We are very fortunate to be able to offer after-school judo sessions, run by Richard Neale of Stroud Judo Club. Richard has been involved in judo since he was 11 and competed internationally. Since 2004, he has been running Stroud Judo Club, training students from the age of 5, trying martial arts for the first time, up to several black belts at senior level. One of his students is now a full time, professional judoka at the British Judo Centre of Excellence in Walsall, attended the Japan 2020 Olympics with Team GB as a training partner and recently won a bronze medal at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Judo is a traditional Japanese martial art and combat sport, created by Jigoro Kano in 1882 and has been an Olympic sport since 1964. Meaning ‘the gentle way’, judo teaches how to throw opponents using the least amount of effort and controlled techniques, rather than brute force.

In Japan, it is compulsory for all junior high school pupils to be taught a martial art, where they believe that activities like judo teach children respect and discipline, as well as an awareness of how to use their bodies.

One of the first teachings in judo, is how to fall safely. Essential for reducing the risk of injury when being thrown, this is also an incredibly useful life skill. Everyone who has been taught and practises break-falling, has a story to tell, of when it’s saved them from a potentially serious injury (mine involves slipping out of a loft hatch).

Physically, judo offers a great many benefits including:

  • flexibility and mobility
  • co-ordination, balance and agility
  • aerobic capacity and stamina
  • posture, structure and core stability
  • whole body strength and conditioning

These all help with general health and fitness, but also have great crossovers with other sports and physical activities.

At the core of Judo is a strict moral code, teaching honour, discipline and respect; both self-respect and respect towards others, including your opponent.

Participants bow at the start and end of each session, to show respect for the dojo and the people in it. Both in competition and practise, opponents bow to each other as a sign of recognition and respect, for their fellow judoka.

Not only in judo, but in life generally, not everything always goes our way. Judoka learn that not always winning is ok; that taking responsibility, controlling our emotions, demonstrating self-discipline and perseverance are all incredibly valuable skills, off the mat, as well as on. The courage required to be thrown by an opponent, but then get back up and continue competing, can bring benefits when facing new or difficult challenges in other aspects of life. This determination can lead to more resolve in the face of challenges and treating failures as a development opportunity, rather than an ending.

The experience of dealing with anger, or frustration, in judo can provide better emotional control outside of training, where being less reactive, staying calm and making rational decisions improves outcomes.

When following detailed instructions to practise a new technique, or competing against an opponent, focus and concentration are critical and you have to be fully present in the moment. As well as benefiting attention span and similar to mindfulness, this can help build tools for reducing stress and anxiety more generally. Studies have shown that the disciplined environment of judo can be an effective therapy for children with ASD and attention deficit disorders.

For other schools that Richard teaches at, lessons are payable up front and for a term at a time. Miserden are delighted to be able to cover this cost at the current time, making both the lessons and the suit hire free of charge for all pupils from year 1 upwards. We really appreciate the commitment and support offered by parents, some of whose children have been training for several years now.

For any pupils yet to try judo club, please contact the office in the first instance to sign the permission form. The first session can be attended as a taster, but beyond that, we would please ask that children remain until the end of that term. Not only does this help to support the teaching and learning about commitment, perseverance and facing challenges, but also Miserden school will still be billed for that student’s place, in the event of them dropping out.

For those who are able to meet the requirements, gradings can be completed in school, (BJA junior membership is required) and for those wishing to pursue judo further, or to compete, Stroud Judo Club run sessions on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings at Marling Sports Hall, with some pupils from Miserden school already attending. Please see the Stroud Judo Club website for more information.