Recently qualified Judo Coach, Devon Neal, has set up his own club in Catterick, North Yorkshire, based at Marne Barracks Army camp. Support from the Army Judo Association fund, Devon was able to purchase a new 32-mat area and Judo gis, allowing Devon’s club to quickly grow from strength to strength.
There has been an interest in judo from Service personnel across North Yorkshire. In recent years, there has been an increase in interest in the Catterick area which has allowed the sport to develop “I am looking forward to collaborating and competing with other British Judo Clubs, coaches and officials”.
As Devon’s club has grown from strength to strength recently, he has been reflecting on this, Devon said: “I’d like to start this with a huge thank you, to both Army Judo and Major Jim Crompton (the association secretary) who have shown great support and guidance through what has been quite a complicated year for us all. With the new matting we have been provided at 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, I can really start to push the sport out to even more serving and non-serving personnel around our area”. Army and judo values merges perfectly together, the standards across the army are close to perfect matches to those from judo. Devon’s club that is currently being run at his camp; Devon is hoping to secure some sort of building to permanently lay their mats “becoming our own dojo”. When a permanent building is secured for his club, Devon is aiming to make that dojo the 5th regiment’s first, Garrison Combat Club. Providing a space for training, competitions, gradings and more to the wider military personnel in his area. Hoping that himself and 5RA can lead the way for army Judo. The judo community is very strong and welcoming to all “judo is a sport with a very strong community feel, anyone who joins feels welcome and will always have a place within the sport. That’s something I pride the sport on”. There is no other sport out there where Devon has felt so welcomed and has made friends for life while doing a sport that he loves. Making new friends and learning new skills are some of the best elements about the sport “the friends I’ve made from doing this sport are unbelievable”. When new people are joining his judo club, he has no worries about them making new friends as everyone is so friendly “when new people join the sport, I have no worries in any way as I know you will be treated the exact same way that I and everyone else has been”
Devon has been doing judo since he was 7 years old. His mom and dad introduced him to the sport. At first, he hated judo. Struggling with the concept of judo Devon “couldn’t get my head around throwing another human around like they was a feather and being thrown myself”. Persevering with the sport and the support from his mum and dad. Devon has grown to love the sport “it shows now after my first few weeks of going to the classes and my dad’s firm persuasion of not giving it up as a child, I grew to love the sport!”. Pushing himself and not giving up Devon is thankful for the coaches and his club for supporting and shaping him into the person he is today, “I can honestly say I’m so happy I didn’t quit before I even started. I believe the coaches I’ve had as a child to the present day in my club Bredakwai Judo Academy and others I have visited, have shaped me, and helped me become the person I am today”. Judo is a very tough sport, going into a training class or competition and feeling great in every way, being stronger than ever and maybe losing, is an extremely hard process. The physical and mental strength that comes with judo to get up and start training again for the next competition shows what kind of person this sport makes. It makes you become mentally and physically resilient, helping you to push through anything – the skills from judo can be translated in more areas of life not just judo.
The life skills that judo has taught him has encouraged Devon to get involved in coaching with the army. Devon said: “I wanted to pass these skills judo gave me onto others, not just on the matt but off it as well”. As soon as Devon got the chance, he funded his coaching qualification himself. Opening a club in his camp, where he is currently based now allowing others to come and train. The club has not been running long, less than a year! In this time, they have brought home 2 golds and 2 bronze medals from the Army Championships. Devon’s team trains hard and are always eager to learn new techniques, even more so for the ones who compete.
Currently, 5RA’s Catterick Army Judo Club is only for serving personal however over time and in due course Devon is looking to try and open his club to the wider public, if that is possible. Many soldiers who attend Devon’s judo club mention how much judo is making them feel better. Soldiers who attend and travel to competitions or other clubs with Devon are surprised on how open, kind and welcoming the judo community is. Within the judo community there are a wide range of people from different ethnicities, abilities, and disabilities “no matter who you are, the sport joins you and you always have support from those you ask”. There have been so many opportunities within army judo and Devon has been at the forefront, it is difficult for Devon to pinpoint what his favourite part of army judo is, “it’s not something I can point out as there are no negatives I can use to help filter my decision”. Devon’s whole military judo experience has been great for him. Devon has made several friends and has been presented with many opportunities “the people I have met while being in the army and the friends I have made at the skill courses provided, is just another tribute to the sport, always pulling in the best type of people”.
Devon has many personal ambitions for his own judo career that he wants to be able to develop with the British Army “my personal ambitions for my own judo career are to represent the British Army in every possible way I can with judo”. Other aims for Devon is to do judo fulltime with the army so he can reach his peak in the sport so he can represent England and GBR in bigger competitions. Completing other coaching qualifications is another aim for Devon “I’d also like to complete extra coaching qualifications for the sport so I’m able to help or possibly even run events such as skills courses as we do in the Army or training camps across the country and beyond”. Other ambitions for 5RA’s Catterick Army Judo Club are to get judo more recognised within the military organisation and to be utilised as a tool to help soldiers fight mental health and be more fighting fit. Mental health is important, even more so after Covid, Devon is creating a safe place for other army personal “I’m trying to open up a new welfare path for soldiers who are struggling, by helping them with judo!”. He also wants to help and see judo used more across the other services “I’m waiting to push this out through the other two services (Navy and RAF) trying to make this a whole military scheme”. This is a big aim for Devon, but it could be achieved and will be able to support so many more people “It will be an amazing thing for the army physically and mentally. I believe that judo is a mental, physically hard, and tough sport, it will be a great fit to the military mind set and will help massively in having an army fit to fight”.
There is no permanent place for 5RA’s Catterick Army Judo Club. They are aiming to get a permanent building for the club “with the club I have running at my camp now, I’m hoping to get a building to permanently lay our mats. This can be our own dojo”. Having a permanent building for his club, Devon can have a space to help others and to also run events at the club. Devon is aiming to create a space that will provide members with fantastic opportunities “I’m really aiming to make the dojo 5th Regiment’s first Garrison Combat Club to provide a space for training, competitions, gradings and more to the wider military personnel in this area, with me and 5RA leading the way”. Both the military and Judo have a strong community which is welcoming to all. The sense of community is what the sport is “Judo is a sport with a very strong community feel, anyone who joins feels welcome and will always have a place within the sport. That’s something I pride the sport on”. The friends that Devon has gained while at the Army Judo Club have become lifelong friends and have mad Devon feel so welcome. This is something that Devon wants to continue to do so within the club “I have never done anything else in my life where I have felt so welcome. The friends I’ve made from doing this sport are unbelievable, so when new people join the sport, I have no worries in anyway as I know you will be treated the exact same way that I and everyone else has been”.
We encourage and look forward to seeing the new members who join the club. Devon’s Judo Club is contactable via Instagram.