Pint-sized green belt brings back gold from national judo tournament 

Marco Enriquez bridled with energy throughout the interview, as would any 7-year-old who just proved he was the best at something. In his case, it was his recent victory over an 8-year-old to win the gold medal at the Amateur Athletic Union Grand National Judo Tournament in Kearney, Mo.

Just a few minutes before the interview started, Marco sparred at the Sellers Recreation Center, 8301 S. Villa, with the All Nations Judo Club of OKC. A timid girl stepped on the mat with the gold-medal winner and managed to toss Marco to the ground and then pin him. Once Marco's father, Marc Enriquez, declared the girl the winner, she leapt to her feet and yelled, "Sensei, I beat Marco!" across the room to chief instructor David Seidner, who responded with his ever-present, patient smile.

Enriquez barely batted an eye, and was up and ready for the next sparring partner within seconds.

"Marco is really strong and has tried his hardest since I first started instructing him," Seidner said. "I was really pleased to have him come out, even at 3. I usually don't take students that young, but he worked as hard as he could and just had so much fun."

Marc Enriquez said his son, a green belt, is just a normal kid who rarely talks about the medals he's won, but loves all the aspects of the sport, from training to tournaments.

"He doesn't like Chuck E. Cheese, he got tired of going to playgrounds, he got tired of McDonald's, so I had to find something for him," Enriquez said. "It's in his heart right now, and it is surprising to see someone that young really enjoy something like this as much as he does."

Enriquez quickly attributes his son's success to Seidner, who has managed to keep judo fun. Seidner is a sixth-degree black belt and has instructed both adult and kids in judo, jujitsu, aikido and karate. He started taking judo young, as well, so he understands the trials of keeping a kid engaged in the sport.

"It was real rough when I was a 4-year-old, because my sensei was a Korean veteran in the Marine Corps and everything was really regimented," he said. "I thought, 'Gosh, if I ever have a judo club, we will have a little more fun.' So, we have judo, fun and games, and then more judo. I'll watch to see when their minds start to drift, then we have a game, which will actually help them get better at judo."

Seidner added that judo is a good martial art for kids to start with because it consists mainly of grappling, chokes and submissions, which makes it an ideal tool to ward away bullies.

"If they ever use judo outside the mat, it is just self-defense," he said. "One of my state champions once had a group of kids trying to get him to join their gang. They said, 'If you don't join, we're going to beat you up.' He said, 'That's fine, but the first five or six of you are going to be in big trouble,' so they left him alone."

For more information on the All Nations Judo Club of OKC, call the Sellers Center at 685-3311. "Charles Martin

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Charles Martin

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