Posted by: Drew | January 27, 2009

United States Coast Guard – Judo – Trains Hard, Plays Hard

Coast Guard Judo – Trains Hard, Plays Hard

“Hajime!” shouts a man in a blue uniform at Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown, Va.

Two fighters in white uniforms, facing each other unmoving, burst into action. Each attempts to attack and bypass the
other’s defenses, trying to hold and throw the other to the ground – if they both go down, they continue struggling until one emerges victorious.

Then they get up, and do it all over again.

This is part of the daily practice of Coast Guard Judo, a United States Judo Association registered Judo club, and the blue uniform is not a Coast Guard uniform – it and the white uniforms are called judogi. The blue judogi identifies Chief Warrant Officer Peter Mantel as the coach of the club.

Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Peter C. Mantel instructs fellow members of Coast Guard Judo, a United States Judo Association registered Judo club at Training Center Yorktown, Va. He explains how to properly grip an opponent and how to achieve sufficient momentum to execute the throw successfully.(U.S. Coast Guard Photo/Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Jones)

Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Peter C. Mantel instructs fellow members of Coast Guard Judo, a United States Judo Association registered Judo club at Training Center Yorktown, Va. He explains how to properly grip an opponent and how to achieve sufficient momentum to execute the throw successfully.(U.S. Coast Guard Photo/Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Jones)

Hajime, the command to start a match, is Japanese for “begin.” It is one of many traditional Japanese commands a Judo practitioner must learn and be familiar with. Judo is a martial art and competitive sport in which the practitioner, called a Judo player or judoka, attempts to throw his opponent onto his back, pin his opponent for 25 seconds, or perform joint locks or chokes in order to score points and win matches.

Judo originated in Japan in the late 19th century when Jigoro Kano, a scholar and jujitsu practitioner combined techniques he learned through training in two different styles of Jujitsu with techniques he devised and developed. This new style of jujitsu became known as Kano Jujitsu and eventually Judo. Since then it has spread throughout the world and became a part of the Summer Olympic Games in 1964.

Mantel, chief of the Boat Forces Standardization Team, Yorktown, is a Godan, or fifth-degree black belt in Judo. He has been practicing the art for 33 years, since at the age of seven his parents asked if he wanted to join a club in Half Moon Bay, Calif. He is now certified by the United States Judo Association as an instructor and rank examiner.

Mantel started the club in Yorktown in 2004 with Robbie McGuinness, a Coast Guard boatswain’s mate who is now retired and no longer with the club, when they found that there was a matt room dedicated to the practice of martial arts at the training center.

Since then, the club has grown to six members including Mantel. Many more have come and gone as they come through the training center for a few months of training. These temporary club members, such as “A” school students, learn valuable skills from Judo, strengthening the overall education they receive at the training center.

“The benefit for self-discipline is huge,” Mantel elaborated.

Chief Warrant Officer Peter C. Mantel throws Michelle Simmons to the ground during afternoon training with Coast Guard Judo, a United States Judo Association registered Judo club at Training Center Yorktown, Va. Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008. A flawless execution of this technique in competition would result in ippon, or instant win. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo/Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Jones)

Chief Warrant Officer Peter C. Mantel throws Michelle Simmons to the ground during afternoon training with Coast Guard Judo, a United States Judo Association registered Judo club at Training Center Yorktown, Va. Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008. A flawless execution of this technique in competition would result in ippon, or instant win. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo/Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Jones)

Judo helps the player face challenges in new ways. This helps with life in the field or underway, where every day can bring the unexpected, and any problem may require a novel solution.

To meet these challenges, Coast Guardsmen need mental clarity and the ability to react quickly and effectively to events. They need to be able to adjust their positions and actions to meet the problem at hand.

“It opens your mind to the idea that there is more than one way to do the same thing. The more Judo you learn, the more you realize that there may be 20 or 30 different ways to do the same throw, and decide how to do it based on the situation,” Mantel said.

According to Petty Officer 2nd Class Tom Beaudoin, an instructor in the Boatswain’s Mate course and member of the club since 2005, Judo training has had a very strong effect on his overall health. Losing 20 pounds since joining, he gets a lot more exercise than he did before. The intense training regiment also requires that he watch what he eats.

“I know that if I eat something bad, I’m going to feel it on the matt,” Beaudoin said.

In the morning before work, the team runs, lifts weights, and sometimes practices Judo. In the afternoon, they train
during their lunch hour. Some days, they also work out and train together after work. All together, Mantel said, they train about 4 hours a day and sometimes more if they’re getting ready for a big competition.

During the afternoon sessions, the players begin with warm-ups such as rolling or tumbling, crawling on elbows, doing
cartwheels, and hopping on one foot across the matt while keeping the rest of the body parallel to the ground.

