Stevens Point Judo Club promotes its first two women to rank of black belt
The Stevens Point Judo Club recently awarded back belt ranks to the first two women in the club to earn the promotion.
The Stevens Point Judo Club started in 1965, but got an official nod around 1972 with Sensei Ed Happ. As a member of the United States Judo Federation in the early years, it eventually joined the United States Judo Association. In 1979, Sensei Ed Happ and Sensei Bob Glief promoted the first two Black Belts, Jim Weidner and Tom Gustin.
Now, Gustin and Weidner have promoted a number of young men to the rank of Shodan, or first-degree black belt. Recently, the first two women were approved by the United States Judo Association (USJA) to the rank of Shodan.
Betsy J. Gauthier-Koth and Joey J. Hetzel have met all requirements established and set forth by the USJA for promotion.
USJA President John Paccione charged the two new black belts to strive toward greater technical excellence, realization and ultimate achievement of the goal of judo, to promote the increased awareness of judo by others and to exemplify the philosophy and discipline of judo in every aspect of their life.
Both competed in the USJA State tournament Saturday, May 14, at the University of Wisconsin-Washington County, West Bend.
Hetzel placed first and Gauthier-Koth placed third. They also helped recognize the first woman to win an Olympic Medal in judo, Lynn Roethke, who earned a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics held in Seoul, Korea. Roethke was promoted to eighth-degree black belt.
“The sport of judo is for everyone. You do not have to be tough, talented or even be a good competitor to do judo. I am not ‘good’ at judo. I am not naturally talented and I am not an aggressive competitor. I push myself to do tournaments so that I could learn all of the parts of judo, not just the parts I enjoy or am good at,” said Gauthier-Koth. “The essence of judo comes in finding ‘ju’ or the art of giving way. For me, studying the katas (formal prearranged series of moves) brings me closer to finding the ‘ju’ in judo.
“I am finally earning my black belt in judo after 20 years of being a student. It has taken years of hard work, going to class, learning the basics, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and not giving up. Now I can begin to really learn judo for it is in teaching that one really learns. I am looking forward to being able to combine my passion with teaching kids and helping women learn self-defense with the passion I have developed for judo,” said Gauthier-Koth.
Hetzel has been practicing judo with the Stevens Point Judo Club since 2007. After a few years, she decided to try her hand at competing, starting with some smaller regional tournaments. With not a lot of women who do judo, she decided to compete at the national level in 2013.
She enjoyed competing at that level so much, she received her teachers’ and coaches’ permission to break into the international level, competing at the 2015 International World Masters Tournament in Amsterdam.
She has medaled numerous times at the national level, and is hoping for an international top three finish at this year’s upcoming World Veterans Championship in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Hetzel has attended various clinics and training camps throughout the years, and brought new knowledge home to her local judo club.
In 2015, she completed her coaching certification, finally enabling her to coach her fellow students at regional competitions.
She promotes judo outside the dojo by assisting with numerous women’s self-defense classes with Gauthier-Koth, and holds judo demonstrations for various local organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Club of Portage County and the Boy Scouts.
Hetzel will regularly commute to other area dojos for the opportunity to work with other students, teachers and coaches.
During the promotion ceremony, youth were also recognized for their advancement in judo. Youth reaching first yellow belt were Bridger Barrett, Joshua Kolodziej and Zachary Kolodziej. Second yellow belt promotions were Finn Brunett, Rowen Brunett, Aileen Winn, Aiden Winn, Quinn Thomson and Bryton Steward.
Keston Hayakawa was promoted to third-degree orange belt. Senior yellow belt promotions went to Ryan Callahan, Ryan Larson, Molly Roberts, Joe Delmonico and Tim Wright.