After everything we have all had to face during this pandemic, it was an amazing relief to finally welcome back our judoka to the Western Area & England Judo Camp at Kingsley School, Bideford, Devon from 1st – 5th August.
This year’s camp was all arranged in the hope that the lifting of restrictions would allow the opportunity to return to normal judo practice come August.
It wasn’t a surprise that the camp proved popular, and places quickly filled up once news restrictions would be lifted. This camp was to become the first major judo event to be held since March 2020.
We welcomed 100 judoka aged 10 to 20 years old representing 37 clubs from all regions of England & Scotland. We also enjoyed the opportunity to host a group of full-time judoka from the University Bath Judo Programme, who themselves had in previous years been at the camp as a younger judoka, and now returned to support and mentor some of our next generation of judoka. To add to the amazing line up, we welcomed an exciting array of coaches who all brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the camp.
As the families and judoka started to arrive on Sunday afternoon, you immediately felt the atmosphere of excitement at being back among friends once again and back to judo.
The first session is traditionally lead by Western Area head coach Simon Ward, who created a fun and energizing session with team building and game challenges to help kick off the camp with a positive attitude.
Each morning started bright and early with either a training run or body weight circuit before a final tough 12-minute cooper run to test the fitness levels on Wednesday.
Our technical development sessions were expertly delivered by Team Bath High-Performance Coach Adam Hall, who delivered a Tachiwaza skills session on Monday morning. While former Norwegian National Coach Mike Newton led a Newaza session on Tuesday morning before England REDS Coach Jason Parsons added the transitions skills, bringing the two previous sessions skilfully together on Wednesday morning.
We also held many astounding Randori sessions with a mix of afternoon and evening sessions. The intensity and volume of training just improved every day, it was truly inspirational watching the judoka performing with courage and determination, showing true judo values throughout these sessions. Everyone just loved the opportunity of having so many partners to practice with during the sessions and the atmosphere within the dojo was electric. This was all magnificently delivered by a team of coaches including Judo Scotland’s National Coach Gary Edwards, HWJC and HNC Head Coach Samantha Chraniuk, Pro Judo coach Brian Long and Bishops Stortford & ETDC Coach Joe Nunn, who all truly inspired the judoka with so much energy, encouraging every practice to be fully committed and exciting.
After every session we concentrated on recovery so that the judoka had the best chance of being able to sustain the intensity and volumes of training, this was expertly delivered by Team Bath athlete Charlie Bond who ran all our mobility and cool-down sessions. We then tried something completely different on Wednesday afternoon when we welcomed Christianne Sayers our yoga and meditation instructor who was able to relax the group with a deep meditation session which was needed with many of our judoka falling into a deep sleep and total state of relaxation.
Away from the dojo, the judoka enjoyed a variety of team sporting activities which offered many transferable skills for judo, including: Tag Rugby, Handball, Tennis, Football, Rounders and Diamond Cricket. This all concluded with our final evening together on Wednesday with the camp BBQ and ‘It’s a Knockout’ team challenge and scavenger hunt which generated lots of enthusiasm and a competitive environment for the last evening together.
Our last morning together was on Thursday, and after a tough week, we rewarded the judoka with extra hours of sleep before breakfast as we skipped the morning run. Our last dojo session was a final opportunity to reflect on all the previous sessions while adding a little finishing randori practice before a final fun team game to round off an incredible few days together before our final presentations and thank you speeches.
It’s been such a difficult time during Covid, with a lot of ups and downs for so many people. It was never certain we would get this year’s camp off the ground, but what was for certain was we would take every possibility to deliver a camp experience that would inspire our next generation of judoka while they trained alongside our current generation of stars. We have created once again a unique and meaningful experience for our athletes and this year I strongly believe it was just as important for our coaches to be back within an environment which offered them an opportunity to get back into the action of coaching groups again.
I’m in complete admiration of everyone’s hard work during the camp, you really couldn’t have given much more on the tatami, while off the mat you all demonstrated true judo values throughout your camp journey.
I would like to thank you all, from our catering team Theresa and Shelly who worked so hard providing our meals with Cheryl, Claire and Louise help keep the boarding houses clean, while Jess did a fabulous job as our camp photographer, to Ros and Jacqueline who worked so hard being mum in the girl’s and younger boy’s houses. To all the parents who travelled down to Bideford to bring their young judoka to the camp, also a massive contribution came from the Bath University students who acted so well as team mentors. And finally, an extra special thanks to our lead coaches and support coaches who supported everyone with sincere commitment to helping make the camp experience so wonderful.