After over 50 years involved in the sport, James Thomson is stepping back from judo.

It was only after finishing his rugby career that James sought out a new sport. For 23 seasons his main priority had been scrums and flying into tackles, but upon hanging up his boots, he decided to venture into the dojo at Alloa Club: “Once I got onto the mat, you could not get me back off it. It was as simple as that, I was hooked.”

“I was very fortunate to train with the Bridge of Allan Club and also the Stirling University Club. I was welcomed by both, and it meant that every night of the week, I had some sort of judo to go to.”

“It wasn’t just the sport itself”, James says, “It was the whole attitude, I realised that judo was definitely for me and it was something I should’ve started 20 years earlier.”

He credits Andy and Margaret McKenna of the East Kilbride Judo Club for giving him several years of enjoyable judo.

He then moved to Lanarkshire, although his passion did not diminish. Training at the East Kilbride Club as well as attending sessions at Stonehouse to get as much judo as he possibly could.

Not satisfied with just the three clubs, he joined John and Eric Kane. James admits that even before stepping on the mat with either of the brothers, he knew he would be in for a rough time due to them having some of the best judoka in the country on their team.

“It was the love of the sport that kept me going. It was the friendship that came with it that made me determined to keep going”

Although his enthusiasm never dwindled, James decided to replace his gi for a referee’s uniform. “Twelve years ago I decided I wanted to train as a referee and I was made very welcome straight away by Neil Malone and the rest of the referees and I’ve never looked back thanks to their help.”

James Thomson receives a certificate of appreciation from Neil Malone on behalf of JudoScotland .

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all my time refereeing but unfortunately health factors have prevented me from carrying on. I am disappointed in having to stop nevertheless I can’t complain because I’ve got an awful lot out of judo in my time and I certainly have a lot to look back on.”

When asked to pick out some highlights during his 50 years, one stands out: “I think like everyone else, the idea of a black belt was away in the distance but when I did eventually get it in 1977, I think I didn’t take it off for three days!”

What motivated James to keep going was also his grandson, Scott Thomson, following suit and making the British squad: “I keep telling him he is still not as good as I used to but I suppose it’s difficult to tell now!”

His message to anyone thinking of taking up refereeing in judo is simple: “Absolutely 100% do it. I’ve been involved in other sports and I have enjoyed them but there is nothing like the camaraderie you get with judo and I would recommend it to everyone”.