From having just four members three years ago to having more than 20 consistent participants now, the Ball State Judo club has seen rapid growth as of late.
As the only collegiate club of the 10 that make up Indiana Judo Inc., Ball State has another outlying difference. Of the 25 official members in Ball State’s club, 13 are women.
“We are actually an anomaly,” junior treasurer Antonette Hannah said. “We might have more men, but usually, we have more women ... who come [to practice]. [As a woman], when you fight guys more, you feel less powerful. [When] fighting someone who is your own strength, it is like, ‘I can actually do this.’”
When female members from Ball State travel to different meets, they often don’t have many competitors. This is one challenge Hannah said she faces all the time.
“Judo for women is very small,” Hannah said. “In tournaments, there are not a lot of women. There has only been one girl for me to fight, so we know each other now.”
Judo is an art described as a cross between Jiu Jitsu and wrestling that relies on body control to throw, choke and pin opponents.
Even with the lack of women to compete against, Ball State alumnus and current club sensei Mario Camacho said he is excited to have a large number of women in his club.
“It has been fantastic to see the number of women we have here,” Camacho said. “I will put any of these females up against any of the males, and we do. We have our smallest player that can actually throw our biggest player.”
Junior secretary Hannah Hannah said this no longer shocks the team, adding that Judo transcends height, weight, gender and other variables to give anyone a path to success.
“Anyone can do Judo,” Hannah said. “One of my first opponents at a tournament was blind. I saw a kid compete with no legs. Judo is very inclusive.”
Hannah said she approaches every meet the same by ramping up stretching and working to perfect her technique the week before.
With the rapid growth the Judo club has seen in the last three years, the group has been able to make the transition from a class to a recreational club and, now, a competitive one where students can blow off steam, stay fit and learn a sport that is more than 130 years old.
Because of this, it must participate in at least two competitions per semester.
Although this club has yet to host an event of its own, Camacho said it is a goal for the near future. However, logistical and financial burdens prevent the club from hosting sooner.
“We really, really want to host a tournament, but money is our biggest issue,” Hannah said. “It’s a high-risk investment because we have to worry about things like hosting referees, acquiring Judo trophies and medals, renting out mat space … and other expensive tasks.”
With these plans on the horizon, the Ball State Judo club has no plans of slowing down.