After spending new year in Cairns with my friend Xavier Barker (mentioned in the last article) and making new friends, I ventured to the city of Innisfail. This small town, with a population of 7,000, hosts an equal number of foreigners working in banana farms.
Paul welcomed me, the teacher of Innisfail Judo Club and owner of a farm. Some of his workers were Abe san and Ryota san, Japanese judoka who came here looking for work opportunities and to learn English. I stayed at their place for quite a long time as it was still a holiday there.
In Paul's dojo I discovered a delightful surprise. On the wall there was a picture of Thomas Pesquet, the French astronaut, in space with Judoroo Junior, a mascot that travelled with him in the International Space Station. The little kangaroo was found during the Judo Educational Journey through Australia organised by the International Judo Federation and sent to Thomas. Seeing that image was like closing the loop.
Then Paul's club offered to fund my transportation to the next city, Mackay. There, I met Bella, the daughter of Rob, a newly graded shodan and teacher at Mackay Judo Club. I stayed with Rob and Bella for ten days before Bella drove me to Brisbane, just a 12-hour drive away. Today the club faces some challenges and is seeking solutions to attract new members. I've offered some suggestions and explored potential collaboration for the future.
Ari, another teacher at the club, is a towering 2-meter Australian with great enthusiasm to help the club regain its former glory. Together with Rob and Wayne (the main coach), they are putting significant effort into revitalising the club.
After Mackay, I traveled with Bella to Brisbane, the future 2032 Olympic city. Brisbane is already gearing up for the event with constructions visible throughout the city. Staying with Bella at Shin Gi Tai Judo club for the next ten days, I met Jeremy Cade, the owner of the dojo. Jeremy has built a space that resembles a shared dream – a dojo, a small gym, a kitchen, an office, sleeping quarters, and even a play area for children after classes! In the future, he plans to establish a full dormitory and a medical care facility. I visited several dojos in the city, as Jeremy knows them all. His own dojo is a melting pot of fascinating people. Many have supported the project by contributing through the 'Buy Me a Coffee' strategy, making me more secure about the future.
Next, I visited the Brisbane Judo Club, led by Paul Nelson, an IJF Coach and 6th dan judoka. The training was insightful; the pedagogical approach was very interesting to understand breakfalls for beginners. Then it was time on Saturday morning to meet the biggest club in Brisbane, the Ohori Judo Club.
I arrived in the club probably on the warmest day I’ve had so far in Australia with 37° outside, probably 40 in the dojo. Some of the coaches are also coaches in the national team, so I hope I’ll be able to meet them again soon. This club has a long family story as Stewart Brain, Cathy Grainer-Brain and their parents have participated in many Olympic Games from 1960 to 1996. They are part of the history of their country; I was happy to meet them.
I concluded this busy month with MTG Judo and Bulimba Judo. In both clubs I was really warmly welcomed and it was nice to talk with some French mates. To innovate in order to ensure the project's longevity, after each session I started asking participants to fill out a satisfaction survey. The positive reviews are encouraging and at the end of the survey I invite people to participate in the 'Buy Me a Coffee' strategy with a contribution of $1 per month. This approach seems promising and could be a key factor in the project's sustainability.
Entering Oceania was stressful due to the high costs but I was pleasantly surprised by the warm reception from the clubs. I'm currently writing to you from Fiji but that's a story for the next article! There's much to share about the incredible individuals I've met here in Oceania so far; these judo enthusiasts are doing their best to promote judo and it's not an easy task.
Until next time, judo enthusiasts! Next, we'll be heading to Fiji and Vanuatu!