Instruction for Life

Jamie Tanata

Jamie Tanata

Jamie Tanata


With only five current members enrolled in Brookings Dakota Judo Club, head instructor Peter Claussen hopes to attract more members this year. Claussen, a first-degree black belt in Judo, said people are simply unaware about the sport of Judo.

Claussen described Judo as a split between traditional martial arts and traditional Japanese self-defense.

Thirty-eight-year-old Claussen began his Judo teaching career when he opened up his club in Brookings in 1999. His interest in Judo sparked at age 22.

“When I started grad. school, one of the professors I was working with was in a Hapkido club, and so the night I went to Hapkido, there was a Judo instructor that showed up to try out Hapkido, and that’s how I met my first Judo instructor,” he said.

Claussen wrestled in high school and said Judo is very comparable to the sport.

“I didn’t get to start until I was a junior in high school,” he said. “I kind of use Judo to make up for the lost time.”

Kata and Randori are two forms of training Claussen emphasizes in his classes. Kata, which means “pattern,” is a set of predefined movements and repetition of a single type of movements to perfect it. This form of Judo is organized and “Judoks” are aware of what is going on around them. Randori, which means “chaos” and “to grab,” is comparable to wrestling moves. This form is unorganized and Judoks are unprepared for the sparring.

“You need a proper balance of the two in Judo,” he said.

Judo may look like an intense contact sport, but Claussen said anyone could pretty much handle it.

“You would have to be pretty frail not to do Judo,” he said. “I competed against a blind person that mulled me pretty good.”

“I think one of the tough things about getting people into Judo, if you see a picture of someone doing a strike, a block, a punch or high kick like Tae Kwon Do, they say ‘I can do that,’ but if you look at this,” he said, pointing to his students practicing, “people see a picture of a guy being thrown down and say ‘I don’t want that done to me.'”

Claussen wishes more women would get involved in Judo.

“It’s the kind of self-defense women need the most,” he said.

“It’s physical,” Claussen explained when asked why he enjoys Judo so much. “It’s a lot of frustration, but every once in a while you catch someone just right and they fall on the ground and all you really know is you put them there. You don’t know how you did it, you don’t know you were going to do it, but when you get that one clean throw, and you throw them down effortlessly, it’s a good feeling,” he said.

Judo has even taught him some life-saving skills as he walked away from a motorcycle accident with only a couple of cuts and bruises.

“It’s a useful skill learning to fall down,” he said.

Claussen, who graduated with a degree in biology from Drake University, is working on his master’s at SDSU where he currently is a physiology lab instructor.

Judo is quite the workout and also develops a lot of flexibility.

“It’s full body exercise because you use all your muscles to do this,” he said. “To me it’s enjoyable exercise. It’s aerobic because you do it over a long period of time but it’s also fairly resistant because you are using someone else’s body weight,” Claussen said.

The popularity of the sport is not unknown only in Brookings, Judo’s existence isn’t well-known throughout the U.S. Claussen said there are only about 20,000 people who compete in Judo.

“America is not a big Judo country,” he said. “It’s a lot bigger overseas, some people claim it’s the second most popular sport in the world after soccer.”

Twenty-five-year-old Salvador Cruz has been practicing Judo for the last three years. Cruz, a brown belt in Judo, is a graduate student in economics at SDSU.

“I used to run for the track team,” he said. “I’m just as tired from 15 minutes of Judo as I would be after running nine miles.”

John Madrid, a 23-year-old physics graduate student at SDSU, practices Judo and is the captain of SDSU’s Boxing Club.

“I’ve always been involved with boxing and I wanted to develop my grappling skills in addition to my boxing skills,” he said.

He said along with the self-defense skills Judo ensures you with, it also helps develop self-confidence. Madrid’s skills over the last two years have given him an orange belt in Judo.

Madrid enjoys the atmosphere Dakota Judo provides.

“I like the environment, it’s a pretty laid-back environment here,” he said. “Everybody is real friendly, it’s not real formal, and you just come in and have a good time.”

Dakota Judo holds two of the three practices at Victory Martial Arts, which is the new martial arts facility that opened last fall. Claussen said their practices wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for owner Scott Bachmeier.

“Scott’s been quite cooperative in letting us practice here,” he said. “It’s awful tough to find a good space.”

The cost to join Dakota Judo is only $30 a month.

“That’s another thing about Judo, it’s traditionally a very cheap art,” Claussen concluded.

Intro to Judo classes are Mondays and Wednesdays at Victory Martial Arts from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Randori practices are Sunday nights at Gold Medal Gymnastics at 4:30 pm. If interested in joining, contact Peter Claussen at 693-6335 or [email protected] or Salvador Cruz at 695-9996.