Thursday, August 25, 2011

Judo at the Kroc Center, Grand Rapids

On my recent trip to the States I took the opportunity to train with a great group of Judoka in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area. I have known Jim Murray and his son Alex for just over a year—since I visited home last summer—and never have I met two people who do more to encourage a positive Judo spirit. I was excited then, in January, to hear that Jim Murray Sensei was starting a Judo program at the Grand Rapids Kroc Center.

The Kroc Center
2500 S. Division Ave
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49507
Judo: Children’s class (under thirteen years of age), 6:00-7:30 Mondays and Wednesdays
Judo: Adults (thirteen and older), 7:30-8:45 Mondays and Wednesdays

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, one of many such centers across the United States, was founded with the intention that all people, regardless of social status, have access to a world-class recreational, educational and cultural arts facility. Joan Kroc—wife of McDonalds founder Ray Kroc—established the first center in Sandiego, California in 2001. Since 2001—and with the aid of an impressive 1.5 billion dollar donation from the Kroc family—the salvation army has continued Joan Kroc’s dream by establishing many more such cultural centers.

The first time I joined a class at the Kroc Center—back in February—I was immediately impressed by the fact I was hearing as much Spanish as English spoken amongst the members. An excited group of twenty kids between seven and 14 years of age were gathered to learn Judo, wearing judogi that the Kroc Center even provided. The students were energetic, friendly and, above all, excited to watch Jim Murray Sensei throw me and other adult judoka with Ogoshi (major hip throw).
Six months and more have passed now. When I joined the Kroc Center’s Judo club these past couple weeks, I was delighted to see that there is still a strong membership with children and adults from a mixed variety of races and ethnicities. As Murray Sensei put it, “With our visiting Sensei from Poland and Nick in from Japan, I think every major culture is represented here tonight.” This is what I, personally, love to see. Jim Murray Sensei, with the help of the people at the Kroc Center, is bringing Judo into the lives of people who would probably never have the chance to learn under normal circumstances. You hear stories of great basketball and baseball players being discovered in poor inner-city neighborhoods…. Why not the next Judo gold medalist?

Jim Murray is a third degree black belt in Judo and the president of Judo Affiliates of Michigan. He is a USA certified national coach and a USJF certified Kata instructor. He has taken silver and bronze medals in both the USA Judo National Championships (Masters Division) and the Pan-American Masters Championships. He also won the gold medal in the 2005 Midwest Judo Championship (Masters Division).

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nick, great post! Just wondering if we could possibly share this with Kroc Center members and visitors? Send me an email at and let me know what you think. Thanks!