Interview With Janna Levin

Hello Janna. Thank you taking the time to answer some questions for NCJI.

Q: Janna, you started judo later in your life, but have earned great success at local tournaments.  What attracted you to judo?

When I first started, I was interested in judo purely for self defense purposes. I wanted to learn to take an attacker down and defend myself on the ground if necessary. My interests in judo

have changed since I started and I am no longer interested in judo primarily as a means of self defense, but self defense was my main motive when I began.

Judo also is really beautiful to watch when it is done well. I recall watching people in randori on the first day I came to class and thinking how amazing it was that people could lift one another and make it look so graceful.  My love of judo has only increased with my understanding and appreciation of the strength, coordination, timing, and effort that it takes to perform techniques properly.               

Q: Judo, like many other sports is male dominated.  However, unlike other sports judo practices integrate males and females.  It is not uncommon for men and women to randori one another in practice. Do you think this beneficial?  Why or why not? 

I do think it is beneficial for men and women to randori one another in practice.  Practicing judo helps you understand how different people respond to your movements. Being able to predict how your partner will respond to your movements makes you a better player. This understanding can be gained whether you are working with a male or a female partner.

Q: Do you think that judo could benefit by restructuring to be more female friendly?  An example may be to redesign the gi or change rules.

I enjoy judo for what it is and I don’t think the rules should change. That being said, I would like to see more women in the sport. Perhaps this could be accomplished by media attention and public recognition of the sport and its accomplished female athletes. If young women see the sport more frequently and see that there are female role models in the sport, they might be more likely to participate.

Q: As a coach I notice that females are ignored in practices by their male counterparts.  For example, when I tell students to switch partners the males try to ignore the females. As a female judoka, do you feel that you have been overlooked because of your gender? 

I am fortunate to have an instructor who values me as much as he values my male counterparts and to practice with men who are caring and inclusive of me in the dojo. I also make an effort to involve myself in class. When asked to switch partners, I try to choose a partner for myself rather than wait to be chosen.  If you want to be involved, you need to take responsibility for involving yourself regardless of whether you are male or female.

Q:  Do you use judo or its philosophies in everyday life?

Judo has made me a more patient person. I tend to be a perfectionist and judo has taught me that perfection is something to work towards, not something with which we are born. 

I also use examples from judo directly in my teaching of undergraduate science courses. In my physics courses, I often illustrate physical concepts related to leverage, gravity, force, torque, Newton’s Laws, and rotational motion using examples from judo. Most students have never seen examples like this before and, because these examples are so unusual, it often helps students learn and remember these concepts. 


I teach undergraduate science courses at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. I have practiced judo for six and a half years at the Nito Judo Club with Sensei Woody Bostic and have been promoted to the rank of sankyu during that time. My accomplishments include a gold medal at the 2007 US Open in the -63kg masters division and a gold medal at the 2009 Senior National Championships in the -63kg masters division. In 2011, I’ve earned four gold medals, three silver medals, and a bronze medal in local competitions.