Good news from the EJU Festival in Poreč, Croatia: Our rules (yes, the ones we have been working on since the end of the nineties) are now accepted as THE rules for Special Needs Judo. And, our divisioning system FCS is also accepted as THE system to be used in order to give Special Needs judoka a safe and fair competition experience. Below is a nice article from the Romanian paper Dešteptarea.
(Photo: EJU. Artikel: Dešteptarea, Translation: Google Translate. Link to original article)
From June 10-21, 2023, Croatia hosted the eighth edition of the EJU Judo Festival, the event ending with a series of activities dedicated to Special Needs athletes and coaches.
At the invitation of Denisa Marian (Deliu), advisor to the president of the European Judo Union, Romania was represented by CS Bronx Powerlifting Club Bacău, through coaches Daniel Zodian and Maria Budău, athletes Ionela Ivan, Grafian Cojocaru, Alexandru Zodian, Oana Panțiru, but also by the president of the club, Gabriela Iftimescu. Since the beginning of 2022, the club has brought to Romania the largest adapted judo campaign through which it proposed to children with mental disabilities a form of alternative therapy, through sports, in which no less than 729 children from the municipality participated Bacău, within the project “Judo is played, CE Spui?”, financed by the In Stare de Bine program, supported by Kaufland Romania and implemented by the Civil Society Development Foundation. In the year 2023, the campaign is to be expanded nationally, in 10 counties in the country, through the project “Judoka, rei!-Unde terimileri dispar…”, so that the educational and therapeutic value of judo is more and more intense promoted.
During the event, the participants enjoyed sessions of adapted judo, theoretical and practical seminars related to approaches to disabilities, the division of athletes according to the level of disability, but also the rules of Special Needs competitions, as well as games and activities informal, such as t-shirt painting or crafting. At the same time, the festival brought along judokas and coaches big names from the world of judo, such as Nuno Delgado and Malte Geppert, coordinators of the Judo for Children program in the European Judo Union, Marina Drascoviç, coordinator of the adapted judo department of the European Union of Judo, Barbara Matic, double world champion, and Olympic champion of Slovenian origin Tina Trstenjak.
Following the festival, where organizations from all over the world that work with judoka with mental disabilities were present for dialogue and exchange of best practices, the official regulations for holding Special Needs judo sports events will be published on the EJU website, as well as the way of recognition, definition and framing of disability, so that, at the European level, organizations can develop a unitary work system, removing organizational and participation conflicts.
The CS Bronx Powerlifting Club Bacău team, which, from 2021, was joined by Denisa Marian, is going to implement the first judo festival adapted alongside the European Judo Union. More than a sport, judo is a way to grow, push your limits and develop, an aspect that the Bronx Sport Club team wants to highlight by offering judo programs for typical children, but also atypical, to reach all schools in Romania, to students, physical education and sports teachers, but also to parents looking for a form of therapy for their children. The Fall School is just one example of a judo program that has been successfully implemented internationally and that can be fruitful in schools, but also in sports clubs, regardless of the sport practiced.
“Working with athletes with intellectual disabilities starts with understanding them. In people suffering from an intellectual disability, there are, according to doctors, deficiencies in two areas: at the level of intellectual functioning, through incapacity or reduced capacity for learning, motivation, decision-making and problem-solving, with an IQ below 70, and at the level of adaptive behaviors, which means the ordinary skills by which we survive in everyday life, from communication, interaction and self-care capacity. And judo comes and folds on every practitioner, because the needs of play, confidence, courage, interaction and communication are needs of every human being, regardless of abilities or disabilities. And, to quote our friends from the Special Needs Judo Foundation, promoters of adapted judo in Europe, 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”, explained Daniel Zodian, CS Bronx Powerlifting Club Bacau coordinator judo coach.
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.
This weekend, a part of the SNJF kata team was present at the 11th Kodokan Kata Course in the village De Kwakel. In two days, the six competition katas were presented and on Sunday, or twofold European Champions Tycho van der Werff and David Lefevere ran the katame-no-kata course.
Good to see the many young people attending. In earlier years, the youth automatically moved into shiai competition, but these days the option to perform in kata is also there, which is a good thing for youngsters who are not inclined to fight in the shiai competitions. We hope that this is going to give us many technically proficient judoka in the near future, and of course we also hope to see them on the kata competition tatami!
Judo 3.0 is a movement that wants to modernise the contemporary judo and propagates “full inclusion”, with new ideas and insights, and full involvement of not only mainstream judoka but also children and people with a physical or mental handicap. All this according to the ideas of Jigoro Kano Shihan:
- Seiryoku Zenyo: Minimal effort, maximal results, and
- Jita Kyoei: Personal growth for our mutual benefit.
Today, Judo 3.0 organised a seminar where Tycho was allowed three hours to present his views on adapted kata. This is a recording of the full presentation.
The FCS (also sometimes referred to as the Adaptive Classification System) has been in use for decades and has been continuously developed until its last revision in 2018. The five-grade system ensures safety and fair competition. Indeed, SNJF and later SNJU have promoted and introduced this system and its associated rulebook into their sphere of influence.
One of the criticisms of the system’s opponents is that it is, supposedly, impossible to rate adapted judoka based on a snapshot evaluation.
The AUTJUDO project in which SNJU and SNJF are participants has now proven that this is most certainly possible, with a high degree of reliability. Indeed, three universities have confirmed this in a peer-reviewed experiment.
This is good news for our FCS; it confirms what we already knew: FCS is a great basis to organise safe and fair competition.
Read more about the guidelines for divisioning? CLICK HERE
Want to read the article of Blanquerna University? CLICK HERE