- Article taken from the IJF website. All rights reside with the original author.Remarkable things happen when remarkable people have remarkable ideas! Daniel Zodian is a remarkable person and is the mastermind and drive behind Bronx People, a care-giving organisation based in Bacau, Romania.
Daniel Zodian and his wife Ana were building their own family home in 2017 but during the build the motive changed and Daniel decided to open the house as an orphanage. In 2018 their dream was realised.
Daniel told us, “‘Bronx’ is a name associated with negative connotations aligned with poverty in the USA. This is a contradiction I decided to highlight. I am committed to showing that when people discover our version of the Bronx it will only bring happiness. It was that idea that gave rise to the name ‘Bronx People.’”
Bronx People is an NGO and registered charity re-homing and caring for children from state-run orphanages in Bacau. Daniel was teaching judo at the orphanages and came up with the idea of creating a special home for judo children. There were 26 in the first group and now, with a lot of work from a few key people, there is a very positive system in place.
When entering the house there is noise, lots of it, but that includes music, some of it being played by the young residents on guitars or other instruments. There is art and photography on the walls and a range of family photos that show happy Christmases, judo successes, days out, just with a much bigger family than most of us will ever experience. There are the joyous smells of home cooking and there is always someone doing homework, somewhere in the house.
Gabi Iftimescu was a student in Bucharest but says she really wasn’t happy there. “I came back home to Bacau and with free time aplenty I looked for things to do. I saw a shoebox campaign online with the idea of creating Christmas presents for delivery to children. I wanted to prepare something for them and I went to the dojo in town to deliver mine. I was told to remove my shoes and go through the dojo on to the mats. I didn’t ask why but I met Daniel and other volunteers in the dojo. I was attracted by the social side of their activities. They were so committed to gathering resources to support children, especially those with emotional issues and other social problems.”
During our interviews we hear a shout, “Alex!” It’s really loud. There is no speaker system in the house but a call from Daniel is one responded to by all. He keeps the schedules and programmes and chores in order and everyone works for everyone. Cooking, growing food, painting walls, cleaning the yard, it doesn’t matter eBay needs to be done, there is always someone to do it for the benefit of everyone.
There is some money coming from sponsors. Daniel used to have a construction company, which he doesn’t run any more, but he had built a strong network of contacts. He built the first house and the summer dojo himself, with the help of some of the children. Everything that is built for the purposes of learning, leisure, sport and fun is open to the local community as well as those who live in the Bronx People project. This way the community and even some people from further afield can see the good that is being done here. Spreading the word about the project brings some financial assistance.
There are many opportunities for personal development. Daniel says, “Practising judo brings discipline, motivation, friendship, and having access to this very different set-up from the state system. The staff in the state system are there to work and earn wages. We could even consider the children there are treated like documents or numbers with a need for the correct boxes to be ticked and the signatures to be obtained. It’s not like that here.”
Daniel finished nursing school and also studied architecture. By law there must be a qualified nurse on sight and also a social worker and therefore Daniel and Dana have completed studies which fulfil that brief.
Daniel lets us see a little of his personal motivation, “We cannot be indifferent. We are human and so we must care. I consider what we do as the desired norm’, shouldn’t everyone care this way? For me it’s normal, it’s a lifestyle choice to live with goodness.
There is magnetism about the house. Once people visit, they want to return and do more. One idea to make use of all the good feeling and the desire to help came in the form of a new judo tournament. Bronx People wanted to run a big judo competition to attract many people and to publicise our project. Maybe it could even attract more sponsors.
Denisa Deliu is a judoka and coach who has worked with the EJU and IJF in the past and has a lot of experience. She agreed to become the competition manager. In 2022 the event attracted competitors from 6 countries, including a huge, high level team from Turkiye. The event was a great success and will run again later this year.
Gabi said, “Seeing what we do, via the website or in person, not just in the house but beyond, is important. We also link with other NGOs to do joint projects which impact the community; long-term sustainable projects, many of which can apply for finance from government or private donors. There are projects in schools with children who have mental disabilities and with a lot of our projects we find there are many opportunities for us to offer access for new children to judo. There is a lot of competition for private funding and demonstrating that Bronx People can have long term impact is tough but we are getting there.“
Daniel told us about what is in pipeline too, “Mr Vizer has supported us to begin building a special house close to our first one, specially for mums who are raising children with difficulties. We are also now building a medical centre and a house designed to cater for the needs of children with disabilities. It’s becoming a small village rather than just our original house but funding all that is really challenging. We won’t stop, though, there’s too much good being done and the benefits for these young people are life-changing.”
