Petite Powerhouse Earns Title of National Champion

By Diane Hasili
Michelle Arias captured a big title this week, “2013 U.S. Judo Federation Junior National Champion” in the 48kg women’s division. All the more amazing in that the big title was claimed by a petite 5’2” woman in what has historically been a “man’s sport.”
Those at the YWCA Princeton where Arias trains were not surprised. Michelle started knowing the world of judo through her father, Luis Arias. As a young baby, she often accompanied him to class watching from the sidelines. Her coach, Sensei Cory Cuomo, recalls Michelle being wrapped in a snuggly. At age 7 she began participating in his class and has been a student ever since.
Michelle’s father Luis Arias is a first degree black belt (Shodan) and is an Assistant Instructor of the YWCA Princeton Judo club. Through the years, Michelle continued to participate in judo classes and spent many hours practicing at home with her father. 
She became a judo instructor herself in 2011. Her friendly manner, natural smile, and calm presence have make her a popular coach. She has been a source inspiration to younger boys and girls and a source of pride to the adults who train alongside her each week. Being a year-round program at the YWCA, she has been able to leverage the facility to fine tune her techniques, train with more skilled guests, and give back to those taking up the sport.
Able to participate year-round, has been one element of Michelle’s success. In order to participate in a national championship, one must earn points by competing in various tournaments throughout the year. In addition to her impressive success at the National Junior Championship, Michelle has also earned the qualifying points needed in order to take the black belt exam. She is preparing for the black belt exam and at which time she will be considered a Shodan.
Having just graduated from Hightstown High School, Arias will be attending Rutgers University in the fall so that she can continue her judo training.
Coach Cuomo, a resident of East Brunswick, said, “It has been a pleasure working with Michelle over the years and I have gotten to know her very well. She’s always had heart and discipline, both in the sport and in her life, so I am not surprised by her success. I see it often in judo. It doesn’t matter what gender, size, weight, or occupation you work in, there is much to be gained from the sport particularly in terms of confidence, focus, and empowerment. It is one step at a time, and one day at a time.”
Today’s judo includes both girls and boys, adult learners, and families. Steeped in the traditions of the far east, judo is considered a combat form of martial arts that focuses more on the grappling and throwing them rather than striking an opponent.
The 2013 U.S. Judo Federation’s Junior National Championship was held in Pittsburgh, PA. Of the 500 participants that earned an invitation to compete, 27 seven of the medalists regularly attend the Princeton Judo Invitational held each October. The next event is scheduled for Sunday, October 6th. You may even catch a glimpse of Arias and understand why she is this year’s U.S. Junior Champion.