Norwich CT - Norwich Judo Dojo
Norwich Judo Dojo
South Eastern Conecticut has never been what could be described as a "bustling hub" of martial arts instruction. It is an area whose economy is driven by the two largest casinos in the world, and two of the largest defense contractors in the world. There is no great cultural atmosphere, or anything that would outwardly inspire the casual observer to say, "Hey, I bet they have some kick ass martial arts THERE!"
Nevertheless, Connecticut, and it's partner in crime, Massachusetts have managed to give the United states many of it's finest judo competitors. Tony Gizio, Jimmy Pedro, Alex Ottiano, Brandon Gryzkowski, and Chris Cummings, are only the names that immediately pop into my mind, and I know that there are others.
So, as I return to my roots in the frigid Northeast, I was thrilled to see that the judo clubs that I had attended in the halcyon days of my youth were still thriving. Only now, I didn't have to go to my local high school gymnasium, or YMCA; nestled in the heart of a modest industrial town, is the Norwich Judo Dojo.
The head instructor is Bill Montgomery. A hard-assed old school competitor who has trained with the national team, and been an avid judoka for well over 40 years. He is every bit of a godan and a worthy successor to the late, great, Lenny LeBlanc. He is assisted by Joan Love, a nationally recognized competitor, referee, coach, and sandan.
Together they teach in a modest, one-room little storefront in the Yantic Flats area of Norwich. There is little more then an open room with mats on the floor and a narrow strip around the edge. The walls remain unpainted and many of the ceiling tiles are damaged or missing, and the whole dojo reeks of "work in progress." A large column sticks up inconveniently from the center of the mat, and is liberally padded to prevent TOO much injury from ocurring when the inevitable collision occurs. Special training equipment consists entirely of one large crash pad. But this is judo, and you can keep your fancy-shmancy training gear. All we need is sweat and pain.
Class begins with the formal line and bowing. As I had hoped to train incognito, and my gi still being in Kansas City, I arived early in sweats. Unfortunately, Joan recognized me immediately. Considering that she first met me when I was 11, and last saw me no less than 10 years ago...this was impressive. We discussed old times, and talked about my current rank. Unfortunately, I have not paid dues to any governing body in 10 years, and do not carry my USJI/USJA ID anymore. So we start the process for verifying my rank with a paper search. Joan did not express confidence in this method and appeared disappointed in me for not paying my dues.
We begin and go through a light warm-up. Well...I thought it was light, anyway. there were about 8 people in class, ranging in ages from 15 to 30, white belts to green. The lack of senior students had me worried, but I had not done any judo in so long I felt this was probably a good thing. After warm-ups we did the stereotypical judo endless drilling of technical minutae. 500 foot sweeps, 500 reaps. then uchi-komis (practicing a throw with a partner without actually throwing him) for maybe 30 minutes. After this we drilled granby rolls for another 15 minutes or so. I noticed at this point that many of the students were very out of breath, with audible gasping and panting. My partner was an athletic guy, about my age and he seemed hell-bent on keeping up with me, so we kept going while the others petered out. He was a trooper, because I think he wanted to slow down too, but would not let it show. I can respect that.
Then it was newaza randori for pretty much the rest of class. Bill told me not to try any armbars. I think he was worried that my training in the barbaric world of MMA would have me snapping the limbs of my poor classmates willy-nilly. He did not however, tell my opponents that they could not armbar ME, a fact that they attempted to exploit heartily.
Without question, the quality of judo instruction at this dojo was quite high, and the class itself was fast-paced and educational. There was plenty of live rolling, A LOT of newaza (a beautiful thing for a judo dojo!), and a supportive and energetic instruction team. The classes are small, and plenty of individual attention is available for new students.
The less-than-spectacular aesthetics of the place almost becomes a selling point in that you know that the only thing that goes on here is training. there is no "pro shop" where they try to pawn products off on you, nor do they use contracts or enrollment fees. At the end of my free class, they informed me that the monthly (no contract) rate for black belts was 25 dollars. This included the understanding that I would assist with new students, and be willing to sub in in the case of an emergency. New students could train up to 4 times a week for the price of 40.00 a month. Prospective students also have the option of paying 7.00 per visit, if undividual schedules are erratic. I found this to be especially appealing, since my new job has the potential for significant travel.
Personally, barring significant expense, I think it would be hard to get better judo instruction; and when you factor in the cost, this dojo becomes extremely attractive. it is certainly the best bang-for-your-buck judo instruction I have seen in a long time.
Classes for children are Mon., Wed., Fri., at 6:30pm
Adult classes are Mon., Wed., Fri., at 7:30pm, and Sat. at 9:00am.