DJC @ The National Championships for Cadets and Pre-Cadets
On Saturday the 1st of December and Sunday the 2nd of September many of the higher graded DJC players made the extremely long journey to the English Institute for Sport in Sheffield, for the Cadet and Pre-Cadet National Championships.
As a club this was rather a watershed moment as this was to be our first year with any representatives at this level (last year we had several entries into the minors Nationals)
The competition itself is unlike any other on the calendar and represents the crème de la crème of UK comptitive Judo.
The competition itself also presented new experiences for both player, parent and coach, for example as its a level 4 competition, the mat side coach is virtually silent except during matte calls, only players in the current contest or next contest are present at mat side and all other players are held in a warm up area in an adjoining hall and then sent to pens before their contests. Another unique experience was the introduction of white and blue suits being required whereas usually only the belt is changed.
Day 1 was going to undoubtedly be the busier with 6 DJC players in action, first up was DJC Club Captain Jack Murphy.
As i have mentioned previously in my reports' It is quite surreal for me to watch Jack get prepared and head out to matside at this level as it seems only yesterday that he walked through the door at the lifecentre at 8 years old, about as tall as my knee fast-forward and now almost 6 feet in height with a brown belt wrapped round his waist it feels a little strange. Jack as usual was our only cadet entry and his first fight was against a Dan grade, something that short time ago would have seemed inconceivable, As our 'senior' player he showed a Captains example to the rest of the team by going in and giving his all from the start, being competitive in this and his 2nd contest. Jack was realistic about his prospects at this level of competition but did everything i asked (which was to give his all) and no coach can ask for any more Jack now moves on and looks to gain Dan grade points in 2019.
Next up were the DJC Pre-Cadet Girls - DJC are fortunate that at the moment we have 7 or 8 very good pre-cadet/cadet female players and 5 of them were in action, rules set at the beginning of the day meant all the girls had to tie there hair up in a bun(although later on it seemed this wasn't being enforced) which meant as i walked to the weigh in area with them all walking in a huddle in front of me i felt like some sort of Shogun leader with a band of female assassin warriors.
First up were Lottie and Ellie who were both competing in the girls U48kg section, albeit on opposite sides of the draw, Lottie's first opponent was unknown to either myself or her and turned out to be quite feisty and punchy! with Lottie receiving a whack to the face a couple of times(the girl would go on to be disqualified for punching in her next contest) this unsettled Lottie understandably and she lost her first contest.
I then ran back to the warm up area to collect Ellie who was returning to major competition after a 2 year lay off through illness, we didn't initially intend to enter her at this event preferring to wait for the British schools for next year but due to the REDS entry requirement we had no choice, Ellie took command in her 1st contest with a neat combination ending in a driving ko-soto-gari resulted in her winning by ippon in 10 seconds, this meant that she would move to the cross over section of the draw Ellie then had a very tough 2nd contest and just missed out which meant both girls went on into the reprecharge
Lottie could consider herself a little unlucky to have one of the main medal prospects who had lost her first contest in her next fight, still this didn't deter her and she put in a very spirited performance, at one point launching a big uchi mata(I was of course trying to be silent) however the throw didn't quite work out and Lottie lost a close contest, still as first year pre-cadet this very much marks the start of her journey and soon after she was already discussing with Andy her goals for 2019. Lottie has attended more competitions than any DJC player in 2018 and has picked up medals at virtually all of them 2019 promises more of the same
Ellie's third contest ended with a foot sweep, although her comeback did not originally include these championships she has proved herself to be one of the top girls competing in the country, she was already asking me if her school session was still on for Monday!(it was)
Ellie can rightly be very proud of her performance and in 2019 i foresee more success for her, her work ethic is second to none and as part of the REDS squad this will surely assist in that succes
Next out was Maria who has to be one of the toughest girls at her weight, she does however suffer with pre-contest nerves which resulted in me trying to get her to have conversations about nothing to try and take the edge off. Her first contest was against one of the pre-favourites and she frustrated the girl for virtually the whole contest by countering everything that came at her and launching her own attacks, in the end she was held down and moved into the reprecharge, her second fight was much like the first and was a backwards and forwards battle with Maria eventually holding her opponent down for the win, she then moved on to fight Maddie Young from Bradley Stoke who Maria has fought on a number of occasions, Maddie is a fantastic player and has very strong physical judo, though Maria did score a memorable victory against her at the WA closed this year, it was not to be this time though although Maria at one point was in a winning position Maddie went on to claim a Bronze. Maria has had an excellent 2018, taking Bronze at the schools and Gold at the BJC Nationals and medalling at every other competition she has attended, she has sadly suffered with injury niggles and we are all hopeful rest over Xmas will see these clear up.
