As South Africa approaches its 25th day of strict lockdown, Johannesburg’s roads are strangely deserted, only a few police cars and grocery delivery motorbikes can be observed from the window.
In the course of these long days at home we often ask ourselves what being a judoka means. As minds and imaginations wander around, the first frame is a great Shohei Ono style o-soto-gari, then maybe a Daria Bilodid style state-of-the-art ne-waza transition with a sankaku applied at just the right moment.
Now, in these times of uncertainty and distress, judoka are fighting another competition, against a sneakier opponent who doesn’t abide by our rules and who cannot be sent out with hansoku-make. No, against all odds we still need to win by ippon, one of those unmistakeable ippons that requires the application of our mind and heart against a much stronger attacker.
Like many other teenagers in the world, refugee judoka in Johannesburg are struggling with the slow ticking of the clock, the boredom of staying at home, craving a gentle walk and of course for a breathless session on the tatami.
“Judo has been teaching us to make the best use of our energy in any given situation” says Enock. He is 17 years old and now very busy with learning about nutrition for athletes, via the IOC athlete365 website.
Denis, 29 years old, is a blue belt who dreams of becoming a coach; in spite of the first difficulties of the lockdown he is now happy to have enough time to study online on howtocoachkids.org – a Nike sponsored platform that helps coaches to better understand their interaction with children.
Twenty-two year old Carmi, a DRC refugee, is a talented judoka and has promised his coach to complete a short course from the Open University, reading sport and wellbeing. “I cannot believe how many opportunities we can find online. Now I have enrolled for a free University course but I want to continue and learn more”.
Finally, Dimakatso says, “I have found inspiration on the Judo in Schools platform; news, coaching ideas and interactive methodology practice can be found among the resources. As my interest is in working with visually impaired children on the mat, I have found an inspirational activities toolkit for new exercises” https://schools.ijf.org/toolkit
The Judo for Peace group is holding together and with mutual support and enthusiasm we will come out from this ordeal stronger than ever.
“Our minds need to stay positive and focussed on the opportunities we have at this moment.” Local Johannesburg judo teacher, Sensei Phumi, says, “I have been so busy these last months with the children at the dojo, my son, my husband, that I couldn’t manage to watch the IJF 2020 Seminars on Coaching and Refereeing. Now I finally have time to sit and take notes!”
In Johannesburg our judo community can’t wait to come back to training and cheering together, it is true, but as judoka we know very well that time always needs to be managed well. Jita Kyoei (Mutual Welfare and benefit) and Seiryoku-Zenyo (Maximum efficiency) are the commandments we have to abide by!