Six Teams, 40 Judoka, and a Wealth of Medals: Scotland's Success in Walsall

Team Scotland entered this event knowing that we hadn’t stood on the top of the podium since 2019, with all six teams determined to make history.

As the JudoScotland supporters club began to chant and their clappers echoed through the University of Wolverhampton sports hall, the Junior and Cadet boys’ and girls’ teams kicked off the event.

It began in epic fashion with a thrilling match-up against current title holders London. In an action packed contest, the boys’ team emerged victorious with a 4-3 win.

Unfortunately, the girls’ team faced tough competition and ended with a 1-4 result. However, the girls bounced back in style with a stunning 5-0 victory over the North West, with the first three bouts ending in ippon in under 30 seconds. This saw them advance safely through the pool stage and into the knockout.

The Junior Boys line up

The matches were coming thick and fast, next to the mat were the pre-cadet boys who after losing 5-2 in their first match, won 6-1 against the North West with some brilliant judo on display.

The pre-cadet boys regroup with their coach Alberto Borin.

After their opening victory, the junior boys were on an almighty high as they cruised past the West 7-0 and beat Wales 6-1, securing their place at the top of the pool and advancing into the knockout stages.

The senior men were up next, with the welcome late addition of Stuart McWatt, once again starting against London. In a hotly contested match, which included some crucial referee decisions, they narrowly lost 3-2, showcasing impressive throws throughout. However, they quickly bounced back with an impressive 4-1 victory over the North and another 4-1 win against the Midlands, achieving numerous ippons along the way.

The pre-cadet girls introduced themselves to the championships in style – three 4-1 victories against the South, Wales and the Midlands area saw them through the semis, finishing the tournament with a bronze after losing out to the North West 3-2 in a nail biting affair.

The pre-cadet girls make their way to the mat,

The pre-cadets’ match against the West provided one of the highlights of the day. A decisive ippon from Kieran Carson secured a thrilling 4-3 victory for the Scots, propelling them into the semi-finals. There, they came agonisingly close to repeating the scoreline but fell just short, losing to the South.

Unfortunately for the senior women, a depleted squad saw them exit in the group stages, despite their utmost effort and some members of the team moving up categories to eek out a win. 

The senior men faced an uphill battle for the rest of the competition, starting each match 1-0 down. Despite this, they showcased impressive ippons and techniques throughout. They narrowly missed out in the semi-final, losing 3-2 to the eventual winners, the South.

The senior men line up for the semi final.

So with three semi-final defeats, all hopes of dispelling the 2019 blues rested on the young shoulders of the cadet/junior boys. Before they could envision the final, they had to overcome the North West. Our young Scots showed no sign of nerves as they rose to the occasion, securing a commanding 6-1 victory and booking their spot in the final, where they would face London once more.

As the semifinals concluded across the mats, one final match remained in focus: the junior/cadet final. As with every previous match, Coen Gilbert led the charge in the -50 category, the sportif youngster remained calm and composed, eventually winning by Ippon with just 23 seconds left on the timer.

Next up, Joe Buchanan, whose dad John had won the same competition 10 years to the very day. Took to the mat in style and won by a beautiful Ashi Waza to double Scotland’s lead.

Joe Buchanan celebrates.

The entire Scottish contingent, including every team member, staff, and parents, cheered loudly as Vasily Menshykov stepped up next. Unfortunately, despite leading with wazari for the majority of the match, he was ultimately defeated by ippon.

Sol Savoury stepped onto the mat with a calm confidence, fully aware that a defeat would level the scores at 2-2. His performance betrayed no hint of doubt. With an unwavering focus on his opponent, he swiftly secured victory via ippon, restoring Scotland’s lead by two points.

Sal Savoury savours the moment.

With the score now 3-1 and only three contests remaining, Eden Heffernan stepped onto the mat knowing that a victory would secure the win for Scotland. The tension was palpable as everyone watched with bated breath, especially as the match headed into golden score. This was Eden’s second bout against his opponent, having lost to him in the group stages.

Eden Heffernan bows pre fight.

Eden’s determination to correct his earlier loss was evident as he executed a flawless Uchi mata, clinching the trophy for Scotland. The hall erupted in cheers as soon as the throw was complete— the young Scots secured gold.

