Special Needs

special needs

Elizabeth Special Needs Judo Club was first incorporated 16th March, 2007 (Incorporation Number: A39407). Since then, we have grown in strength and recognition but this was achieved simply from a combination volunteer coach, the support of Judo SA, and the disability community.

We are officially the First Special Needs Judo Club in Australia, which is the first for South Australia, and a first for a Judo Federation of Australia associated sporting organisation. Something we all should be proud of for many reasons.

My first interest in Special Needs Judo was following a visit I made to a special needs judo club in Bristol (UK) in 2003. Special Needs Judo had been established for many years by then throughout Europe. What I experienced was both over-whelming and exciting. I was instantly inspired by the success and benefit of inviting children with disability into the sport of Judo. Currently there was no modified grading or competition rules which allowed intellectual impaired competitors to fairly play or compete in judo in Australia and access into this sport for the disable was extremely limited.

Since 1997, we have provided a greater accessibility for children with intellectual, physical, sensory, and emotional disability. Although we initially focussed on children with disability, it was difficult to turn away some adults with disabilities. Today we have made a significant shift to include both adults and children into our club. I felt this was necessary as many children with intellectual disability were entering adulthood, but still wanted to continue training. This has resulted in a constitutional change which is currently under review to officially include both adults and children into our club.

The types of member disabilities includes, but is not limited to, visual impairment, aspergers, cerebral palsy, muscular weakness and palsies, autism spectrum disorder, ADD, ADHD, Downs Syndrome, learning and cognition disorders.

Both JudoSA (JFA) and The Australian Kodokan Judo Association has supported changes in modifying competition rules used throughout Europe known as G-Judo Rules to allow fair and equitable competition for people with disabilities to compete in the competition arena locally and now interstate with a clear pathway to international tournaments. The support and tolerance by both associations has been over-whelming, and the ongoing support will always be appreciated. Together, we have achieved something wonderful and I believe South Australia has truly leaded the way.

Over the last three years, our club has represented people with disability wishing to learn and enjoy Judo many different ways. While some was planned, other disability groups with-in our community has invited us to participate in their programs or activities. Such groups include CARA, Disability Information & Resource Centre, Adelaide Disability & Aging Expo (demonstrations past 3 years), Salisbury High-School Special Education Unit, Pasadena High School Special Education Unit,
Elizabeth Special Judo Clubs ‘Judo-in-the-Bush’ fun event at Para Wirra Recreation Park, ‘Judo-on-the-Beach’ planned for late 2010.

Last October 2009, Elizabeth Special Needs Judo Club Inc in collaboration with JudoSA staged Adelaide Special Needs Judo Friends Games 2009 in Gawler, South Australia. This event invited competitors from around Australia to compete with other judokas with disabilities.

Competitors from as far away as Lismore travelled to Adelaide to participate in a Judo event against other athletes with similar abilities. The event was so successful, Lismore PCYC Special Needs Judo Club has invited us to travel to Tweed Heads for a similar event in August, 2011. We have naturally accepted the proposal, with a verbal agreement to provide a long term arrangement that we will continue staging this event every year, and in South Australia every alternative year.

Back in 2007, I wrote and published ‘Coach Me Too’ ‘Disability Awareness Manual for Judo Coaches. This manual was written to improve awareness and dismiss fears or myths related to children with disability for SA Judo Coaches. Much of then information was supplied from a variety of evidence-based resources including from Adelaide Women & Children’s Hospital Information Unit & Children, Youth, Women’s Health Service (with permission). Funding for the publication and printing was entirely from me. I was unsuccessful in gaining financial support from any external resource. A copy was sent to every Judo club through-out South Australia and to the Judo Federation of Australia National Committee.

While our club has a inclusive prospective assisting people with disability entering main-stream sport of Judo, this prospective is not suitable for everyone. Never-the-less we have always encourage others to progress into competition status by training at other main-stream judo clubs where possible. We have provided professional opinion on the suitability of moving into mainstream without bias, unless there were concerns about how this may impact on the athlete’s safety.

Several of our members has successfully made the transition into mainstream with our full support. As much as we can offer, there are individuals who wish further elite competition training on a state or national level. We respect and acknowledge those who transfer into a more ‘competition focused’ club where they can gain special mainstream coaching. Our focus is the interest of athlete’s desires and wishes, and where they wish to take their sporting endeavours.

Other club members who demonstrate no interest in mainstream national or international judo competitions, still enjoy the training, exercise, and social benefits that our club offers.

We as a club, have provided an alternative pathway intocompetition by negotiating directly with JudoSA and the Australian Kodokan Judo Association to run regular special needs categories with-in their events. This collaboration has been extremely successful, and we wish to express our sincere gratitude for your flexibility and compassion.

Generally, and in conclusion, we have come from humble and uncertain beginning together over the last three years. If we were to take a moment to reflect – collaboratively we have achieved more than I can comprehend. The results are clearly express on the faces of individuals who never even thought judo as a sporting option three years ago. Our reward is their personal, social and sporting development, one in which can not be humanly measured.

As a sporting association we are indeed enriched by our experience.