Joys of Judo - more than just a sport

What a fantastic Games! And for those suffering from post-Olympic blues, now is the perfect time to consider what activities to take up this rentrée.
And, argues Megan Bright, judo – France’s second most played sport – has given her daughter far more than increased fitness levels.
It all began in the summer of 2004 which was rather wet meaning the children watched a lot of Olympics. Since, having moved to France only twelve months previously, we only had French television at the time (to accelerate French learning) they saw a lot of judo which is incredibly popular in France.

Come September, when children and adults alike sign up for their chosen activities, my two donned their brand new kimonos and enrolled at the local judo club. Judo can’t help but appeal to little ones as it is basically fighting! 
But, parents take heart, it is carefully choreographed, disciplined and skilful fighting and judo is essentially a defensive, rather than attack-based, martial art.

Eight years on from those 2004 Games, my daughter has switched her passion to theatre but not before becoming a judo black belt, a qualified competition referee and helping run the holiday judo club for baby judokas.

Judo has given her confidence, discipline, a refuge from bad school days, the ability to mix with adults, trips abroad to judo competitions, skills to add to  her cv and, of course, the means to look after herself should the need arise.

She fell in love with judo on day one. But it was quickly more than the intense physical training and work on the mat. She was quickly entranced by the strict code of conduct based on Japanese rituals of respect and which she soon adapted as a lesson for life. This is one of the reasons that martial arts are also a great discipline for children with attitude or behavioural problems.  

In addition – and this goes for any out of school activities – she made a new group of friends, people from all walks of life and all ages and well away from the politics and tyrannies of the school playground. At times when school was difficult – in quatrième she got in with a nasty group of girls and was bullied from time to time – she lived for her judo training on Friday evenings to wash away the tribulations of the week.

As she progressed through the belts and started throwing and being thrown by full grown adults at regional competitions, I often watched in terror but a judoka knows how to fall – it’s almost the first thing you learn. 

In the Easter holidays, the club set off in a convoy of cars to international competitions where they slept on the judo mats overnight and mixed with fellow judokas from all over the world and her language skills were much appreciated. She joined the club committee and helped organise the trips as well as the fund raising events which paid for them.

Training and then working as an arbitre – referee, the ones who stand on the mat enforcing the rules and proclaiming the ippons and wasaris – gave her enormous confidence (as well as being paid work!) so that by the time it came to university interviews and bac orals she was entirely confident at meeting and conversing with adults.

And, of course, as she grows increasingly independent and sets out on her adult life, it’s a comfort to know that she can fling anyone who gets in her way onto the floor!

If you want to take up judo:

Make sure that the club you join is affiliated to the national judo federation - – this ensures that the teacher is properly accredited and that judokas are licensed to take part in competitions as well as receive their belts.
A year’s judo classes should cost around 100-150€, which you can generally pay in thee instalments.
Children’s kimonos are inexpensive, around 10 – 15€ from the larger sports chains.

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