USA Judo

Arena Training Center - Home of the 300


Arena Training Center is a family operated martial arts club in Lake County that focuses on developing young athletes in the sports of judo, jujitsu and boxing. The youth judo and boxing programs are run by Stavros Papadakis with the assistance of Nefeli and George Papadakis. Mr. Ed Reyes runs the adult Brazilian jujitsu program. Arena Training Center is fortunate to have sensei Paul Bush as part of the coaching team. Mr. Bush is a third degree Kodokan that has worked with elite judokas such as Kimura and Coga.

“The club was inspired and brought to reality not too long ago with three main reasons in mind; first and foremost due to my daughter’s advancement in the sport of judo (One of Nefeli Papadakis’ latest accomplishment is taking fifth place at the 2015 cadet worlds). Second was to provide an affordable training center to our community, which we strongly believe has a lot of undiscovered talent. Lastly, turning my passion for the sport into a pastime that allows me to share knowledge at my old age”.
–Stavros Papadakis

History has it that modern martial arts such as Judo, Jujitsu, Boxing and such were developed from ancient Hellenic Combat Arts. Arena’s teaching methods and dojo philosophies are strongly influenced by ancient Greek battle systems, namely the Pankration (modern MMA) dating back to the 6th century BC and introduced into the Greek Olympic Games in 648 BC.

The club caters to all ages and genders, with 4 year olds at its youngest and 70 as the oldest. We have a no-cost open policy for any judoka that want to visit us and work with our coaches and athletes. Arena also provides housing to judoka from out of state that wish to extend their stay and practice at Arena. Furthermore, we have established an exchange judoka program with prominent Greek families that have athletes in the national team. Information on that program is upon serious inquiries only and a one to one basis.

Head coach, Stavros Papadakis, has had the opportunity to coach athletes from the infantile and cadet national teams numerous times. He has attended world level events that positively influence his teachings and outlook on the future of judo.

“If you ever have a chance to attend a world level event take it; it is an amazing experience. I want to thank my daughter for providing that opportunity for me. I am positive though that I will have a chance to see such games again and again with the athletes that I am currently developing. I learned a lot by attending such events. I observed how other countries train their athletes and brought all that information back to the Arena”.

Stavros, through his experiences realizes the funding struggles of up and coming athletes and shares his admiration for his favorite judokas of all time, Ilias Iliadis and his dad Niko Iliadis, in this personal statement: In the past couple of years I have gotten closer to Niko after I attended one of his son’s seminars. If you are wondering why I mention these two individuals, I will tell you. Ilias is an undisputed amazing judoka but his clinics are one of his greatest assets. If you ever have a chance to catch one of his eye-opening seminars, do so. 

In the case of Niko, he is a fantastic coach and leader. He managed to turn around the sport of judo in Greece from two or three medals in world events to 96 since his positioning as National Head Coach. He put his athletes before anything else, many times paying out of his own pocket for elite athletes to attend world events. He does this not just to make a living; he does it from the heart. Once he sees talent, he embraces it. I personally witnessed Niko’s kindness when he made arrangements for my daughter and Misato Sandoval (57kg cadets), to have them train in Athens with one of his assistant coaches (Minas Filipou from Halandri combat sports) and two other members of the Greek National team in private. They did not ask for a penny. Niko is the kind of coach that believes in accomplishing greatness because of merit and not because of whom you know. I hope we, as an organization, manage to mimic his lead for the betterment and growth of judo in the United States.

For more information:


Phone: (847) 219-3609