All donations and support will be gratefully received. If you’re ever in the area, go and say hello and you too will feel inspired!
Good news from the EJU Festival in Poreč, Croatia: Our rules (yes, the ones we have been working on since the end of the nineties) are now accepted as THE rules for Special Needs Judo. And, our divisioning system FCS is also accepted as THE system to be used in order to give Special Needs judoka a safe and fair competition experience. Below is a nice article from the Romanian paper Dešteptarea.
(Photo: EJU. Artikel: Dešteptarea, Translation: Google Translate. Link to original article)
From June 10-21, 2023, Croatia hosted the eighth edition of the EJU Judo Festival, the event ending with a series of activities dedicated to Special Needs athletes and coaches.
At the invitation of Denisa Marian (Deliu), advisor to the president of the European Judo Union, Romania was represented by CS Bronx Powerlifting Club Bacău, through coaches Daniel Zodian and Maria Budău, athletes Ionela Ivan, Grafian Cojocaru, Alexandru Zodian, Oana Panțiru, but also by the president of the club, Gabriela Iftimescu. Since the beginning of 2022, the club has brought to Romania the largest adapted judo campaign through which it proposed to children with mental disabilities a form of alternative therapy, through sports, in which no less than 729 children from the municipality participated Bacău, within the project “Judo is played, CE Spui?”, financed by the In Stare de Bine program, supported by Kaufland Romania and implemented by the Civil Society Development Foundation. In the year 2023, the campaign is to be expanded nationally, in 10 counties in the country, through the project “Judoka, rei!-Unde terimileri dispar…”, so that the educational and therapeutic value of judo is more and more intense promoted.
During the event, the participants enjoyed sessions of adapted judo, theoretical and practical seminars related to approaches to disabilities, the division of athletes according to the level of disability, but also the rules of Special Needs competitions, as well as games and activities informal, such as t-shirt painting or crafting. At the same time, the festival brought along judokas and coaches big names from the world of judo, such as Nuno Delgado and Malte Geppert, coordinators of the Judo for Children program in the European Judo Union, Marina Drascoviç, coordinator of the adapted judo department of the European Union of Judo, Barbara Matic, double world champion, and Olympic champion of Slovenian origin Tina Trstenjak.
Following the festival, where organizations from all over the world that work with judoka with mental disabilities were present for dialogue and exchange of best practices, the official regulations for holding Special Needs judo sports events will be published on the EJU website, as well as the way of recognition, definition and framing of disability, so that, at the European level, organizations can develop a unitary work system, removing organizational and participation conflicts.
The CS Bronx Powerlifting Club Bacău team, which, from 2021, was joined by Denisa Marian, is going to implement the first judo festival adapted alongside the European Judo Union. More than a sport, judo is a way to grow, push your limits and develop, an aspect that the Bronx Sport Club team wants to highlight by offering judo programs for typical children, but also atypical, to reach all schools in Romania, to students, physical education and sports teachers, but also to parents looking for a form of therapy for their children. The Fall School is just one example of a judo program that has been successfully implemented internationally and that can be fruitful in schools, but also in sports clubs, regardless of the sport practiced.
“Working with athletes with intellectual disabilities starts with understanding them. In people suffering from an intellectual disability, there are, according to doctors, deficiencies in two areas: at the level of intellectual functioning, through incapacity or reduced capacity for learning, motivation, decision-making and problem-solving, with an IQ below 70, and at the level of adaptive behaviors, which means the ordinary skills by which we survive in everyday life, from communication, interaction and self-care capacity. And judo comes and folds on every practitioner, because the needs of play, confidence, courage, interaction and communication are needs of every human being, regardless of abilities or disabilities. And, to quote our friends from the Special Needs Judo Foundation, promoters of adapted judo in Europe, SN judo is created for all judoka. Every participant will have the opportunity to enjoy and compete in judo together, at their own level, in the safest way possible. And this can be done because we made sure that the rules promote safety”, explained Daniel Zodian, CS Bronx Powerlifting Club Bacau coordinator judo coach.
