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Inside Lancaster University Judo Club

A judo club at Lancaster University is open for all to come along and learn the skills of the Olympic martial art.

Lancaster University Judo Club assistant coach Shane Byrne has spoken to Beyond Radio all about the club.

His judo roots go back to childhood and there are other family links to the club.

“Thirty-five years or so ago, there were two judo clubs in Lancaster," said Shane.

"My parents Pat and Dawn ran one at the Kingsway swimming baths, that’s how I first got into judo, and there was also the university club. The lead coach Simon Smith was at the university 40 or so years ago and went to the club.”

Shane’s parents are still involved with the sport.

“My parents are still involved in judo but they’re not playing an active role on the mats.

"They do things for North West Judo – my dad is director of examiners, my mum is on the committee, Simon used to be chairperson for North West Judo and I’m a senior examiner.

“Anyone who wants to go for black belts, they have to compete and do theory and you have to be a senior examiner level coach to oversee that – that’s what we do. All four lead coaches at the university club are lead examiners and kata course examiners for the katas you have to do for judo.” A kata is a form of induvial training used in martial art sports.

“Two of the katas are needed for people going for black belts, some of the remaining katas are a bit different, some are to do with weapons and counters, and some are even to do with how samurais would use judo on a battlefield!”

Several of the club’s members are black belts – Simon and Pat both have a sixth Dan belt, Dawn has a fifth Dan belt, Shane has a fourth Dan belt and many others have first, second and third Dans.

Lancaster University Judo Club run adult sessions at the university’s sports centre on Tuesdays from 7.45pm until 9.15pm and children’s sessions on Saturdays from 10am until 11am and 11am until 12pm for kids between ages five to 15.

“People think that, because of our name, we’re a student only club, but we’re not. We’re only called Lancaster University Judo Club because that’s where we do the sessions, we only have about two university students at the club.”

The club offer two types of training: recreational and competitive. “Recreational is for people who are learning the basics of judo before they progress to the more competitive and complex techniques.

“We will go through all the basics, work our way up the grades, tailoring it to whatever grades people are on the mat. If there’s more than one coach during a session, we can split the class – one coach will take higher grades and do more complex techniques, the other will take the lower grades and do the more basic techniques.

“With regards to competitive training, that’s more about tailoring someone’s judo to a style that suits them. We have people of all body types at the club and people have their own individual way of how they like to fight. We look at things like what kind of throws they can land depending on their height and their weight.

“We talk through mechanics of the throws, how you set up the person you’re going to throw – judo is very much an action-reaction sport.”

Members both past and present of the club have had great opportunities to play judo.

“Simon has fought all over the place, he got a bronze medal in a big competition in Japan in the past. Simon and I and a few others have previously been involved in North West area squads and Amy, another one of our coaches, has won quite a few medals as well representing the area.

“We used to take part in a Battle of the Roses, Lancaster University versus York University. It was a whole weekend of sports and as a club we won more times that they did!”

There are many benefits both physically and mentally to judo.

“We joke at the club that there’s being fit and there’s being judo fit! Judo works your entire body: you grip with your hands, you move with your feet, you use your upper body for throwing and strength.

“When it comes to fighting, you’re potentially doing it for four to five minutes – it’s constant, there’s no break. Your cardio, your stamina and your strength are all being tested. Physically, it can be a challenge.

“It gives people focus and drive on a mental health level, We say that judo isn’t a sport, it’s a way of life because rules of judo are carried through to life: honour, respect, dignity, if you don’t succeed first time around, you dust yourself off, think about it, try again and progress.

“I find, on a mental health level, it’s a great escape. You can just lose yourself in the fights and even though I focus more on the coaching side nowadays, it’s still an escape for me – the technical side and the whole culture and dynamic of judo are so interesting. ”

The club attracts, on average, around 10 people for the adult sessions but it can be anything up to 18, and around 20 kids for the Saturday sessions.

People of any age and experience can take part in the sessions. For this month, it costs £6.70 per session but from April the cost will lower to £5 per session. All equipment is provided by the club.

Lancaster University Judo Club sessions take place at the university’s sports centre from 7.45pm to 9.15pm on Tuesdays for people 16 and over, and from 10am to 11am and 11am to 12pm on Saturdays for children between five and 15.

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