Tradition big part of Show-Me State Games judo competition

Saturday, July 17, 2010 | 10:54 p.m. CDT; updated 11:40 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 17, 2010
Abbie Meyer attempts to throw Vanessa Mahan during a Judo match at Smithton Middle School on Saturday during the Show-Me State Games. “It was my first match, but it felt really good,” Meyer said.

COLUMBIA — "Mutual welfare and benefit for all" is the motto that all students of judo live by.

Dr. Jigoro Kano of Tokyo, Japan started judo in 1882 as a non-fatal and more gentle form of the popular martial art jujutsu. Although judo technically is fighting, practitioners of judo known as judoka focus on respect and helping each other rather than causing the most damage. 


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Mid-Missouri Judo sponsored the judo portion of this year's Show Me State Games on Saturday at Smithton Middle School where 50 judoka came together to continue the longstanding tradition of mutual welfare and benefit.

Glenn St. John, the head instructor at Mid-Missouri judo, said he was pleased with the turnout and the respect that everybody showed towards each other on the mat Saturday. 

"We had a great competition and a great turnout here today," St. John said.

A fourth degree black belt, St. John has been teaching at Mid-Missouri Judo since 2000 and many of his students competed at the event Saturday. Clint Nickelson, a 29-year-old Columbia police officer, was one of them.

 As a police officer, many of the values and ideals that judo fosters are applicable to Nickelson's everyday duties. 

"Judo is the perfect martial art for a police officer," Nickelson said. "I've used the mental and physical aspects of the sport as a police officer countless times."

Another one of judo's most important mottos is "maximum efficiency for the energy expended," which Nickelson said goes hand in hand with being a police officer. 

"It's about getting the job done as well as you can while at the same time staying efficient," Nickelson said. "It's like putting handcuffs on someone, quickly and without any trouble."

The Show-Me State Games was one of hundreds of tournaments Nickelson has entered in the past 22 years, and he won the men's open division Saturday, where competitors are randomly placed against each other in a single-elimination format. The open division competition took place after competition for divisions separated by weight and experience.

Because of their similar weight and experience, Nickelsen competed against Illinois resident Matt Foster for most of the day. Nickelsen said they met for the first time Saturday, but were good friends by the end of the tournament.

"We all have many of the same experiences," Nickelsen said. "It's just easy to make friends out here."

Foster traveled with instructors David York and Jon Ulery of the Itokawa Judo Jujutsu gym in Wood River, Ill.

"We like coming out to competitions like this because we are competing at a lower level rather than regional or national levels," Ulery said. "It's great to get the judo community together like this, and it builds a good base for new competitors."

Competitions like the Show Me State Games give judoka that tournament experience without the stress that higher level competitions create.

York and Ulery said they work to make their gym more accessible for students that cannot afford typical fees. They ask for $20 per month for a family membership, but if a family cannot afford it, they will never turn them down. Ulery said their fee structure goes right along with the mutual benefit and welfare for all motto on which the sport is based.

"We are just giving back," he said. "We can't progress in the sport without competitors, so we fill the gym with judoka that want to compete and help each other become better citizens."

Parents bring themselves and their children to York's gym for self defense as well as the level of discipline that judo requires. Nicole Thomas said she loves the way the instructors at the gym treat her son Tanner Thomas, who also competed on Saturday and won his division.

"Mr. York and the rest of the instructors are amazing people," Nicole Thomas said. "Mr. York is a retired school teacher and will even tutor his students after practice. He cares about their lives inside and outside of the club."


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