Arad Rad and Kevin Gordon were still to fight though came off second best to two top opponents.

Eden seals victory for Scotland.

In a day filled with remarkable displays of judo and intense rivalry, the Scottish contingent delivered an unforgettable performance. From the last gasp victories to the moments of resilience and pure determination, each judoka showcased their commitment to their craft and country.

Saturday culminated in the junior boys standing proudly atop the podium, creating their own piece of Scottish judo history.

News From the Chair

Hi all 

I hope by the time you’re reading this you’re enjoying – or looking forward to –  a well-deserved break.   

For me, the month started on 1st June when I caught up with Neil and Niki Adams.   Neil is an MBE, 9th Dan, ambassador for the JudoScotland Coaching Academy, technical expert and referee supervisor for the IJF.    He was in Ratho to deliver a very well attended course on competition rules.  I know Neil and Niki well, having been in the same team as Neil on several occasions and having kept in touch over the years.   An absolute superstar, and, as ever, thanks Neil for your support.  

National High Performance Coach, Euan Burton, was running a training workshop for the U23 Squad the same weekend. I sat in with the players during the sport psychologist, James Austin’s session.    Many of you will remember him as a fine GB Judoka. It was all about controlling your nerves before matches, how to build this into your preparation and how to cope in a competitive and productive way to enhance your chances of winning a match. I found it absolutely fascinating – definitely something I would have valued as a player back in the day. I’d highly recommend the session if you get the opportunity, and thanks to Euan for the invite. 

It’s really important as an organisation we continue to upskill and evolve.  And, on 4th June JudoScotland Staff and Board members got together to take part in a course covering ‘Low Level Concerns’. I’d previously been on the same course earlier in the year and, again, found it invaluable. I hope that the team derived as much benefit as I did.   

On 18th June, Judith and I were invited to the British Judo Board of Directors meeting in Walsall.   It’s really important that we have a joined up pathway if all our Home Nations are to move forward successfully. I’d like to thank the Chair, Gerry Gualtieri and CEO, Andrew Scoular for their continued hospitality.     

And on that theme, on 19th June I caught up with Shohei Ono in the Royal Mile where we kitted him out in full Scottish regalia as we prepare to launch JudoScotland’s own kilt. It is fantastic for us to have such a high-profile player in our ranks, and our thanks go to Shohei for supporting our brand and Scottish judo in general.   

We finished by going for a nice brunch and catch up.  Again, it’s important that we make our international guests feel at home and welcome in Scotland. Hopefully, he will always talk highly of his time and experience here and encourage more colleagues to come. 

On 25th June we had our Board meeting. The one topic I want to highlight is a substantial piece of work to upgrade the grading process and product… this space for more info. 

The next time we catch up, the Olympics will have come and gone.  Judith and I will be there representing Scotland on a split shift – I’ll be there first for a few days, followed by Judith.  It’s really important that Scotland is at the top table, networking, forming relationships and maintaining the strong links that we already have with the IJF. I’ll give you an update on this in my next Chair’s Report and good luck to all of the GB team who are competing.   

At the time of writing, JudoScotland’s teams are preparing for the National Teams Championship at which there will be a strong JudoScotland contingence of supporters to cheer them on – best of luck to everyone who has been selected to represent their country. 

And finally, I wish every one of you a fantastic summer. 

 Marc Preston

6th Dan

Blog: Kirsty Wilson on refereeing

In her own words, Kirsty Wilson reflects on her unexpected journey from judo competitor to referee, highlighting the personal and competitive benefits of officiating in judo.

My judo journey began when I was just three years old. Little did my parents or I know that 13 years later I would be so involved in the sport (much to my dad’s annoyance as I make him drive me across the country every other weekend)! I don’t think I can explain exactly why I like judo. It’s probably the people. Judo isn’t a team sport, but I think it’s still so close-knit as a sport, as well as in individual clubs; I truly believe that there is a real team spirit to it.  

