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  • Ross Taylor

DJC @ Regional England Development Squad (REDS)


Drake Judo Club at REDS training

Our six orange belt junior judoka, and the usual support entourage of parents, had the opportunity to experience the level expected of the England Squad when the travelled up to the British Judo Association’s Centre of Excellence at Wolverhampton University, Walsall. After much debate, the majority decided to go up the night before and take the short leisurely route to the venue on Saturday morning. Bogdan went the hard core route of travelling up the morning of the training, entailing a 5:30am departure from Plymouth.

Overcoming the rather daunting surroundings was the first battle that the judoka would face, but with 64 other judoka ranging from first year cadets, this was probably the easiest test of the day! It was immediately apparent that some of the parents and judoka had prior experience of this sort of thing – we’ll know to bring some cushions next time we go!

Registration consisted of a weigh-in and measuring of the judoka’s height. This information would be used later to assist with processing the biometric data that the coaching team collected. After the obligatory rei and warm up, the 72 judoka were then shuffled into something approaching height and weight order and then split into 6 groups, each allocated a work station and a group leader was selected whom generally was the highest grade.

There followed, what can only be described as one of the biggest tests of our judoka that they’ve had. Rotating through each of the 6 work stations, each judoka was assessed on that stations’ particular activity.

Station 1 (this is the order that Lottie completed the tests, everyone did them in the same order, but starting with at a different point!) tested the judoka on the ability to follow instructions, work independently and retain information. A series of judo techniques were requested including ashiwaza (sweeps), a favourite throw and a combination. Whilst each pair of judoka were being assessed, the others in the group were expected to continue to practice and demonstrate continued effort.

Station 2 focussed on uchikomi – the breaking of balance – in various different situations; static, moving and on the judoka’s least favoured side. Again, continual effort was expected and woe betide anyone seen pausing for breath.

Station 3 was newaza – overseen by Jason Parsons from the Western Area! Each judoka had to demonstrate two turnovers of their choice, which could be the same or different, followed by a “round the world” drill: start & end in kesa-gatame but moving around your partner’s body using upper, side and full length hold downs. Each judoka also had to demonstrate an escape from below and how to untrap a leg.

Station 4 looked at speed. With 4 uke’s standing 1m outside of the four corners of a 5m x 5m competition area and a small medicine ball in the middle, the judoka under assessment started in a seated position on the medicine ball. With a rolling breakfall towards each uke, then a forward throw and short sprint to seat on the ball, repeated either clockwise or counter clockwise, it was mesmerising to watch. A number failed to remember the breakfall, incurring the wrath of Nicole Nunn and adding time penalties – yes this was against the clock! Each judoka had two attempts. Most undertook the test in 21 to 24 seconds, with a best time that I heard of 17 seconds for the big kids. Quite impressive to watch!

So after a full on 2 hours, they’d completed two thirds of the rotations and it was time for lunch and a break from the mat.

A quick warm up followed the break and straight back into it!

Station 5 was assessing flexibility and biometrics. Each group was subdivided into smaller groups of 4 who then completed an assortment of tests. A seated reach assessed core flexibility. Arm flexibility was assessed with a simple test passing a broomstick from the front to the back and measuring the distance that the hands are apart. A killer timed prone plank tested core stability. There was a rather odd looking jack knife leg raise combined with an arm movement from above the head to clap under the legs when raised (hard to do, hard to explain!). The final test was a lateral splits with the back against a wall – the key measurement here was a reverse limbo – how low could you go!

The final station, number 6, was all about gymnastic ability – assessed by the Western Area’s coach, Simon Ward. Each judoka was asked to perform a series of gymnastic moves, from a cartwheel (to both sides), a forward roll to splits without standing, a forward roll to standing, a backwards roll to standing and the ubiquitous, paused handstand to forward roll.

So that’s that. Not in the slightest.

Another warm up, with a slightly higher rate followed with a period of newaza drills. There was a definite quicking in the pace now, with everyone subjected to “penalties” of sit ups, leg jacks, press ups if partners were not found within a few seconds. Everyone was now getting to their limits.

The final session was groundwork randori – again with the penalty system in place. It was fairly apparent which judoka still had some energy left as there were a lot of very tired kids on the mat. 6 3 minute rounds brought the day to a close.

A quick warm down and explanation of the next steps followed and that was it. Lots of completely shattered judoka returned to the support teams in various emotional and physical states. When they’ve recovered; I’m sure that the Drake judoka will look back on the experience with a mixture of pride and satisfaction in getting through the experience. 6 hours on the hallowed mats at the BJA Centre of Excellence, with the England coaching team, cannot be sniffed at.

Whether they get into the Regional England Development Squad (REDS) will be determined after the coaches have processed the data over the coming weeks. Individual feedback will then be sent to each judoka’s coach. Whatever happens, the feedback that will be given will be a big boost to each of our 6 judoka, giving them (and their coaches) guidance on areas of weakness and strength.

All the watching parents were immensely proud of their judoka, some of whom had not experienced anything like this level of intensity. There’s little rest for the our Gen1 judoka however as Drake have negotiated that the Western Area southern EXCELL training sessions are to take place at our Tavistock dojo, starting with a trial session this Wednesday. Next Saturday, it’s another Western Area training session at Kingsley College, Bideford!

Well done Lucy, Alanna, Lottie, Reuben, Bogdan and Jake.


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