This week British Judo has released information to member clubs and coaches that they are willing to accept and process online gradings for Sho, Mon & Kyu grades while we are in lockdown across the UK. On top of this, the British Judo will not charge coaches to process these grades. Full British Judo press release can be found here: https://www.britishjudo.org.uk/coronavirus-update-gradings/
As expected some coaches have gone to social media to say what a ridiculous idea this is for Judo, it devalues the grade, coaches will just grade the children so they have higher grades in their club, and it goes on and on.
I wanted to take the opportunity to share my thoughts on how I see the situation.
Now cards on the table, before the BJA released this statement my wife and I were already planning on doing online gradings for all of our club members. So I think you will guess I am in favour of online gradings and there are quite a few reasons for this:
My wife and I run Fighting Fitness Judo and before everything went into lockdown we had 275 club members and 400 school members (these figures are not put in to boast, there are a lot bigger judo clubs than us, the numbers are to give context). Teaching Judo is how we earn our living and it is all we’ve ever known. Within a matter of a month, we moved our whole club online, providing Judo classes, training resources and much more to all of our club members. But as it stands we’ve still lost a lot of members through suspensions or cancellations, we also face the challenge of not knowing when schools will return and if so will they allow us to run Judo classes when they do.
During this difficult period, Judo needs to keep its members engaged and British Judo has to do something. By allowing gradings online we can offer something constructive for our members to focus on and give them a welcome distraction.
I think the coronavirus will hit Judo harder than most Martial Arts and Sports. One of the biggest draws for Judo is it is full contact, children love the fact you can grab hold of someone else and try to throw them. As I am sure most of you are aware by now this is hard to replicate online and you, like us might be losing members because of this single point. On the flip side, we are aware of many Martial Arts picking up new members and growing their clubs/academies online (are they picking up your members?).
For some time now I think Judo is losing out to ‘Martial Arts’ Clubs, but I also think that is a post for another time.
Will online gradings be easy? In short, no. It will be tough, for the student and coach. We cannot kid ourselves, getting the students to demonstrate some of the techniques is going to be tough, especially if they do not have anyone to demonstrate on, but it is not impossible. We should remember gradings are much more than a student demonstrating a couple of techniques for their coach and then they are awarded a new belt or stripe. Within a grading, we are asking our students to:
- Try their best
- Learn something new
- Demonstrate techniques
- Show understanding
- Be resilient
- Find a way to overcome difficulties
- Help others
- Turn up to lessons
- Do this over a period of time
The question; is your student a better or worse Judo player if, during self-isolation, they’ve continued to learn their grading techniques, overcome the hurdles of practising at home, learned something new, tried their best, improved and when not able to demonstrate the technique talked through the coaching points?
We have to remember this is one grade!
Children and adults are going to remember this period of time forever. We have the opportunity to create a positive focus for them, which will help with their mental well being and potentially anchor in the importance of the sport for lifelong involvement.
Your students can demonstrate these things via zoom classes, facetime, skype – there are so many options, we are lucky this has happened in an age we have so many technological options.
As a club we have recorded and uploaded the complete 1st – 9th Sho grading syllabus for our under 8’s to start practising at home.
We are also in the process of recording the whole Mon grade syllabus for them and giving clear instructions around what is expected at this time.
I want to keep the children at our club engaged, fit, healthy and I want to help them through this tough period. Giving them the opportunity to work towards their next grade is an important part of this and I am more than happy to award a new grade to any student who has earned it online or otherwise.
Good luck if you decide to run gradings and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need any help.