The Pottstown Judo Club • Pottstown, PA
Contact Us
Judo Girl

My First Judo Class

Things you should know, questions you may have…

First off let us start by saying, welcome to the club! Let us also say to you parents and students there are no dumb questions, the only dumb questions are the ones not asked. So if you have questions, please, just ask!

If your new to judo or the martial arts in general, we suggest you first check out our judo history page. This may answer many of your questions about what judo is, and what you will learn in our class.


First Class Questions

What are the instructors names?
How old do I have to be to join the club?
What should I wear to class?
What if I want to do judo, but am blind or have very bad vision?
Do I need to buy the Judo-Gi (Judo Uniform) right away?
What's with the Blue or White uniforms I see?
All this falling stuff looks like it may hurt? Is judo really safe?
What is the class progression, what will I learn?
My child does not seem to do or understand _____ properly?
What's the language you speak during class?
What are the belt colors (ranks) in judo?
How do I get promoted, when will I get my black belt?
So, what are the "Official" rank requirements?

What are the instructors names?

The Pottstown Judo Club Instructors
From the above photo back left to right…
  • Visiting Sensei, Lindsey Keck, 1st Dan Black Belt
  • Youth Instructor, Sensei, Richard Favinger, Jr., 1st Dan Black Belt
  • Head Instructor, Sensei, Fred Eddinger, 4th Dan Black Belt
  • Assistant Head Instructor, Sensei, Debbie Eddinger, 3rd Dan Black Belt
  • (Not Pictured) Assistant Instructor, Sensei, Andy Keegan, 1st Dan Black Belt
Not Pictured: Frequent Guest Instructors
  • Visiting Sensei, Joseph Condello, 5th Dan Black Belt - Former USA Judo Elite Athlete
  • Visiting Sensei, Marc Vink, 5th Dan Black Belt - Head Coach for the USA World Blind Judo Team
  • Visiting Sensei, Paul Latimer, 2nd Dan Black Belt - Certified Coach for Blind Judo Athletes
  • Visiting Sensei, Scott Rakowski, 1st Dan Black Belt

How old do I have to be to join the club?

We request that aspiring young members who wish to join be preferably 8+ years old (Possible acceptations aside). We find that students younger then this do not always have the attention span nor required coordination skills yet to perform judo safely and get the full benefits of the class. Although judo may be a fun activity please understand it is not "supervised play". See: Judo History and What will I learn, for a little more insight. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact one of our instructors.

What should I wear to class?

We recommend sweat pants, and a long sleeve sweatshirt. Judo is a "grappling" martial art so, you need something to grab hold of to control your opponent, this is why long sleeve shirts are a must. Girls should have a PLAIN WHITE T-SHIRT underneath their sweatshirt; and sports bra when appropriate. Keep in mind, grabbing and pulling will be done, so it's best that it not be your most "new" outfit.

If you've been in the martial arts before you may already have a gi (uniform), this is fine but we also suggest that you wear sweats. Uniforms typical of other arts like karate are extremely thin and will not withstand the pulling and tugging needed for a judo workout. If you have rank in another art other then judo, please tell us; but out of respect do not wear another arts colored rank to class, use your white belt, please.

Bring something like sandals or slippers you can easily slip on and off your feet to walk off the mat; for going to the bathroom, and getting dinks for breaks; we keep our mats as clean as possible.

What if I want to do judo, but am blind or have very bad vision?

Depending on your physical ability's, there is no reason why you can't (doctors permission of course); as judo is officially an Olympic sport and Paralympic event. With it's own set of rules regarding deaf and or blind competitors. Judo is recognized as one of THE BEST martial arts world wide for such individuals.

Reference: Judo for the Visually Disabled – Enables
If you have an interest in visually disabled judo, or know a friend that may want to try it, please contact us!

Do I need to buy a Judo-Gi (Judo Uniform) right away?

Judo Gi

NO, this is not required. In fact we suggest you not invest in one until you finish our 8-Week beginners class. The judo uniform is an investment. The gi's we typically sell range in price from $40 to $60 depending on size and type. A typical child's gi we sell is around $40 new. The judo uniform you buy now can last you a LONG time. In fact most younger kids outgrow a gi before it is worn out, so ask us about good condition, used uniforms as well.

Judo Girl

When getting dressed for class girls should have a PLAIN WHITE T-SHIRT or LEOTARD underneath their uniform (IJF Rules); and sports bra when appropriate. Boys by tradition do not wear any shirt under the gi, but we allow shirts at the dojo if you wish. In tournament play shirts for boys / men is not permitted.

