March 21 – International Down Syndrome Day – © Diário de Petropolis

March 21 – International Down Syndrome Day

Athlete overcomes prejudices and has a goal to participate in international tournaments in 2023

Photo:  Personal archive

Elaine Vieira – special for the Diário

This March 21, World Down Syndrome Day, formalized by the United Nations (UN) in 2012, not only celebrates the lives of people who have the syndrome, but also talks about rights, inclusion and the possibility of people with Down being and doing whatever they want. This year’s goal for Matheus Domingues Moreira, 18 years old, is to complete the entire circuit of competitions of the Brazilian Confederation of Inclusive Judô (ABJI) and return to international competitions, especially the 23rd edition of the tournament in Beverwijk, Holland, of Special Needs Judo Foundation and Special Needs World Judo Games.

Down syndrome is a genetic alteration in which the person has three chromosomes in the 21st pair, and not two, as usual. Therefore, the syndrome is also called trisomy of chromosome 21, or simply T21. According to the Ministry of Health, this chromosomal alteration is the most common among people.

The change did not prevent Matheus, with a lot of willpower and encouragement, from getting involved with the sport and becoming a judoka affiliated with the Judo Federation of the State of Rio de Janeiro (FJERJ).

“Her biggest challenge was when, as a baby, she was diagnosed with a heart valve that would not close on its own and would require surgery. But, God reserved for him one of the best medical teams in this matter and everything was resolved. After that, he underwent physiotherapy and, after a while, he began to practice sports in his swimming life”, comments André Moreira, the young man’s father.

Before that, the athlete also took football lessons, a sport he is passionate about and a fan of Fluminense and Barcelona. “However, the football experience was disastrous because Matheus was unable to develop due to prejudice between students and the children’s parents”, says André.

Matheus started practicing judo at age 8. His debut in official competitions was in the 1st Stage of Judo for All in Rio de Janeiro – Breno Viola Trophy in 2014. And since then he has been standing out in more than 40 competitions in municipalities in the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Santa Catarina, in addition to the 20th Edition of the tournament in Beverwijk in the Netherlands in 2018.

The athlete was literate at the age of 10. He is currently attending the 9th grade of elementary school at the Fábrica do Saber Municipal School, where he accompanies a regular class. During the week, he also does weight training at the gym.

With the support of the whole family, Matheus’s greatest encouragement comes from his mother, Valéria Domingues, who also practices judo and makes a point of accompanying her son’s training and competitions.

Focused and dedicated, it is in sport that André sees the opportunities for Matheus’ life.” He loves Judo to the point of waking up and asking if it’s training day. In competitions he concentrates on what he’s going to do, he takes it seriously, although he respects it, he doesn’t like defeat and charges himself for it.

The athlete will participate in the 23rd Edition of the Tournament in Beverwijk, Holland, of the Special Needs Judo Foundation and Special Needs World Judo Games, which takes place from April 14th to 16th of this year – specialized competitions for athletes with disabilities. To pay for the trip, the family is running a campaign to sell skipping ropes. To help, just contact the numbers (24) 98869-1208 or (24) 98869-0812. The pix is ​​CPF 125.169.337

Bronx, first participant of the Special Needs World Judo Games

Over time, one of the goals of CS Bronx Powerlifting Club Bacău has been the promotion of judo as a basic tool in a harmonious development, which guarantees not only social inclusion, but, above all, a harmony between body, mind and emotions. In the vast majority of cases, a child who practices judo is a happy child, a child who has understood the principles by which activity in the dojo is guided and who, in relation to others, will always apply the moral code introduced by Jigoro Kano: politeness, courage, sincerity, honor, modesty, respect, self-control and friendship.

CS Bronx Powerlifting Club Bacău has been working with children and young people with impairments since 2016, when the club’s first visually impaired athletes stepped confidently on the mat. In 2022, the project “Judo is played, WHAT DO YOU SAY?” strengthened the Special Needs section of the club not only by attracting new coaches and partners from outside the country, such as the Special Needs Judo Foundation, to join the initiative to promote adapted judo in educational institutions where children and young people with special needs are enrolled , for which judo could become the path to an assumed normality, courage, effort, joy and full self-acceptance, but also by organizing the International Tournament “Judo is playing, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?” and by the participation of the club’s Special Needs athletes in more and more national and international competitions.

After the first gold medals obtained at the Special Needs National Championship Cluj-Napoca and at the European Special Needs Judo Festival Poschiavo, from 2022, sisters Denisa and Nicoleta Oprea will participate, between April 14-16, 2023, at the Special Needs World Judo Games in the Netherlands , where they promise to give their best and conquer the podium. Mărioara Adochiței, one of the club’s oldest athletes, will also participate in the competition, for whom judo, beyond sport, is a way of being, behaving and dreaming of the future. The three athletes practice judo out of passion, and when they are on the mat, they feel more confident, more creative and freer to express themselves. The girls were also some of the core volunteers in the project “Judo is playing, CE Spui?”,

“Our biggest dream in Holland is to be able to give our best, to discover new things, to have more confidence in what we have learned and in the skills we have formed in the gym, but and let’s make friends. And, more than that, we dream of qualifying for the Special Olympics World Games 2023, in Berlin, precisely to make those who supported us proud of us and to demonstrate what Bronx Sport Club means”, said Mărioara, athlete CS Bronx Powerlifting Club Bacău.

SNJF and the BENG committee wish you a Happy New Year!

We hope the new year bring you all sorts of good things, and we wish you a safe and wonderful judo year!

