The Red Deer Judo Club is about 50 members strong and will be a major part of the 2019 Canada Winter Games. They’ll also move into a new, permanent facility on Sept. 7. (Facebook photo)

Red Deer Judo Club ready for permanent home

The Red Deer Judo Club is kicking into high gear for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

This year will mark their 50th year in the community, and the club is building for the future in more ways than one.

The club will be at the helm for the judo portion of the games, a big part of their activity going forward and something that has executive member Ben Guenther excited.

“It’s a big event. There’s going to be teams from all over the country coming through. It’s still a couple years away but we could eventually have a kid that gets on the Alberta team that would compete,” Guenther said.

On Sept. 7, they’ll also move into a new permanent home at 87 Petrolia Drive, which Guenther said will help encourage and motivate athletes to compete.

“We’re one of the only sports around that competes at the Olympics. We’re one of the only clubs in Red Deer that doesn’t have a permanent home,” Guenther said.

The club will initially lease the space on a three-year term, with hopes of purchasing it in the future.

Club president Al Schaefer, a research scientist who started with judo in Red Deer while he was in high school, said the new opportunities mark an exciting time.

Schaefer said from children as young as five to adults in their 60s like himself, there’s something for everyone in judo. For example, the club’s intermediate group focuses on the family with parents coming in with their junior athlete and take part in a class. There’s also a senior group.

“The club has a youth program and they work on flexibility, balance and socialization. Just general movement. As a philosophy, judo in general both provincially and federally have a lifelong learning philosophy,” he said.

The family and fitness aspects plays a huge role, along with the discipline and respect one can learn from judo, according to Schaefer.

“We emphasize a lot about the mutual respect of your competitors and partners. Without them you wouldn’t have a sport. We introduce a lot of games and social contact where it’s a fun atmosphere to participate, particularly for the kids,” he said.

He also explained that while the club membership is sitting at around 50, he hopes with the new building more members can join.

“That’s been pretty consistent and intentionally. We have not grown it because we did not have the space,” he said. “Now we do and this year we’re targeting more classes and larger classes.”

Schaefer added that it’s easy to see the benefits for all people in judo, but encourages anyone who is unsure about the sport to simply come and try it out.

“There’s a lot of offerings for sports these days and parents need to and should expose their kids to a lot of them. We try to accommodate that,” Schaefer said.

“Come on in and try it for a couple weeks. It’ll give you a taste of the kinds of things that go on in judo. We’ve had some families come in and two sessions they’re hooked and the kids stay for life.”

The club will host their grand opening of the new dojo on Sept. 7 from 5-7 p.m.

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