In October of 2022, one of my club coaches mentioned a refereeing course and suggested I should go along. At this point, I had only been competing for a matter of months and to be honest, I knew nothing about the rules. I knew I couldn’t go out the mat area, I couldn’t armlock or strangle and that I was only to stop if the referee called matte. So, I went along to the course mainly to learn some more rules. I had no great intentions or desire to become a referee. For starters, I didn’t have nearly enough confidence for that. I sat the course and fulfilled my aim of learning some rules. I also participated in a multiple choice test about different scenarios that had been spoken about during the day (this was the part where my avid love of notes came in handy)! I was graded there and then and whilst I can’t remember what the pass rate for an area referee was, I do remember that I got one mark over whatever it was. I was off to a shaky start when it came to refereeing.   

My start got shakier when I had to go out into the middle of the mat. I mean, what if I got it wrong, the world would fall apart! I have later found peace with getting it wrong because I have realised that if you do, they just tell you and you change it.   

I can safely say now that my first few events weren’t great; as soon as one thing went wrong, it would set me askew for the rest of the fights. I also had a habit of just looking a bit scared, because I was. But I still went out, once every couple of months and did some refereeing.   

The more practice I had, the better I got and my confidence began to grow. If you told me a year and a half ago that I’d end up refereeing as much as I do and enjoying it, I would be gob-smacked, I think I would have keeled over if I knew I’d end up getting the young referee award last year. And now I’m being told by the people higher up than me that I should be pushing to get a national C qualification!

Refereeing has massively improved my confidence, in and out of judo. It’s helped my competitive judo because I now understand fully what I can and can’t do in a contest.  

I’m so lucky that at every competition I have been able to split my time between refereeing and competing. The other referees have been nothing but supportive of me leaving the mat to compete. It is often them telling me “Kirsty you need to leave now because you are on in an hour and a half!”. 

I think it is important that other young people know that it doesn’t have to be one or the other when it comes to refereeing and competing. I think a lot of people believe that all the referees started when they either become too old to compete, had injuries or had just never done it in the first place. I can understand why one might think that because in most cases that is true. So, I hope I can be proof to those who want to start refereeing that it is possible to successfully referee and compete. 

I think there is a significant issue with young referees, in that there aren’t enough of them. I don’t know of many other referees who are similar in age to me. There certainly aren’t any regularly attending events in Scotland.

However, there is a fine line that needs to be danced on to fix this problem. One of the good things when I did my qualification was that it was pretty much just me doing it at the time. This meant that I could attend every event to gain experience. Recently I think there was a really large group of people who sat a course and became trainees. We need to work to ensure that this continues in the next few years and that the system in place can withstand having larger volumes of people put through so is enough practical practice time for new referees. Truthfully, I don’t know what the answer is, but I do think that there is a massive need for younger referees. Ultimately, competitions can’t happen without the officials and the referees. And if the cycle doesn’t have more referees put into it then it will grind to a halt. 

People make judo happen and people make it what it is, right the way from the very top of the chart down to little girls and boys like me starting judo at three. 

JudoScotland Teams Up with FabLittleBag to advance Period Support!

JudoScotland Teams Up with FabLittleBag to advance Period Support!

JudoScotland is thrilled to announce an exciting new partnership with FabLittleBag, aimed at breaking the stigma around periods and providing the female judo community with easy access to free period products.

Research consistently shows that periods significantly impact girls’ participation in sports, with alarming drop-off rates in the early teenage years. Periods are frequently cited as a major reason for girls becoming inactive or leaving sports altogether. We are determined to change this narrative.

Through our partnership, every stage of JudoScotland’s talent pathway will be equipped with a FabLittleBag ‘Coaches Bag,’ ensuring athletes have convenient, free access to period products during training and trips. Additionally, we pledge that all our events will be ‘Period Supportive,’ with the provision of products for all athletes.

JudoScotland is also pleased to share that we will offer each affiliated club a Coaches Bag so that members of the judo community across Scotland will have a provision of free period products in their local club (full details below).

We believe this initiative will set a new standard nationwide, making it a priority to create inclusive environments for female judo athletes. We also hope this move fosters greater awareness and education on how periods affect female athletes, and how we can better support them.