Next up was Alanna and Olivia who were both fighting in the bigger girls group of U63's the entry for this was slightly smaller meaning that there would not be so many rounds but also that the competition would be the toughest they had faced all year, Alanna had the eventual Silver medallist in her first contest but reverted has back to her relaxed fighting style (which over the last few months she deviated from) I was glad to see it back as she is at her most effective when fighting this way, though she was lost her first contest she then bounced straight back with a win over Savannah of Devises whom Alanna has fought on a number of occasions, she then just missed out on a bronze medal in her next contest and finished with a very respectable 5th place, Alanna has also had a very good 2018 with a number of titles coming her way, 2019 will present new challenges of which I'm sure she will thrive.
Last up then for day one was Olivia, who started Judo almost exactly 12 months ago through our school link at Tavistock, in that time Olivia has proved herself one of the hardest working players at DJC, zooming through her grades and adding to our already rich group of young females, highlights this year have included medals at WA Closed and the Kent Internationals, Liv took on the eventual champion in her first fight and decided to fight fire with fire, losing this contest but perhaps more because of experience than intestinal fortitude, her 2nd fight was a classic, with a girl much bigger and higher graded, Liv was forced into groundwork to secure the victory which put her into a Bronze medals contest.
This was a little bit of a heartbreaker as Liv battled with her opponent and though going a score down managed to secure an Osekomi, i admit i couldn't watch and just watched the clock which sadly stopped at 17 seconds! 3 seconds away from a Bronze medal. after this Liv was unlucky and got countered and finished with a 5th place, Liv has decided to concentrate on judo above and beyond her other interests and this is beginning to reap rewards, she is starting to develop into something of a female Steve Coles which I can personally tell you is a very scary prospect!
Day one also saw a number of other local Devon and Cornwall clubs competing, including Kingsley School South Brent, Kazoku and West Penryn, congratulations to Kingsley's Aimee McMurray on her second consecutive national medal and congratulations too to Adam Vosper who returned from injury to claim a bronze medal. Well done to all the other local players who gave there all.
A word to of thanks to Simon Ward who covered me a number of times and a special mention to Steve Squire who formed a tag team with me to make sure all the girls had a coach with them at all times, It is extremely pleasing to see Western Area clubs and friends helping each other. long may this continue
Day one came to an end and i enjoyed dinner with Andy, Jess, Reuben and Lottie the latter of whom seemed to get great amusement out of me eating ice-cream(picture your grandad eating soup) I retired early to my room at the Holiday Inn as day two awaited us.(Sadly i decided to rise at 4am to hear the Fury vs Wilder fight, i would not recommend this plan to anyone in the future)
If day one was all about the girls, day two was a chance for our two pre-cadet boys to strut their stuff,
First up was Bogdan who made his weight by 200 grams after a visit to the toilet,
Bogdan had (he won boy of the year) a very good 2017, 2018 in contrast has been one of 'change' every young man goes through something similar and at times Bogdan has to work hard to find motivation, though he always has subsequently found the motivation, he has medalled in all the major competitions he has entered but following a year of where he had won win virtually everything he entered, this year has been very character testing. The Nationals represent the highest quality of competitor in the UK and Bogdan as usual marched forward, both of the opponents he faced were higher graded and a lot taller and both went on to the latter stages of the competition, Bogdan wants more than anything to be successful in his Judo career and he knows the formula which will make this happen(Train!) 2019 will be a key year for him I think perhaps the 'Bad Boy' is dead and the 'Phoenix' has now risen. This is Bogdan's first year of pre-cadet and im confident he will be back next year with much improvement.
The last player of the day was Reuben, who was debuting in a new weight category of U60kgs, His first fight was a tough one which resulted in him being held down, despite this he remained upbeat and though afterwards in passing he mentioned to me his hand hurt we got ready for the next contest. This would be against a fiery gentleman from Glasgow who attempted a little trash talk in the pen, though Reuben being Reuben smiled back politely, the contest started with Reuben being thrown with drop seoi-nage, he then in usual fashion got back up and cracked on, throwing his opponent with an Ura-Nage, to gain his point back and then another launched another Ura-Nage which originally wasn't scored, a quick appeal by myself for the footage to be reviewed and the score was given which meant he would fight for a place in the Bronze medal final. At this point he was mentioning his hand which was now bothering him a little more after the adrenalin wore off, however with a fight imminent he pressed on, It wasn't sadly to be but a 7th place was a great result, It turns out Reuben had broken his hand in the first contest and went on to have two subsequent fights! Hopefully the rest in December will see him fighting fit in the New Year!
That ended DJC's involvement in the nationals this year, i stayed on to watch Cordelia Gregory take her 3rd British Title and 1st Dan and allow myself some high pitched screaming from the spectator seats.
All in all i was very satisfied with our efforts for our first year, competitions of this type tend to light fires under players and coaches alike, I myself was hugely proud of all of our players and the effort and performances they produced, our groundwork, though still requiring improvement is night and day from a year ago. As a committee and an individual i am determined to make improvements logistically by this club to give the best opportunities for our players to reach there potential and try to make it as easy to access as possible. I have nothing but admiration for everyone that has the testicular fortitude to walk out onto a tatami and face the best the UK has to offer,