Judo Families: The Quinby Family

Oct. 21, 2018, 4 a.m. (ET)

Giving Back Through Judo
Judo Families: The Quinby’s


The Quinby family’s connection to the Fayetteville (N.C.)/Fort Bragg Judo Club has been interrupted by military reassignment and confronted adversity, but the bond remains strong.

Like many families, the Quinbys got involved in judo gradually. Learning under Sensei Rick Donnelson in Leavenworth, Kansas, the first to take to the mat was then-four-year-old Ricky, who has Asperger’s. According to Merinda Quinby, exposing her son to the sport got him out of his shell. Four years younger than her brother, Jenna began learning judo at age five.

Sensei Ron Hanson was the family’s original teacher in Fayetteville, but he had retired before the Quinbys came back to North Carolina two years ago, following a duty assignment at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Just six months after their return, the local judo club suffered another loss, when Sensei Ron Czolek passed away.

“We are grateful to Sensei Ron Hanson and Sensei Ron Czolek, who were great mentors for our son,” stated Merinda. “We want what they taught us to continue and to keep their legacy alive in Fayetteville.”

While the Quinby offspring pursue additional interests, their parents remain very active in the judo community. Richard, who earned a silver medal two years ago at the state championships, teaches judo. Merinda, who last competed in 2010, was a state champion in 2009 after unexpectedly winning a match she describes as “the longest five minutes of my life.” Both are certified coaches and referees through USA Judo.

“I would like the community to know that judo is not just for young people,” Merinda said. “I’m still taking falls on the mat as the uke (thrown person), showing the right way to land correctly. I love the fact that anyone can do judo. It’s great balance: balance in learning to protect yourself and learning discipline and respect. It’s balance in life.”

Quinby Family with Jigaro Kano pictureL to R: Jenna Quinby, Merinda Quinby, Fayetteville/Fort Bragg Judo Sensei Rick Quinby, and Ricky Quinby

Merinda admits her family is very busy, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. Now 16, Ricky earns straight A’s in mainstream classes, is a member of his school’s marching band, and is about to become an Eagle Scout. Although he likes to stay fit, he does not train much and does not want to compete. Jenna, 12, still loves judo and likes to compete sometimes. Honors chorus is a current interest of the confident tween.

Early this year, a catastrophic failure of the water heater at the Police Training Center where the Fayetteville/Fort Bragg club trained necessitated what was originally expected to be a temporary relocation. However, in a devastating decision, local officials ruled that an additional $2 million in insurance over and above what USA Judo provides would be required to continue use of the facility.

Determined to keep the sport alive in the Fayetteville area, Richard, who is now retired from the Army and working with Booz Allen Hamilton, began teaching judo at Rafael BJJ Academy in Spring Lake, N.C., where students train two nights a week in kodokan and two nights in Brazilian jiujitsu. Before having to leave the police department facility, the local club had 48 members; now it has eight.

“We came to love this club when Ricky first started,” Merinda explained. “Our judo family didn’t want to let it go. We didn’t want anyone else to miss this opportunity. Whether there is one student or 20, my husband will teach judo. We definitely have been welcomed by Professor RJ [Rafael Jovet-Ramos] into the martial arts family. They have been very receptive to judo and we cannot thank them enough.”

Despite facing setbacks, when USA Judo sent a rebate for 2016 to all judo clubs, Fayetteville donated the money back to USA Judo to support the elite athletes striving to represent Team USA at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the birthplace of judo.

“We are struggling as a club, but we love judo,” Merinda explained. “We want to make sure our team has what they need to succeed. This is our way of giving back to judo.”

Quinby FamilyFamily Photo of the Quinby Family and BJJ Professor Rafael Jovet-Ramos
From left to right: Jenna Quinby, Fayetteville/Fort Bragg Judo Sensei Rick Quinby, Rafael BJJ Professor Rafael Jovet-Ramos, Merinda Quinby, and Ricky Quinby