After 55 years of being active, a Whitby man is stepping away from the sport that’s been such an important piece of his life.
“I’ve enjoyed pretty much every minute of it. It’s been a good ride,” said Steve Campbell, retired judoka.
It’s a hobby he took on at 13 years old that became a lifestyle.
After 55 years, the student, instructor and referee is retiring from judo.
“I was looking for an activity back in 1966. Mom and dad thought there was a number of things at a community centre in East York that I should look at and Judo happened to be one of them,” said Campbell.
The passion brought with it a long list of career highlights but Campbell says the camaraderie is a big part of what kept him going all these years.
“I never felt at any point that I was going to reach the levels that I’ve been able to. It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of support and help by many other people but I’ve accomplished more than I thought I would,” said Campbell.
Campbell says less than 10 per cent of those who try out judo make it to the black belt level. He received his fifth-degree black belt five years ago and he has passed on his love for the sport to his family.
“He’s the reason why I’m here,” said Jason Campbell, Steve’s son.
Jason started judo at six years old and says his dad has been his inspiration to keep going.
“Very selfless; he always wants to make sure other people are better. He’s definitely a guy who doesn’t toot his own horn even if we think it’s necessary sometimes,” said Jason.
Steve Campbell said he’s proud to see his family getting involved in the sport.
“It makes a proud papa seeing your family, your son work through it over the years and obtain his black belt in judo and my grandchildren got involved. It’s helped them understand what it’s meant to grandpa,” said Campbell.
Campbell says there have been a few changes in his life over the past couple of years. The pandemic has given him time to reflect and now just seemed like the right time to step away.
“His mentoring and his ability to talk to people, his friendly disposition, I think that’s going to be the biggest thing that we’ll probably miss,” said Gerald Okimura, Judo Ontario referee committee chair.
For the past few years, Campbell has helped mentor the next generation of judokas at Judokaa Martial Arts in Whitby. While he’ll now be watching from afar, he says he relished the opportunity to give back when he could.
“I’m not leaving having accomplished all that can be accomplished but I’ve done as much as important to Steve Campbell,” said Campbell.