Judo for Children program launches in Miami

Miami – USA, August, 2013: The International Judo Federation’s highly-anticipated Judo for Children programme launched on Monday as delegates from 40 countries came together on International Youth Day at the Doral Legends Ballroom in Miami.

The programme launched with a seminar which featured a rich exchange of ideas, knowledge and case studies from the delegations who remained in America after taking part in the Cadet World Championships. While the sport looked in great hands as the best young judoka in the sport took part in the four-day competition, the seminar served to introduce the programme and provide information on implementation, marketing, funding and the IJF resources at the disposal of national judo federations.

Jose Humberto RODRIGUEZ, USA Judo Chief Executive Officer, said: “Thank you all for taking part in this competition. All of our staff work hard but your athletes work even harder to compete at this level. We’re very proud that the IJF has selected the USA as the location for the launch of the Judo for Children programme. We have been working from the top down and the bottom up to grow our sport in America. I wish everyone well for the future and wish you success on all fronts.”

Vladimir BARTA, IJF Head Sports Director, said: “Welcome everyone to the launch of the Judo for Children programme. I think the Cadet World Championships were a big success and I’m delighted to see so many of you here today for this important seminar. On behalf of VIZER, IJF President, I would like to open the seminar.”

Judo for Children’s inaugural seminar was led by Nicolas MESSNER, IJF Media and Communications Director, who has spearheaded programmes in Africa such as Judo for Peace, and Mr. Ruben HOUKES, IJF Judo for Children Commissioner and Olympic bronze medallist.

The seminar opened with MESSNER making a thought-provoking presentation which outlined the modern values of the sport.

“The IJF mission is to use the power of judo to develop more education, to develop a better society, more judoka and increase the visibility of the sport while attaining more income,” he said. “Judo is more than a sport it is an education tool and it is crucial to have the culture of results.”

HOUKES introduced the Judo for Children programme and discussed his own programme, schooljudo.nl, which he launched in 2005 with fellow Judo For Children Commissioner and compatriot Ziggy Tabacznik.

“The IJF Judo for Children Comission started in 2011. We are here to support countries. We have to think from the children. I see trainers thinking from the sport. Give children tools during session and make it fun to ensure they want more.

“In 2005 we believed that our schooljudo.nl programme needed the same format and message. We didn’t believe we were promoting judo sessions but rather we were going to teach skills for life. We have developed a strong network of judo clubs. Many clubs don’t have time and energy to organise a programme on a local level. We needed a central organisation and local participation to manage the things the clubs don’t have time for.

“We were looking for judo clubs near schools so the sport was accessible. A lot of clubs are not near schools so we bought our own mats. We wanted media coverage, I wanted schools to be talking to each other about it, to see it in the papers and television. Each local situation was a building block.

“The ideal programme we structured involved three phases. Phase one would be six weeks of training at a school but this would be based on fundamentals and enjoyment and not techniques such as osoto-gari. Phase two would be a judo festival with 200-400 children and the whole neighbourhood hosted by myself. We would invite parents and the media and they could have pictures and touch my Olympic medal and I’d talk about my experiences. Phase three would be another six weeks of training with the emphasis on judo techniques and from there we would encourage the children to continue judo in a club environment. Every school had its own cluster of hours. We were preparing the children to become club members and that was helped by extended face-to-face contact with the coaches who were leading the school sessions.

“We had to cooperate with existing popular sports organisations with five to six schools (two groups) simultaneously in one neighbourhood. There had to be a connection between the club and the community. Judo comes to life in neighbourhood.”

In 2013 the programme won the Sportiviteit Prijs Best Grassroots Programme award which was decided by a public vote and panel. There are now 400 schools involved and it’s the largest programme of its kind in the Netherlands. There are 400 projects a year with a minimum of six weeks training for 25,000 children.

The impressive results show that 10 percent of participants join a local judo club and helped to attract Zilver Kruis Achmea, a leading health insurance company, as the premier sponsor. The programme has received a significant amount of media coverage with an equivalent advertising value of 150.000 euros.

“Schooljudo needed to be a recognisable brand, we needed a clear message and a lot of media coverage,” added the 2007 world champion. “Benefits must be clear for all stakeholders such as the school, partners, children, sponsors and media. We positioned the programme as skills for like and had a spokesperson and ambassadors from outside the sport.”

