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Fans and participants filed into the Owen County High School gym Saturday afternoon. They came from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. They came to watch a regional tournament. With it being March, one might expect it to be basketball. It was not.
It was the Owen County Judo Invitational.
More than 156 competitors took part in the competition. They ranged in age from four to senior adult. The Owen County Judo Team is made up of 22 members in grades 1-12 and is coached by Doris Beverly.
This is the third year Owen County has hosted the event that features the second largest sport in the world. According to Wikipedia, the sport originated in Japan in the late-19th century. The goal of the sport is to either throw your opponent to the ground so that they land flat on their back or to get them to tap themselves out. This is done by pinning them with either a choke hold or an arm bar.
Many of Saturday’s matches lasted only a few seconds as one competitor was able to quickly take down the other. In contrast, some matches lasted several minutes as competitors danced around the mat waiting for just the right moment to make a move.
The word Judo means “gentleness.” Those who take part in it are known as a judoko. Judo became an Olympic sport for men in 1964 and for women in 1988.
The sport teaches discipline and respect. Wikipedia states that militaries all over the world use it as a way to teach hand-to-hand combat and self defense. The Japanese police force has trained in Judo since 1886.
Students in Owen County can receive high school credit for taking part in Judo. Coach Beverly also teaches language arts at the high school. Since much of what is said on the mat during competition is Japanese, Beverly has her students learn various phrases so they understand what is going on while competing.
One of her students, senior Jordan Jackson, said that paying attention and listening is very important. “If you don’t listen you don’t know what you are doing.”
As part of their studies, those interested in obtaining the credit also have to read the novel “Hiroshima” and write a paper on it. Beverly said students can obtain scholarships as a result of completing the work.
One of Beverly’s younger team members is first-grader Emily True. The eight-year-old competed on Saturday, and following a victorious match, said what she liked about the sport. “It is fun. You get to beat up boys.” This is her second year in taking part in Judo and she was not shy when asked what it feels like after she wins a match. “I feel happy.”
Jackson, who just started taking judo, said he liked Judo because, “You get to use your hands and move around a lot. I get a lot of excitement from it.”
Saturday’s tournament was another success. In fact, many in attendance said the tournament is one of the best they will attend all year.
Editor’s note: Complete results from the tournament will be published in next week’s editon of the News-Herald.