This is an invitation for the twenty-third edition of our great tournament in Beverwijk. We are honoured and proud to be able to invite you, our guests, for this tournament that since its inception in 1998 has become the greatest in the world for judoka with a disability.
The Ben van der Eng Memorial does not select: We accept any handicap whether it is physical, mental or sensory. Our 5-grade divisioning system FCS is capable of handling anything from the most accomplished judoka to the most severely disabled ones in the safest way possible.
Indeed our Sunday’s BENG! tournament is, we can proudly say, the greatest Judo party in the world whereas the more “serious” Saturday hosts the Special Needs World Judo Games for Shiai and Kata.
Do you wish to participate? Then click HERE to download our outlines.

Considerations on the implementation of a separate ruleset for Level-1 Special Needs judoka

A bit of history

In 1998, Ben van der Eng, Tomas Rundqvist and Tycho van der Werff developed the Functional Classification system and a complementary set of competition rules. Up to that moment, divisioning (as we will call it in this document) was haphazard, fragmented and unstandardised, as were the rules.
The new system, focused on safety, was adopted and tested by several organisations. Several national judo federations adopted it, and the first Special Olympics judo competitions in 2003 (Dublin) were successfully executed using the new system. SO, since then, have adopted these rules as their global standard.
Since then, the system has gone through several iterations and refinements, the last one in 2018 when the JBN, the Dutch Judo Federation, allowed a pilot on the latest version. The main objective of the system is to always, and without compromise, ensure the safety of Special Needs judoka participating in competitions.
Since a few years, EJU have adopted these same SN judo rules for the below-12 category.

What is our problem?

Fact: we see little to no major injuries in the levels 2-5. The larger part of major injuries occur in the level 1 division, where often judoka are severely injured by techniques, forbidden under SN rules but still allowed by referees who are either uneducated or deliberately unwilling to execute these rules. There is a list with numerous examples of preventable injuries.

As can be seen in the above table, some Level 1 judoka can compete in mainstream judo and indeed a small percentage can even compete on national and international level. This document and our considerations focus on those Level-1 judoka.

SN judo is all about safety

SN judo should be safe for all levels. As long as there is a slight chance that the wrong levels are combined (and sadly this happens far too often) we cannot let level 1 players have a different set of rules.
Level 1 players have an option that the rest of the SN judoka’s do not have: They are able to compete safely in mainstream judo. Less successful, most likely, since they won’t have the medal guarantee they have when they compete in SN. But at the same time, and this is the main thing, they have this option and it could give them the opportunity to grow into a better judoka.
So in reality, judoka and trainers of the level 1 players have the best of both worlds. They can compete both mainstream and SN. With all the benefits: for example being able to become World Champion in II1, II2 or II3 in Adapted Judo. Participate in Special Olympic world games whilst, by the way, at the same time oreventing others much more in need of the experience from participating.  
Or you can face the facts and recognise that Special Needs judo is not for you anymore, and find new challenges so you can grow as a judoka, instead of pursuing cheap victories.
A perfect example of this is a judoka from The Netherlands, who started in SN judo, was the best of the best, decided he wanted to pursue a career in mainstream and is now a real mainstream World Champion. He pursued jita-kioey, a well-known adagium of Kano Shihan, where you learn and grow together for the benefit of all.
He left SN judo so others could have a winning chance and he himself went on growing in the mainstream realm. His reasoning was: why perform under your ability for easy medals and not show others the respect and allow them to achieve their full potential?


Some people say: “By depriving level-1 judoka of the mainstream rules and techniques, we damage the inclusive judo and we discriminate them
Is this true? That is like saying: judoka under 12 years, competing under a rule set very similar to the SN rules are excluded from judo? Judoka competing under safe rules are excluded?
Exclusion is defined as: “the act of preventing somebody/something from entering a place or taking part in something“.

We now have championships only for people with an IQ <75. We have championships only for people with ASD. All these judoka are free to train and compete with others, with or without a disability, yet these championships are only for them.
Where is the inclusion here?


SN judo is created for all judoka. Every participant will have the opportunity to enjoy and compete in judo together, at their own level, in the safest way possible. And this can be done because we made sure that the rules promote safety.
Does this sound like inclusion or exclusion?
Where is the “discrimination” here?


If judoka also want a different kind of judo then there is no problem. There are other branches of judo-like activities: Of course there is mainstream judo, but also kata, sambo, BJJ, to name a few. And, there are the noninclusive championships for II1, II2 and II3.
Let’s make a comparison with another martial art: Under general kickboxing rules, elbow punches and clinching are not allowed. If a kickboxer does not agree with that, there is always the option to compete in Muay Thai.
The same goes for SN-judo. If a level-1 judoka does not agree with the fact that kansetsu- shime- and sutemi-waza are forbidden under SN rules, there are always mainstream competitions to compete in. On the other hand, if that same judoka insists on competing in SN-judo that is fine too, there is no exclusion. But, the judoka will have to abide by the rules.

Different rules for level-1?

As discussed earlier, level-1 players have a world of options to compete if they do not like the limits put on them by the SN rules.
Second, the risk of misdivisioning is too large and an unsuspecting level-2 (or worse, an even lower level judoka) might very well end up in the poule of a superior and therefore dangerous opponent.
So our view is:
No, we will not have separate rules for level-1 under SN judo.
However, we do recognise the work done by the Virtus organisation and their strive to make championships. But in order to agree upon the ruleset for that, we all need to agree on a common ruleset for all levels before we can adjust for any deviations from it.
That is why we will not, at this point, make any adjustments specific for Level 1 judoka.