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Our Philosphy

As a science, we teach correct biomechanics, the laws of physics as they apply to the sport, and focus on principles and concepts. As a sport, we teach correct posture and movement, help develop balance, coordination, strength, endurance, and physical and mental toughness. Acquiring these skills provides a foundation that later transfers to any other sport. In addition to the physical attributes, our founder Jigaro Kano created judo to develop the moral character of a person. As a philosophy, we follow Kano’s message by teaching discipline, self-respect, and respect for others. As students attain physical and mental toughness and all the other physical attributes, they increase their confidence. In the end, this is really what judo is all about and why so many people around the world are so enamored with it. You can be four years old or eighty. It is practiced in every corner of the globe. It is a science, a sport, a philosophy, a way of life.

At SoCal Judo we also advocate a life dedicated to physical, mental, and emotional wellness. To ensure good air quality and a clean workout environment, we use top of the line, chemical free cleaning products. We are proud to say that in 8 years of operation, we have never had an outbreak of ring worm or other fungal infections.

We believe your emotional and mental health affect your physical performance. We encourage all to support these systems of the body in the pursuit of complete wellness. Being an integrity driven business, we would never promote a philosophy or life style that we ourselves do not follow and practice.

Welcome to the community!
-Israel and Valerie Hernandez

Our Classes

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Children's Judo

Join the Anti-Bully Movement. This program offers children a strong foundation in essential character qualities such as courage, self control, respect, and discipline.

1 on 1 Private Lessons

One on one attention with private lessons.

Adult Judo

Get fit, get tough. Learn to defend yourself quickly and efficiently

Sensei Israel Hernandez

I was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1970. I started judo at the age of 6 and by 17 years old, I was admitted into the Olympic program in Havana, Cuba. From 1987 to 1998 I competed for Cuba, earning countless international medals, including 2 Olympic bronze medals in 1992 and 1996. Upon retiring from competition in 1998, I accepted my first coaching position at the Olympic Training Center in Barcelona, Spain. I would later go on to coach various teams, including, the Puerto Rican national judo team, the Harlingen, Texas National Training Site team and finally the 2008 US Olympic judo team. From 2009-2011, I worked as a methodologist for Puerto Rico’s elite athlete program. and was the strength and conditioning and judo coach to MMA fighter Sokoudjou a.k.a The African Assassin.

Sensei Valerie Hernandez

Formerly known as Valerie Gotay. I am a 5th degree black belt and 2x Olympian in the sport of judo and a purple belt in Brazilian jujitsu. I am also a mother of 3 and a certified NASM (National Association of Sports Medicine) personal trainer. I have been involved in sport my whole life. I started judo at the age of four. I was trained by my father, Gerald Lafon, who now runs Judo America San Diego. My first competition was at age six. I won my first of twelve junior national titles at age seven and by thirteen I was traveling the world with the US national judo team. By age fifteen I had won my first Senior national title and in 1992, at 18 years old, I made my first Olympic team. I then retired from competition and decided to focus on my studies. I attended Miramar College then transferred to San Diego State, where I majored in psychology. In 2004, twelve years later, I made a comeback and in 2008, I made my second Olympic team, just a few months shy of 35!


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Our family has been a part of the Socal Judo family since 2013. Best coaching staff – husband/wife Olympians. They have the best balance of knowledge and heart that they provide for their judo family. They care for our overall wellbeing and will guide you on the mat on and off with wellness tools – how to best support your body through training and long term health and other similar tools. They are an Azure Standard pickup location which is great for those of us shopping for cleaner, healthier products and groceries. Such an asset to the community!


Parent, SoCal Judo

My kids have been going to SoCal Judo since last spring.  Within just a few months I have seen great changes in my kids (ages 6 and 4) and their coordination and skills.  Israel and Valerie are awesome and I love the way they teach.  When we were looking for a place to enroll our kids, SoCal Judo came highly recommended from several people.  My kids are learning body awareness, coordination, how to defend themselves, etc.  Every activity they do has a purpose but it’s presented kind of like a game so the kids love it.  Israel makes the class really fun.

I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND SoCal Judo.  Israel and Valerie are both Olympians too so you know you are training from the best!  They know what it takes to be an elite athlete and that’s who I want training my family.

April L.

Parent, SoCal Judo

My son has been taking Judo from Israel and Valerie for 2 years now. My son has some special needs and I needed to find him a sport where he could be an individual. Martial arts was my choice as I have myself a background in the sport. Its an individual sport. I looked around Temecula for a place to take him. The choices I saw were good but as a proud dad I wanted the best for my son. I looked at all that Temecula had to offer. Then I found Israel and Valerie @ Socal Judo. There my son could learn from Olympic athletes that are not only athletes but intelegent instructors more than qualified to instruct my son. You can go to your local martial arts club and get good instruction but can you say that your child is a all around better person for being in that enviroment, I can. My son and now my daughter at age 5 wears the Socal Judo logo proud. She has become such an inspiration to me. She loves her coaches and looks forward to everyday spent @ Socal Judo. If you are looking for the best place to take your child this is the place. I am amazed that the majority of the students at Socal are from outside of our area. Parents are driving their kids from riverside to south San Diego to get this quality instruction. We love our coaches and so will you!!


Parent, SoCal Judo

I want to start off by saying that I have no previous martial arts experience nor my kids who are 4 and 7.  I began taking my kids to Socal Judo approximately 3 months ago and am so far very satisfied with the patience and instruction from the coaches Israel and Valerie, who by the way have Olympic pedigrees. My kids are already very comfortable executing throws and working on grappling skills on the mat. Israel also works a lot on their coordination and balance with various drills that make it fun while they learn. Hopefully, my kids will be practicing Judo at Socal Judo for years to come…………

Ernesto G.

Parent, SoCal Judo

I started judo training with SoCal Judo about 18 months ago.  Over the years, I have studied at a few different martial arts dojos but have never been afforded the outstanding level of instruction that I have received at SoCal Judo.  Coach Israel and Coach Val bring real world judo experience and skill into their teachings and offer in -depth guidance to students that is not found in most other martial arts schools.  You will be tested and pushed beyond your comfort zone as you progress and continue to learn the art of judo in it’s truest sense.

Kevin B.

Parent, SoCal Judo

Israel and Valerie at Socal Judo provide the best training and mentorship around!  Both are multiple time Olympians.  When I was looking into trying Judo I was interested in learning from the best, as well as being around people who could really take me to the next level.  I have been very happy since joining Socal Judo.  If you are looking to learn martial arts, defend yourself (or your family), or just get “in shape” I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND Socal Judo 🙂

Nathan H.

Parent, SoCal Judo

27715 JEFFERSON AVE. #104 TEMECULA, CA 92590
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