A gentler way to fight

Oakland University’s campus continues to thrive in the spring and summer semesters. Despite the smaller student population, various clubs, including OU’s Judo club, continue year round. 


A little bit of history

Judo, or “gentle way”, is a Japanese-martial art that is practiced worldwide. For some, it may not seem so gentle when watching or practicing.

“The art attracts people of all backgrounds and ages. Even those with disabilities, such as visual impairment, can still participate,” Steve DeRaedt, lead instructor of OU’s judo club, said.

Judo emphasizes safety and full physical activity for top conditioning. For the comfort and safety of the practitioners, judo is learned on special mats. The art should not be confused with MMA or karate, because no strikes or kicks are involved. Students do however participate in hand-to-hand combat, allowing them to develop self defense techniques.  The principles of judo, such as “maximum efficiency” and “mutual welfare and benefit”, can be used for self-defense in everyday life, according to DeRaedt. 

The ultimate goal in judo is to develop oneself to the maximum extent possible, always striving for perfection, so that a practitioner can contribute something of value to the world. 


Oakland’s edition

For over 10 years, the university’s Judo Club has practiced and trained right on campus. Generally, the club trains three times a week. Monday and Wednesday practices occur at an off-campus location in Rochester Hills and Saturday morning practices take place at the Rec Center on campus. Some members train on their own outside of group trainings, working on other factors such as cardio and complimentary resistance.

The group brings in world-class clinicians on a periodic basis for their year round training. For the weekly practices, the club has six black belt instructors including lead instructor DeRaedt. DeRaedt, an OU student majoring in exercise science, has been practicing judo for over 35 years.

“Judo is many things to different people,” DeRaedt said. “It is a fun sport, an art, a discipline, a recreational or social activity, a fitness program, a means of self defense or combat, and a way of life. It is all of these and more.”

The club currently has 20 student members that train regularly and a few others who are more recreational in their training. Additions to the club are 6-7 alumnus and some students who were part of the group and continue after graduation. The club opens up to members outside of the university to give its participants a good variety of experienced partners.


Becoming a part

To join the club, all students have to do is have their name added to the roster. Eventually the purchase of a gi (judo uniform) is required at a price of $65 and can be purchased through the club and generally lasts for about five years. The club also charges $15 a month for expenses and engages in fundraising to help students pay their fees, DeRaedt said. No previous experience is necessary.

“You don’t need previous experience as our experience as cadre of instructors can take a beginner and make them capable of practicing with the regulars in about three months. We teach you how to fall first and then quickly introduce you into judo throwing, pinning, and submission techniques.”

Students get the chance to not only build up their self defense skills, but to develop a strong and steady workout routine.

“OU Judo Club is definitely a steal when it comes to martial arts,” senior Mike Dembinski said. “It’s very inexpensive, and the instruction is unparalelled.”


Taking in the atmosphere

Normally, the practices are in two hour sessions, starting with exercises to get students into judo shape. They then progress into technique practicing and actual competition among other members in the group. Instructors and students put an emphasis on safety and respect.

“The instructors and fellow students have a lot of experience, and are happy to train and teach.” Said Dembinski.

Judo attracts many of the members together, no matter what skill level.

“Judo embodies a very respectful attitude toward interaction with others,” DeRaedt said. “So the club is very easy to become acclimated to for both beginners and more seasoned practitioners.”

“Overall great environment, good workout, fun socially, and inexpensive,” Dembinski said.