The Samurai Ladies Open on Saturday October 16th and Men’s Senior High Grades (the next day) was one of the first opportunities for recreational higher grades to get back into judo action.

Both events had high turnouts, as they usually do. The Ladies Open had 60 entrants including 40 of 1st kyu grade or above, whilst the Men’s Open was capped at 75 entrants with many more having to be declined. Nearly all of Samurai’s events since the restart have been oversubscribed, suggesting that British Judo is making a good comeback.

The quality of the judo on both days was extremely good. At the Ladies Open, Sophie Davis from Samurai stormed through the brown belts section whilst Kumo’s Niamh Southgate did the same in the light-middleweight dan grades. These two then met in an explosive lightweight open final, with Sophie winning the first contest by a quick ippon throw and Niamh then hitting back equally quickly to win the other two of the best of three series, with the three contests put together lasting less than a minute.

Windsor’s Danni Batt dominated the Masters section with two golds, but there was also a gold for the ever cheerful and determined Theresa Jones from Crewe. Olivia Spellman from Pinewood took gold in the higher dan grades section and there was double gold for Tegan Davies from Bredakwai in the heavyweight dan grades and heavyweight open events. Ella Thomsett from Nottingham University and Sidney Tancock from Bishop Stortford also took high grade golds, with Sidney’s lightweight dan grade category featuring six dan grades of 54 kg or less, a great opportunity for the lightweight dan grades to shine and gain points and with some excellent judo on show between them. The lower kyu grades also played their part in a very good day and it was also great to see four VI players taking part and doing well.

On Sunday, the 1st kyu lightweights section ended in an all-Stroud final with Ben Latchford edging out Callum Minnis to take gold, whilst the heavyweights section saw Jonty Bassil from Royal Navy defeating Samurai’s Callum Spencer in their final. Thomas Smith from Team Bath won the 1st dan section, and Valeriu Tighineanu from Ford not only took the silver but delighted the crowd with some of the best judo of the tournament. Igor Soroca from Judo Sensei London won the 2nd dan section and Danny Roberts from Hanley won the 4th dan and above gold, and there were also golds for Barry Lynas from Cherry and Robert Morgan from Harlow in the masters’ events, but the performance of the day on the men’s day was surely Vince Skillcorn from Fighting Fitness Judo: he won gold in both the 3rd dan category and also the open, with a total of seven ippon throws and one waza-ari-awasete ippon, giving him a very tasty 80 points towards his 4th dan in one day. In fact overall there were lots of lovely points gained and well earned across both days!

Samurai intend to run both these events again in the Spring. Meanwhile their next event, the NHS Charity Minimon in November, is already full and will raise over £1,000 for the NHS.

They are also running a National Women’s Dan Grading on November 21st , which if it gets the same turnout as the Ladies Open, and indications are already that it will, could allow women of 1st kyu to 4th dan all the chance to get their next dan grade on the day. Sandwiched between those two events is the Rod Lane Men Kyu Grades, including a veteran’s section.

Roll on what November holds for British Judo.