Judo academy takes up residence at Parkland secondary school

North Saanich high school adopts program that hopes to build strength, confidence among students

Bethany Lyon-Justice throws fellow judo club member Lauren Wallace at Parkland secondary school.

Kids in judogi will start throwing each other around at Parkland secondary this week.

Come fall it will be a class.

For more than two decades judo club has pumped up kids, building both strength and confidence through judo. At least that’s what the kids in today’s judo program at Parkland say, which starts its season this week.

“It really builds your confidence because it’s not a team sport. You have to get out there and fight somebody,” said Lauren Wallace. “I only weighed 90 pounds when I started. Now I’m 125 so I definitely got fit. It’s a strength sport.” The Grade 12 student will begin her fourth year of judo when the club starts its season this week.

Trevor Bolduc starts his second season with the club.

“There’s nothing like [judo] really. It’s built my confidence a fair amount,” the Grade 10 student said. He likes the people and the pace of the group, which meets twice a week.

Bethany Lyon-Justice, 17, found judo two years ago simply for fitness, but was rewarded with more.

“It lets out anger, stress and I get to beat guys,” she said. “It’s helped build strength and makes you confident.”

Mickey Fitzgerald, a sixth degree black belt who also coaches the Victoria Judo Club, will be the man developing strength and confidence among students. When he came to the North Saanich high school 23 years ago, Fitzgerald began imparting his wisdom on students.

“I just decided to see what would happen,” he said. “We really feel like we meet a need with the kids. We try to be mentors to the students.”

He’s seen a few fierce competitors since, but his favourite kids are those “at a loss”.

“It kept me on the straight and narrow,” he said of his 40 years of practising the martial art. “For me it’s not a sport. It’s a way of life.”

Starting in September students can sign up to learn that way of life as the Parkland judo academy gets up and running.

“If I have the chance, I’m going to snatch it up,” said 15-year-old Bolduc.

Academy students will meet daily with three days a week in the dojo, one in the classroom and one working on fitness goals. The goal is to foster a lifelong interest in personal physical and mental well being through the judo training alongside a curriculum that includes history, nutrition and psychology.

“It’ll broaden the horizon for judo,” Lyon-Justice said. “It’s an alternative to gym, plus it’s fun.”

It’s the perfect class for someone in search of an experience and looking to challenge him or herself, said Andre Gogol, a Parkland teacher adding judo academy to his workload.

“There’s a tremendous amount of expertise here,” said Jose Tudela. The Parkland teacher holds a brown belt and is among the four instructors to take on teaching the academy. Vice-principal Spencer Gray rounds out the qualified instructors for the judo academy.

In the template, the longstanding judo club students are held to a high standard of conduct. Actions like bullying are not tolerated.

“In the judo academy, expectations in the community, expectations in the classroom will be very, very high,” Gogol said.

The academy will cost $500 a year plus the cost of a judogi – the white uniform – and is open to 25 to 30 kids ranging in age from 14 to 19.


They call him Fitz

Parkland Judo Academy head instructor Mickey Fitzgerald holds a sixth degree black belt by Judo

Canada and the Kodokan Judo Institute reflecting his success as a competitor in Canada and Japan. He has 43 years experience as a judoka. Fitzgerald also holds a Level 2 NCCP coaching certification in judo and is a member of the Judo B.C. grading board.


Did you know?

Parkland secondary in North Saanich is already home to a hockey academy

In Central Saanich, Stelly’s secondary implemented a climbing academy at its world-class rock climbing facility this school year

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