ST. CLOUD - Judo was first included as an Olympic sport in 1964, during the summer Olympics in Japan.

In the decades since, Judo has been growing in popularity all over the United States.

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Matt Lagou teaches Judo and Jiu Jitsu at the Downtown Gym in St. Cloud and says the sport has been picking up steam locally with the Rio Olympics.

"Judo and Taekwondo: they're the biggest martial arts in the Olympics. But this year in Rio they're also showcasing Brazilian style Jiu Jitsu because they're taking out wrestling."

Judo is derived from Jui Jitsu, the ancient hand to hand combat technique of samurai warriors. It was developed as a wrestling sport in Japan in the 1800's. The overall goal of Judo is to take down your opponent and pin them. You work to unbalance your opponent so they are no longer a threat.

Lagou says some are quicker learners than others, but it takes hours of practice and repetition to pick up Judo and Jui Jitsu.

"It depends on how your cognitive thinking works. If you're a very cognitive thinker it comes like a fish in water, if you're not a very cognitive thinker, it takes a lot of repetition."

Judo requires balance, stamina and tapping into your natural instincts to master.

"It should be effortless, everything you do should take the least amount of effort possible to make the movement work."

Judo-Jiu Jitsu classes are offered several times a week at the downtown St. Cloud gym. Lagou teaches the grappling portions of Judo on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m.


Dan DeBaun, WJON