Western Area & England Judo Summer International Training Camp 2023 a Great Success

14th John Davies Western Area & England Judo Summer International Training Camp 2023

Kingsley School – Bideford – Devon

6th to 10th August

It was great to see so many judoka choosing West Camp as their go-to destination this year. What’s even more exciting is that we had a chance to witness many post covid judoka making their residential camp debut after taking up judo. We also had the pleasure of welcoming back many established young judoka to Devon for another year at the Western Area & England Camp. With so many options available, it’s a testament to the quality of the camp that it remains a popular choice among judoka and coaches.

It’s amazing to observe such a varied group of judoka attending the camp, coming from 43 different clubs across multiple countries including France and Germany. It is clear that the training environment at West Camp is truly unique and exciting, with judoka of all ages and skill levels coming together to learn and grow. The addition of world-class coaches only adds to the already electric atmosphere, providing valuable insight and inspiration for all attendees. It’s no wonder that West Camp remains a popular choice among judoka seeking a thrilling and enriching training experience.

The first session on Sunday afternoon was led by Western Area head coach Simon Ward, who created a fun and energizing session with team building and randori game challenges to help kick off the camp with a positive attitude and set the tempo for the coming days. Each morning started bright and early with either a training run or body weight conditioning before a final tough 12-minute Cooper run to test the fitness levels on Wednesday, these sessions were led by Gary Jackson from Triangle JC, a former Royal Marine from Northern Ireland, who shared his knowledge in strength and conditioning plus nutrition to benefit us judoka during these early morning starts.

The excitement built early on Monday, for our opening masterclass led by Ben Fletcher, a Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympian and IJF Grand Slam medallist. He expertly guided us through a technical development session on Uchi Mata, breaking down the skills into small, manageable drills. It was amazing to see how he linked many activities to help us understand the key principles that make up the success of his technique. All the young judoka appreciated the opportunity to learn from someone with such incredible experience and success in the sport. It was truly a valuable and enriching experience.

After lunch, we welcomed our second masterclass on Monday with the huge pleasure of learning from Lele Nairne, who is currently ranked 20th on the IJF world ranking list and chasing Paris Olympic selection for Great Britain and had literally just returned from completing in Hungry at the IJF World Judo Masters. Lele delivered a special session with a unique look at her dynamic movement and variety of throws which have taken her to her current world-leading status. It was inspiring to learn from someone who has achieved so much in the sport and to see her techniques in action. Overall, it was a fantastic experience, and I am grateful for Lele for making time in her schedule to visit and give the young judoka the opportunity to learn from these incredible training drills.

On Tuesday we had the pleasure to welcome back a technical development session with Neil Eckersley. Neil is a double Olympian and 1984 Olympic bronze medallist, who has returned to the UK after coaching in Norway for 7 years. The session was focused on fundamental stabilisation drills that linked to specific judo situations. We also had a masterclass in transition newaza practice and a brilliant insight into his famous ‘Eckersley hold’. It was an honour to learn from someone with such impressive credentials and expertise in the sport.

On Wednesday, we had a great double Scottish judo masterclass with Rachel Tytler and David Ferguson from Pro Judo in Glasgow both judoka competed at the 2021 Birmingham Commonwealth Games with Rachel winning a bronze medal at the Games. It was wonderful to learn from such skilled and experienced judoka, who were both very supportive throughout the entire camp helping all our athletes develop and grow in confidence, Rachel shared some excellent techniques on Harai-Goshi while David demonstrated a variety of skills from Ippon Seoi-Nage, which we then practised in two quality Randori blocks following their masterclass sessions. The Randori sessions were outstanding, and it was inspiring to see the judoka show such courage and determination throughout. The opportunity to practice with so many partners was amazing, and the atmosphere in the dojo was electric.

Away from our top elite masterclass sessions, we had a strong team of support coaches, whose support, and guidance made the experience even more valuable for all the judoka in attendance. It’s impressive to see such a dedicated group of individuals working together to help others improve their skills and reach their goals. Our exceptional team of coaches included GB junior judoka and recent European Universities competitor Mary Tomblin, GB Junior ETD Squad member Ace Edwards, we also welcomed Ben Almond who brings a wealth of knowledge from his successful Moberley Stars club, plus continued support from Gary Jackson, Alison Finn, Cameron Lavelle, Chris and Micheal Edwards, Micky Woodham and Martin McDonald, who all fully engaged the judoka with so much energy and motivation during the entire camp.

After every session, we made sure to prioritise recovery so that we could sustain the intensity and volume of training. We had a series of mobility and cool-down sessions that helped us feel refreshed and ready to go for the next day. On Wednesday afternoon, we were fortunate enough to welcome back a yoga and meditation instructor, Christianne Sayers. She led us through a dynamic yoga session and meditation to help us recover and relax after a challenging few days of training. It was truly a rejuvenating experience, and everyone felt grateful for the opportunity to unwind and recharge.

During our time outside of the dojo, we had plenty of downtime and enjoyed a variety of activities. On Monday, we participated in team sports events like tag rugby, handball, and diamond cricket, which offered transferable skills for judo. And on our final evening together, we had a team BBQ and ‘It’s a Knockout’ challenge, including a new tug-of-war competition that generated lots of enthusiasm and a competitive environment. It was a great way to conclude our time together.

On Thursday morning, we decided to give the judoka a well-deserved break after a tough week. We skipped the morning run and allowed them to sleep in before breakfast. The final dojo session was led by our next generation of coaches who provided the participants with a chance to reflect on the previous sessions and practice a bit more before playing a few fun games to wrap up an unforgettable few days together, before our final presentations to Emma Praed from Polizei SV Oldenburg JC, Germany and Callum Woodham from Dowty JC, who were awarded the new Jurgen Klinger Memorial trophies, which was a great way to close the event.

I just wanted to take a moment to express how impressed I am with all the athletes who participated in our 2023 judo camp. Your hard work and dedication throughout the week was truly inspiring, and it was clear that everyone gave it their all on the tatami. I also want to commend you all for embodying the true values of judo both on and off the mat. It was an unforgettable experience for everyone involved, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we accomplished together.

I want to also express my gratitude towards everyone involved in the camp from the catering team to the parents who made the journey down to Bideford, and of course to the mentors and coaches who made the camp experience so wonderful – thank you all so much for your hard work and dedication. It was truly a team effort, and I am grateful to have been a part of it.

“Such a great experience. The coaches really helped every one of us to improve and motivated us to continue our judo journey. I am hoping to come back next year. Thanks for everything.” Emma, 15 – Polizei SV Oldenburg, Germany

“It was my first time at the camp, but it won’t be my last. I have made lots of new friends and the variety and quality of coaches was brilliant, we learnt something new from all of them. Off the mat was also challenging, but most of all, lots of fun! See you next year!” Isabella, 15 – Yenton JC

“I had a brilliant time; the facilities were very good and with amazing high-performing athletes. I made many new friends and can’t wait to return next year” Ben, 13 – High Wycombe JC

“The camp was so much fun, I loved meeting loads of new friends and I’ve learnt lots of new techniques that I can’t wait to share with my coaches and judo team back home. Can’t wait till next year!” Alyssa, 14 – Stewart Judo Academy

Simon Ward

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