Drexel’s new recreation center is the home to a myriad of sporting clubs and activities – ranging from the typical to the more unusual. Because of the popularity of the center, many activities share the same spaces, resulting in some athletic revelations. A few weekends ago, during breaks of their pick-up basketball game, a handful of Drexel students peeked their heads around the divider to see what was happening on the other side of the gym. The other side contained a mat full of combatants who were grappling in efforts to throw each other to the ground.
The mentally and physically rigorous sport of judo is fairly popular in the United States, but is garnering a larger following with the popularization of Mixed Martial Arts.
“Judo builds both physical and mental skills,” Will Dampier of the Drexel Judo club said. “Being thrown around makes you physically tough, but Judo also builds mental toughness; knowing you can go up against a guy twice your size and still win is a great feeling.”
The event hosted by the Drexel Judo Club welcomed not only club members to participate in the work out, but also any newcomers interested. There was quite a large turnout, no doubt because the athletes wanted to learn from Jason Morris, a United States judo legend.
He competed in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, where he took home a silver medal, the highest honor any American has ever achieved in judo. Today, Morris is one of the most well respected judo instructors in the world and has coached the U.S. national team several times, many of whom are his students.
“There are lots of purposes for these clinics,” Morris said. “Networking, creating pipelines of potential talent, and to spread knowledge and hopefully to improve the quality of clubs.”
After some rigorous warm ups and stretching, the participants watched diligently as Morris demonstrated a move. They then paired up with someone of roughly the same size and skill level and practiced the moves on each other as Morris patroled the mats, dishing out expert tips.
“In judo, technique, skill and intelligence will beat strength and brawn mostly every time,” Morris said. “Judo’s quite like a chess match.”
Although there is no word to describe the sight of the throws and the dull thud on the mats, judo is not a barbaric sport. Unlike the way in which the tallest player on the courts on the other side of the gym was grabbing rebounds with ease, the biggest and strongest contestant at the clinic was not always having the most success. It is widely known throughout the Martial Arts community that much of the curriculum is geared to teach a smaller person how to overthrow a larger opponent.
Having someone like Morris to put on a demonstration at Drexel says a great deal about the caliber of the Drexel judo club, and their willingness to improve.
Currently, Drexel Judo has about 80 current members, but they are open to new members.
“We’re very accepting of beginners and people with little or no experience,” Dampier said. “We have a strong relationship with burgeoning clubs at UPenn, Bryn Mawr College, Main Line Judo, Philly Judo and numerous other local clubs, and we regularly have inter-club scrimmages as well.”
“Judo promotes discipline, speed, agility, strength, coordination, the list goes on and on,” Morris said.
While I am someone who hears the swish of net and immediately becomes enticed to shoot some hoops, maybe you will be interested in this upcoming sport. Practices take place at DAC in Activity Room 1, Tuesdays at 7 p.m. and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m., as well as Saturdays at 2 p.m.