Recently we received questions from quite a number of judo coaches, teachers and other people dealing with A-Judo, asking us about the correct way to run a divisioning session: What should be in there? What is the actual purpose?
Remember that all our judoka are amateurs. The Monday after the tournament, they all go back to work, school or whatever else they do, and they should be able to do so without any injury. They rely on us, the experts, to have them put in the correct pool for maximal safety and fun.
In this article, we will try to put together some good practices and maybe some guidelines for divisioning.
First of all- what is the purposes of divisioning?
The purpose of divisioning is to put a judoka in one of the 5 FCS-classes, so that the competition can take place in a safe and fair manner, and that preventable injuries are exactly that: preventable. No more, no less.
Divisioning is done on what criteria?
- Power – How powerful is the judoka and how does he/she utilise that power?
- Responsiveness – How responsive is the judoka to sudden changes in situation?
- Balance – How well-balanced is the judoka and if not, is he/she able to utilise his/her imbalance?
- Will to win – Never mind how skilled a judoka is: If he/she doesn’t have a proper will to win, nothing will happen
- Tactics – Does the judoka have a preferred tactic?
Divisioning is NOT done on:
- The necessity to end up in a certain pool
Let’s watch some video
SNJF have put together a number of instructional videos for EJU, to show examples of simple divisioning games. Please note: These games are just examples. Numerous other games can be figured out using the enormous toolkit that judo provides but remember: Judo is what the athletes are coming for and it is judo they should be tested on.
This video shows how to test ukemi-waza skills, and to see how fast and agile a judoka moves around on the tatami. The second part shows a test of the will to win.
Again, another test of the will to win, and how to turn over the other judoka.
A test of the judoka’s agility
A test of coordination and procedural insight
“The worst backpack in the world” tests power and the will to win.
In this game, one judoka lies on the ground and the other sits behind him in za-zen. Judoka one rolls away, judoka two tries to stop him. This game tests power and persistence.
Simple game: One judoka lies down and tries to stand up, the other tries to prevent this. Another test of power and persistence.
Two variations of a simple game: Both judoka turn their obi around so the knot is on their back. They will then try to grab each other’s knot. This game tests agility and movement speed and, if it is left to go on for a while, physical condition.
An escape game, where insight, tactics and agility is tested.
As can be seen, all these games have judo aspects. Testing judoka with ball games or by having them balance on a string is less relevant. Judo has an enormous toolkit of techniques and methods from which to choose and there is no reason to use alternative tools.
..can be downloaded here.
A bit of history
In 1998, Ben van der Eng†, Tomas Rundqvist and Tycho van der Werff developed the Functional Classification system and a complementary set of competition rules. Up to that moment, divisioning (as we will call it in this document) was haphazard, fragmented and unstandardised, as were the rules.
The new system, focused on safety, was adopted and tested by several organisations. Several national judo federations adopted it, and the first Special Olympics judo competitions in 2003 (Dublin) were successfully executed using the new system. SO, since then, have adopted these rules as their global standard.
Since then, the system has gone through several iterations and refinements, the last one in 2018 when the JBN, the Dutch Judo Federation, allowed a pilot on the latest version. The main objective of the system is to always, and without compromise, ensure the safety of Special Needs judoka participating in competitions.
Since a few years, EJU have adopted these same SN judo rules for the below-12 category.
What is our problem?
Fact: we see little to no major injuries in the levels 2-5. The larger part of major injuries occur in the level 1 division, where often judoka are severely injured by techniques, forbidden under SN rules but still allowed by referees who are either uneducated or deliberately unwilling to execute these rules. There is a list with numerous examples of preventable injuries.
As can be seen in the above table, some Level 1 judoka can compete in mainstream judo and indeed a small percentage can even compete on national and international level. This document and our considerations focus on those Level-1 judoka.
SN judo is all about safety
SN judo should be safe for all levels. As long as there is a slight chance that the wrong levels are combined (and sadly this happens far too often) we cannot let level 1 players have a different set of rules.
