History of Judo in the NWT
Mario Desforge, a French Canadian Judoka, played a significant role in establishing and developing judo throughout Canada’s north. Upon moving to Nunavut with his family in 2000, he founded Judo Nunavut in 2001 after living in the community for a year. Judo was a means of encouraging community and a way to combat the social challenges amongst youth in the area. Judo Nunavut is currently run by Tommy Claude Grenier, as Desforge eventually relocated to Yellowknife where judo was previously run by Senseis Tony Simmons and Gunther Iobe.
Mario Desforges founded the NWT Judo Association in 2008, of which he was Head Coach and President of the association. Desforge devoted the next 12 years, before eventually retiring in 2020, by promoting and teaching judo in schools, recreational programs, and camps throughout the Northwest Territories. He also developed a number of high performance athletes and established the privately run Kam Lake Dojo in Yellowknife. Notable NWT athletes include Gabriel Desforge, judoka from Yellowknife who moved to Montreal in 2010, obtained 5th place at the Canadian Championships in 2012 and became a part of the national team; Mason Bruneau, judoka from Hay River who received a bronze medal at the 2015 Canadian Championships in Richelieu; Brent Batsina, judoka from N’dilo who received a silver medal at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in the -100kg category; and Wilson Elliot, judoka from Yellowknife who received bronze at the 2019 Canada Winter Games, and represented Canada at the Pan American Junior Championships held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Upon Desforges retirement, Chantal Steitzer became president of the NWT Judo Association and Josh Hagen, the Head Coach and Executive Director. The association worked tirelessly to continue developing judo under the strict restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic. Sensei Amy Cotton OLY was hired for the Dehcho region to teach a successful school program in partnership with the DDEC. in 2017 sensei Ed Hartley established the Kuzui Judo Club in Inuvik with a strong number of participants every year. This program is offered for free in the community to allow anyone to participate!
The NWT Judo Association have big plans to continue expanding judo throughout the Northwest Territories through the in school judo programs, city programs, youth programs, camps, and innovative seminars such as the Fall For All program. In 2022-2023, they expect to host the Arctic Open tournament in Inuvik as well as the North of 60 Open in Yellowknife. To further promote judo, NWT Judo Association has been producing a podcast called A Fighting Chance with Josh Hagen in collaboration with Sport North and Table Tennis North.
NWT Judo strives to increase the physical activity of people throughout the territory with Judo, and is dedicated to developing judoka from grassroots to high performance athletes. We work to provide a fun learning atmosphere both in the school system, specifically throughout the Dehcho District, as well as hubs in Yellowknife and Inuvik.