With the relaxation of lockdown as of Monday 12th April 2021, Judo, for those under 18 years of age, was permitted to go back indoors for full contact for up to 15 students per class. I teach 3 kids sessions up to the age of 12. It was such a joy to be back on the mat and doing proper Judo with them all! Not that I don’t think that we’ve done some valuable basics work on Zoom, we definitely have. Personally I enjoyed the challenge of having to be a bit creative with the content we could deliver online, I definitely noticed over the last month though, that I had exercised most of my main ideas.
Nothing beats real Judo however. From my point of view our first night back at Camberley Judo Club on Tuesday night was a reminder why I fell in love with the sport in the first place. The kids seemed to really enjoy themselves but I think that I had an even better time! For me, I’ve noticed over the years that the enjoyment of Judo, when training full time and coaching to support myself, it can, at times, feel like a ‘real job.’ It’s only over the last couple of years or so that I’ve realised that after a short break I normally fall in love with it all over again. From a coaching perspective that was very apparent to me on Tuesday evening.
It was so nice watching the kids enjoy themselves. I run a tight ship regarding the delivery of the sessions and the content but, we do always have at least a couple of games. Seeing them all laughing, together, as I was booting a foam football at them for our warm up dodgeball game was brilliant. I install quite a lot of nage-komi (throwing practise) in the classes and for me the best bit of it all was seeing how much they were enjoying doing the actual techniques again. Very satisfying.
I wrote a post at the start of this year discussing many of the attributes I believe kids and adults can develop by practising Judo, how important they can be as we all recover from over a full year of isolation. Discipline, respect, confidence, human connection, physical and mental wellbeing, all potentials just behind the door at a local Judo club. Seeing a small part of that full process on Tuesday evening was another real affirmer for me. I do, I really feel Judo all over the country has the opportunity to step up again as we start to come out of lockdown; many of the positives people of all ages are going to be screaming out for can be found on the Judo mat.
I do buy into the discussion about the importance of advertising and marketing in the modern age. I’m definitely NOT someone that would say that those clubs that charge £2 a class and run on a non profit basis should professionalise. I think people that give up their time for free are amazing, have been the backbone of Judo in the country for many, many years. However at the same time I do think that it is great seeing many more professionalised clubs. Along side Judo I have also practised some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. For me, like many, I’ve taken a lot from the way BJJ (and other martial arts) markets itself at all levels. I think the more appealing Judo can appear to a couple of key target areas could be vital:
1: Parents- I can’t confirm it but I have read before that 90% of all British Judo members are -12 years. Emphasising the elements of fun, respect, discipline and confidence I’d say are key in appealing to the parents; the people that will see and act upon the marketing campaign.
2: Adults- I think this is where the ‘sexing’ up of Judo could be really beneficial. I know of certain clubs that do this well and is something Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has utilised to their benefit. Judo is such a dynamic and entertaining sport to watch, I think that’s how it could be reflected in its marketing towards adults.
Ultimately what goes on on the mat is the most attractive thing. A lot of clubs that I know of have a great retention rate once they have people through the door. Not that I’m that clued up on it all but it appears to me that many Judo clubs under estimate what they deliver to people. My mum is a foster carer and takes the kids in her care to many different sport and activity clubs. If I had a pound for every time she’d said something along the lines of, “the kids weren’t as engaged or the sessions weren’t run as professionally as Judo” I’d be bloody rich. Judo offers such a brilliant and valuable service. For me in a time where we are bombarded with adverts at every online turn, it’s something I’d like to push even harder. I feel Judo has the potential to really flourish in this next transitional period. I think that it is important to let people know that their local clubs are out there.
Anyway, it’s great to be back on the mat and cracking on again.
Don’t forget to sign up to my FREE weekly newsletter, Judo’s Weekly Weigh In!