Judo Club is more than sport

Mario Melendez (left), coach of the Judo Club, instructs Stefan Rabenhorst, freshman political science major, how to roll through a fall during a judo seminar in the Bowld Student Commons. The club practices on Mondays. | Photo by Beth Spain

By Beth Spain

Two opponents stand on a mat. With a slight of foot, a tug on the white uniform and a series of fast-paced moves, only one person remains standing. This form of martial arts spreading fast across the nation is called judo.

The Union Judo Club is a new addition to the student organizations on campus. Though females are welcome to participate, the group of about 13 male students practice in the Bowld Commons’ gym every Monday night from 7–9 p.m.

An Olympic sport, judo consists of a series of throws and grappling maneuvers intended to pin the opponent to the ground for 20 seconds. It either forces the opponent to surrender or lands the opponent on his or her back.

Mario Melendez, the coach who is pursuing a master’s in Christian studies at Union’s Germantown campus, said judo originated in Japan around 1882 when the country outlawed the Samurai. Dr. Jigoro Kano, an educator and martial artist, created judo by combining four styles of ju jitsu as a sport to keep “the essence of the Samurai alive.”

“Judo is a lifestyle for me,” Melendez said.

He started with traditional karate at age 10. Melendez currently holds a third-degree black belt in both karate and self-defense ju jitsu, and a coach-rank brown belt in judo.

Joey Murchison, freshman math major and president of the Judo Club, said there are 70 possible ways to throw a human body using the nine specific techniques of judo. With the right techniques, Murchison said anyone could throw a 200-pound man, and it would feel like tossing 10 pounds over a shoulder.

Also, when the club competes in tournaments, he said they intend to compete as a Christian organization.

“Any sport done in the right heart and mind can be done for God’s glory,” Murchison said.

As a Christian organization, Melendez teaches his team about Christian ideology while demonstrating different moves and throws. He illustrates how God made the mechanics of the human body to move certain ways when being pushed or pulled. Melendez shows them how to better their human character, living habits and, in fighting, he shows the students “when to yield in humility as Christ showed.”

The Judo Club will help Melendez with his future plans of sharing the Gospel in other nations. As a coach, he said he hopes to enter countries with weak or non-existent Olympic judo teams and begin a coffeehouse church plant.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.

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