Mariano Nápoles wants to keep judo from being phased out in Naples. But based on the victories earned by his team at a recent championship in Miami, it doesn’t look like he or the sport is leaving the area anytime soon.
Nápoles, 38, is one of the coaches at Naples Judo of Japan and has continued the legacy of Charles Hartman, the coach and founder of the center, who died at the age of 71 in early 2010, and was the one who brought Japan’s judo from New York to Naples.
Since then, Nápoles, in charge of the center, along with Ruperto Arteaga, train a team of children and teens to practice judo at Fleischmann Park, south of Naples.
On Oct. 30, the team participated in the 2010 Judo Yudanshakai Florida State Championship, held at American Senior High School in Hialeah, where Naples judokas participated in two of the three existing categories: Junior and Senior. The team returned with 10 individual medals and a trophy for their school.
Nápoles, a black belt in judo, is proud of his team’s achievements.
“They’re rookies. They had never participated in a tournament but won because they were well prepared,” he said.
Nápoles said that the only athlete in the team who had previously participated in a tournament was 12-year-old Lucas Battilana. In the competition, he suffered an injury that prevented him from competing after the first match. In April this year, Battilana won a silver medal in the 2010 USJA Judo State Championships, held in Delray Beach.
Battilana, just like Nápoles, had studied with Hartman.
“It’s the first time we participated as a school and as a team. Naples Judo of Japan also received the team trophy in the Senior category,” said Nápoles.
The center provides professional judo training for children, youths and adults, which allowed them to compete at the state championship.
Nápoles has been studying judo since he was 20 years old in Cuba, and last August won a gold medal in the masters category at the U.S. Open International Judo Championship in Miami.
“Judo is the only martial art recognized in world championships and the Olympics,” he said. “I will continue encouraging children because, who knows? Judo’s next world champion may be among us.”