Judokas spreading the way.
Judo is one of the world’s most widely practiced sports and the IJF has been on location everywhere from Mongolia’s road-free rural wilderness in Asia to most recently the deserts in Ghardaïa, Algeria.
IJF Judo for Peace Director, Mr. Nicolas Messner, led a series of conferences on the judo and Olympic values from 1-9 March after being invited by the Algerian Olympic Committee (COA), in coordination with the Algerian Judo Federation. The conferences were accompanied by judo clinics for children in the capital city, Algiers, Tizi-Ouzou in the Kabylie Region, and in Ghardaia, the gate of the Sahara desert.
The idea for the conferences came up at the end of 2013, when Mr. Mohamed Meridja, Head IJF Education and Coaching Director and also COA Vice-President, went to China to organise the first part of the ‘Judo Journey Through China’, together with Mr. Messner. During their two-week stay, both men visited six main Chinese cities to promote the educational dimension of judo. They were joined by former world champion and Beiing Olympic bronze medallist Ruben Houkes from the IJF’s Judo for Children Commission.
The Algerian Olympic Committee President, Mr. Mustapha Berraf, said: “These kind of conferences and activities are really important and must be promoted. This must be done more often and it will help the Algerian Judo to get back to its high level.”
Mr. Meridja declared: “Thanks to the hard work of the IJF President, Mr. Marius Vizer, judo at the world level is growing very fast. It is important that my country, where judo has been one of the most important sports for many years, continues to follow the movement.”
Mr. Mati Messaoud, President of the Algerian Judo Federation, explained that his federation was ready to support the development of judo in the country and outside its boundaries: “We are ready to collaborate with the IJF to promote our sport in all directions. I want to thank the National Olympic Committee for its initiative to organise these activities.”
“Judo is a very strong sport in Algeria (several Olympic and world medals) and obviously, to be a judoka opens many doors,” said Mr. Messner, who was amazed by the quality of the welcoming that he received, before adding: “From Tizi-Ouzou, to Algiers and Ghardaia, everybody was keen to learn more about international judo and to discover how the judo values can help to build a better society and can give skills for life to the young generations.”
First conference in Tizi-Ouzou
From December 1991 to February 2002, Algeria was deep in the black decade. If today peace is back from the Mediterranean seashore to the far south of the country, the marks of the civil war are sometimes still palpable and talking about the judo and Olympic values has a real signification.
The first conference was held in Tizi-Ouzou, in front of 50 coaches and judo club leaders of the Kabyle region. Mr. Messner, who was accompanied by Mr. Mohamed Meridja, Mr. Mohamed Azzoug (Assistant to the IJF Education and Coaching Director), and Mr. Mati Messaoud, presented the judo values, which are based on the moral code of judo. The IJF development programmes were presented to the audience (Judo for Peace, Judo for Children…) and a long Q&A session followed the presentation. The message of the participants was clear: ‘We need tools to help us at the local level to make judo grow’. One of the tools that was highly commented is the IJF Judo Academy, which was launched at the end of 2013 and which is a fantastic opportunity for the coaches to get graduated at the international level.
Conference at the National Olympic Committee
The second conference was held at the National Olympic Committee headquarters. The presence of the NOC President was particularly appreciated and showed how judo is considered as a major sport in the country. Once again, the highlight was put on the judo values with a special focus on how those values perfectly fit with the Olympic values. The media were present on the occasion of this conference and several articles were published in the Algerian newspapers.
Just after the conference at the National Olympic Committee, Mr. Messner also led a judo clinic with 80 children coming from three different clubs of Algiers. During almost two hours, the young judoka experienced an educational approach to judo and learned a lot about the judo roots and origins as well as about the judo philosophy.
Judo in Ghardaia
The third stage of this original judo journey through Algeria was in Ghardiai, 600km south from Algiers. Ghardaia is a very traditional city, which has been witnessing some tensions over the past months. Therefore the focus was placed on the Judo for Peace activities and on how to use the judo values to help people to respect each other and to build a better society. The IJF delegation which was accompanied by the National Technical Director of the Algerian federation, visited a local school where judo has been present as part of the school curriculum for several decades. A conference and a judo clinic were organised in the school. The fact that the dojo is a protected place where no discrimination is allowed was also highlighted. “When we step on the tatami, we don’t speak about politics or about religion. This is a safe place where all judoka are equal, the only difference being made by the level of the judoka,” recalled the IJF expert.
This message was apparently very well welcomed. In the following morning, the 50 children of the school walked to the desert for a unique judo session in the dunes. The young participants enjoyed practicing their favourite sport in such a wild and usually unfriendly environment and the memory will remain with them as a major souvenir.
Before leaving the city, the delegation also visited the Istiklal Judo club of Beni Isguen, which is particularly well organised and where exclusive activities are also proposed to the women.
“We have no access to the competition but we gather together twice a week with a group of 20 women. We learn self-defence, self-control and self-esteem. Judo helps us a lot. Thanks to our sensei, Mr Blidi Boukamel Kamel, who is a 3rd dan in judo, and an international referee, we learn to respect each other. The power of the martial arts is incredible,” explained one of the women participating in the activity.
Within a week, three conferences and several judo clinics were organised throughout the country. With the strong support of the National Olympic Committee and the help of the national judo federation, the judo activities were a complete success. Judo has a strong tradition in Algeria and for sure the implementation of powerful educational activities will be the key of future successes.