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Valley judo stars to compete at nationals

June 09, 2001|By TIM YANNI, Sports Writer

Judo students from the Imperial Valley recently received recognition at a state-level competition in Fresno, and four of them will go on to represent the El Centro Police Athletic League's Judo club in a national competition July 14 and 15 in Monterey.

Michael Luna, Joseph Rodriguez, Adam Foxx and his sister Katie Foxx finished among the top and received an invitation to compete in Monterey.

Katie, a 14-year-old Brawley resident, said she feels honored to be able to compete on the national level.

"It felt good," Katie said. "It was very challenging and a great learning experience."

Adam, a 16-year-old Brawley High student, agreed with his sister.

"It was a very good learning experience," Adam said. "I found out that there's a lot of good competition out there."

Michael, a 16-year-old Southwest High School student, placed third in the state competition.

He said he came out of the meet with a better idea of what judo is. He said being defeated by some opponents helped him grow as a student of the martial arts.


Jose, a 13-year-old Kennedy Middle School student, also placed third in the event.

"I felt proud of representing my school and my senseis (instructors)," Jose said.

Katie has been involved in judo for four years and got started because she had a friend involved in the art.

She said she also likes the fact that it provides an excellent workout.

Adam started when his father signed him up for a class at a YMCA.

Michael became interested because he was enrolled in a jujitsu class and Jose began when he was working community service hours at the PAL center in El Centro.

"It's a great challenge," Katie said. "You learn something all the time."

Michael said he likes the discipline he learns from the sport and said it has helped him be more helpful around the house.

"I try to get better with every practice," Jose said. "I try to improve on my technique," he added.

Howard Haars, a sensei for the PAL club, said he is proud of his students.

"I think they've done very well," Haars said.

Haars, who has been involved with judo since 1950, said sometimes his students think he is being hard on them, but he works them hard because he sees potential in them.

"I can see their future and they can't," he explained.

"When I see people who can get to that level of achievement, I'm all for it," Haars said.

Haars said he always wants his students to come out of a competition knowing more than they knew before.

"If you win, you should learn something," Haars explained. "If you lose, you should still learn something."

He said he is appreciative to PAL for starting the judo program and he enjoys working with his students.

He reminds his students that the junior national competition is only a stepping stone to arrive at the adult national competition, an achievement that has already been accomplished by a former member of the club.

Wes Beach, a former sensei for the group, won the national heavyweight judo championship and is training for possible Olympic competition.

Haars encourages his students to have the same goals as Beach.

The students are preparing for their national competition and practice in Harding Elementary School's multipurpose room.

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