Warriors Without Limits

By Jennifer Garcia | May 23, 2012, 12:12 a.m. (ET)

Warriors Without Limits offers veterans an opportunity to strengthen their bodies and find a sense of community.

May21, 2012-- Warriors Without Limits Judo Program was spearheaded by Brett Wolf of Chicago’s Menomonee Judo Club to encourage disabled and able-bodied veterans to learn, train and compete alongside elite judo athletes.

Veteran Matt Ritenour, Coach Brett Wolf, Veteran Howard Wilson
Left to Right: Veteran Matt Ritenour,
Coach Brett Wolf, Veteran Howard Wilson

“Warriors Without Limits tries to offer veterans an opportunity to be part of a team,” said Coach Wolf. “Our aim is to reintegrate former military people into society using judo as a vehicle in the process.”

Warriors Without Limits Judo Program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The U.S. Olympic Committee channels the support to organizations providing paralympic sports and physical activity for disabled veterans and disabled active members of the Armed Forces.

Warriors Without Limits Judo is new but has already carved a spot for itself in the competitive world of judo via newcomer and visually impaired athlete Howard Wilson. Wilson, 48, is an ex-Marine who recently took bronze at USA Judo's 2012 Visually Impaired Senior National Championships in the 90 kg division. Wilson joined the program at its inception and now trains six times a week. His travels for competitions are funded through the grant.

“Warriors Without Limits offers a very good opportunity to work out with other veterans,” explains Wilson. “The camaraderie that takes place between people with similar experiences helps fight depression and it makes life positive. It gives me something to look forward to.”

Afghanistan veteran and former Army staff sergeant Matt Ritenour, 36, is excited about the training he gets at Warriors Without Limits Judo. Ritenour was shot in the head while serving in Afghanistan. The lasting effects of his injuries include limited mobility of his right foot and ankle, but these impairments don’t prevent him from pushing his body that extra mile during judo workouts.

“The program has been a pretty cool  experience. I’ve learned I can be active and do judo,” says Ritenour. “I get my butt kicked every week by teenagers, and it has built my confidence. I find ways to work around my disability. I hope to do this for as long as my body lets me.”

Wolf believes that both the veterans and the elite judo fighters benefit through reciprocal mentoring: “The most unique aspect of Warriors Without Limits is the social side where relationships blossom between young athletes and veterans,” says Wolf. “Able-bodied judokas and disabled or wounded veterans learn about life through this shared experience.”

So far, Warriors Without Limits Judo has eight athletes who regularly participate in the weekly sessions. Program goals include increasing the number of veterans participating, increasing the number of workshops, as well as increasing the number of demonstrations for the local community.

“It’ll be a long road ahead but we are building it student by student, week by week,” foretells Wolf.

Warriors Without Limits Judo meets every Saturday, 3 PM to 5 PM, at the Menomonee Judo Club in The Drucker Center, 1535 N. Dayton St Chicago, IL. 60642.

For more information, contact Menomonee Judo Club at 773.230.6070, or visit http://www.brettwolfjudo.com. For more information about USA Judo, please visit www.usjudo.org.

By Jennifer Garcia, USA Judo Communications