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Dallas Invitational Judo Tournament Returns with Flare

Irving—They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. For judo competitors across Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas and from around the country, the robust attendance at the 55th annual 2021 Dallas Invitational hosted in the Irving Convention Center on Saturday, Nov. 20, showed that is clearly the case.

Due to the pandemic, the tournament was cancelled in 2020. However, thelatest event attracted 810 competitors, up from 590 in 2019.

“It’s really amazing we had the turnout we did,” Ken Patteson, co-tournament director, said. “We weren’t really sure what to expect after being cancelled last year. We’ve always had six competition areas. When we started getting entries a week ago, they started really piling up, so we had to scramble to get two more to be able to handle the increase.”

Also helping grow the event’s numbers in 2021 were factors like DFW having a strong judo community, other tournaments were cancelled because other states still have tight restrictions due to the pandemic, and competitors want to get out, interact with their fellow judo aficionados, and compete again.

The event has been held at the convention center for the past few years, a spot which Patteson and otherorganizers consider ideal.

“We’re in Dallas, the middle of the country, and it’s easy to travel here,” Patteson said. “Irving and this neighborhood around here has good hotels. The convention center is a great space for it. It’s plenty big and a very nice facility.

“This is our 55th year of the Dallas Invitational. Since we’ve been doing it here, we’ve shared the venue with USA Judo.They made the deal with the convention center. Since we always had our tournament this time of year, we teamed up to make it a bigger event.”

Judo competitors score points in three ways. The highest-scoring move is an ippon, a full throw done with considerable force and speed where the opponent lands largely on their back. Competitors can also score an ippon by keeping their foe in a grappling hold for 20 seconds or by forcing them to submit or pass out. Much like a knockout in boxing or a pin in wrestling, a successful ippon ends a match immediately.

Just below an ippon in scoring is a waza-ari, a throw displaying power and superiority but not clear enough to be an ippon, because either the opponent does not land entirely on their back or the throw did not display enough speed or force. Immobilizing an opponent for at least 15 seconds but for less than 20 seconds also earns a competitor a waza-ari. Any competitor who gets two waza-aris in a match is immediately deemed a winner, the equivalent of an ippon.

The third type of scoring move is a yuko, a partial throw missing two of three elements to be considered an ippon. Competitors can also score a yuko by immobilizing their opponent for at least 10 seconds.

Pattesonruns Eastside Dojo in Plano with fellow co-tournament director Ken Scialo. He has been competing in judo since he was nine, when he remembers participating in the 1967 Dallas Invitational. He also coached the national team for several years, holds a sixth-degree black belt and is a former high school science teacher.

“It’s a beautiful sport,” Patteson said. “It comes from Japan. There’s no striking in judo. There are throwing techniques and grappling. In grappling, there are also pins and submissions, chokes and armbars. Judo roughly translates into ‘the gentle way,’ which is kind of a contradiction, because it’s a fight.

“It’s not a fight intended to give you a concussion or injury, the goal should be a nice, controlled flow where if somebody lands on their back, you learn how to fall to not cause injury. It’s a sport unlike MMA [Mixed Martial Arts] these days where you’re trying to hurt somebody. People get injured but that’s not their goal. The goal is to have a nice, clean throw, a pin or a submission.”

On Sunday, Nov. 21, the Irving Convention Centeralso hosted USA Judo event, the 2021 Presidents Cup.