The Harrah Judo Club is celebrating five years of operation.
Founded by Tim Davis the cl
ub meets in the gymnasium of the First Baptist Church of Harrah, 6:30-8 p.m. Monday and Thursday.
“We started December of 2013 with maybe seven students,” said Davis. “Then we started competing about June or July, and have really grown a lot in the last five years.”
Davis, originally from Illinois, came to eastern Oklahoma County like many others by way of Tinker Air Force Base.
He started training in judo at the age of 12 in the 1970s, and is now a fourth-degree black belt.
In Oklahoma he found a scarce Judo community, and he’s set out to do what he can to change that.
Judo has a long history in the United States dating back to 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt practiced the Japanese martial art in the White House.
In the 1950s Judo became required training for the U.S. Air Force, and that resulted in the martial art rapidly becoming a popular sport. The United States formed an Olympic team and first competed in the summer of 1964.
Judo was thriving for the following decades, but Davis fears the martial art he loves has lost steam in recent years.
“I have a goal and a drive to bring more students to Judo, like it was back in the early 70’s when I started,” said Davis. “I want people in the area to know there’s a place available for them to come learn a martial art at a nominal cost.”
And thanks to the First Baptist Church of Harrah, Davis has been able to provide a positive resource in the community while establishing a new generation of judo players.
“The Church really supports us, and makes all this possible. To setup a dojo on my own I’d have rent, electric and a lot of overhead. The church allowing us to use these facilities allows us to charge just $20 a month,” explained Davis. “We travel around and compete in tournaments, and Oklahoma really has some good international judo players. Then when I host a judo tournament I can bring in around $1,500 and that money goes back to the church.”
Davis says their tournament can bring in around 70 competitors as Tulsa, Arcadia and Harrah are currently the state’s main Judo tourney sites.
The church has now hosted the club for five years, and they consider the group to be a true blessing to the community.
“Tim wanted to start a judo club. I told him as long as it’s something that blesses our community, helps build friendships and possibly helps people be followers of Jesus,” said Pastor Doug Jones. “He got it going and met all three of my requests. It was just fun to watch. A lot of these participants couldn’t afford to go to a judo class otherwise, and it’s just really been a blessing to the community.”
The judo club prays before and after each class, and those classes bring in community members that may not otherwise get exposure to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
“Tim is the hero here. He doesn’t get paid, and he drives about 14 miles in here to teach these classes. He does it purely for the passion of the sport and service to the lord,” said Jones.
Ed Lynch, also a fourth-degree black belt, began his Judo training in Wichita around 1979.
He joined the Harrah Judo Club in June of last year, and was officially made the second instructor in August. In his brief time with the club the average class attendance has climbed from 15 to 30.
“I’ve developed a few clubs over the years so I know the process. Right now we need a bigger area, because our mat is full. We need more experience so we can divide the classes,” said Lynch. “We’ve grown significantly since I’ve been here, and I’ve worked in much worse facilities. Being at the church really helps.”
Kenzie McKay has been training with the Harrah Judo Club for just over two years, and she’s already earned the rank of brown belt.
“This is a good group and it’s come a long way. I’ve never done any contact sport before, but I’m very aggressive. My mom thought I might like this,” said McKay.
Turns out her mother was right as McKay quickly climbed through the Judo ranks and has so far claimed two state titles. She’ll soon be competing for her third Oklahoma State Championship, and has plans of claiming additional hardware in neighboring states.
“I’m currently a team leader and help with some instruction, and mostly keep the kids inline. I do pretty good for the most part,” said McKay. “I want to get my black belt, and compete more in Texas and Kansas.”
Austin Dougherty, a 15-year-old Harrah High School freshman, is confident in his training and has plans to continue developing his technique, strength and conditioning through the club.
His current training is focused on a goal of becoming an Olympian.
“It’s fun and a nice workout. We started as a small group upstairs, just me and four others. It’s amazing how we’ve progressed,” said Dougherty. “I plan on doing this until I can’t. I plan on competing in the 2020 Olympics. I’ll be 17 then so I plan on building my size and cardio by then.”
The club currently has members of ages, and is open to the entire community.
Hosted in the church gym at 2185 Church Ave., classes are every Monday and Thursday night and cost just $20 a month.