Bring something like sandals or slippers you can easily slip on and off your feet to walk off the mat; for going to the bathroom, and getting dinks for breaks; we keep our mats as clean as possible.

Donated / Used Uniforms

If you have an old judo uniform you no longer wear, or it just won't fit and it is not a total loss, consider donating it back to the club so we may use it when beginners start learning how to throw in class. Parents of students, if your child has out grown there gi, or has quit class and the uniform still has a good life left, let us know and we (or you) can donate it back to new younger or smaller student. (Remember to wash the uniform first please!)

What's with the Blue or White uniforms I see?

Blue and White Judo-gi

The blue judo uniforms hold no status, and mean nothing. In a judo competition the first name called to fight will wear a blue sash or belt, and the second name will wear a white sash or belt.

Higher level tournaments (Nationals) go one step further and make the first name called wear an entire blue uniform, second name a white uniform. This makes it very simple for officials, and spectators to tell who's who on the mat.

For more information on this subject, please see your instructor.
Beginners always buy a WHITE uniform first.

All this falling stuff looks like it may hurt? Is judo really safe?

Judo is VERY safe, in fact that was the intention of Dr Kano when he invented judo, to make it safer then most other martial arts. The American College of Sports Medicine, says JUDO is the safest contact sport for children under the age of 13 played in the United States.


ALL beginners learn how to FALL PROPERLY before they ever do any kind of judo throwing. (You need to crawl before you walk.) This training is called Ukemi (Brake-fall). Threw these drills you learn to relax you body and expel the air from your lungs as you hit, and spread the force of the fall out, this keeps you safe. Because these drills are practiced every day in judo class they become second-nature.

Judo falls can also save your life and prevent injury outside of the dojo as well, they are not a judo only technique. Learning not to stop a fall with your hands and wrists can greatly reduce or even prevent injury. For example, slipping on ice in winter, or some one tripping you in school.

Read more on, The Falling Techniques of Judo

What is the class progression, what will I learn?

Over our 8 week beginners class time frame you will learn...
  • Short history of judo, who founded it and what judo is.
  • You will learn how to FALL properly. (Judo is a throwing and grappling art) See: Judo History
    • Backward Brake-fall → Right & Left Backward Brake-fall (Brake-fall is called Ukemi)
    • Ukemi
      Back Fall
      Back Fall
      Side Fall (Left and Right)
  • You will learn your first judo throw. - O Soto Gari: "Major Outer Reaping"
  • O Soto Gari
  • You will learn your first judo hold-down. - (Hon) Kesa Gatame: "(Normal) Scarf Hold"
  • Kesa Gatame
  • Judo dojo rules and mat safety.
  • You will learn the Rolling Brake-fall. - Zempo-kaiten: "Forward Rolling Fall"
    • Tumbling Skills → Somersaults→ Ground Rolling Fall → Standing Rolling Fall
    • Rollinf Fall
  • You will learn your second judo throw. - O Uchi Gari: "Major Inner Reaping"
  • O Uchi Gari
  • You will learn your second judo hold-down. - Yoko Shiho Gatame: "Side Locking Four-Corner Hold"
  • Yoko Shiho Gatame
  • You will learn Tai Sabaki - "Turning Movements" (Harder then you think!)
  • You will learn your third judo throw. - O-Goshi: "Major Hip Throw"
  • After showing proficiency in your back and rolling brake-falls and you fell safe (and we think your doing it safely). You will move to performing your first judo throw on an instructor and then on fellow class mates.
  • At this point you will start to work in with the rest of our students.
  • You will learn another judo throw and another hold, as well as how to escape out of a hold.

We do like to keep class FUN, so we do play some games and have hints and tips along the way. Typically after the first weeks' class (all the falling drills) things start to pick up and we do a lot more fun things. This is only a short list of what we do in a typical beginners class. If you have any questions, feel free to ask one of our instructors.

This class is normally taught by Sensei, Richard Favinger, Jr. our youth instructor who is a 1st Degree Black Belt. Rich has been doing judo for over 25 years; and is very knowledgeable in judo history, techniques, and terms.

The Kodokan Judo Syllabus has Ukemi (Brake-Fall Techniques), 15 Kata's (Set Forms), a total of 67 official Nage-Waza (Throwing Techniques), 29 official Katame-Waza (Grappling Techniques) along with 22 Atemi-Waza (Striking Techniques) for Self-Defense and Kata. It can take several years to learn them all and a lifetime to master.

Special thanks to Lynn Buchanan (1st Dan) of Milton Judo Club and
Watts Blake Bearne Judo Club for the use of some of the graphics you see.

My child does not seem to do or understand _____ properly?

