Denton Jr. Optimist Judo Club History
by Nick Tucker
This is the early history of the club as given to me by one of the charter members, Mose Woodson. In 1957, a service club, The Denton Noon Optimist, was approached by a judo player by the name of Emil Freedman. I wish I knew more about Emil. Mose described him only as an Hawaiian. He did not tell me how he happened to be in Denton.
The members of the Optimist Club, explained to Emil that they did not support an activity unless one of their own members agreed to be the sponsor. Mose stepped forward to sponsor the judo activity. Mose was 43 years of age at that time and the coach of the Optimist boxing club. He not only agreed to sponsor, but signed himself and his two young sons, Mike and Larry as the first members of the club. The following year, 1958, an young engineer from the Fort Worth Air Force plant (aka, General Dynamics), named Tom Coyle joined the club. He brought along his young son, Doug Coyle.
These two men and their children became the heart and soul of the club. Mose was a Denton business man who used his influence to promote the club, get new members, etc. For almost 40 years Tom kept meticulous club records; enrolling new members, acting as club secretary and treasurer.
The club had a lot of help in the early days. Not only were they instructed by Emil, they also sought and got instructions from Texas Judo pioneers such as Vince Tamura, Ace Sukigari, and Dale Lehman, just to mention a few.
Mose, Tom, and the boys advanced in rank. Mose and Tom gather their members together and traveled the state to attend tournaments. The club started holding an annual tournament immediately.
Mose passed away a few years ago, and shortly after that Tom retired and turned the day to day business of the club over to the rest of us.
Mike and Doug continue in Judo until today. Mike has brought his son up in the club. He now has a granddaughter who is a member. We have had four generations of judo players from the Woodson family.
Larry decided early that he did not want to continue in Judo, but when he married and had sons, they too grew up in the Denton Jr. Optimist Judo Club .
The tradition of ‘father/son’ activity continues in our club. Many of our instructors have been fathers who became interested because they had children involved. Other instructors have renewed their interest in judo after they became fathers and realized that they wanted their children to enjoy judo, as they had done. Randy Firth and Tom Nguyen are examples of this. Each of them were players as young men and have now returned with their children to carry on the tradition.
It is impossible to know exactly how many people in Denton and surrounding counties have benefited from the Denton Jr. Optimist Judo Club. Forty-seven years of continuous operation allows for the possibility of a large number. I have been with the club for 20 years. In that time I have seen a pattern develop. Children, usually very young, join our club. They stay for a while, sometimes a few months, sometimes a few years, and then they find something else to take their interest. Sometimes they come back, mostly they don’t. But I don’t think that any of them ever forget that they were once judo players.