Judo is one of the most popular sports worldwide in terms of registered athletes – and the sport will hold its junior national championships in Grand Rapids next week. The U.S. Judo Federation/U.S. Judo Association Junior and Grassroots National Championships comes to Grand Rapids July 6-8 at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.
Managed by the nonprofit U.S. Judo Federation (alternating every other year with the U.S. Judo Association) in cooperation with the West Michigan Sports Commission, the event is one of two annual national junior championships in judo in the United States (the other is hosted by USA Judo, the national organizing body for the sport). Locally, the championship is organized by Konan Judo, a nonprofit black belt judo association for the Great Lakes region. This is the first judo junior national championship to come to West Michigan.
“This championship is an incredible opportunity to showcase the sport of judo in the Midwest while giving our regional youth a drivable national tournament in which they can compete,” said Jim Murray, tournament director and president of Konan Judo, as well as board member of the U.S. Judo Federation. “It’s a feather in our cap to bring this popular worldwide sport to our region of the country.”
The event has 300 registered athletes from across the country, with 30 from Michigan (and 10 from West Michigan), 120 from Great Lakes states, and the balance from across the country – including California, Washington, Idaho, Texas, Alabama, Florida, New York and Hawaii. Athletes range in age from 8 to 20 years old. Additionally, approximately five coaches are former judo Olympians, and five referees worked at past Olympic Games. The event is expected to draw 1,000 spectators and an estimated $782,169 in economic impact plus 500 hotel nights booked at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
“Grand Rapids is second to none in terms of hosting a diverse array of youth and amateur sporting tournaments, and we are pleased to grow that roster of featured sports with the addition of a national judo junior championship such as this,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC). “And what better way to celebrate the sport than by watching these youth athletes, some of whom may be future Olympic athletes?”
Judo was founded in 1882 and first became an Olympic sport in 1964. The national sport of Japan, judo is one of the most popular sports worldwide in terms of registered athletes, with more than 20 million people practicing judo around the world on a daily basis, according to the International Judo Federation. Judo is a newer sport in the United States, with 20,000 registered athletes (versus 600,000 in France as a comparison). There are 1,000 registered members in the Midwest and 300 in Michigan, lower than coastal states where thesport is more popular.
Tournament and Ticket Details: The tournament runs all day Saturday, July 7 and Sunday, July 8 starting at 9 a.m. daily and finishing in late afternoon. Athletes compete in multiple age and weight categories, with boys and girls competing separately. Five competition areas will run tournament brackets simultaneously. Athletes compete in a modified double elimination format for a gold medal, as well as seven points toward the athlete’s national judo ranking that ultimately determines who will represent the United States in judo at the Olympic Games.
Athletes can win by the following:
Throwing an opponent to his or her back with force, speed and control
Immobilizing an opponent with a hold-down (grappling) technique for 20 seconds
Submission whereby the opponent "taps" (gives up)
Event tickets are $10 per day and $15 for a weekend pass and can be purchased at the door. For more event information, visit westmisports.com/usjf/home.
About the West Michigan Sports Commission: The non-profit West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) identifies, secures and hosts a diverse level of youth and amateur sporting events to positively impact the economy and quality of life in the region. Since its inception in 2007, the WMSC has booked 664 sporting events and tournaments that attracted more than 1 million athletes and visitors, generating $307 million in direct visitor spending. For more information, visit westmisports.com and Facebook.com/WestMichiganSportsCommission and follow @WestMiSports.
About the United States Judo Federation: The United States Judo Federation is a non-profit organization that provides national standards and guidelines for the development of grassroots judo for its students and members. Its mission is to serve and support members in the American judo community while upholding the principles of mutual welfare and benefit. The vision of USJF is to have judo in every American community and school. For more information, visit usjf.com.