Please understand that it can take time for a child to understand the exercises, rolls and movements we try to show them. Our instructors are very diligent and see the mistakes they make, but may not always correct them immediately. We want class to be FUN and we don't want to discourage them. This awkwardness tends to works it's way out after about the 2nd or 3rd week of class.

Most notably we find that many students have trouble with Tumbling Skills and Summersaults. You can help us if you wish by showing your child how to perform a simple somersault (head-over-heels roll) at home in a safe environment. We want every one to succeed no matter what there ability. We value you and your child's input, so please talk with one of our instructors if you have any questions, we are here to help. We can always take the time for 1 on 1 instruction if the need arises.

What's the language you speak during class?

Judo terms and other things related to the art are spoken in Japanese. We do this to show respect for the art and it's founder who was Japanese. Japanese is the "universal language" of judo and no matter where you go in the world the terminology will be the same; meaning, no matter if your in Europe, Mexico, South America, or Russia … judo terms are still taught in Japanese! Kids Learn

A few words:
  • Dojo - Exercise Hall
  • Tatami - Mat
  • Judo - Gentle Way (The Way of Gentleness)
  • Judoka - A person who studies Judo
  • Judo-Gi - Judo Uniform
  • Sato - Student
  • Sensei - Teacher
  • Sempai - Assistant Teacher, typically the highest ranking student of the club, not yet a black belt.
  • Seiza - Kneeling Posture
  • Anza - Cross-legged Sitting / Indian Style
  • Hajime - Begin
  • Matte - Stop
Counting in Japanese:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Icha Ni San Shi Go Roku Shichi Hachi Ku Ju
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Ju-Icha Ju-Ni Ju-San Ju-Shi Ju-Go Ju-Roku Ju-Shichi Ju-Hachi Ju-Ku Ni-Ju

A more complete list of terms is available from Sensei, Rich. Knowledge of terms is not strongly required by beginners, but we ask that you pay attention and try to learn them. Terminology IS a requirement for rank promotion.

What are the belt colors (ranks) in judo?

At Pottstown Judo juniors are promoted with stripes and solid color belts. The stripes are called "Mon" and reflect the 1/2 rank between the solid colors. Senior adult students (17+) are promoted traditional Japanese style with White, Brown, Black (no stripes).

* Minimum age requirements are guide lines only.

# Aprox. Min. Age Color English Japanese
6th Kyu 7 Years Old White
White and "Advanced White"
6th Grade Ro-kyu 6th Kyu
    White Belt + Yellow Stripe      
5th Kyu 7 Years Old Yellow
5th Grade Go-kyu 5th Kyu
    Yellow Belt + Orange Stripe      
4th Kyu 7 Years Old Orange
Orange / Adult Green
4th Grade Yan-kyu 4th Kyu
  8 Years Old Orange Belt + Green Stripe      
3rd Kyu 9 Years Old Green
Green / Adult 3rd Brown
3rd Grade San-kyu 3rd Kyu
  10 Years Old Green Belt + Blue Stripe      
2nd Kyu 11 Years Old Blue
Blue / Adult 2nd Brown
2nd Grade Ni-kyu 2nd Kyu
  12 Years Old Blue Belt + Purple Stripe      
1st Kyu 13 Years Old Purple
Purple / Adult 1st Brown
1st Grade Ik-kyu 1st Kyu
1st Dan   Black 1
1st Degree Shodan 1st Degree
2nd Dan   Black 2
2nd Degree Ni-dan 2nd Degree
3rd Dan   Black 3
3rd Degree San-dan 3rd Degree
4th Dan   Black 4
4th Degree Yo-dan 4th Degree
5th Dan   Black 5
5th Degree Go-dan 5th Degree
6th Dan   Red and White 6
Red & White
6th Degree Roku-dan 6th Degree
7th Dan   Red and White 7
Red & White
7th Degree Shichi-dan 7th Degree
8th Dan   Red and White 8
Red & White
8th Degree Hachi-dan 8th Degree
9th Dan   Red 9
9th Degree Ku-dan 9th Degree
10th Dan   White 10
Double Wide White or Red
10th Degree Ju-dan 10th Degree
* There have only been 15 10th Dan ranks awarded by the Kodokan to date. Profiles of Kodokan 10th Dan Holders.

* Mrs. Keiko Fukuda 9th Dan at the age of 88, makes her the highest ranked and oldest woman in judo. (Born, April 12, 1913 - Died, February 9, 2013) She taught at the Soko Joshi Judo Club in the Noe Valley District of San Francisco, CA.

