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Sep. 24, 2021 | Friday
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Judo champ aims to empower kids
Judo champ Fraser Bridgeman says she knows what it’s like to deal with anxiety and depression. (Supplied)

Fraser Bridgeman has judo in her blood.

By the age of nine, she says she “started training and competing for the fun of it.”

Bridgeman moved away from home at 15 to train full-time and pursue serious competition. “It’s who I am,” she says.

She competed successfully into her early 20s, before taking some time off, then returning to active competition again seven years ago. Along the way, she also earned a degree in psychology.

Now 36, Bridgeman has multiple world, Canadian and U.S. competition medals to her credit, both in judo and jiu-jitsu, and she is a Level 2 national coach.

She taught at an MMA gym in St. Catharines for three years before moving to Niagara-on-the-Lake six months ago to train and teach in her own gym.

“It has a Rocky kind of feel to it,” she says of the facility tucked in behind her brother’s electrical shop.

Bridgeman and her brother Tim Bowslaugh built the gym together and it’s certified by Judo Ontario. Bridgeman offers self-defence, judo, and jiu-jitsu lessons there.

Her clients include young people who are suffering from low self-esteem and social anxiety. “Last year I struggled with depression and anxiety, so for the first time I really understood what that feels like,” Bridgeman says. “I realized a lot of people are struggling, so I am trying to use my experience with life to help people.”

She teaches basic fitness, and how to box and wrestle. “I get really positive feedback, I love to see them come out of their shell. Often they come in, and they’re quiet and shy, but soon they’re chatty and relaxed.”

Bridgeman says people with anxiety can be tough on themselves, so it’s a wonderful moment to see them “elated at their progress at the gym.”

Another passion for Bridgeman is empowering girls. Even with her own tremendous success, she says “being a woman in a man’s sport included times of heartache” and even now she can still feel “alienated and unappreciated by male coaches.”

Today Bridgeman wants to “teach girls to be whatever they want to be, because it was so hard for me, I would like that to be easier for them.”

She says she’d love to see her coaching in NOTL grow and she’s in the process of “looking at options, and developing my direction here.”

Many clients connect with her by word of mouth, but she also has a Facebook page (@judoshopnotl), and she is partnering with Foxden Yoga to offer two camps for kids aged 5 to 8 and 9 to 11 this summer.

One camp will focus on mindfulness, well-being, and nutrition. The other camp will focus on judo and fitness. Details are still being developed, so check in at a little later in the spring.