Sixth grader dreams of judo championship, prepares for youth competition

By Christian Urrutia, Julian Espinoza and Qing Huang

To someone unfamiliar with judo, the Uchi Mata might more closely resemble a dance rather than a fighting technique. The inner thigh throw, as the move is more commonly known, involves the fighter grabbing his opponent, putting his thigh between his opponent’s legs and then pushing him down. In a competition performing the move successfully could automatically win the match, according to Martin Leung’s, who calls the move his favorite.

Martin is 12, a sixth grader at Richmond Charter Academy School, and an orange-belt in Genco Judo Club in Berkeley. Martin will be representing his club by participating in a judo tournament in San Jose on Feb. 19.

“I like judo because it teaches me self-determination, strength, and self-defense skills,” said Martin.

Martin’s uncle introduced him to judo and at his first competition last year, he placed fourth. Martin said he didn’t have much experience and felt everyone was better and had more knowledge of judo.

“Last year I got second place in my age group,” he said. “But with hard work and practice since then, now I am confident and hope to become first place this year.”

According to Martin, this will be his second time attending the annual tournament hosted by San Jose Buddhist Judo Club. Outside of the San Jose Buddhist Judo Tournament, he had previously entered two other competitions in which he had won a first and a fourth place award.

Since then, Martin has been practicing judo at Genco Judo Club for almost two years. To prepare for the upcoming tournament, Martin said he recently went to his judo club two times a week to practice for total four hours.

“My coach comes up with new moves once in awhile,” he said. “Every class consists of some gymnastic type warm-ups. After that, we do basic move practice before we begin sparring.”

“My most disliked move would be the Seoi Nage because it is a double knee drop move which is pretty complicated and easy to be defended,” he said. “Even though it may also be an ippon, but it’s not the best move.”

Martin said the competitions consists of four people in a pool who need to fight each other. The person with the most wins takes home the gold.

“The stand up spar is the formal way of judo and that is how we fight in a tournament,” he said. “There is a sitting spar, which consists of more chokes and neck holds. The stand up spar has more trips, flips, and moves.”

Martin is a second-generation Chinese-American. Judo is a Japanese sport but is closely related to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Sambo, a Russian martial art. His coach, Dorjderem Munkhbayasgalan, is a Mongolian-American.

“My coach is preparing me to practice old moves that will be useful and very effective in the competition,” Martin said.

He estimated a few hundred people from all across the Bay Area will participate in this year’s tournament. Last year at the City College of San Francisco judo tournament, he won first place.

Beyond fighting in judo, Martin’s hobbies consist of playing the piano and drawing.

“Piano and judo have the same amount of difficulty and both require mental and physical strength,” he said.

He also said he enjoys playing video games. He said he is especially fond of Overwatch and Destiny, as well as Minecraft and Terraria.

“Also, I like to watch movies at the theatre and watch YouTube videos with my friends,” he said.


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