Matt Toole is the president of the West Chester Judo Club, where the interviewee first started judo. Today, Toole took some time to talk about the club and his ascension to club president. All images courtesy of the West Chester Judo Club.
Martial Arts of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: Hello and welcome! It’s great to talk with someone from West Chester!
Matt Toole: Hey and thank you for having me here!
MAYTT: How did you get involved in judo at West Chester University? What about the Gentle Way drew you to it over other martial arts?
MT: I wanted to do a sport that was similar to wrestling, but at the time I didn’t want to go back to wrestling. I saw judo and knew it had to do with throws, which sounded awesome! [Laughs] It was nothing in particular about the Gentle Way that drew me in, but being a college club, it was easy to get into. That said, judo does have a special way of keeping people in. Something about throwing people with little to no effort at all is just so majestic. And it also looks really cool. [Laughs]
MAYTT: In addition to practicing judo, you are also the West Chester Judo Club’s president? How did you find yourself in such a position? What are some of the responsibilities that come with being president of the club?
MT: The previous president stepped down during COVID and I was the next man up. I really didn’t want to do it because of all the random meetings that the Student Government and Sports Club Council make me go to, but I get to work for the club which is a reward in itself. The main responsibilities are to make sure everyone is on the same page (Kuhio, Sensei, Blair Sensei, etc.) and to think of ways to attract people to the club. It was difficult at first, but after many mistakes we got some decent momentum going and I’ll be sure to pass whatever knowledge I accumulate onto the next president.
MAYTT: Glad to hear it! What are some of the positives you see or have experienced personally that come with training in judo?
MT: One positive that I see for a lot of people is that it is a great way to stay in shape. For me personally, it is more of a mental relief. Despite the physicality, judo is more calming than anything for me (most of the time).
MAYTT: How have you seen the club develop in light of the onset of the COVID pandemic? How was the club affected? How have club members themselves responded to in-person practices again as opposed to no practices?
MT: The club bounced back incredibly thanks to some good luck, good planning, and amazing help. It started with Kuhio and Jackie, who pretty much handled all of the paperwork during the pandemic. Then, after the return, it was left to the new executive board to keep things going. The initial turnout was more than what anyone could ever hope for. We got between eight and twelve dedicated judokas coming to practice regularly after what seemed like was the end of WCU Judo at times. As for the members themselves, they were excited to practice in person. After being essentially locked away for over a year, who wouldn’t be?
MAYTT: How likely do you feel you are going to continue judo after you graduate? What of the club members; do you believe there is a high probability that they will continue their training as well after graduation and why?
MT: I believe that my probability of continuing judo is decently high, but that depends on if there is any in whatever town I end up living in. Maybe opening up a dojo is in my future!
As for the others, it varies. Some are interested and we do have some WCU alumni that still do judo such as yourself, Stevie, and Monty. I think that at least a third of the WCU judokas will keep on with judo, but that third will be dedicated to the art.
MAYTT: The future seems bright! What are the future goals of the club, as the semester has already gone underway as well as in the coming years under your leadership?
MT: Our club is kind of at a crossroads. We have a good amount of people, but to expand, we need more space and gis. The first goal is to get new mats or a way to fix the ones that are already busted. That said, the final goal is to expand judo farther and to get more involvement from the students.
MAYTT: Does the club training regimen adequately prepare club members for competition training? If not, is this something you and others are currently looking to enhance?
MT: Honestly no. We only meet twice a week which makes it hard to get much competition preparation in. But the people in the club are energetic, and most other clubs are in the same boat as us, which means that the playing field is even whenever we go up against them.
Most importantly, the atmosphere is very positive and your teammates will push you to be the best you can be. It can be hard to get away with being lazy around the Judo team, much to my dismay. [Laughs]
MAYTT: Final question. What would you say to those who are considering getting involved in judo?
MT: Come in and try it. It’s amazing! If you are looking for a great way to stay in shape, a solid method of self-defense, or some way to relieve mental stress, judo is something you should check out. Also it makes for some amazing videos if you want to flex on your friends. [Laughs]
MAYTT: Absolutely! Thanks again for joining us and best of luck with the club!
MT: Thanks! And thanks for having me!