Orion Judo Club
Name: Orion Judo Club
Style: Judo (Kodokan)
Location: Orion Township, Michigan (Suburb of Detroit)
Affiliations: United States Judo Federation
Instructor: Richard Garvin (3rd Dan)
Cost: $50.00 per month, no contracts (+$50 yearly fee to USJF)
Schedule: Monday and Thursday, full practice, Wednesday Open Mat
24 Hour access (w/gym membership, $49 per month for first year, $29 per month after, no conracts)
Testing: Fee, $25, includes belt. Schedule varies. Multiple advancements are possible.
Laid back atmosphere
Small class size
Avenues for cross training
Very sociable environment
24 hour access (see above)
Fully stocked gym (see above)
Instructor Richard Garvin is a 3rd Dan with 27 years of Judo experience. Additionally, he has experience in other martial arts and firearms expertise as well. He has won various tournaments over his extensive career, the most recent to my knowledge being a 5th place at the senior nationals in 2002. He still competes to this day. Additionally, Garvin is a personal trainer at his gym, called ubiquitously, The Gym. The Judo club is located inside The Gym’s facilities.
I originally found the club after a number of months visiting various dojos around the area, some twenty or so miles away. I had narrowed the search down to certain styles due to research on Bullshido, and Judo was generally considered GTG.
First, I visited the club to watch a session. There was no issue with sitting through a class. Others have taken a class to try it out. Neither is a problem for prospective students. Watching the class it became apparent that the club trains “Alive” as the term is generally used. I signed up a few days later.
The first class, I was expected to participate in Newaza and Randori. I did have a wrestling and karate background from high school days, although that seemed like another life ago at 35. Some new students do not participate in fighting the first day depending on their fitness and prior martial arts experience – it’s very individualized. There is a good mix of weight classes, ages, and there are currently three women. At the time, I was the oldest student, with the exception of one brown belt. There are several families who participate as a group.
A month or so ago several young kids joined up, which started to set off red flags for me, i.e. McDojo concerns. To the contrary, they have not been a problem at all, and the energy they bring to the sessions actually is somewhat motivating. They stay in their place, and add to the “family style” atmosphere.
As noted, the club has a laid back atmosphere. As such, the classes, which are listed as 7:30 to 9:00, often do not start till around 7:40-ish. This is mostly due to the Karate class prior to exiting the mats; sometimes they run over. Personally I appreciate the less strict timing, as an adult, since office, family, traffic, or others issues might pop up which would preclude going if the times were kept strict. Further, its preferable, though not encouraged, to show up late than not at all. Some folks work schedules at times simply do not permit a strict adherence to the starting time. I had been at dojos in the past where if you were a minute late, you were out of luck. Having a loose starting time also allows people to stretch on their own outside of the class, and to catch up with chit-chat prior to the class starting.
Additionally, the classes tend to go over with rolling, to about 9:30, which is fine with me. However, if you have a fetish for running things at exact times, you should set aside 7:30 to 9:30.
Class starts with a short jog around the mats, with various strides, etc, to loosen up. Then onto to some prescribed stretching, then ukemi.
Normally, some sort of technique is then taught, with resultant uchi komi. After, there is newaza, and then finally randori. Every session includes newaza and randori, although some classes focus more on rolling then technique.
Competition participation is heavily suggested, though not required. Even though I had only been in the club for about two months, and was 35, I was expected to compete at the Great Lakes Open, as were most students. I was somewhat apprehensive about this; however, I went ahead. I took second in my age and weight. Roughly nine out of the eleven of us who went took home medals.
Apart from the quality instruction, another giant benefit is 24 hour the access to the mats, which are set up on a tire suspension system. One can practice drills, falls, shrimps, roll with friends, etc at 3:00 a.m. if one wants (assuming that one gets the gym membership).
The fully stocked gym allows one to condense all of their other physical training at the same place, as well as the 24 hour access. Also available for a fee is Koei Kan Karate and TKD taught by others; however, I have no experience with these groups.
Open Mat night is also a great way for beginners to get their feet wet prior to attending a full class, although typically these sessions are centered on rolling.
The laid back atmosphere, quality instruction, and great price make the Orion Judo Club a tremendous opportunity and an outstanding deal. However, it is somewhat addicting. Just remember – no whining.