Extending our understanding of the power of judo beyond its sporting assets is not a new concept. It is widely acknowledged that the moral code of judo, the judo values, underpinned the core philosophies of Jigoro Kano Shihan’s unique work, at the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century.

These values have stood the test of time and are certainly discussed at length at an academic level, a club level and an international sporting level, but what are the specific practical implications of exploring the bond between our sport and its philosophies; how can the values be harnessed in their purest forms for the betterment of our sport’s participants and judo’s wider communities beyond the tatami?

On 8th May 2024 the British Judo Association launched step one, a day named ‘Revealing the Secrets of Judo.’ The day’s summary said, “A pivotal occasion to articulate the benefits of judo and how it can be used to solve the challenges faced by communities in engaging with activity.”

New recruits, new activities. Photo courtesy of the British Judo Association.

British Judo’s Development Director, Karen Roberts, 7th Dan, has been examining the relationship between judo’s educational heart, its physical implementation and the way communities can be built or transformed through sport, specifically judo. The event of 8th May was the most efficient way to deliver the aims and outcomes of this work and look at both the current situation and the future potential of such a project.

Four programmes were highlighted by Karen and a team of practitioners, each with specific areas of expertise and experience:

Judo in Schools - “Showcasing judo as an alternative physical activity that improves behaviour, concentration and physical literacy. Discussing the practical application of sessions with school equipment and facilities.”

Finding Your Feet - “Showcasing the secret of ukemi (breakfall) techniques taught in our very first lesson of judo to assist with safer falling.”

'Finding Your Feet' - Photo courtesy of the British Judo Association.

Adaptive Judo - “Although only visually impaired judo has the Paralympic platform, adaptive judo extends to include intellectual and physical disability. Coaches, clubs and participants told their stories of how judo has provided an inclusive environment for physical activity.”

Judo Activators - “This programme has been designed for those without experience of judo to deliver sessions. The pilot has been devised initially for teachers, with the desire to expand their teaching base.”

All adaptive and visually impaired judoka can enjoy specific programmes. Photo courtesy of the British Judo Association.

At the end of the day Karen Roberts said, “What I hoped: we would share the benefits of judo with an audience with no knowledge of judo, showing that the Olympic and Paralympic stage is fantastic but it’s only a tip of an iceberg! Judo was designed as an education system and we need to celebrate and showcase this to the same extent.

What we achieved: everyone in the room left with a better understanding of the true capability of judo, this is just the start! We want to achieve the objective of Kano-contribution to our community and to do that we need to continue to build from this event to raise the awareness of judo as an education system throughout Great Britain."

Nick Shepherd, BJA Lead Club Support Officer, also offered his thoughts, "The Revealing the Secrets day allowed us to be the main topic of conversation with our partners. So often we try to find a way to fit our sport into our partners’ agenda but this event turned the tables and gave those in attendance an opportunity to find out how judo, with all its advantages, could work for them.

This event enabled us to showcase judo to our partners and stakeholders, highlighting all the benefits that go beyond judo just being a form of physical activity. We provided case studies of projects we’re currently delivering or have already delivered and presentations explaining the engagement products British Judo are currently developing and implementing, as well as exhibiting the benefits of Judo in Schools as an intervention for challenging behaviour and concentration issues. We also looked at the power of adaptive judo for participants with disabilities and their families.

As a team, we’re passionate about sharing what judo has to offer and the positive impact it can have on society.” Nick’s passion was not wasted on the attendees either as feedback following the event noted that, “Judo is a sport for all and can involve the whole community. Inclusive is the word; so many benefits! Inspiring stories encourage different thinking.”

Photo courtesy of the British Judo Association.

Judo’s benefits beyond the tatami have never been in doubt but what has been missing, for the British judo community, is a way to bring those secrets to communities beyond the dojo, showing that part of judo can be useful even for those not practising in a judogi. The Finding Your Feet programme, for example, has already been tested and has been shown to have a positive impact on older populations, encouraging balance, confidence and resilience. This is not a judo-related goal, but a clear life goal for many older people, to live more confidently by employing movement more readily in their daily lives.

See also