Travelling judo instructor Nicolas Messner touched down in Hay River last week to introduce students to the sport – and with it, important life lessons.
“It’s not just something else to do that’s physical in Hay River,” said local judo proponent Phil Beaupre. “It gives the kids something structured and teaches them discipline.”
He explained Messner had met Mario Desforges, head coach for the NWT Judo Association, and became interested in coming North for an event.
“It’s about the sport, for sure, but it’s also about how judo can change your life and help you learn other things,” he said. “It’s about life skills.”
While Messner made trips to both Ecole Boreale and Chief Sunrise Education Centre, Beaupre said the two were miles apart in terms of experience. Students at Boreale have been exposed to judo for a number of years, either through Deforges or Beaupre himself. Students on the reserve, however, had yet to learn about the sport and were excited to try it out.
“We showed them some skills and some techniques and the guys did some demonstrations,” said Beaupre. “They seemed to really like it.
Ruth Stadelmayer, a teacher at Chief Sunrise, said not only were the students excited to see the presentation and get involved in the activities, the lessons were in line with what the school tries to teach every day.
“It’s just a different path to learning, and it’s good to have new people in presenting it to them,” she said.
The schools spend a lot of time working on self-regulation, she said, and the control and discipline needed for judo is another way of approaching that concept, whereby students learn to regulate their mood by reading and listening to their own bodies.
“It was great to see the older kids getting in on the activities,” she said. “And the little kids were just really excited about the movement.”
Stadelmayer said she and Beaupre have tentative plans to introduce judo into physical education classes over the course of a week to gauge interest, and, from there, perhaps organize something more permanent.
“The speech they gave at the beginning was all about control and respect,” she said. “Those are two of the biggest things we’re trying to teach all our kids.”