World Judo Day, organised by the International Judo Federation (IJF), is an opportunity to celebrate the values of Judo. This year the IJF announced that the theme for World Judo Day 2022 is Inclusion, Uniting the Judo Family.  What better way is there to celebrate inclusion than by sharing some inspiring stories of those within the Scottish Judo community and their personal experiences of inclusion in Judo.

Judoka Chris Nicol with club coach Charlie Strachan communicating through tactile sign language on a judo mat.

Chris Nicol – Tams Brig Judo Club

Chris, a Deafblind Judoka who trains at Tams Brig Judo Club with coaches Charlie and Michelle Strachan, shared his Judo story.

“Being involved in Judo has had many positives. Aside from the obvious physical benefits, I have met lots of new people and made many friends. The training keeps me focused and driven to achieve my targets, and I have developed a passion to become a coach myself. Judo helps me to remain positive and feel motivated about life. It keeps me smiling and gives me strength and courage to face up to difficulties and challenges.”

“At Tam’s Brig, the club have been great with their approach to inclusion and adapting Judo to suit individuals. I have low vision and hearing, so there have been several challenges to overcome. Coaches and other players have learned tactile sign language to help communication – there is actually a poster with the alphabet pinned up on the wall – and I am always able to “feel” how techniques are done so I have a clear image in my head.”

“My experience of Judo is that it is an inclusive sport and I have been able to get involved in some courses and events – including last year’s The Gathering, which was fantastic. I would love to see adaptive, and VI categories included at some of JudoScotland’s competitions, which I think could help grow the sport and encourage more people to participate and compete.”

Kirsten Taylor practising with coach david scobie.

Kirsten Taylor – Tayside Judo Club

Kirsten Taylor IBSA Grand Prix Nur-Sultan 2022 Silver Medallist, who trains with Tayside Judo and is also on the GB Para-Potential pathway shared her Judo story.

“Judo is the most inclusive sport I’ve taken part in.  Right from the first session, there was no awkwardness about my visual impairment, in other sports I’ve done they’ve either treated me like I’m made of glass, or they’ve tried to totally ignore the fact I need extra help.  With judo the whole club are great, the coaches make an effort to explain the demos clearly so I can follow them and then they check I’ve understood afterwards and show me again if needed.  Everyone makes sure I’m sorted, finding partners, being in the right place, and it’s all done completely naturally.  I never have to ask for help, it’s already there. I’ve never felt more normal.”

“Judo has massively improved my confidence.  When I first started I wouldn’t go anywhere by myself and there was no way I would go somewhere new on my own but now I think nothing of travelling all over the country by myself, and new places and people aren’t such a problem.”

“Judo people are good people.  I travel to training in Perth twice a week by train and there is always someone who is happy to give me a lift from the train station to training and back again. Without the support of Tayside Judo Club I wouldn’t be competing all over the world and loving every second of the journey.”

Murray is bent over with his hands on his knees in a dojo.

Murray McConnell – Sportif

Murray, a VI Judoka who trains with Sportif Judo competed at last years Scottish National Closed Championship where he was able to not only compete but come away with a bronze medal.

“Judo and sport in general have improved my fitness and help to build my confidence.  It has also help build good friendships with other judo players. It has positively impacted other aspects of my life as it has given me the confidence to try other things. For example, running, hillwalking, cycling on a tandem.”

“Judo has been inclusive because the support that my club Sportif, JudoScotland and British Judo have given me has allowed me to train and take part in competitions along with everyone else and my teammates help me off and on the mat.”

Chris Murphy –  Shettleston Judo Club

Chris Murphy, who will be representing GB next week at the Virtus Oceania/Asia Games, shares his experience as an ID Judoka.

“I received a letter through my school that informed me about the opportunity to take part in a special need’s judo class.  I’d tried lots of different sports before this but nothing seemed to take hold, I gave judo a go just for fun, I kept going back for a couple of weeks and I fell in love with it.  That was it, I was hooked.”

“When I was younger, I wasn’t really a sociable kid, to put it nicely. I didn’t really like physical contact or people being in my bubble.  For some reason after those couple of weeks of judo this kind of went away, happy days.”

“Its strange, judo fixed a whole lot of things, it made me very social and very chatty.”

“I started taking judo more seriously at 13 or 14 I’d say, originally, I just did SN classes, over time I started doing more SN classes and then started doing mainstream classes as well.  After this I started doing more and more mainstream classes.”

“When I stop competing, I would like to keep coaching and running my adaptive sessions. I would like to continue spreading awareness of adaptive and ID divisions.  I’m autistic and I see lots of autistic kids doing sport and some click with some sports and some don’t, but I just want to show others that if I can do this then others can as well.”