Gold in France for GB Kata

A team of five British judoka travelled to the Meximieux Open International Kata competition, run by the French Judo Federation in Meximieux, near Lyon, France on 17th February.

Val Kelly, Tony Prosser and Mercedes Martinez-Monroy represented High Wycombe Judo Centre in Kime-no kata and Ju-no kata, and  Lewis Hannington and Jim Crompton represented Army judo in Katame-no kata  against athletes from France, Switzerland and Belgium.

For Val, Tony and Mercedes, this was their first competition outside the UK and provided the perfect opportunity to test their skills against some of the top competitors in the world in their categories. For Lewis and Jim, they had competed at the event in 2023 and wanted to show how much they had improved. In a packed category, Mercedes and Val narrowly missed out on making it to the final block, while Val and Tony made it through the first round to the final block, where they finished 5th. In the first round, Lewis and Jim produced their highest ever score (392.5) to top the table. In final block, while the scores were closer, the British pair were clearly ahead of their nearest rivals to secure the top spot and their first European medal.

The strong performances from the British pairs comes off the back of medals at the British Judo Council Kata Championships on 11th February where Val and Tony won medals in 4 different katas, Mercedes and Val took silver in Ju-no kata and Lewis and Jim took first place in Katame-no kata.

Reflecting on their medal-winning performance, Lewis said: “My favourite part about kata is you go on the mat to work with your partner, not ruin their day, to win the medals. I like to measure our success against our own previous scores. To get our PB of 392.5 which would make us very competitive on the world stage is the validation our training is paying off. The gold medal is a real bonus.”

The Army Judo pair began their kata journey just 2 years ago, preparing for the National Kata Championships in 2022 and since their first international competition last February, have travelled to France, Slovenia, Germany and Italy to train and compete, as well as regularly attending kata courses at Amersham, Pinewood, Bristol, Newport and Aldershot.

Jim said, “We have some very good kata competitors, examiners and judges in the UK.  I believe we can compete well against other nations that have more established kata programmes, because wherever we travel, there are people willing to share their knowledge and keen to see us succeed. I think this is the first international kata medal that British Judo has won for a while and I believe it is the first of many more to come.”

Tony, Val and Mercedes have been the driving force behind kata sessions at High Wycombe Judo Centre and have been developing their knowledge of all 8 kata recognised by the BJA. Tony explained, “We were made to feel very welcome at our first international competition in Meximieux and at the training camp we had one-to-one coaching from a world silver medalist in our chosen kata. It was a fantastic opportunity to see how much we can improve our kata understanding.”

Still buzzing from the event on the return trip home, Mercedes remarked, “The competition in Meximieux rocked! Live scoring boards, three mats, four countries, huge organisation and lots of great kata going on. The training on the Sunday was the cherry on top.”

Llyr Jones, Chair of the National Kata Commission commented: “It’s great to see BJA kata competitors establishing themselves as serious contenders at the continental level.  Massive congratulations to Jim and Lewis on their Gold medal in Katame-no-kata, and to Mercedes, Tony and Val on their debut participation in competition overseas.”

Dave Horton-Jones, Kata Exec Lead added: “What a brilliant weekend ! It’s been decades since we medalled in a Kata Tournament overseas and at a BJC National Championships. We have been encouraging BJA and Home Country kata judoka to compete in UK and overseas competitions and seminars in order to achieve a credible standard in a competitive scenario, so that they can then go on to compete at the European and World Kata Championships with a serious expectation of progressing through to the final placings. Our Kata pairs are now starting to see the results of all their hard work.”