How and why did you start Koka Kids?
I started Koka Kids as I finished my international career. I saw it as a way, to give something back to the sport that has given me so much over the years. At that time, there was very little out there for children – only some black and white manuals, and I hoped I could change that and make a magazine that was more appealing for juniors.
What are the challenges of producing a magazine for junior judoka?
Basically coming up with new and fresh content, and making sure that it is actually something that the kids genuinely want to read. Its a matter of getting the balance right, making it fun but educational as well and hitting that level where you are keeping it real. I believe that children will take it all at the level they want to, and try not to dumb it down – so Id prefer to run a feature on how say, Kosei Inoue (Olympic Champion) does uchi-mata, than make it too simple. All the children, from 6 through to 14 will then take what they can from it.
How has the magazine grown over the last decade? Has it had to grow and change as the sport has?
It has grown hugely in circulation, with 25,000 readers now. This is largely thanks to the backing from British Judo, Judo Scotland and Welsh Judo. We added an app, about a year ago (available for Apple, Android, KindleFire) that allows some added value content, with animations and video clips. The video clips are by Fighting Films so once again its keeping it highest quality and standard of judo. For example in the last issue you can read about Karina (Bryant) and Teddy (Riner) in the magazine, and then go to the app and actually see both fighters in action.
What have been the highlights?
The highlights have been relationships you build up with the people, with the coaches who have supported the idea and their positive feedback. It makes you feel like its all worthwhile. The same, with all the comments and drawings I get from the kids themselves. I met one of my readers in Dublin last year, an 18 year old, who said she had used to love receiving Koka Kids as a child. That’s great, when you get that sort of feedback.
What does the future hold for Koka Kids?
We are developing a full set of animations, for the whole Gokyo to really help children visualise the movements needed to do the throws. The animations are actually based on the movement of Neil Adams, Kosei Inoue, Ryoko Tani – so the characters really move with style and technically you can’t get much better than that! Also, a huge part of Koka Kids has always been working with the club coach to help them promote judo in the local area and club, and we are currently building a new website, that aims to supply coaches with resources to help them do just that; promotional posters, reward certificates, flyers etc. We are also designing a new Tshirt, that people seem to be liking, of Uchi Banani – the Koka Kids Monkey. It was meant for the kids, but I think Im also going to have to print it up in adult sizes because its getting a great reaction from the big kids too!
What’s the best way for our members to keep in touch with the Koka Kids team? Twitter? Facebook? Website?
The best way to keep up to date is probably through Facebook, although if anyone needs to get in touch directly with me they can do so via email email@example.com or via Twitter @kokakids
For more information on Koka Kids visit http://www.kokakids.co.uk/