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International Judo Center Develops Disciplined Body and Mind

By Marina I. Jokic

Based in Flushing, New York, International Judo Center was founded by Saro Balagezyan, head coach and fourth degree black belt and international Judo referee. Beyond the center's main mission of teaching the martial art, Balagezyan also engages his students in mental, spiritual, and academic exercises and development programs. There are comprehensive trainings in Judo for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students, with an emphasis on explaining the philosophy of the sport, mastering foundational movements, and building physical fitness.

Classes are divided based on four age groups: kidos (age 4-6), kids (age 6-8), juniors (age 9-12), and teenagers and adults. The class for young kids provides the ideal introduction to both the structured and instructional environment and physical fitness in general. Through warm-ups, stretching, and coordination exercises, students become more flexible and agile and are prepared to tackle more advanced techniques.

Judo was developed by Jigoro Kano, who incorporated what he considered the most physically beneficial, gentle, and efficient of Jujitsu techniques. Decades after, in 1882, Kano Sensei marked the formal establishment of the first Judo school, Kadokan, in 1882. Since then, Judo has been on a course of rising popularity. Its debut in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 definitively asserted the sport's place in the international arena.

Ju-Do translates into gentle way, a name that is somewhat counterintuitive because of its combination of off-balancing and throwing techniques with grappling and pinning, and eventually submission chokes or arm-locks practiced for more experienced students.

"[Judo's] most spectacular display is achieved by 'Ippon' [whereby] one throws [his or her] opponent to the floor [in a show of] control, speed, force," Balagezyan said. "Our school maintains a traditional environment where respect, education, and venture for self-improvement drive our daily activities."

The IJC functions on the principles of maximum efficiency with minimum effort and mutual welfare and benefit. Instructors encourage newcomers to arrive with an open mind, prepared to work hard, exhibit tolerance, and be motivated to constantly improve body and mind.

"The members will experience a close family-like environment where each student [is supported the whole way," he said. "People refer to us as [a] Judo Family, [truly a 'one for all, all for one'] family environment where camaraderie is evident as [soon as you walk in]."

In addition to physical rigor and training, IJC promotes academic learning through various onsite tutoring programs. In Kano's words, "nothing under the sun is greater than education." Balagezyan takes these wise words to heart and actualizes them through his practice and educational support for his students.

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