Nicolas MESSNER explained what field activities the IJF has been working on and how the organisation can work with countries to develop the sport and their society.

“After the 2012 Qingdao Grand Prix we started a programme, a judo journey through China, to visit eight cities over the next two years. We held a demonstration, a judo clinic and a conference as well as a meeting with champions. Working with the Olympic Solidarity Commission we want to promote the 2014 Youth Games which will take place in Nanjing and the Chinese team. There are less than 30,000 people doing judo in China so we aim to develop a schools programme which is based on education and with Judo for Children we have the tools to develop such a grassroots programme.

“After the Baku Grand Slam we visited the Azerbaijan countryside and held judo clinics in three different locations to reach 250 children.

“Prior to Miami Grand Prix in June we held demonstrations and clinics in the Miami suburbs with USA athletes such as Olympic bronze medallist Marti Malloy, Olympic champion Kayla Harrison, Travis Stevens and Paralympic silver medallist Myles Porter. It is important to create the opportunity for children to meet champions and for champions to meet children and establish a link.

“After the Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix in Mongolia we travelled 1,000km across the countryside to visit clubs, donate judogi and organise a meeting with champions. We were talking about pleasure, entertainment and fun. We want to have happy children enjoying the sport.

“In France there was has been three editions of the ‘Pyramid of Judogi’ where judoka of all levels and from all around the world donate their judogi for us to send to countries such as Haiti, Brazil and right across the continent of Africa. More than 1,000 judogi have been donated so far.

“Since 2010 the IJF has supported Chad’s N’Djamena tournament. The IJF has supported educational activities in the capital and the countryside and has held media and communication seminars as well as training clinics for coaches.

“Following IJF support, Chad has developed their own idea. A judo tour bus which is travelling the country and involves 25 judoka (10 children) six referees and four officials. They have had 8,000 spectators across visits to four provinces and new clubs have been formed as a result. In 2006 there were three clubs and 80 judoka. In 2013 there is now 18 clubs and 1,500 judoka. Chad also received an invitation to compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games and the educational support has also led to new classrooms being opened in schools.”

“In 2012 the IJF signed a memorandum of understanding with United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace to use the sport as a development tool to help achieve the United Nations’ millennium goals which includes eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, promoting gender quality and empowering women.”

Bukhbat MASHBAT, Mongolian Judo Federation General Secretary, shared his experiences of promoting the sport to children and the challenges the country faces.

“We had our first Olympic champion in 2008 when Tuvshinbayar Naidan won in Beijing,” he said.

“We want high level judoka to be involved as heroes and to help bring judo to children. We organise many tournaments in provinces and children are asking where they can train but we don’t always have clubs or coaches. We work with the Minsitry of Sport but most people are not familiar with judo and they are former wrestlers or traditional wrestlers. We need to educate coaches at the grassroots level. Judo can be anywhere. Children like to fight, they like to wrestle and we want to modernise that idea into judo in Mongolia.

“We asked the IJF for support and Nicolas Messner came to see the reality because without seeing for yourself you don’t have a true understanding of what is happening. Judo is not just a sport, it is very much an educational tool and we wish to cooperate with the IJF to bring judo to the next level for all ages.

“We can not only concentrate on high level judo and encouraging athletes to compete. With communication we can show that judo is not just about medals and competitions. Judo is for life and humanity and unites people.

“Before the 2008 Olympics there was a political election and there were incidents with misunderstandings between parties. Then we won gold in Beijing and everyone was united. Judo has the power to do that. This aspect we should continue to promote so that people understand and will have mutual respect for each other.

“From today we aim to translate promotional materials and we have started to work with Ministry of Sport and given away licences to young people. Crossing our country with a lack of highways takes time and the distance between locations is one of our main problems but it is critical to the sport and our goals which we are very committed to.”

After the seminar concluded, HOUKES, said: “Today was the starting point for the programme with the first seminar and interaction with many countries. There was a lot of good ideas in the room and a great deal of interest and passion. The next seminar will likely be an active mat-based session and until then I look forward to hearing details of projects from countries all around the world.

“The IJF Judo for Children Commission is here to work with national federations and we encourage you to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences as we begin this collaboration to touch as many young lives as we can with the gift of judo.” —- IJF

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