Kingsley School once again hosted the 9th John Davies Western Area International Summer Judo Training Camp in Bideford, North Devon from Sunday 5 to Thursday 9 August.

We also had the additional honour for the second successive year of welcoming the England Judo Regional Development Squad “REDS” to the camp. The England Judo Programme have now included the Western Area camp as part of its criteria for its younger aged group athletes.

Back in 2010 we started the camp with just 22 Judoka from a handful of local clubs and a small team from Germany. This year we welcomed 120 Judoka aged 10 through to 17-year-olds. With young athletes traveling from Austria, France, Germany, Spain, USA, Ireland and Wales, with an overall total of 49 Judo clubs represented at the 2018 camp.

Some of these brilliant young judoka had just recently returned from competing at the European Cadet Championships in Bosnia & Herzegovina in Sarajevo. With the ability levels so varied it was a credit to all who took part, everyone played a part in inspiring each other and raising their training levels to an astonishing high.

This year’s Coaching team was a world class line-up with Rio 2016 Olympian and IJF Grand Slam Silver medallist Ben Fletcher leading two technical development sessions. Ben was joined by the England Judo coaching team of Jason Parsons, Simon Moss and Sophie Cox, who herself was a London 2012 Olympian and four-times European Championships medallist.

The team also included the highly experienced French Coach, Frankie Gustin, a 6th Dan from Judo Club Attiches, and the Western Area Lead Coach Simon Ward, also adding their experience and knowledge to the coaching sessions.

We also had a network of club coaches including Gary Gregory, Gavin Whitfield, Darren Haynes, Ros Hopkins, Charlie Bond and Beth Ambrose who supported every session.

On the Sunday our first technical session was led by Ben, who gently eased the judoka into training with an outstanding Newaza “Groundwork” development lesson. Ben also delivered our Monday morning training session after the group’s first early morning conditioning session at 7am.

Ben used the second session to introduce and progress Tachiwaza “throwing skills” in particular Uchi Mata. In the afternoon the group took part in its first visit to the activity centre and returned to the dojo in the evening for their first Randori “Sparring” session led by Simon Moss.

On Tuesday the group once again started the day at 7am with a Strength & Conditioning session, before another technical learning session led by our French Coach Frankie Gustin.

Frankie progressed on from Ben’s Newaza skills and adding a mixture of varied skills the judoka could study and develop further. After a final visit to the activity centre that afternoon the group returned to another Randori evening.

On Wednesday morning the group had earned some extra rest time, which meant no early morning running, however a 10am Randori “Japanese Style” was arranged by Sophie Cox.

After some rest and lunch we returned to the Dojo for another technical delivery from Jason Parsons, who allowed the judoka to improve and progress with a range of Ashi Waza skills, linking into additional movement patterns so further development of the skills could be progressed.

Wednesday came to a close with a fun social BBQ and team games which included many favourite activities including Naughts and Crosses and our water challenge to name a few.

Our final day on Thursday once again started at 7am, with a fun team relay race around the 200-metre track at 20-metre interval sprints for a timed period of 12 minutes.

The 10am Judo session was led by Simon Ward who started with some team games leading to some more challenging races. Simon then led into some recap over the technical learning from previous coaches before finishing with some group Newaza Randori and a final Nage-Komi session to close up the camp for 2018.

During the five days of training the group were really pushed to the limit of their physical and physiological limits within the training environment. The camp expertly strikes a perfect balance between tough, serious level judo and fun activities, as this keeps the participants motivated and focused on improving their performance through rich experience of practise and learning from the experts and each other.

Some of the best moments during the camp are best captured as the week progresses as new friendships are formed and old rivalry becomes a distant old memory.

The camps mix of hard judo and fun activities including the Water Wipe out assault course, high ropes climbing, kayaking and body boarding at the nearby Ultimate Adventure Centre, is yet another fantastic way the camp creates so many special memories for our judoka.

We also find time to include a final evening social down time with a relaxed BBQ and team it’s a knockout and the highly competitive scavenger hunt.

Congratulations to all our team of Judoka and Coaches this year. You have all played a remarkable role in creating and delivering an outstanding few days of Judo. You have enjoyed and developed in strength and character and have shown once again the true Judo Values by creating some wonderful Judo Journey Memories

Great Britain Cadet International, Zach Morrison from Bishops Stortford Judo Club is a two-time camper:

“I love the quality of the randori and the coaches. My England squad coaches are here too so it’s good to work with them over the week.

“My regular training partners for randori are here too but it’s also good to get tough randori with people I don’t know – like I had half an hour in a row fighting today, Japanese style. It was tough but I loved that.”

Karis Haughton-Brown from Vale Judo Club is a first time camper. She travelled all the way from Corby, Northampton (about five hours drive!) to get to our camp with three of her clubmates:

“Although there is a lot of time spent on the mat doing judo, there is also lots of time for socialising too. It’s really nice because I’ve made some cool friends and that makes it a fun place to be.

“The coaches do push you to your limits but it’s also really obvious they want to get the best out of you, so it’s really good.”

Nicolas Loeffler, from JC Klosterneuberg, Austria:

“This is my third time here, I came in 2015 and again for two weeks training 2016 and loved it. I am the only one from my club here but I made so many cool friends last time I wanted to come back.”

“It is really beneficial for there to be so many coaches – they can all teach you something new and it means everyone gets help and you learn lots.”

Many thanks to Simon Ward for the report and photos