The Centro Insular de Deportes in Las Palmas slowly falls silent. Normally, kata contests are quiet affairs already but this time you can hear a pin drop, because something special is happening. Two very special judoka are on the tatami.
Sanne Simons and Thomas Schepen both have Down’s Syndrome, and normally this is not associated with the purposeful and precise movements necessary to perform a successful kata, or the ability to remember the precise order of techniques.
Wrong. The two show three adapted series of nage-nō-kata, and after the final rei the applause explodes. It continues for minutes, not in the least because the two judoka arouse the audience for more and more applause.. and the audience obliges. People are cheering, whistling and clapping and it takes some time before the hall quiets down and the other couple enters the tatami:
Cees Roest is praplegic from the chest down, after an accident. Standing is almost impossible. How then is it possible to perform a nage-nō-kata?
They show the audience how. The various techniques are adapted to Cees’ condition, and they demonstrate a meticulously executed interpretation of nage-nō-kata, assisted by uke Janienke Roelfsema. Again the audience goes wild, and again an ovational applause is theirs.
What is happening here?
Earlier this year, EJU expressed interest in Special Needs Kata, and was referred to SNJF. A plan was formed to invite SN-judoka from several countries to set up a small SN-Kata tournament alongside the main European Championship. For various reasons, the other countries were unable to attend so the Dutch judoka were left and it was decided to do a dmonstration.
The interest of the European Judo community has been aroused. SNJF hopes that this initiative will have a follow-up, and is of course ready to give technical and organisatorial advice.
Why is this important?
SNJF believes that the best way to attain inclusion for handicapped people is to take part in mainstream events, just like everyone. SNJF believe that if Judo is adapted when necessary, the handicap of these people will diminish or even become irrelevant.
The fact that an international organisation like EJU have the vision to understand this and the courage to take this historic step is a great leap forward, and SNJF are greatly honoured to be able to support this process. We thank EJU for this fantastic opportunity and are looking forward to future cooperation.