Sensei or Psychologist

Claremont Courier, June 18, 2003

Sensei or Psychologist, teaching life lessons on the judo mat

Sensei Gary Goltz, 6th degree black belt, teaches a group of teenagers

by Brenda Bolinger, Staff Reporter

When Monica Ryczek adopted her son Cameron, anger and a fiery temper plagued the small child. Born to a mother whose drug habit didn't stop during pregnancy, Cameron entered the world with more than his fair share of difficulties. Now, as an 8-year-old, instead of grappling with adult-sized emotions, Cameron is grappling with opponents-some adult-sized-on the Judo mat.

"Cameron had been seeing a counselor. He was very angry and had terrible behavior," said his adoptive mother Ms. Ryczek. "Judo has served him tremendously. It has helped to focus on something and he's learned to control his temper. He's a lot more polite and I see the difference at school. His citizenship has been great." After enrolling Cameron and his younger sister Alisha-also an adopted foster child-in a string of other sports they ultimately rejected, Ms. Ryczek is pleased that her children finally found their niche in Judo."This clicked with them right away," Ms. Ryczek, a resident of Claremont, said.

Cameron and Alisha are two of the 100+ students studying the martial art at Goltz Judo Club, independently founded by Gary Goltz in 1987 and affiliated with the city of Claremont Human Services Department since 1989. Sixteen years after the club's birth, Mr. Goltz is still seeking to improve the community and "develop fine people". In fact, Sensei (teacher) Goltz regards the Japanese sport as therapeutic for ills and ages of all kinds. Students range in age from 4 to 61 and, according to Mr. Goltz, judo's "therapy" addresses anger, depression, anxiety and everything in between.

"We get kids that come in that supposedly have ADD (attention deficit disorder), or that have problems with anger, or shy kids that are afraid to speak up in class. We have a lot of single moms with boys that need some male bonding," said Mr. Goltz, a business consultant and former company owner in the healthcare industry. "Judo applies to every aspect of your life and I see it making a changes for kids everyday."

The essence of Judo-"Ju" means gentleness and "Do" means way-is never far from mind as Mr. Goltz and other instructors lead students through vigorous stretching, ground fighting drills, throwing techniques and partner sparring. A key concept in practicing Judo is yielding to an attacker's energy so that his force can be used against him. Throwing, grappling and falling skills are emphasized and although the exercises are strenuous, the importance of technique, endurance and flexibility far outweigh that of strength.

According to Mr. Goltz, the disciplined training entwined with a philosophy of benefiting others inspires students to put their best foot forward and regard others with more respect and less judgment. This greater appreciation for other people comes naturally, he said, because on the Judo mat, everyone is equal.

Sensei Gary Goltz demonstrates a throw

"The owner of a hospital, the highway patrol's top accident investigator, a plumber, someone in 11th grade, a 6-year-old: you all look the same," Mr. Goltz said. "Your point of judging becomes how they behave and their character. Judo strips away any pretense of class or rank and you really see what the core of the person is truly about. Doing that over a long period of time makes you able to do that outside of the dojo (practice hall). You begin to size people up on the basis of integrity and character-the real meaningful things, not their hairstyle, their clothing. You look at people a very different way."

Tony Farah of Pomona is sometimes nervous as he watches his 14-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son fling arms and legs and bodies around with their sparring partners, but greater than his uneasiness is his confidence that his children's' lives are positively changed. "My children are much more confident, much gentler. They're at a level where they don't have to prove anything. At first, they were trying to show off their stuff, but as they got more into it and understood the philosophy of Judo, they calmed down," Mr. Farah said. "The gentle way, that's basically what it teaches them, to be gentle and to be confident in yourself. When you're confident, you can handle any situation in the right way."

Mr. Farah is one of several home-schooling parents who selected Judo to fulfill a physical education requirement. After studying Judo for the required semester, his kids "just stuck with it because they loved it". Their newfound ability to commit-like Ms. Ryczek's children, they had tried multiple sports but "didn't enjoy any of them"-and the development of their character inspire Mr. Farah's hope that years of Judo, and black belts along the way, are in the future.

Judo may indeed cultivate upstanding citizens, but traveling the path of the gentle way is certainly not without its rough and tumble moments. And, gender nor age nor size give one a free pass. One of Mr. Goltz' mightiest students is 11-year-old Aviv who is unafraid to spar with opponents who, Judo skills aside, could probably squash him. "No matter who walks into the club, he'll ask him to randori (spar). Even if a big, formidable black belt visits, the first kid up to him is Aviv," Mr. Goltz said. "We'll sit back and say, look at that, he knows he'll only get better by picking the best guy he can work with."

Mr. Goltz also teaches a number of girls and women who "like to go in and rough it up". He has watched female participation increase dramatically over the years and approximately 25 percent of his current students are female. While Olympic Judo competitions segregate men and women, Mr. Goltz sees absolutely no problem in a co-ed practice mat. "I put the girls against the boys all the time and the girls will pummel. I have one 11-year-old who's been studying for 5 or 6 years. She's as tough as nails. I put her up against a 13-year-old boy-she threw him and pinned him. It was an annihilation," Mr. Goltz shared.

Sensei Gary Goltz, leading a group of students in throwing practice

Judo students of all shapes, sizes and ages will display their skills and engage their opponents in the Goltz Judo Club Tournament this Saturday, June 21 at the Alexander Hughes Community Center in Claremont. To honor his longtime friend and judo instructor's 50th birthday, James Lally, chairman of the board of trustees at the Chino Valley Medical Center, is sponsoring the tournament.

Dr. Lally, also the club's physician, is just one of the countless people Mr. Goltz has touched over the years, and certainly there will be many more to that enter his dojo. He plans on providing this physical and mental outlet and therapy of sorts beyond his 50 years, for as long as possible. He, too, still reaps the many benefits of the gentle-but fierce-way. "Judo is my inspiration," he said.