People practice judo in pairs at Main Line Judo, at a Judo Club meeting. Photo by Joseph Gentile '23.

Club Life: Haverford Judo Club

Students engage with the local community while practicing Judo.

Haverford’s Judo Club offers its members two unique opportunities. First, the activity provides a place for students of all experience levels to learn the basics of Judo, a Japanese martial art whose name means “the gentle way.” Secondly, the club provides an opportunity for students to engage with the local Judo community, as well as with fellow students at other nearby colleges.

“Unlike something like kickboxing where fighters attempt to injure one another with punches and kicks, the point of Judo is to subdue, by using balance and technique to incapacitate your opponent,” explained Joseph Gentile ‘23, head of the club. He explained that opponents look to bring each other to the ground via throws, and through a combination of grabs, nudges, and trips. Upon doing so, judokas attempt to pin their opponent on the ground for twenty seconds, or submit them with either a choke or an “armbar” (also called a cross armlock).

“It’s not a contest of strength, but a contest of technique. Since you’re using your opponent’s weight and balance against them, all you have to do is nudge their weight [with] a small push in a specific spot,” Gentile said.

Throughout its history, the club, which started in 2016, has always met at Main Line Judo in Bryn Mawr. There, members receive professional Judo instruction from specialists, such as black belt Tom Blair.

“They have all the amenities for learning the sport as safely as possible–soft, springy floors, cool outfits [a judo uniform called a gi], the whole nine yards,” Gentile said.

Haverford students aren’t the only ones to make use of Main Line Judo’s excellent facilities. They are often joined by students from Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore Colleges, and occasionally students from Drexel, the University of Pennsylvania, and other schools. The club also trains with many members of the local community, in the spirit of improving their Judo skills. Additionally, prior to the pandemic, the Haverford Judo Club even participated in occasional bouts with the Army and Navy, in the spirit of friendly competition. Gentile noted that Main Line Judo hopes to resume competitions sometime this academic year.

Gentile noted that, though Judo may seem like a steep hill to climb at first, the way it is taught at Main Line Judo is extraordinarily accessible. With so many newcomers to Judo coming to the club’s sessions—especially earlier in the fall or spring—the group goes over many of the more basic throws and breakfalls (moves performed to avoid injury when landing from a fall). “You need to know how to actually fall before you get thrown,” Gentile said.

Thanks to the precautions taken and the attention of the supervisors at Main Line Judo, Gentile noted that injuries in Judo are rare. “The sport can be a little bit rough sometimes, given we get tossed, dropped, and tripped every which way,” he joked. “But under careful supervision of trained judokas, and [with the dojo’s] incredibly soft, springy floors, injuries are rather uncommon.”

A particular benefit of Judo, he believes, is the sport’s practicality and applicability to life.

“You can play soccer or football and have a great workout and get in shape, but a lot of the specific skills are only applicable to the sport you’re playing,” Gentile said. “With martial arts like Judo, in addition to the exercise, you’re also developing your ability to defend yourself, and you never know when that might come in handy.”

“It’s definitely a good workout, but the atmosphere is really chill, the people are really nice, and even if you know nothing [about Judo] you’re more than welcome to start!”

Haverford Judo Club meets on Wednesdays from 7:30 P.M. to 9 P.M., and Sundays from 4 P.M. to 6 P.M. Students interested can contact Joseph Gentile ‘23 ( or sign up on Engage.