Judo team places in Pedro comp

Judo team places in Pedro comp

By Maggie Cassidy

Does getting flipped vertically over somebody’s shoulder and landing flat on your back sound appealing?

It’s called an ippon seoi-nage, and several students can pull such a move; however, as members of the NU Judo team, they reserve the technique for competition.

The group, catapulted into competitive club status by juniors Justin MacAluso and Luca Holme in 2004, is gaining prestige and recognition through various competitions in recent years.

At the Pedro’s Challenge event at Pedro’s Judo Center in Wakefield this past weekend, members fought at an international level and walked away with three members placing.

Brian Gouin and Jonathan Leonard took first and third, respectively, in the senior men’s white-belt 73 kg class and Matt Marino took second in 81 kg.

Judo, a martial art originating in Japan more than a century ago, focuses on grappling, throws and using skill and timing instead of sheer strength. President of the club Brian McCarter, a sophomore business major, describes it as a human chess-match.

“When you’re in competition, you have to outthink your opponent, and think three moves ahead,” he said. “In a quarter of a second, you can make a mistake.”

Holme, a junior electrical engineering and physics major and former vice-president of the club, describes it differently.

“Instead of aiming for places [to strike], what you’re trying to do is off-balance your opponent. Oftentimes that means sacrificing your own balance to be able to throw them,” he said. “Ultimately it’s a grappling sport – grabbing the other person’s uniform and tossing them around like a rag doll.”

Vice-president Tom McKeown, a sophomore communications major, emphasized that while judo fighters compete individually, the sense of togetherness is an important aspect of the team.

“We get appreciation for team spirit, camaraderie, the rush of competition, adrenaline, traveling to compete,” McKeown said. “Basically all the positive experiences you get from being on a sports team, you’re able to foster on the judo club.”

Although McKeown said about 80 percent of the team has prior martial arts experience, it is not required and the team is open to all Northeastern students upon completion of an Introduction to Judo class offered each semester in the Marino Center.

At the class conclusion, members with strong potential are invited to join the club permanently, practicing three to four times a week and competing about twice a month.

McKeown and McCarter are white-belt entry level fighters, or ronkyu, who each had minimal experience with karate before joining the team. Holme, a green-belt competitor, or yonkyu, had no fighting experience at all, but noticed his athleticism growing since he became involved with the sport.

“I was using it to push my athletic front,” Holme said. “It made me better athletically at everything I do.”

All three cite sensei (instructor) Rick Bertucci and his assistant sensei Sherif Hashem as the biggest reasons for the club’s success. They helped turn the program from a “rag-tag, in-between competition team” to a respected, competitive program with about 16 competitive members, Holme said.

“We have an absolutely amazing coach,” McCarter said. “[Pedro’s Challenge] competition is our proof to show that our team holds its own against other people.”

The team now looks forward to a national competition in Philadelphia at the end of March, in which fighters can qualify for the Olympic team.

Leave a Reply