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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Theodorou

Judo association opens sign-ups, but why choose judo?

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Sign-ups for the first judo course of the year at Groningen’s ACLO sports center are now open. With this new opportunity for newcomers to get involved comes the question: What makes judo worthwhile?

Judo competition © Mattekloppers

The Mattekloppers Association (Dutch for Mattbeaters’ Association) offers two 5-week courses each year for newcomers to get a taste of what it is like to practice judo.

According to Huub Raspe, chairman of the association’s board and a black belt, judo has lots to offer in terms of physical fitness. Things like flexibility, agility, and balance are fundamental skills gained through the practice of the sport.

Getting into the sport

Everyone finds their way to martial arts in different ways. Huub has been going to judo lessons since he was a teenager, but it was not his only hobby. Eventually, he felt he needed to focus on either football or judo.

To him, football meant mostly losing the game, contrary to his experience with judo. So, the decision was quite simple.

For Erin, a Groningen University student originally from Zimbabwe, her interest in the sport began in early childhood.

“When I was a kid I loved reading spy novels, and the kids in them were black belts in karate or something like that. I fancied that I would be the same one day.”

Her biggest fictional hero is the TV show character and professional spy Alex Rider. Just watching Alex use his martial arts skills in various missions piqued her interest, but what really did it for her was a performance at her school by the Zimbabwe Judo Federation.

Today, Erin has already been practicing judo for three years as a member of the Mattekloppers and has climbed up to the level of a green belt.

Principles in Judo

Judo puts a great deal of emphasis on mutual respect. While Huub stresses the importance of knowing one’s limits, Erin also appreciates the principles of balance and sportsmanship that are fundamental to the practice.

“Even though you’re technically fighting with people, everyone still has each other’s backs. If someone gets you into a really nasty chokehold, in the end, you come out of it. And sure your neck is not really okay but you’re like ‘damn bro that was amazing!’.”

Chokehold © Mattekloppers

Beyond the Matt

Outside of the Dojo, Huub believes that knowing judo is a great self-defense tool. While Erin agrees to some extent, she thinks using the skills in real life should be withheld to the absolute worst-case scenario.

“I think in a real situation knowing judo gives a false sense of confidence rather than the need to get away from a situation that is dangerous.” She warns: “When in risky circumstances don’t try and be a hero. Run!”

Nonetheless, safety is not the only benefit of the sport. In Erin’s experience, practicing judo cultivates a relationship between body and mind and shapes character.

The Value of Judo

What Huub best associates with his judo journey is the feeling of accomplishment.

Last year he took part in a judo national championship where he was in two fights and lost both. At first, he was cranky about it but later he was proud to make it that far and loved the excitement of being in a competition.

On the other hand, Erin loves how judo appeals to her inner child. It's not all seriousness; there's a playful side where you get to roll around on the floor.

“People don’t play enough and I think that’s what judo is important for.”

Judo competition © Mattekloppers

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