BY KATIE MATTESON
Cindy Peterson started judo in 1969 at the Racine YWCA Shushin-Kan Judo Club at the age of 15. Her parents encouraged her to learn the sport so she could develop skills to defend herself against the bullies at school who did mean things like pushing the vertically-challenged teenager around and shoving her into lockers.
Peterson said that judo is a great way to learn self defense, along with building confidence, self-respect and self-esteem. And if you’re good, it’s also a way to test your skills in local, regional and national competitions.
Peterson has enjoyed a long competitive career, earning national titles over a span of nearly 50 years. She was awarded the rank of Yodan – 4th Degree Black Belt in 2016 and is an assistant instructor for the Racine Youth Sports Judo Club.
She, along with the other six volunteer instructors in the program teach judo to girls and boys, ages 9-17 on Tuesday and Thursdays in the DeKoven Center Gym, located at 600 21st St. The beginner class runs from 6-7 p.m., following by the advanced class from 7-8:30 p.m.
Five of the instructors, including Peterson, studied under Ron Hansen, a Racine native who learned judo in Japan while serving in the United States Air Force. After he was discharged from the service, he returned to Racine and became employed as a police officer. Since the only judo he could find was in Milwaukee and Chicago, he started teaching judo in Racine at the YMCA, YWCA and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
Wisconsin Judo Inc. inducted Hansen into its Hall of Fame in 2006 and he still teaches judo at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C.
RYS Judo Club instructor Tony Truskowski was inducted in 2009 and fellow instructors Tom Gustin, Cindy Peterson and John Peterson joined the ranks in 2017.
Fun fact: Cindy met her future husband John on the mat, when they were both taking judo classes at UW-Parkside. The first words they exchanged, “please don’t hurt me.”
Tim Feest (Cindy’s brother) is the club’s lead instructor. He started judo at age 16 under Hansen and during his competitive career, placed in the top three in local, state and regional tournaments, including the title of 1979 state champion.
Ryan Lojeski, who started judo at age 9 under Truskowski and Feest, along with Taryn Brown, who started judo at age 16 under Feest, are both certified state coaches with USA Judo and serve as assistant coaches in the program.
Cindy explained that beginning students initially learn how to fall, in addition to taking part in conditioning and agility exercises and learning the etiquette of the sport. Newbies can borrow uniforms from the club to start out before investing in their own gear.
The basic rules required of all judoka (students):
- Every judoka must be on time.
- Fingernails and toenails must be kept trimmed.
- Uniform must be kept clean and in good repair.
- Proper respect will be given to everyone of higher and lower ranks.
- Although we all want to have fun, horseplay will not be tolerated.
RYS Judo Club is about midway through its 2018-2019 season, with two nine-week sessions left: Tuesday, Jan. 22 through Thursday, March 28 and Tuesday, April 2 through Thursday, May 30.
Registration information is available on the Racine Youth Sports, Inc. website, racineyouthsports.com
While practices will take place at the DeKoven Center Gym through the season, the club is looking for a permanent home. They were previously based in the old Park Theatre building on Washington Ave., but had to leave when the building was deemed unsafe. Those with available space should contact Cindy Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.