By Janet Walgren
I’ve been compiling some histories, both personal and family, during my down time. Perhaps you would be interested in learning a little about, and seeing, my favorite sport which is Judo.
Yep, that’s me throwing Jim Harrison in a women’s self-defense demonstration
I did lots of demonstrations in front of thousands of people for about ten years. Most of the self-defense routines consisted of karate and jujitsu techniques followed by a judo throw.
I broke my first board in front of thousands of people during a demonstration. Jim sprung it on me; it was a surprise. I had never tried to break a board before. I was so nervous that I missed the boards he was holding on the first try and caught him hard with a back kick in the chest. Man did he ever deserve it. Thankfully, I broke the board on my second try or he would have broken my … when we got back to the dojo.
You don’t really hear much about Judo because judo doesn’t pay big profits like the other martial arts. Jim Harrison promoted my karate tournament wins like crazy because it was good for business.
I was in in TV commercials, newspaper articles, Karate Magazines, home shows, tournament half-time shows, and even featured at the 1968 World Fair because my karate accomplishments were good for everybody’s business.
In 1975 author, Bob Wall, listed me in the very first Who’s Who in the Martial Arts. Well known karate greats like Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee were also listed in that same edition.
When I was going through some of the newspaper clippings last Sunday, I found an interesting clipping detailing the tournament standings for a karate tournament. Check out the name of the winners. Chuck Norris was the lightweight finalist in the men’s black belt division.
Here is a photo of my winning back kick. I won every match with this powerful kick. Note the bend that is still in my leg. By the time my leg was straight, my opponent was out of the ring on her back side.
So why do I prefer judo to karate when I was so good at karate? Well for starters, Judo doesn’t involve knives.
For years when Jim was developing his knife defenses, he would appear suddenly and hand me a big wicked looking knife and say, “Come at me hard with a thrust!” Or, “Try to stab me with an overhand or lunge at me holding the knife like so.”
I knew if I didn’t come full force, I would get beaten up as he demonstrated what he wanted me to do. And, if I did come at him full force, I was still in for a bruising.
When people read his magazine articles about knife defenses, they said wow! They never stopped to ask, “How did he figure that out?” but I could have told them.
I like judo because it is relaxing. It is cool to throw someone and know that you really did it. It is also relaxing to be thrown. It is kind of like a nice relaxing full body massage.
Judo is a sport that requires self-discipline.
It is a great sport for young kids because they have to develop self-discipline to be able to use it. In order to learn the throws, you have to cooperate with your partner. Judo teaches cooperation.
Judo translates “the gentle way” because you use your opponents strength and momentum to throw them, and it is a life sport that doesn’t take a huge toll on your body.
My favorite judo player was a man named Paul. He was an old, tall, skinny, Ichabod Crane type of fellow who would come to our dojo to work out about twice a week.
Paul would just stand there, hardly moving a muscle as the young bucks attacked him furiously. Then there would be a slight move of his hand and a quick sweep of his foot and the young muscle head he had partnered with found himself on the mat. Paul would help the guy to his feet, but that would only last for a second before he found himself on the mat again.
The young guys had a hard workout but Paul seldom broke a sweat. I don’t think I ever saw anyone throw Paul. He was simply marvelous.
Check out this link on youtube to see a quick demonstration of the classic judo throws. This is a great credit card commercial:
I did a lot of women’s self-defense demonstrations in the 60’s and 70’s to promote the martial arts and women’s participation in them. Judo wasn’t introduced into the Olympics until 1964 and women didn’t participate until 1988 as a demonstration sport. The first women’s Olympic Judo medals were awarded in 1992. I guess that makes me a woman pioneer in women’s judo. Those who trained me were Jim Harrison, Jim Lindell, guest resident sensei Kim Jong Woo and guest sensei Dr. Park Sung Jae.