Sensei Vern Borgen, 1948 – 2020

On Wednesday May 13th the Red River Judo family received word that our Founder, Sensei Vern Borgen had passed away after his long battle with lung cancer. We, like many of his students and family, were stunned at this loss. Sensei Vern had been battling this terrible sickness for many years and had beaten the odds, along with Doctor’s prognoses, for some time. Even with the knowledge of Sensei Vern’s situation, and the limited time he had remaining, it did not make his passing any easier.

Red River Judo is just a small part of Sensei Vern’s Legacy in the sport and art of Judo, but as the current staff, we have spent the last few days discussing how best to honor him. Both Dave and Steven wrote several drafts of messages we could post, and none really felt right.

Steven read through Sensei Vern’s obituary several times and Dave thought back to conversations he had not only with Vern, but with Vern’s students and colleagues. What we found was that yes, Sensei Vern founded our gym, Red River Judo. Yes, he founded Gentle Ways, a non-profit organization with the goal of spreading the art of Judo. And even more than that, Sensei Vern helped to lay the foundation for Judo in the Midwest. All these things are true beyond doubt. However, what we found was more important then all of that was the man.

Everyone we talk too about Sensei Vern shares for a moment about his accomplishments and his legacy, but they transition to talking about the man. The stories he has, how kind he was, how even in illness Sensei Vern was still a teacher, always willing to share techniques and provide guidance to those who needed it.

No post or letter will truly encapsulate the man more then his own obituary, but what we can say is that he will be missed. His memory will live on through his students and the students of his students. The experiences he shared and the everything he did for those who came before him will be honored. We thank Sensei Vern and the entire Borgen family for their contributions to our lives and to the art of Judo. Rest well Sensei, and domo arigato gozaimashita