Cale Seffel

Judo changing lives in Salmo

Founded in 2009 by Sandy Vaughan-Sydnam, the Salmo Judo Club is relatively young, but has already progressed leaps and bounds.

In the rural mountain town of Salmo, community members have to make do with what they have.

Far from the liveliness and sounds of Shambhala summers, the small community is illuminated on winter nights by a small ski operation that overhangs on a nearby mountainside, which only seems to bring light to its slow soft pulse.

Beams of light steer their way through Salmo streets until resting on a retired high school where several other vehicles are also lined up.

After entering, the sound of bodies thumping and slapping onto mats echoes through the cold concrete halls.

The source of the commotion is in the building’s colour-faded gymnasium, and inside children have gathered to learn and practice Judo with their eyes set on goals that may take them far beyond their little mountain town.

Founded in 2009 by Sandy Vaughan-Sydnam, the Salmo Judo Club is relatively young, but has already progressed leaps and bounds.

“It’s very pleasing to see where these kids have gone in just a couple of years,” said Vaughan-Sydnam.

“It’s outstanding.”

Currently the club has three main groups divided by age from four-years-old and up.

“Because we’re a relatively new club, our highest ranking Judoka right now is a green belt, besides myself,” said Vaughan-Sydnam, who started Judo in 1967.

Competition is not a requirement for the club and out of roughly 40 students, about 10 of them choose to travel to competitions.

Recently, the club attended the Canada West Invitational in Burnaby and brought home two gold medals and two silver medals.

Vaughan-Sydnam said that last year, the club also had three kids reach the Canadian nationals.

“That’s almost unheard of in two years.”

To reach that level, the Judo students (Judoka) have to place either first or second at a number of selection tournaments as a prerequisite, which will allow them to be on the BC team.

“The [selection tournament] they’re heading to in February would have 600 to 900 competitors, so they’re doing extremely well to be placing at the top of their divisions,” said Vaughan-Sydnam.

“They’re also pretty good at travelling now. When we first started travelling in 2010… some kids had never been outside of Salmo… so you take them to Vancouver where there’s escalators and all sorts of weird stuff and they’re just so overwhelmed.”

Vaughan-Sydnam said that Judo distinguishes itself as being the only martial art that is also an Olympic sport. Judo also practices full-contact, unlike several other martial arts.

“They’re gaining their experience and each night they’re learning new styles and they’re brushing up old techniques and developing their own styles,” she said.

“They have a lot to look forward to, a whole lifetime of Judo, and Judo is something that you can do all your life,” said 50-year-old Vaughan-Sydnam, who had her own share of Judo competition.

Vaughan-Sydnam took a bronze medal in the world in 1992, and was on the Olympic team from 1992 until 1995.

“It’s not really relevant to what I’m teaching now. Where we are with the club is more of a beginner level and some intermediate,” she said.

“I’ve done mine, it’s not about me, it’s about the kids.”

Trennin Lifely, 16, is one of the club’s Judoka aiming for Canadian Nationals this year.

“It starts out easier and it just get more challenging as you go, which is good because you’re always challenging yourself,” he said.

Trennin said that aside from the Judo club, the community doesn’t offer much for those his age.

“He’s pretty much dedicated his life,” said Susan Lifely, Trennin’s grandmother.

“It’s all he wants to do.”

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