Huddersfield Judo Club celebrate their 60th anniversary

Huddersfield Judo Club is inviting club members past and present to celebrate their 60th birthday tomorrow and Saturday when local legend Dawn Netherwood, former World silver and Commonwealth bronze medallist and current World Masters Champion will be in attendance teaching mat sessions.

Between 8pm and 9:30pm tomorrow evening, senior players will have the chance to test their skills against Netherwood and on Saturday between 1:15pm and 3pm, junior players can have a turn on the tatami.

Netherwood, now 53, is an ex-club member who has enjoyed a fantastic judo career with the pinnacle being her World silver medal at the first women’s World Championships in New York and bronze in 1984 in Vienna and was also part of the GB coaching team at the Barcelona Olympics. In addition she has been on the European podium five times. Netherwood took a 20-year career break from competitive judo to bring up her family, and now lives in France. But she is back in Huddersfield for the milestone anniversary.

Coming back from this retirement, she also enjoyed success later in life to win the women’s world judo championships in Budapest, Hungary – three decades after winning her first world title, and then captured the World title at the IJF Grand Masters in Miami in 2012, her third such title gained consecutively.

As well as being a chance to get on the mat, it will be a chance for club members old and new to share stories about the club which was founded in the very same year Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth enjoyed her Coronation!

Of course at this time, judo was still somewhat of an exotic sport and in the UK, still in its infancy.

According to local news sources, when the club was founded, two engineers from David Brown Gears answered the advert in the local paper asking them to sign up for the “mystical martial art of Judo”. Two did, they were Len Penistone and John Stanton who fought on the first night in “a room the size of a bedroom, with a hard wooden floor” at Lockwood Mechanics Institute on Meltham Road. The pair went on to form Huddersfield Judo Club, invited the great Japanese Judoka Matsushita who was visiting the Budokwai club up for a week and learned how to become masters of their chosen sport, gaining their black belts and beyond. Len, who is now 92-years-old, went on to gain a silver medal in the British Championships in 1966. Intially starting at the Mechanics Institute, the club has had numerous homes in Paddock, Rook Street, and the RAFA club before settling at Huddersfield Sports Centre, where they have been since it opened there in 1972.

In its various guises the Huddersfield Judo Club has produced a host of champions including Netherwood and their success is testament to the dedication and resolve of members and coaches at the club. With such a rich history, it is bound to be a great weekend.

Anyone wishing to attend can contact club chairman Gordon Lambert on 07909 691542, or secretary Steve Lawrence on 07834 381572. Alternatively, email on or

The club would like to welcome all ex-members to join them at Huddersfield Sports Centre, Queen Street , Huddersfield, HD1 1TW.

The session fee is £5 for participants and it could just be the best fiver you have ever spent!


Words by Donna Richardson with thanks to the Huddersfield Examiner for photos and background information.