* In Joshi or Woman's Judo, persons who hold a black belt rank are awarded a special black belt that has a white stripe down the center. This belt is only awarded to woman. And represents the Pure form of Judo as they do not rely on strength like most men do. How ever most woman prefer a normal black belt like men.
11th Dan   White 11 11th Degree Ju-icha-dan 11th Degree
12th Dan   White 12 12th Degree Ju-ni-dan 12th Degree
Only Dr. Jigoro Kano him self was awarded the 11th and 12th Dan ranks. They where awarded after his death by order of the Kodokan and Japanese Government. He was also awarded the title of Shihan.

Most black belts will wear a normal black belt most of the time, some may have stripes (rank tabs) or not, it is a personal preference at this level. Master Kano was fond of a normal back belt for class; and in fact most black belts will wear the same belt threw out there career so much so that it becomes white with age. This is why the 10th dan is symbolically a white belt. It symbolizes "Full Circle" White to Black and then back to White.

More information about the Judo Rank System

How do I get promoted, when will I get my black belt?

Sensei's Zen answer:
"The question is not when you will get your black belt, but when your back belt will find you".

SumiStudents are ranked according to SKILL and KNOWLEDGE of judo, that grade being reflected in the color of the belt. We try not to focus every thing in emphases on "Belt Color", the "belt" is only as good as the one who wears it.

With that being said unlike other westernized and commercialized martial arts like some ´karate businesses´ more commonly referred to as McDojo's; where they say you may get your black belt in a year or two, this is simply not true in judo.

In fact the youngest you are even eligible to have a black belt in judo is 17 years old in the US. This is extremely rare. In Japan there is no such thing as a Junior Black Belt. There are always rare exceptions to this rule. (National Judo Champion, fighting adults of dan grade and winning "Batsugan", or simultaneous promotion; extremely rare.)

What Does a Black Belt Really Mean? - By Neil Ohlenkamp
Parents should read this!

There are two divisions of grades, the student grades (Kyu), and the master grades (Dan). In the west, the kyu colors run from white (a rank beginner) then through yellow, orange, green, blue, purple for juniors under 17. The colors change slightly for seniors of 18 years old or older, in that blue and purple are replaced by brown. In Japan, all kyu grades wear white for ranks 6 to 4 and brown for 3 to 1st kyu. So in Japan, there are only 2 colors of student rank, white and brown! Student ranks go backwards from 6th kyu to 1st kyu; black bells of course go forward from 1st dan to 10th dan. Jigaro Kano (founder of Judo) was the inventor of the kyu - dan grading system, that soon got adapted by other martial arts such as karate.

At Pottstown Judo, you are eligible (but not guaranteed) to receive your White Belt + Yellow Stripe after completing our beginners class and after being in judo for about 3 months. To receive your Yellow Belt, we require you be in judo at least 6 months (after promotion) and have attended at least one judo tournament. The USJI , USJA, and USJF set requirements that must be fallowed for promotion, they can be interpreted on a per-club basis. You will be notified if you are eligible for promotion by one of our instructors, and what needs to be done to get promoted.

A black belt is not something you "Get", it's something you EARN.

"Train hard, be humble, don't show off or complain, and do your best in everything in your life. This is what it means to be a black belt. Black belts are often ordinary people who try harder and don't give up. Black belt can be achieved in spite of any weaknesses you may have. I have promoted men and women who began training very late in life, people who were disabled or blind, and people who were very afraid of physical activity when they started. It is how you face and overcome your own personal difficulties that determines your character, an important component of a black belt." ~ Neil Ohlenkamp, 6th Dan

So, what are the "Official" rank requirements?

As mentioned all rank promotions can be interpreted on a per-club basis and always at senseis discretion. But there are official guide lines that are fallowed, rank is never just handed out. Above all, class attendance, attitude during class and later tournament performance, play a very important role in promotion. You are tested every day in class, by remembering terms and the names of the throws we go over in class so always do your best.

Here are the Official USJI, USJA and Shufu Yudanshakai promotion requirements...
Shufu Yudanshakai Junior (Up to Age 13) Requirements (Nov-2006) - PDF
Shufu Yudanshakai Senior (Over Age 13) Requirements (Nov-2003) - PDF
Shufu Yudanshakai Senior Kata Requirements (Aug-2006) - PDF
USJI Promotion Recommendation Procedures (2007) - PDF
USJF Rank Requirements (2001) - PDF

Adobe Reader

The information can be confusing, so if you have any questions, please contact one of our instructors. Promotions is not something you should worry or stress over, you will get your rank when the time is right for YOU.

©2005 - 2015 Pottstown Judo Club, All Rights Reserved
Pottstown Judo a Program of Pottstown Parks and Recreation
Special Thanks to: Favinger Photography