On the afternoon of Sunday 20th March 2022 a National Senior Examiners (SE) conference was held in the excellent Samurai Judo Club facility. The event was co-presented By Commission Chair Andrew Haffner and Dan Gradings Manager Dave Horton-Jones.
The conference was preceded by a Promotions Commission meeting the day before and an Area Director of Examiners meeting in the morning, so the weekend was extremely busy and productive. There were 71 Judoka sharing their vast knowledge and experience with half of them holding the grade of 6th Dan or higher. Participants included members of the Promotions Commission, Area Director of Examiners, IJF referees, ex GB Internationals, members of the BJA Board and members of area committees.
A light working lunch was held where conference delegates were able to meet up and renew old friendships whilst sharing ideas and best practices from each others areas. There was an incredibly positive vibe and a fantastic start to the afternoon.
A formal photograph was the official start of the conference, followed by an Introduction from Andrew Haffner. Andrew then gave a presentation on the outstanding success of the National Dan Grading strategy that allowed some relaxation to the published rules in order to provide greater opportunities for judoka that had in effect lost 2 years of gradings during the various levels of pandemic lockdown. There was also an analysis of how the multi-grade process could allow better pairing of judoka in terms of weight and age, which led to some useful discussion. There were 6 National Dan gradings held, each supported by members of the Commission with 383 participants in total, this presentation then flowed seamlessly to the organisation of Competitive Dan Gradings focussing on:-
- Use of Digital recording of results
- Booking in processes
- Recommendations and advantages of Pre-booking
- Provision of first Class venues and other improved standards
- Creating reputable events where all judoka were guaranteed an opportunity to grade
Dave Horton-Jones then gave a presentation of the current status of Dan Grading activity, reporting that activity had returned to pre-pandemic levels and thanked all attending for their contribution to this result. There were also over 100 Technical Dan Grading examinations carried out since return to judo in 2021, mainly at the 3 National Technical Dan Grading events but also at area organised events, 75 judoka were also promoted utilising the dispensatory over 70 points rule.
A Technical workshop then followed focussing on Counter techniques in the syllabus. Dave reminded all of the 5 basic principles of Tachi waza but also on the specific principles of counter techniques as often stated by previous Commission Chair Roy Inman OBE 9th Dan.
- Anticipation – applying a counter whilst attacker is off balance on entry.
- Blocking – Causing the attacking technique to fail then applying a counter.
- Avoidance – avoiding the technique using the attacker’s impetus whilst applying the counter
The conference then split into 10 groups and each group worked on a set of counter techniques from the syllabus, exploring which above principle was the main focus. Groups then presented their findings and a report compiled on which counters may need to be revised for any possible review of the syllabus. Dave used this presentation to explain a traditional Japanese learning path that applies perfectly to kata, but also all judo practice and could be used by coaches but also examiners, when assessing a judoka. It follows 3 layers.
- Shu – Copying the instructor or best practice model
- Ha – Adapting the technique to suit the judoka
- Ri – Free flowing harmony of applying the technique in a natural way
Judoka being examined could then follow this learning path and demonstrate during the examination how they may have changed the counter to suit their stature or size. This was followed by a video demonstration of the counters kata – Gonosen-no-kata by Wolkfgang Dax and it was emphasised that although this was the standard for the Technical Dan Grading Examination, adaptions could be made and it is also possible to replace the kata with any of the other Kodokan Kata.
The conference finished with an Open Forum which again was extremely positive, plenty of ideas suggested and recorded for future considerations.