Martha Silcott, CEO & Founder of FabLittleBag, commented on the partnership: “We are excited to welcome JudoScotland to our Period Supportive Movement. They are committed to ensuring that their events and performance pathways will positively address period challenges by providing our Coach’s Bags containing free period products and FabLittleBags for easy confident disposal. Leading the way for all their clubs to become more inclusive and welcoming to women and girls ensuring that clubs have our Coach’s Bags which mean that periods are no longer a barrier to participation in Scottish judo clubs.”

Judith McCLeary, CEO of JudoScotland, is equally passionate about the signal that the partnership represents for our female community: “We’re thrilled about our partnership with FabLittleBag and the introduction of free period products for female athletes nationwide. This initiative is all about breaking down barriers and reinforcing our commitment to making judo an inclusive and welcoming sport for women and girls. No judoka should ever feel compelled to leave the sport because of their period. This is a significant step forward as we continue to expand our support for the females in our judo community, and we couldn’t be more excited about the positive impact it will have.”

Join us in championing this cause and making sports more inclusive for all!

Registration Information for Clubs

Alongside the ‘Coaches Bag’, each club that registers will receive an Information Booklet outlining some further resources that can be used by coaches and clubs.

click here to register for your club’s FabLittleBag Coaches Bag

News From the Chair

Hi all,

It was fantastic to have 4 Scots announced in the GB Team for the forthcoming European Cadet Championships; our congratulations to Eva Ewing (Whitburn), Coen Gilbert (Sportif), Jack Macleod (Gairoch) and Kevin Gordon (Hibari-kan) who are busy with their preparations ahead of travelling to Bulgaria later in June.

Our Senpai Programme (Young Leaders) had a residential at sportscotland Inverclyde over the weekend of 12-13 May with several workshops delivered by Scottish Sports Futures and coordinated by our Club Support Officer Sam. We are excited to see this programme evolve as we strive to be more youth-shaped and see young people taking more of a lead within clubs.

On 19th May Ultimate Judo hosted a masterclass by Michihiro Omigawa, a distinguished former member of the Japanese National Judo team and former UFC star.   It made me reflect that it’s incredible for a small country like ours to be able to attract such international talent – think Shohei Ono and Yoshihiko Iura!

On 25th May the Granite City Grand Prix was hosted by Aboyne in Aberdeen with the support of JudoScotland.  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who competed in the event and subsequently provided us with constructive feedback which will be reviewed within event briefings.

On the 29th I had a meeting with British Judo to discuss their forthcoming Board meeting up in Scotland.  They intend to coincide with The Gathering so they can celebrate the vibe here in Scottish judo.  It’ll also be Graham Campbell’s final session before he steps down from his role on the JudoScotland Board.

Also on the 29th, I went along to the Talent Development session to see all the new, rising stars on the mat.  The training was hard and upbeat and I observed quite a few highly talented young judoka.  My thanks go to Gary Edwards for his hospitality.   The next day  I went to the High Performance programme where Euan Burton was putting the squad through their paces.  I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the video analysis session and was impressed at their hard work and commitment.

Marc Preston
6th Dan 

Join the JudoScotland Supporters Club for the British Teams

Heading to the British Teams in July?

Why not check out our JudoScotland Supporters Club package! Let us sort the travel and accommodation, and join our very own tartan army.

Package Includes:

  • Accommodation:
    • Twin Room (sharing)
    • Single Occupancy Room
  • Travel:
    • Departure: 12:30 PM on Friday, 5th July
    • Return: Saturday, 6th July straight after the event
    • Pick-Up Points: EICA, Ratho. There may be an East and West pick-up point, please indicate your preference.
  • Supporters Pack:
    • An exclusive JudoScotland T-shirt
    • JudoScotland Clappers
    • Snacks & Water


  • For travel, supporters pack and accommodation: Twin Room (sharing): £120.00 per person or Single Occupancy Room £165 (Breakfast included)
  • For accommodation only: Twin Room (shared) £55pp Single Occupancy Room £110
  • For travel only: £45
  • JudoScotland Supporters Pack: £20

We are planning an optional evening meal in Birmingham as a group. Please note that this is not included in the package, and details will be finalised nearer the time.

Additional Information:

  • This trip promises to be a memorable experience as we rally behind our national team. If you wish to travel with JudoScotland and be a part of this supporter’s group, please reply no later than Thusrday, 6th June.
  • A deposit of £20.00 is also due by Thursday, 6th June.

