British Judo hosts National Inclusion Day at Centre of Excellence

The atmosphere at the British Judo Centre of Excellence dojo was electric this weekend as players of all disabilities and their families enjoyed the first dedicated British Judo national inclusion day at the home of the sport at the University of Wolverhampton.

Many clubs travelled from across the country and the day was a huge success for all creating an environment for enjoyment by everyone who joined from many clubs across the United Kingdom; including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The day was designed to promote more inclusive judo opportunities for all judo players, regardless of ability to participate in judo at both grassroots and performance level.

Each and every player that attended the day was inspired to achieve their true potential thanks to the dedicated coaches and volunteers on the day who worked hard to ensure everyone was safe but was treated as an equal and most of all had fun.

British Judo Chairman and former Olympian Kerrith Brown, All Japan champion Ikumi Tanimoto, Paralympic medallist Ian Rose, Chairman of the Budokwai Peter Blewett and former British champion and International and European medallist Kerry Tansey coached all the players attending the day with energy and passion.

The players also received coaching advice from Junior European champion Jodie Myers and Junior world silver medallist Ebony Drysdale-Daley and up and coming players Pete Miles and Lele Nairne of Bradley Stoke Judo Club, who worked tirelessly all day on the mat. All these players hope to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Players trained together and with top coaches and athletes as the initiative showed how it is possible to overcome barriers to inclusion, to answer questions that athletes, coaches and others had about visually impaired and special needs judo and to provide a future focus for inclusion for all at both a grassroots and performance levels.

Each and every player that attended the day was inspired to achieve their true potential thanks to the dedicated coaches and volunteers on the day who worked hard to ensure everyone was safe but was treated as an equal and most of all had fun.

The day also served as a chance to discover new talent for the visually impaired and special needs squads. With world class coaches and athletes engaging with the players as one in a friendly and competitive environment, every person left the centre feeling like a superstar and received certificates of attendance as well as signed Team GB posters.

The morning began with judo games and activities led by coach Kerry Tansey, who is responsible for the BJA special needs education syllabus.

Throughout the day, coaches came together to share common practices, learning from each other as the players and world class referees were on hand to explain the rules of competition to all making for a productive learning environment for all the players.

Alistair Milne of Rush Judo club, thoroughly enjoyed the day, taking part enthusiastically in the judo games. The 24-year-old joined judo through the Yellow Belt Challenge.

He won one of the judo games in the morning by being the first person to get a belt from behind his partner’s back and was awarded a signed t-shirt which made his day.

Mariane Woods, 16, is a green belt who trains at Kodachi judo club in Bristol has Aspergers:

“It has been really good to see all of the coaches come together to share their knowledge,” she said. “It has been great to see the players throw each other and learn all about their own individual styles. It is so useful to learn different techniques to change the throw. It is really inspiring to see everyone striving to be the very best they can be.”

Deryn Dyer, from Wales has been doing judo for since the age of six is hoping to enjoy VI judo at grassroots since beginning to lose her sight.

“I’m involved in everything I can be; theatre, drama production, music and judo, but since I have started to lose my sight it has been harder and harder for me to do the things I love. I think all coaches need to know that if anyone turns up at your club with a special need, an additional need or a VI need or hearing, there are rules and the regulations that you can follow to make it easier.”

The day was all part of a brand new drive, in line with the BJA’s Equality Plan for 2014 – 17 to raise awareness of how the sport can continue to build a culture of inclusion for all. There were plenty of opportunities for parents, coaches and players of all abilities to get involved on the day, and lots of resources to support coaches back at their clubs.

Paralympic referee Dave Stanley, one of the country’s leading VI referees with the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) was on hand to answer any refereeing and technical queries.

He said: “We have the Paralympians and Special Olympians of the future here and the goal is to get some of these guys as recognised as national squad players. That said we don’t have to create an international in every player but we can create young men and women who have a happy life and are able to fulfil their whole potential by getting a lot out of judo recreationally and socially to become very well rounded, happy individuals pursuing a very enjoyable and fun sport.”

Kerry Tansey, who delivers the BJA special needs syllabus, said:  “I am so delighted to see all the smiles on the faces of the kids and that proves we are doing something right. For me it is all about their enjoyment and interaction for all players, all abilities, all needs and abilities. It has also been a great inspiration to have the Great Britain special needs team here. Judo is a sport for all.”

Summing up the impact of the whole day, Chairman Kerrith Brown, who was also one of the senior coaches, said: “I am very proud to be here with everyone today at the home of judo promoting inclusion judo. It is great to see everyone participating and so many smiling faces. It is an honour to be here today as your chairman and we will continue to make further strides towards inclusion judo and build upon this to provide more events such as this one today.”

Inclusion Chair Sara Hayes added: “I am really pleased to see such a great level of support and interest in this event and it is fantastic to see all the players and coaches getting so much out of the day, speaking to one another, engaging with one another and enjoying judo. This was the aim of the day and I am so pleased we achieved it. A huge thanks to the volunteers; referees, coaches and members of the inclusion commission who gave up their time to ensure that players had a great experience.”

British Judo plans to build upon the event later in the year and has pledged to run at least two inclusion events each year. The next will be the Schools Special Needs and VI Championship on 11 July, 2015.

Images Mike Varey. Words by Donna Richardson.