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Getting Involved: One officer’s story


Getting Involved:
One Officer’s Story

by Alan Pagle

Editor’s Note: I have always had a
vision of having many satellite dojos developed in the
local community, all coming under the umbrella of EBJI.
Indeed, as described below, one of our fundamental tenets
of teaching at EBJI is that one must always give back
what one has received. That is why all of our students
assist with the children’s class prior to receiving their
black belt, and continue on thereafter. Over time, some
of our past students have moved on in their lives, only
to open dojos in other areas, such as the Lameyse family
in Sebastopol, who took over the instruction at the
Redwood PAL Judo Club in Rohnert Park. Last year, our
dreams of having other dojos opened under the umbrella
and guidance of EBJI was again achieved with the opening
of the Western Idaho Judo Institute under the guidance
and instruction of Bob Fukuda, and the King Middle School
Judo Club in Berkeley, under the guidance of Alan Pagle
and the instruction of Dedra Phillips. These developments
are no where near inconsequential, as it takes much time,
effort, and energy to open a dojo, invite brand new
students to join, and keep the club viable. It is a major
sacrifice, and a sign of love of Judo, and commitment and
dedication to the community that we have been able to
help these developments occur. Once again, the teaching
of the EBJI goes beyond our own dojo, and reaches into
the local communities in ways few have imagined, and even
fewer have succeeded. Below is one of those stories – of
the King Middle School Judo Club.

November 7, 1996 was a special day.
Maybe not for everyone, but for some students at Martin
Luther King Middle School in Berkeley and for some local
judokas, myself included, it was. November 7th was the
first meeting of the King Middle School Judo Club.

I’m a police officer in the City of
Berkeley and I have been doing judo for about 6 years.
Several years ago, the not so new idea occurred to me of
getting some kids involved in a judo program. Many of our
police officers have done this type of thing before and
just about everyone involved with youth sports has heard
of PAL, the Police Athletic League. So I didn’t think it
would be too hard to put together a judo program
somewhere, somehow. What I found out was that somewhere
and somehow proved to be very elusive until I got
together with the right people at the right time. People
who were ready to put the needs of kids ahead of their
own egos. People who were ready to work together to get
something done. What I learned was – I have pretty good

Things began to come together to make
November 7th happen about three years ago when out Police
Department began it’s new policy of Community Involved
Policing. The idea behind CIP is to stop making the
police response to problems solely incident driven and to
look for more long term solutions to problems. In the
past, if a neighborhood had a problem, the "beat cop"
for the area probably knew all about it – who was
involved, where they lived, how it all started, even how
it was likely to end. Somehow, police work got away from
all of that and officers ended up just driving from call-to-call,
very seldom effecting any long-tern solutions, but
repeating the same problems over and over again. CIP is a
return to an older style of police work that looks for
the long-term solution by involving the community in the
answer. Everyone has to help!

One of the innovations of CIP was the
expansion of the Bicycle Patrol Unit. Mountain bikes had
become the mode of transportation on Telegraph Ave and
downtown Berkeley by May, 1996, when I was accepted to
the Bicycle Unit and assigned to North Shattuck and
Solano Avenues in north Berkeley. It didn’t take me too
long to realize that many of the complaints I was getting
from merchants and citizens stemmed from the flow of
students after school from King Middle School. I headed
over there to see what was going on and who could help me.

I was lucky right from the start. I ran
into a P.E. teacher I used to work with at King back in
the 70’s when I had taught swimming at King Swim Center,
Jack Ball. Jack hadn’t changed much over the years. He’s
still a bundle of energy. The kids still like him and he
still likes his job. So I spent some of my time riding my
mountain bike on the King campus or in the immediate
neighborhood getting to know the kids. I went on a couple
of bike rides with Jack’s P.E. bicycle class and found
out that Jack had a self -defense. P.E. class that he
taught, as well. The light was beginning to go on.

