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August 28

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Is Judo paying the price for being too cheap?

By Vince

August 28, 2020

British Judo, Judo, Judo Online, Learn Judo, Martial Arts

Has your Judo club been affected by Covid-19? … I know, stupid question, of course it has, it has affected all of us!

But did you imagine it was going to be like this?

Before I start, I think the British Judo Association (BJA) is in a difficult position, because it seems like the UK have totally struggled to get to grips with the virus, whereas other countries have gained more control.

In some parts of Europe they are already taking part in full contact Judo.

In the UK we are allowed to run socially distanced classes indoors on a 3m x 3m mat area with a maximum of 15 students and 1 coach.

Full British Judo Guidelines can be found here>

To run classes indoors:

  • You would need 144 mats (1m x 1m)
  • A hall big enough to place those mats with the adequate spacing all around
  • Allow extra time for cleaning the mats, equipment and
  • Allow extra time for people leaving/entering the building between classes to minimise cross over crowds
  • Accept increased costs of hall hire due to the longer rental period
  • Accept increased costs of additional cleaning

Here is an impressive set up at Kingsley School Dojo …

As a coach you would also need to feel confident that you could not only provide a safe and covid secure place to practice, but be able to deliver suitable classes to all of your membership.

After running classes online for the last 6 months I know it’s not easy! The previous 27 years of Judo experience did not prepare me for teaching socially distanced Judo!

Even if you can do all of the above (plus all of the additional measures I have not mentioned set out by the BJA), can you be bothered?!

If it was not my profession and how I earned a living, I really don’t know if I would not want to go through all of this rigmarole!

I will mention I do understand that British Judo are doing what they think is necessary especially with Sport England and UK Sport WATCHING (they control the money).

Many clubs in the UK are run by coaches and volunteers who do not earn a wage from their club.

Clubs will collect a small fee from it’s membership when they turn up to train (pay as you go) and then that money is invested back into the club.

Which is a ‘nice’ system.

Now before I continue I am not attacking these clubs, if it was not for clubs like these when I was younger I would not have been able to progress to the level I have.

This should not be how the majority of Judo clubs are run in the UK

and now Judo is paying the price for being too cheap and not being run as a business.

How can these “recreational or community” clubs afford to come back?

What assistance are they given to return to Judo?

Why would their members want to do socially distanced classes?

Lets change this slightly: who believes that the other martial arts schools in your area are better than your Judo club?

Not me!

But most of them have an advantage over you during this period; the simplest and most convenient answer is they are generally non contact, so running classes could not be easier to do socially distanced! But that is also a lazy answer.

The Biggest Advantage is they Operate as a Business and for Profit!

I have spoken to many people over these last few months and have been looking at other Martial Arts to try and gain insights on how I can get my Judo club through this and make it even stronger for the future, some of what I have learnt is pretty impressive:

One particular Martial Arts School gained 50 new members on their online program during lockdown. – We lost 100 members from our club program and we ran all through lockdown online.

Most Martial Arts Clubs charge anything from £30 – £70 per month for their programs via d/d or standing orders (no pay as you go). People will pay money if they feel their children will reap the benefits.

Another Martial Arts Schools Dojo is 9,000 square feet – my wife and I are looking at securing a dojo for our club of 1,600 square feet and that will cost us the best part of £32,000 per year!

By earning a living and charging a fair price (possibly overcharging in some cases) they are able to invest money into their dojo, equipment, staffing, education, customer journey, advertising and marketing.

It has also forced them to continue providing classes and be innovative when many were closing their doors.

These Martial Arts Schools are open and now on the offensive, they want to recoup the money they have lost and now they are looking to take your members!

I bet if you open up Facebook now and start scrolling through your timeline you will start to see adverts for online martial arts courses and martial arts schools! They are offering 1 or 2 weeks free training, a new uniform and they will get 1000’s of children across the country joining the schools and academies.

Your students are seeing those very same messages!

In Judo we can be very offended when money and profit is mentioned so if we just remove ourselves away from money and business and ask ourselves a few questions:

  • Would British Judo benefit if you had 300 members or more at your club?
  • Would British Judo benefit if you had a full time dojo?
  • Would British Judo benefit if you had more time to invest in your own coach education?
  • Would British Judo benefit if you had more time to invest in your members training?
  • If every coach in the country had more of this would we have a better chance of securing more Olympic, World & European medals?
  • If every coach in the country had more of this would we be able to secure a better pathway for athletes, coaches and referees?

I believe Judo is the best Sport and Martial Art (I would say that), but I think we need to look at these Martial Arts clubs and learn.

We have an excellent product!

We can take children through the door at 5 years old and help the become Olympic Champion, we can help them be a positive member of society.

We still need our community clubs, we still need our recreational clubs, but we also need to start looking at how we make more clubs into businesses if we want Judo to learn from this pandemic!

This is going to be an ongoing journey and I definitely do not have all of the answers at the moment but I am not willing to see our members leave the sport due to our inability to be resilient and adapt.

This post is possibly a bit of a rant on my part, but after listening to Judo coaches online I felt I wanted to add my thoughts on the situation. Please feel free to comment or share this post.

I hope you all get back to Judo as soon as possible!

Vince

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