Marina Drašković began training judo at the age of 9 years old in 1994. Her love for the sport and unwavering tenacity brought her mat side with national teams at an Olympic level of training. She traveled to countries like Japan to train and compete in the sport she loved. However, circumstances did not allow her to achieve the level of success in competitive judo that she had hoped for. She put the pause on her judo career in 2008 to finish her degree. Despite not achieving the Olympic success she had hoped for, Marina took her fire and passion for judo and created something much larger.
In 2012 she opened Judo Team Fuji- a judo club for people with disabilities. “I think this is my biggest win from judo in my life,” Marina states. She opened her free judo club to all kids and people with disabilities.
She now hosts over 40 members with an additional 40 or so on a wait list. She started her club for kids with cerebral palsy and incorporated jiu jitsu techniques to allow for more groundwork and movements that the kids could perform despite their disabilities. “You just need to be a little creative and you can adapt BJJ or judo to any diagnosis.”
Her club began with just five members, and after that she was hooked. Marina commented that these five children with cerebral palsy shook her life upside down. “When I did one judo session for them it was like I gave them millions of dollars.” Her efforts to train these children have been met with nothing but positivity and joy.
Marina has successfully shared her skills and talent to a level that is changing lives. Her clientele quickly expanded from children with cerebral palsy to people with disabilities including autism, Down’s syndrome, motor skills disabilities, and over ten different diagnoses. She has about 10 coaches since a lot of her judo colleagues were interested in getting involved because it is such a positive and rewarding work. “I think a lot of love is involved in our work,” Marina says that she really pushes her students to give 100% every session and requires them to be disciplined and motivated.
Marina’s club runs 100% off donations and sponsorships and is completely free. She commented, “These parents have enough expenses,” and that she really just wanted to be able to have this club and include as many people as possible. She hopes in the future that they can have their own gym and space and have the equipment and coaches to support that growth. Her team now enjoys going on trips, going to see movies, and spending time outside of the gym together. “We became like a family; it became more than a judo club.”
What was most striking to me about Marina wasn’t her Judo talent and impressive history in the sport, but the way she beamed when talking about her club and the people it helps. She has clearly seized her passion and purpose in a way that is changing lives and inspiring others, myself included. Her club is the first of its kind in Croatia and I’m certain won’t be the last.
To learn more about Judo Team Fuji and to donate, visit their website and follow along on instagram @judo_team_fuji
Victoria is a blue belt and has been training jiu-jitsu for almost four years. She is a student, and enjoys traveling, writing and training whenever she can. When she’s not on the mats or at the beach Victoria enjoys spending time with close friends and is always looking for exciting new experiences.