LANSING, Mich. — It’s a sport practiced by about 40 million people all over the world and one of its biggest tournaments just wrapped up right here in Lansing.
The USA Judo Youth National Championships brought thousands to the Lansing Center this weekend.
Young people ages five to 20 from all over the country competed for medals and a chance to compete in larger tournaments.
Organizer Keith Bryant says Judo is distinct from other martial arts.
“Judo in Japanese means the gentle way. Its all based on gripping and throws and things of that nature. So, I say if you know wrestling, that’s grappling in your underwear. Judo is grappling in your pajamas,” said Bryant.
15-year-old, Harlee Hiller has been practicing Judo for 10 years.
She’s won a couple medals during this two-day tournament but says its not just the competition that keeps her involved in the sport.
“My favorite part is going to the tournaments and being able to practice hard. Its just really fun. Meeting new friends. I’ve made so many friends, its pretty awesome,” said Hiller.
Liam Hernandez is just getting started in judo but says he’s learning on and off the mat.
He and his family traveled from Miami.
Asked what he thinks of the Capital City, he has just a few words to describe it.
“The thing I don’t like is that its all brown,” said Hernandez.
Bryant says there’s a reason organizers chose Lansing for this year’s tournament.
“With Lansing being central and in the upper Midwest it was a great location for us. To be able to have a venue that’s attached to a hotel it allows people to be right downtown, experience some of the great restaurants and walk everywhere. They don’t have to rent a car,” said Keith Bryant.
According to Bryant, this year’s tournament is the biggest the organization has had in 12 years.
600 kids are competing. Some of those champions will go on to an international tournament in Lima, Peru.
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