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Ex-enthusiast throws himself back into judo at Trafford club

Odds are good that when Paul Bova isn't winning judo championships, he's helping students get ready for their own competitions.

In August, Bova placed third in the 2009 World Masters Judo Championships in Atlanta. He competed against people from 27 countries.

"I saw guys fighting that were 77 years old, and that was so interesting to see," Bova says. "Judo is a way of life. You get it in your blood, and it sticks."

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Bova teaches judo classes at the Trafford Judo Club.

Judo is a modern Japanese martial art and combat sport that involves throwing an opponent to the ground.

Bova opened the Trafford club — which is on Commercial Court — two years ago. He holds classes Tuesday and Thursday evenings and teaches about two dozen people.

Bova has been involved in the sport since he was a child, but took a step back for 15 years. Busy with the redevelopment of the former Westinghouse industrial park facility in Trafford, he didn't have the time to dedicate to the sport.

Then, what had kept him away from the sport, brought him back.

After maintaining the park at a comfortable level, Bova and his brother, Mike, decided to follow in their father's footsteps and open a judo club.

"We had some extra space, and I thought, 'Let's open a judo club,'" Paul Bova says. "Anybody who has a passion for a sport knows that it never leaves you. You look at guys competing and you think, 'I should do this.'

"We already worked in the complex, so we thought it was a start."

Those who participate begin as white belts and advance through different degrees of black belts. Judo practitioners mark their progress by belt color. White is for novices and black is for masters. Paul Bova is a third-degree black belt.

"My dad started at 41, and he went as far as a fifth-degree black belt," Mike Bova says. "It's not really a big turnaround sport. People don't come and go. The ones that start usually stay."

As with the Bovas, the sport is a family activity for Mabel Cypher of North Huntingdon and her children.

Cypher first enrolled her 8-year-old son, Zackary, in the judo class in June to help him with his wrestling. Soon after, sisters Abbie, 12, and Tabitha, 10, joined in.

"The girls liked it so we enrolled them to learn self-defense," Cypher says. "I figured it would save them from getting hurt someday, and then they said, 'Mom, you've got to do it.' It's fun."

While the sport can be used for self-defense, Mike Bova says, it focuses on unity and friendship.

"It's not a rival thing," he says. "You go to a tournament, and you become friends with even the people you are fighting.

"Some Japanese people come to the area for business, and they look up judo schools. Two guys (who work at Westinghouse) came here to work out with us. Even years ago, they'd do that. It's really a universal thing."

Paul Bova agrees.

"There's a lot of competition, and they're out there to win, but it's not as aggressive as you see in the movies," he says. "You're not going to see someone bursting through walls.

"The gloves are off on the mat because you're out there to win, but when it's over, you're friends."

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