Rather than just riding around the
neighborhood, what would happen if I really got involved
with these kids? How about if I organize a Judo club at
King ? I asked Jack if he thought it was possible. His
immediate response was to take me to Mr. Fred Smith, the
principal of the school. With Jack’s support, it didn’t
take Mr. Smith long to agree to the plan. The "somewhere"
part of the program was falling into place. We could use
the facilities at King. They had the space and they had
the mats. But most all – they had the kids!

The next item was who was going to do
the instruction. It would have been easy to assume that I
could have taught the class on my own, but I know better.
I decided that it would be better for the kids and more
appropriate under CIP philosophy to "team teach"
the club with local citizens. Here again, I got lucky.

About 5 or 6 years ago I decided that I
wanted to study a martial art that would help me with my
job and keep me in shape. I walked into the East Bay Judo
Institute on San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito and found
what I was looking for. While I knew what I was doing was
going to work out well for me, I didn’t foresee that my
wife and kids would also want to join the dojo. Nor could
I have predicted that judo was the method by which I was
going to give back to the community one day. Lucky for me,
the head instructor of our dojo, Dr. David Matsumoto, was
not only the producer of national champions, but he also
believed that judo was for everyone and that anyone who
does judo must give something back to judo to society at
large. With that kind of selfless leadership, it was easy
to find help with our instruction. Dedra Phllips, a black
belt instructor at our club and an alternate member of
the 1997 United States Olympic Judo team said "yes"
immediately to helping out with our program. With her
great judo talent and super people skills, I felt
confident that kids would get the kind of instruction
they deserved. But there was more! My wife, Lily, and 16
year old step-son, William (who are both brown belts,
like me) volunteered to help with the instruction, too.
Now I was sure we would succeed. We were a cross-section
ourselves of age, gender and backgrounds. I was confident
that the kids would be able to relate to us.

The next thing we needed was the
Department’s backing. I went to Ofc. Frank Torrence, BPD’s
PAL officer. Frank took me under his wing and showed me
exactly what needed to be done. He gave me the forms I
needed, helped me to write the proposal to the Deputy
Chief and before we knew it, we had a PAL judo club at
King Middle School.

In early November we started practicing
every Thursday from 3:00 to 4:30 PM. The number of
students has been consistent from the beginning – 5 to 9
dedicated youngsters. The kids are typical junior high
school students – they are very energetic. But gradually
they have grown into much more focused, respectful and
positive individuals. I well remember one day when Dedra
had to reprimand the class for their rude and
disrespectful demands for higher ranking judokas to
practice with. The next week one of the students kneeled
with me prior the newaza randori and said "will you
please practice with me?" That certainly made my day!
And this was when the class was still practicing in their
street clothes.

A week or so later, Ofc. Torrence came
by to watch our workout. He stayed the whole practice and
just watched the proceedings. At the end of the workout,
he came up to the instructors and said, "I’m going
to get those kids some uniforms." We were stunned.
Frank said he knew what we were doing was good for the
kids and the uniforms would help them along and encourage
them. A couple of weeks later, Frank stopped by with the
check from McKevitt Volvo, a business in Berkeley, and
told us to go to get the uniforms we needed.

At the next workout, we passed out the
brand-new uniforms and Dedra had everybody kneel down in
a straight line with their stiff new uniforms on and
their white belts folded on the mat in front of them.
Then she spelled it out. She told the kids that judo
consisted of the "twin concepts" of the "maximum
efficient use of mental and physical energy" and
"mutual welfare and benefit." She told them
about her first judo instructor. She said being a
practitioner of judo meant always being polite,
respectful, and doing your best. She told them that if
they were "ready to accept the responsibility of
trying to live up to these obligations, pick up the belt
in front of you." Every one of the students picked
up their belt and put it on.

The next week all of the students were
back in class, all lined up in their uniforms. They all
bowed as they had done before at the start of a workout.
By the end of the workout, we instructors realized that
they had changed again. They no longer were "just a
bunch of kids." They were practitioners of Judo.