Micklefield Judo Club Celebrating Their 50th Anniversary.

Micklefield Judo Club 50th Anniversary

Micklefield Judo Club recently marked an exciting milestone in their history by celebrating their 50th anniversary.

The Club was formed at a local Community Centre in 1973 by three novice coaches, John Oke, Ron Cleere and Arthur Lovell.

Starting up with very few resources, the coaches began to run sessions on a borrowed canvas-straw topped mat. After a year or so, and with the help of a loan the club were able to purchase its very own, brand-new tatami.

The new tatami was a breakthrough for the club, providing a reliable training centre for young judoka to develop both recreationally and competitively.

By the middle 80’s the club had moved premises to its present location and John took sole charge of the club affairs. Under John’s guidance, the club continued to grow and the club continued to be successful, developing competitive judo players into the nineties until the sad and sudden passing of its guiding force John Oke in May 1998.

The sudden passing of John caused great distress for the club, but senior players supported John’s wife Joan in getting the club back on track, Joan eventually retired in 2005 but was satisfied that the club was in good hands.

Supporting Judo Journeys

Ian Rose, two-time Paralympic medallist and one of the country’s most decorated visually impaired judoka, joined Micklefield when the club was in its infancy and recalled how the club supported him on his judo journey.

“The first few weeks were a mixture of feelings. It was exciting; it was terrifying and new to me. But I have some fantastic memories of back then.

“My first memories draw me back to the straw mat we used to have at the club. Ron was my first-ever coach, and he taught me on that mat. Ron gave me the confidence to believe in myself. He taught me the beginner moves of Judo, the osotogari, and the ukemi. He was also patient and allowed me to correct my movements.”

Double-Paralympian Medallist Ian Rose In Action

Two-Time Paralympic Medallist Ian Rose In Action. Credit: © Sport the library/Bill Bachman

Whilst Ron provided the foundations for the young judoka at Micklefield, the late John was passionate about advancing the skills taught on the mat.

Ian shares how he was shy when he first took up judo, but this was soon diminished thanks to the two coaches.

“When I was ready, I advanced into a class run by John. He taught me a competitive technique, preparing me for competitions. Both of my coaches gave me the confidence just to be me. I was shy at first. They were highly skilled in making me comfortable when I was new to the sport. The club supported me excellently on my judo journey.”

That judo journey would see Ian go on to represent his country at five Paralympic Games, his final being in Beijing in 2008. Ian was lured into trying to qualify for a sixth in London in 2012, but injury curtailed his dream comeback and led Ian into retiring from the sport competitively. Following his retirement, Ian is still heavily involved in his boyhood club, taking on the role that he admired when he was young.

He openly shared how he desires to pass on his support to the next generation of athletes, following the footsteps of his coaches.

“Ron Cleere and Jon Oke taught me how to be a well-rounded and balanced individual but also, how to be successful in life away from Judo. That is my goal and ambition for everyone I coach at Micklefield Judo Club.”

In 50 years of existence, the club has produced or started the careers of many judoka who have had success on both national and international stages. The legacy of the three coaches and founder John Oke continues to this day, with many of the coaches striving to shape the best future for their club’s judoka.

“I want to provide, most importantly, their learning life skills” says Ian.

“Whether it is volunteering in the community, medalling at an event or simply having a smile on their face. It is not all about winning. It is about what we do when things do not go our way. So, we can be better and learn from our experiences.”

Ron Cleere, who is now recognised as an IJF referee is proud to have been part of the Micklefield founding trio, highlighting his most outstanding achievements at the club.

“I have to highlight getting my Dan Grade and being recognised as an IJF referee. But above all, seeing all the players I have helped along the way achieve, including Ian Rose, Ray Stevens, Angharad Sweet and Paul Horseman receiving his 6th Dan!”

Paul Horseman joined the club within the first few weeks of its opening and has played a huge part in the club ever since. Now as Chairman, Paul is heavily involved in the running operations of the club, still occasionally competing on the mat.

The three-time British Masters champion and silver medallist at the 2012 Commonwealth Masters championships is proud to be part of Micklefield Judo club; “I am proud to be associated with running and coaching one of the most successful clubs in the area!”

The British Judo Association would like to congratulate Micklefield Judo Club on this big occasion, recognising the contribution of 50 successful years to the wider judo community.

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