Contact us at 0131 333 2981.

Important: Joining the JudoScotland Supporters Club gives you access to travel, accommodation, and a supporters pack, but it’s completely optional. You can choose to participate in travel, accommodation, or both, based on your preference.

Membership Benefits:

  • Travel with Us: Join our group for travel to and from Walsall.
  • Accommodation Options: Stay with us overnight before the event, but it’s completely optional.
  • Flexible Participation: Be a part of our community and enjoy the events you choose.

Join Today! Whether you want to travel, stay, or simply support us from home, there’s a place for you in our club.

If you’re interested in signing up or would like to learn more get in touch by email or phone us on 0131 333 2981

Reanne Wylie wins Community Coach of the Year

JudoScotland’s Chief Executive Officer, Judith McCleary, travelled to Orkney to present our Community Coach of the Year award to Orkney Judo Club’s Reanne Wylie.

Reanne, who has been coaching at her club for five years, was delighted to receive the award: “I’m amazed and delighted to have won the Community Coach of the Year award. I am very proud of my club and everyone that is part of it, especially being part of a remote island community. I would like to thank those who voted for me, coaches who have and still do help in developing both my judo and coaching skills & knowledge and the amazing people I get to work with every week.

Reanne is an excellent example of how a coach adjusts their teaching style to meet the needs of the students by providing guidance to all judoka in her community. She embodies the spirit of judo, playing a pivotal role in her club’s growth and development. Reanne’s dedication extends beyond coaching; she leads a parent-led fundraising group, manages the club’s finances, and ensures compliance with child protection and safety regulations.

Judith, who was welcomed at Orkney Judo Club said: “One of my highlights at work is to get out and about in the judo community and it doesn’t get much better than visiting Orkney Judo Club on a beautiful sunny weekend! Reanne epitomises the array of skills that great coaches have. Through a chat with Reanne, she was sharing her own self learning ambitions that allude to Jigoro Kano’s philosophy of striving to perfect oneself in order to contribute to society. Well, Reanne is most certainly making a positive impact in her local community and is a deserved winner of the national Community Coach of the Year award”.

She has been instrumental in growing the club, first as a senior member, then as an assistant coach undertaking the Level 1 coaching course, followed by Level 2. Her involvement in the JudoScotland Coaching Academy has enhanced her coaching skills, benefiting both young and adult judoka. All of these efforts help her provide a calm and friendly environment for students to learn and enjoy the art of judo.

Reanne’s commitment to her club is further demonstrated by her initiatives, such as establishing a womens-only session and a technical squad for competitors, as well as her efforts in designing the club kit. The club has also recently set up an additional weekly judo session for under 8’s with a fantastic uptake. Starting judo as an adult, Reanne has become an invaluable asset to her island community, sharing her knowledge selflessly and fostering a supportive environment for all students.

JudoScotland's Call to Action: PVG Fee Consultation

JudoScotland is concerned that the changes proposed by the Scottish Government could have a significant detrimental impact on the safe delivery of judo in Scotland, and that the financial impact on volunteers and judo clubs will create an additional barrier at a time when volunteers have never been needed more. We strongly encourage as many people as possible to contribute their views.

The Scottish Government has opened a consultation and is seeking views on a new fee structure for the different types of disclosure under The Disclosure (Scotland) Act 2020. This includes membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme and changes to how discounts and fee waivers are applied to volunteers and other groups.

Disclosure Scotland is proposing to apply discounts for people on benefits, care experienced young people and volunteers. However, the current scheme provides a fee waiver (free PVG) for all volunteers including those on benefits and care experienced young people. These discounts would therefore mean an increase in costs for volunteers from these groups and all volunteers involved in sport and other voluntary organisations.

These changes could:

  • Create an additional barrier to people volunteering and ultimately may stop people volunteering within sport.
  • Provide an additional financial burden on sports clubs and individuals.
  • Increase the risk to children, young people and people from vulnerable groups as some individuals and clubs may decide not to get a PVG for financial reasons.

We urge you to read the briefing document and respond to the consultation which is in the document, prior to the consultation closing on 28th May 2024.