co-founder of the Northglenn Judo Club. “It is disappointing because people don’t understand it.”
Founded in Japan in 1882 by Jigoro Kano, men’s judo has been part of the Summer Olympics since 1964, with the women’s competition becoming a medal sport in 1992. While the United States has never won a gold medal in the Olympics — Japan leads all countries with 35 — the U.S. has earned 10 medals over the years.
One interesting note about the first U.S. Olympic team — former Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell was one of the five participants in 1964 in Tokyo.
As a martial art, judo is more wrestling-based in that participants attempt to throw opponents to the mat and can use submission techniques, while strikes with the arms and legs are allowed in formal demonstrations but not in competition.
“From what I experience with judo, everything you do is hands-on; you know immediately how your strength relates to other people,” said Warren Agena, head trainer at NGJC. “There’s no false sense of security or anything because the girls work out with the guys at full strength.”
Colorado’s 15 judo clubs around the state include a club at Colorado School of Mines in Golden and the Hyland Hills club in Westminster, but Northglenn Judo is the region’s largest and the state’s oldest continually operating club. Founded in 1965 by McGuire and Page Baptist, the club has earned an international reputation over the years, sending a pair of participants to the Olympics.
At any given time 75-100 participants are registered, with roughly 50 showing up to a given practice.
“Sometimes we see third-generation kids — I’ve seen their parents in judo and their grandparents in judo,” Agena said. “That’s a really good feeling that the parents and the grandparents know what we do is teach the kids a really good work ethic and good discipline.”
NGJC is currently preparing to send 10 of its younger athletes to the Junior Olympics in Dallas. Agena said the sport requires plenty of discipline and patience, and it takes a long time for anyone to excel.
“There’s a passion that builds up,” Agena said. “It grows on you.”
The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team features five strong candidates, with Kyle Vashkulat, Nick Delpopolo and Travis Stevens competing for the men, and Kayla Harrison and Marti Malloy on the women’s side.
The Northglenn Judo Club’s two Olympic qualifiers were Craig Agena in the 1984 Olympics and Jo Anne Quiring in 1992. In addition, a pair of first alternates also called the club home, including former Thornton High School wrestling standout Kenny Hashimoto.
Hashimoto, who won state wrestling titles his final two years with the Trojans and was a runner-up his first two years, has trained at Northglenn Judo since 1991. Since graduating from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Hashimoto has continued to train with the hopes of one day reaching the Olympics.
“You always get excited. It’s once every four years, and it’s an honor just to be in the same breath of talking about it or having a chance of competing in it,” Hashimoto said recently by phone from San Jose, Calif. “Right now what I think about is helping competitors I know.”
Hashimoto was an alternate for the 2004 games in Athens and was among the top-ranked competitors in 2008 before having to withdraw from the trials with an injury two weeks before competition was to begin. The 25-year-old won the national championship at 66 kg in 2010 and 2011, and was on the 2010 Senior World Team that competed in Tokyo.
Hashimoto said he hasn’t ruled out aiming for the 2016 Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, but it isn’t his immediate focus.
“I think for now it’s definitely not out of the question, but four years down the line is a long way to think about,” he said. “Even next year, thinking about worlds and nationals is closer to quite a good possibility.”
For more information on the Northglenn Judo Club, visit its website at www.northglennjudo.org.

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