In July, the members of the Judo for the World program (South Africa) let by IJF coach, IJF academy graduated, Roberto Orlando, went to Port Elisabeth to participate in an important judo competition. The trip was supported by the UNHCR in the framework of the #WithRefugees campaign. Dimakatso Rakaki tells us the story of this amazing adventure.
On the way to Port Elisabeth

About Judo for the world Judo for the world is a program, based in Hillbrow, in the beating heart of Johannesburg, South Africa, that accommodates anyone regardless of their nationality, background or abilities. Our club consists of many nationalities from Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria, but also from Angola, Ethiopia and Uganda and of course from the many regions of South Africa. I myself, as a South African feel very privileged to be around people from different countries with different ways of doing things and with different cultures. Judo helps us a lot in understanding our cultural differences as human beings and also to love and respect one another.

This is me - Dimakatso Rakaki - but you can familiarly call me “Beibie”. I discovered judo last year. You see me here while volunteer at the Holy Family School with refugee judoka. My dream is to see children united through the values of judo

Getting ready for the big tournaments The set date for the competition held in Port Elizabeth: The South African Judo Open Championships was held from the 1st to the 7th of July 2018 and as the day approached the team got apprehensive. Our Coach, Roberto, made sure that we were all mentally and physically prepared for the tournament, by telling us the honest truth about the real games, as he would always say: “In every game there should always be a winner and a loser. If you win, we will celebrate with you and again if you lose we will weep with you, but it has to be lesson and you have to train harder.” We were taught that we have to be well prepared for the matches as we will not only use our strengths but our wisdom and technique.

Making our way to another City Finally, it was the day for departure and everyone was very excited and couldn't wait to get to Port Elizabeth. Knowing that we were using the Shosholoza Meyl train was like adding a cherry on the top, because we knew that it would be very interesting having to spend a night in the train as a team. We passed through a lot of beautiful places like the towns, rural areas, mountainous places and what seemed to be farms as well, we also saw different animals and different plant species along the routes. We took a lot of pictures with my closest friends from the club, whom I call the “Judo Church”: Jonathan, Moses and Enock. We also took videos such at the one where our young handsome Batandwa was dancing for us by the train doors.

Jane Bridge (left) met the Judo for the World members in Port Elisabeth

Arriving in the Windy City It was a very cold day in P.E. when we arrived (July in the Southern Hemisphere is winter !!!). We were then sent to the Algoa Military Base where we spent a night in the military hostels with judoka from Zimbabwe and the disability judo club from P.E. For all the 5 days we spent nights in sleeping bags, keeping next to each other not to feel the cold. It is true that going together through hardships molds friendship and long term relations.

The first days we watched the children competing and we started to get the competition mood. Furthermore we had the unique opportunity to be trained by Sensei Jane Bridge, a legend on her own, being the 1st woman to win the world championship; this meant a lot for a woman judoka like me.

Facing the reality - The Tough Games We were all scheduled to fight on different days and each one of us got to face the reality of a Judo Competition at that level. We went with very high expectations, forgetting that we are new into this sport and we were going to compete against people who had been doing this for years. Luckily, three of our club members got medals: Tresor (one of our senior Congolese Judoka) – Silver, Ebrahim (9 years old South African) – Silver and Sean (11 years old Zimbabwean) – Bronze. These three made us feel proud to be in their club, as the competitions where not simple at all, they worked very hard to earn those medals.

When my day arrived to watch me, I couldn’t stop my body from shaking from fear and agitation. Seeing and recalling all the competitors in my category made me sweat even more. The worst happened and I ended up having to compete with extremely skilled black belts…few minutes and my experience was over! I felt disgraced and wanted to quit judo and everything felt useless at that moment.

The feeling lasted less than a few minutes as the wise words of Sensei Jane Bridge – reminded me that the journey in judo is long an made of testing times. I felt I could stand again!

Last and not the least came to my rescue the magnificent team I travelled with, making jokes at me and reminding me that after all a yellow belt MUST fall under black belts ;-)

Please don’t miss the contagious laughter of Sean

Drowning Our Sorrows and Celebrating our heroes

After all the tough matches, our team finally went to the beach for the whole day to enjoy. We played football, we swam, ran, fought (judo of course), took lots and lots of pictures and very funny videos of nearly all the activities that took place there. We even had Jean-Yves, a French Judoka along with us on the day and we all had lots of fun more so knowing that we had made a new friend in him, making friends is very important in our club, that's why we are together.

Tresor (DRC) and Ebrahim (SA). Our two Silver Medalists keeping up with Uchikomi on the Indian Ocean’s beach in Port Elizabeth

Thanks to all the Judo for the world Judoka who sacrificed their time coming with us to Port Elizabeth and making it happen with us. We have very talented people in our club and I believe that very soon we will have recognized champions in them. We came back to tell the story to those who didn’t make it and now we are working very hard for the next time, looking forward to bringing more medals at home.

See also