This summer has been a rewarding time for 10-year-old judo ace Marjorie “JoJo” McDaniel.
JoJo, a member of the Sakurakan Dojo Judo Club at the Gordon Family YMCA in Sumner, brought home awards and medals from three different judo competitions in June and July.
For the first competition, JoJo and her parents flew out to Irving, Texas for the U.S. Junior Olympics on June 25. She left with fourth-place finish while competing against 11 other girls. That same weekend, McDaniel also competed in the World Junior Olympics, which featured judo athletes from all over the world. McDaniel snagged second place.
But it was on July 2 at the Judo Junior Nationals in Irvine, California where McDaniel claimed her top prize.
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After previously taking second place two years in a row at Junior Nationals, JoJo was determined to take the top spot in the 2016 competition — and she did just that. McDaniel battled her opponents as her father and coach, Matthew, cheered her on from the floor as a certified national coach.
Her mother, Marjorie T. McDaniel, also a certified national coach, watched from the stands.
“I was probably more nervous than her,” she said about watching her daughter.
When JoJo found out she won, she celebrated with her parents.
“She ran up and jumped and wrapped her legs around me,” Matthew said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
But even from an early age, JoJo seemed destined to excel at judo.
I think more people should do judo and think of it as a sport.
Marjorie “JoJo” McDaniel
Back home on the outskirts of Orting, where she lives with her parents and 1-year-old brother, John, judo is a family affair in the McDaniel household. JoJo shows off her success by hanging her medals across her bedroom wall. The family even has mats at home to drag out to practice moves.
Matthew fought in judo matches when he was his daughter’s age. JoJo’s mother is a brown belt and participates in her daughter’s judo classes. Even JoJo’s uncle is black belt.
Matthew can remember his daughter at 3 years old, tumbling around on mats. JoJo used to swim, dance, and go to gymnastics, but judo stuck more than the rest. JoJo said she enjoys judo because of the confidence she builds.
“I like (judo) because it’s nice to rely on myself (in) one-on-one (situations),” she said. “I think more people should do judo and think of it as a sport.”
When she won her first-place medal in California, the family took some vacation time and walked the beach. But as it turned out, JoJo’s winning streak wasn’t over.
JoJo was given the Outstanding Female Judoka Award for her attitude and technique pertaining to her fighting.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” said Matthew. “It was a really great surprise.”
Judo, derived from the Japanese martial art jujutsu, means “the gentle way,” Marjorie said. The point is to throw or pin your opponent to the ground without hurting them too much.”
“I used a lot of different throws,” JoJo said about her matches.
One of her winning throws, and also one of JoJo’s favorite, was Ura nagi, a “rear throw” that sends an opponent over the shoulder to land on their back.
The 10-year-old continues to train at the Gordon Family YMCA. There are about 75 students in the Sakurakan Judo Dojo, and she enjoys training and helping out in all age level classes.
JoJo is a blue belt, the highest she can achieve at her age level. Even with this summer’s success, she plans on continuing to enter local, national and international competitions.
“I plan to go to Spokane for the next Junior Nationals,” she said.
Her parents think she’ll one day have a shot at the Olympic Games — she even met Travis Stevens, the Tacoma native who took the silver medal in judo this year at the Rio Olympics.
For now, JoJo is focused on her training and is enjoying her notable summer achievements.