Montreal, May 26, 2022 – Louis Graveline was the first recipient of the Lifetime Contribution Award at Judo Canada’s Annual Awards and Recognition Presentation on May 22 during the Canadian Open Judo Championships in Montreal.
Mr. Graveline has been teaching judo for 52 years and started the sport in 1963.
“It really touches me to receive this honour! When Mr. Gill (Nicolas, Executive Director and High Performance Director of Judo Canada) and Mr. Esparbès (Patrick, Assistant Executive Director of Judo Canada) called me, I was surprised at first. But then I sat down because it just hit me in the forehead,” Graveline says with a laugh. “My ego took a big hit!”
The recipient recalls that he grew up in a modest environment. “I could have gone wrong and when I got into this sport, my teacher, Harold Bienvenue, was strong and it took me a long time to beat him. It forced me to push my judo further.”
It is when he injured his shoulder in the mid 1960s and could not continue his athletic career that his sporting career took a new direction, at the suggestion of the technical director of Judo Quebec, Raymond Damblant.
Mr. Graveline took a liking to it and became a teacher at the Beloeil Club in 1970. One year later, he added hours at the Saint-Hyacinthe Club three nights a week, while keeping his position at Beloeil two nights a week. On Saturdays, he supervised fights, and, for a while, he also coached the CEGEP team at lunchtime where he worked.
“I was in the right place at the right time because I had a job at Cégep de Saint-Hyacinthe. With my (financial) security in place, I had the energy to teach evening judo.”
When asked if he had time to have a family life with this hectic schedule, his answer is full of frankness and humour: “I can tell you that I had two divorces and now, I am the happy man who lives with a woman who loves judo! She’s a fifth dan and is working toward the sixth!”
In the Quebec language, the verb “to plant” can mean to beat a person to a pulp. Even though he practises a combat sport, Louis Graveline has used it in a completely different way throughout his long career.
“There’s the movie The Man Who Planted Trees. I plant humans and watch them grow,” he says with a touch of wisdom.
“The beauty of the sport of judo is that you can dig out the bad guy in you by throwing, but not at the expense of the health of the other person.”
To this day, he continues to share his knowledge with children, teens, adults and high-level athletes. A much more fun and rewarding way for him than watching TV shows on repeat as he was somewhat forced to do during the many confinement episodes of the pandemic.
“Yes, it’s distracting, but being at judo five times a week is much more fun, so I’m going to keep at it as long as I can!” adds the man who led Luce Baillargeon to a silver medal at the World Junior Championships and participation in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Seeing his former students is always a happy moment for him.
“I feel useful because I see the vast majority of these people have practised beautiful judo. They are easy-going, they are in a relationship, and they are successful in their lives. I now teach up to the third generation. The first students I taught in 1970 in Beloeil, they are all grandparents now. And many of their grandchildren are doing judo. It’s fun to see them go!”
Like the trees planted by the man in Jean Giono’s story that allowed the forest to renew itself, Louis Graveline has also allowed judo and its values to survive thanks to more than half a century of teaching.