By Connie Leinbach
Jetta Brown has always liked a challenge.
That’s why she joined Gustavo Sanchez’s judo class in July along with her son Gabriel, 10, and both passed the first level of training (white belt) and moved up to yellow belt Saturday in the Ocracoke Community Center.
Brown was among 22 students, ranging in ages from elementary school to adult, who were promoted during a ceremony in which they first showed Sanchez and his wife, Patricia Lopez (who is a brown belt), that they had mastered the first level of moves.
Both boys and girls faced off against each other in the demonstration, and Brown had to show her skills against Casey Robertson, a teacher at the Ocracoke School.
“I’ve always been into sports,” Brown said, adding that having to flip and pin Robertson—a man taller and larger than her—was not intimidating. “I gotta stand up for these girls.”
Judo is a way of life, Sanchez explained to the students and audience of about 40 parents and family members. He has a 4th-degree black belt and for years ran his own studio, Gerifalte Judo, in Bakersfield, Calif before moving to the island in May . For an earlier article on judo on Ocracoke, click here.
“I don’t like to call it fighting,” he continued. “We’re not fighting. Fighting involves hard feelings.”
There are 300 techniques for attacking and escaping, he said, and 24 different ways to choke the opponent.
Dr. Erin Baker watched her daughter, Zoe Modlin, 6, demonstrate the moves with Jamileth Martinez, and noted that the sport allows boys and girls to participate on a level playing field.
“That’s because you use your body as a fulcrum,” she said. “A lot of it is following directions. It’s strength training, keeping your gee clean, learning respect because you bow to your partner and your sensei. They say thank you.”
Later that evening, the group reconvened for an awards dinner in the Ocracoke Oyster Company.
Sanchez said the following students receive awards: Brown, for “braveness”—because of her having to work with Robertson and the other man in the class, Raul Ibarra.
Gisselle Perez received recognition for “judo spirit,” which Sanchez said includes eagerness to learn, willingness to help, being the first to class; Alissa Bryan for “great technique”; Jonah Daniels for “hardest training”; and Jamileth Martinez for “good advance,” which Sanchez said is for understanding of judo and good attitude.
The class convenes three times a week in Angie’s Gym on Sand Dollar Road.
For more information, check out Ocracoke Judo on Facebook.