Judo for peace in South Africa..

IJF Press Release: Johannes van der Horst has been a judo coach for more than 15 years and has been practicing judo since 1974. Yet, despite the years and the constraints, he still has the fire and the desire to convey a message through his judo teaching. Three times a week, he takes care of his little club, Eersterivier Judo Club, on the outskirts of Cape Town, where about fifty children and young people, whose range in age from 5 to 20 years old, come to enjoy themselves on the tatami and learn the precepts of our sport. Of course, it is necessary to mount and dismount the tatami before and after each judo session because the small room is not only used for the practice of judo. As another piece of implacable evidence, all children do not have a judogi and even the coach, the sensei as they call him, does not have standard judo equipment. Nevertheless, the spirit that hovers over the perpetually transitional dojo, is undoubtedly very much in tune with the educational concepts of Jigoro Kano. No matter what the outfit is, as long as people have the spirit… and the spirit of judo is there, for sure!

If the way the judo training session is taking place and where it takes place are interesting, that is because it gives a good overview of the promising judo developments that can be held throughout the region and generally speaking in South Africa. It is not Kenny Rinquest, the Judo South Africa Development Director, who will say the contrary as he is planning to develop a project, based on Johannes’expertise, a project that will use judo in the nearby township of Macassar, where more than 220,000 to 250,000 people crowd together in a deprived area of ​​Cape Town, and where only six schools serve about 10,000 pupils.

Inevitable crucible of urban violence that plagues the whole society, the area is traversed by the turmoil of the social waves of a changing country, since the end of apartheid. Sports and judo in particular, can play a useful and necessary social “glue” role.

The work done by the IJF committees (i.e. “Judo for Peace” and “Judo for Children”) has as an objective to build a better society based on the educational values ​​of judo in areas experiencing social disorders. That’s why the sample in Macassar is really interesting to follow up in many ways. But what is primarily captivating is that throughout the country, at the initiative of Judo South Africa, there is a vast movement to use judo as an effective development tool.

Beginning in July 2011, a first “Judo for Peace” seminar was organized with great success in Cape Town and in early September 2011, a new “Tournament for Peace” took place in the city of Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape Province). The Nelson Mandela Bay Judo for Peace Tournament, hosted by Judo South Africa and Judo Eastern Cape Province, with the strong support of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, has achieved a great success, vividly illustrating the practical work undertaken by the Federation in the field.

Nearly 200 young people from 13 clubs in the city gathered along a beautiful spring day (southern hemisphere) for a sporting event where the friendly dimension prevailed. In Townships, where urban violence is unfortunately part of everyday life, the question that arises is basic: how to make children from different social-economic horizons harmoniously live together? For example, by giving them a judogi, by teaching them to respect our moral code and by teaching them how to enjoy practicing judo in a relaxed atmosphere, where only the intrinsic technical quality serves as a yardstick, are some of the concrete answers.

From 10:00 am to 7:00 pm in the New Brighton’s venue, Port Elizabeth, the matches were chained, as well as the victories and defeats of one another, but non a single protest was heard. Respect of the place, respect for the opponents, respect for referees were on the menu of the festivities, all in a warm atmosphere brought by an enthusiastic audience whose passion has only increased throughout the hours.

For months, even decades, judo has entered the South African Townships and helped people who are ravaged by unemployment and poverty. If the training conditions are sometimes harsh and unstable (unsafe rooms, no electricity – need to mount, dismount and secure the tatami – no judogi …), it is nevertheless true that the popularity of judo is increasing.

The most striking example is the one of that school in New Brighton (Port Elizabeth), where Sondisa deals with a group of young visually impaired children.

It is amazing to witness how the “difference” of these young kids totally disappears when they have got their judo uniform on. “Suddenly, they become like other children with the same desires, the same fears and anxieties, the same sadness, but also the same joys”, emphasized Mr. Temba Hlasho, President of Judo South Africa, who attended the tournament for peace. At this event, you should have seen the smiles brighten the faces of these young people as they came to offer a breathtaking demonstration to the hundreds of spectators and officials.

Judo was primarily created as an educational tool. It is not Sondisa and his young visually impaired students, who would contradict Jigoro Kano. It wouldn’t be the case of the non visually impaired children either, which were confronted to the blind judoka during the competition day. On the occasion of this great day of judo for peace, on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, one could learn respect and humility, mutual aid and prosperity, like a beautiful echo of the precepts of the founding master.

The day before the tournament, as Jan Eirik Schiotz (Judo for Peace Director) did in July, the IJF explained the Judo for Peace program to an audience of dignitaries and guests, to the press and to the potential beneficiaries of these programs as well. For two intense hours, where practical information and questions of all kinds mingled and intermingled, more than 60 people discovered for some, perfected their knowledge for others, concerning the IJF philosophy of action on the field.

For several years, the IJF has indeed been present through actions for the real benefits for the welfare of local people. Particularly active in Africa, the Judo for Peace Commission who now works hand in hand with the Judo for Children commission, makes every effort to enable young people to learn to live together. If Judo is a sport of opposition, it is the only sport where its own equipment is put at the service of his opponent to allow him/her to practice proper techniques.

This approach, which is totally specific to judo, now gives peaceful weapons to the IJF to solve neighborhood difficulties, to facilitate the crossing of borders and the breaking down of barriers of sectarianism and differences. The two-day event in Port Elizabeth as well as all the visits conducted by the IJF representative were perfect illustrations of that philosophy.

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