After warming up, the players may pair up and practice specific grappling or throwing techniques in turns. In this type of practice, the receiving player resists the technique and the executing player does not learn flawed technique that do not work outside practice.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas Beaudoin attempts a chokehold against opponent Chief Warrant Officer Peter C. Mantel during afternoon training with Coast Guard Judo, a United States Judo Association registered Judo club at Training Center Yorktown, Va. Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008. During randori, or free practice, Judo players fight with each other as if they were at competition in order to develop skills that work in real matches.(U.S. Coast Guard Photo/Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Jones)

Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas Beaudoin attempts a chokehold against opponent Chief Warrant Officer Peter C. Mantel during afternoon training with Coast Guard Judo, a United States Judo Association registered Judo club at Training Center Yorktown, Va. Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008. During randori, or free practice, Judo players fight with each other as if they were at competition in order to develop skills that work in real matches.(U.S. Coast Guard Photo/Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Jones)

Also, the team practices randori, or free practice. Two players engage each other in the same manner as in competition, but without points. This provides the real- life experience the players need to win in competition.

All of this hard work shows its worth when the team members go to competition. According to Mantel, club members have competed in more than 50 tournaments on the local, state, and national levels. Club members have won three gold medals in the fall season of 2008.

Most recently, Mantel and another player in the club, Michelle Simmons, 20, competed in the Continental Crown, a Judo tournament in Seattle, Wash. Mantel placed 4th in the men’s elite division and Simmons won the bronze medal in the women’s elite division. Elite competitions are competitions in which the top eight players earn elite points, which are used to determine the U.S. Judo team in the next Olympic Games.

Mantel does not plan to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics, but he still competes as often as he is able.

“At this point I am just thankful to be in good enough shape to still be competing, and I’m thankful to be able to teach Judo and help others to compete if that is what they want to do,” said Mantel. “Now I’m coaching the next generation, watching them learn, watching them win.”

Simmons, whose mother is on active duty in the Navy, joined the club along with her twin sister, Jennifer, when co-founder Robbie McGuinness began working with her father after both had retired from the Navy and Coast Guard. She says they were looking for members, and she decided to give it a shot.

Simmons does hope to go to the Olympics, and according to her teammates, she has a pretty good chance of making it. For someone who has only been practicing for three years to place in a national elite-level competition is “almost unheard-of,” according to Beaudoin.

While Simmons gives much credit to having the benefit of a small club which can provide much more personalized and focused instruction than a larger club, her teammates and Mantel all believe that it has more to do with her character.

Michelle Simmons performs an arm bar technique against oppontent Chief Warrant Officer Peter C. Mantel during afternoon training with Coast Guard Judo, a United States Judo Association registered Judo club at Training Center Yorktown, Va. Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008. The arm bar is a joint-lock technique intended to force the opponent to submit in a match.(U.S. Coast Guard Photo/Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Jones)

Michelle Simmons performs an arm bar technique against oppontent Chief Warrant Officer Peter C. Mantel during afternoon training with Coast Guard Judo, a United States Judo Association registered Judo club at Training Center Yorktown, Va. Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008. The arm bar is a joint-lock technique intended to force the opponent to submit in a match.(U.S. Coast Guard Photo/Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Jones)

“She’s just really strong,” said Beaudoin. “She is dedicated to learning Judo, she works hard, and she trains hard. She’s
an excellent player.”

In order to make practice, Simmons says she arranges her college schedule so that she doesn’t have any classes between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Whenever she is unable to make practice, she says Mantel will work with her, if possible, outside of normal practice times so that she doesn’t lose training time.

Beaudoin, who wrestled in high school, says that he prefers to stick to local and regional competitions rather than
national level. He enjoys the one-on-one combative competition.

It’s not always easy for the team members to get make it to practice due to their job responsibilities. For instance, Beaudoin is often underway and unable to make practice, and Mantel often travels with the Standardization team, inspecting stations and ensuring that they are in proper working order.

“When I go out, I miss practice,” said Beaudoin. “So when I get back, I train hard and try to make up for lost time.”

The matt space where they train is provided by the Training Center’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation department on a
contract for their lunch hour every day, so the training is free for club members. Competition entry fees and traveling costs, though, are entirely out-of-pocket. Competition can be expensive, but the enjoyment it brings is worth it, according to club members.

“I compete because it makes me feel alive,” said Mantel.

Coast Guard Judo strives continuously for excellence and its members attain greater skill every training day.

“Every day, something great happens,” Mantel said. “Every day, we get better.”

It is a small club now, but they welcome new members. It is free for all active duty, reserve, and retired Coast Guard and other military personnel and their dependents.

“Just come to the matt, and we’ll take care of the rest,” said Mantel.

Thank you to mark.d.jones@uscg.mil at Fifth District Public Affairs for this excellent story

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