Level 1 players have an option that the rest of the SN judoka do not have: They are able to compete safely in mainstream judo. Less successful, most likely, since they won’t have the medal guarantee they have when they compete in SN. But at the same time, and this is the main thing, they have this option and it could give them the opportunity to grow into a better judoka.
So in reality, judoka and trainers of the level 1 players have the best of both worlds. They can compete both mainstream and SN. With all the benefits: for example being able to become World Champion in II1, II2 or II3 in Adapted Judo. Participate in Special Olympic world games whilst, by the way, at the same time preventing others much more in need of the experience from participating.
Or you can face the facts and recognise that Special Needs judo is not for you anymore, and find new challenges so you can grow as a judoka, instead of pursuing cheap victories.
A perfect example of this is a judoka from The Netherlands, who started in SN judo, was the best of the best, decided he wanted to pursue a career in mainstream and is now a real mainstream World Champion. He pursued jita-kioey, a well-known adagium of Kano Shihan, where you learn and grow together for the benefit of all.
He left SN judo so others could have a winning chance and he himself went on growing in the mainstream realm. His reasoning was: why perform under your ability for easy medals and not show others the respect and allow them to achieve their full potential?
Some people say: “By depriving level-1 judoka of the mainstream rules and techniques, we damage the inclusive judo and we discriminate them“
Is this true? That is like saying: judoka under 12 years, competing under a rule set very similar to the SN rules are excluded from judo? Judoka competing under safe rules are excluded?
Exclusion is defined as: “the act of preventing somebody/something from entering a place or taking part in something“.
We now have championships only for people with an IQ <75. We have championships only for people with ASD. All these judoka are free to train and compete with others, with or without a disability, yet these championships are only for them.
Where is the inclusion here?
SN judo is created for all judoka. Every participant will have the opportunity to enjoy and compete in judo together, at their own level, in the safest way possible. And this can be done because we made sure that the rules promote safety.
Does this sound like inclusion or exclusion?
Where is the “discrimination” here?
If judoka also want a different kind of judo then there is no problem. There are other branches of judo-like activities: Of course there is mainstream judo, but also kata, sambo, BJJ, to name a few. And, there are the noninclusive championships for II1, II2 and II3.
Let’s make a comparison with another martial art: Under general kickboxing rules, elbow punches and clinching are not allowed. If a kickboxer does not agree with that, there is always the option to compete in Muay Thai.
The same goes for SN-judo. If a level-1 judoka does not agree with the fact that kansetsu- shime- and sutemi-waza are forbidden under SN rules, there are always mainstream competitions to compete in. On the other hand, if that same judoka insists on competing in SN-judo that is fine too, there is no exclusion. But, the judoka will have to abide by the rules.
Different rules for level-1?
As discussed earlier, level-1 players have a world of options to compete if they do not like the limits put on them by the SN rules.
Second, the risk of misdivisioning is too large and an unsuspecting level-2 (or worse, an even lower level judoka) might very well end up in the poule of a superior and therefore dangerous opponent.
So our view is:
No, we will not have separate rules for level-1 under SN judo.
However, we do recognise the work done by the Virtus organisation and their strive to make championships. But in order to agree upon the ruleset for that, we all need to agree on a common ruleset for all levels before we can adjust for any deviations from it.
That is why we will not, at this point, make any adjustments specific for Level 1 judoka.
The AUTJUDO handbook, produced through cooperation of several EU partners (SNJU one of them), is finally here! The Erasmus+ AUTJUDO project have worked for three years on this and we are very proud of our product. See below for the available languages, and click to download for FREE!
The FCS (also sometimes referred to as the Adaptive Classification System) has been in use for decades and has been continuously developed until its last revision in 2018. The five-grade system ensures safety and fair competition. Indeed, SNJF and later SNJU have promoted and introduced this system and its associated rulebook into their sphere of influence.
One of the criticisms of the system’s opponents is that it is, allegedly, impossible to rate adapted judoka based on a snapshot evaluation.
The AUTJUDO project in which SNJU and SNJF are participants has now proven that this is most certainly possible, with a high degree of reliability. Indeed, three universities have confirmed this in a peer-reviewed experiment.
This is good news for our FCS; it confirms what we already knew: FCS is a great basis to organise safe and fair competition.
For more information CLICK HERE.
SEE YOU IN BEVERWIJK! SEE YOU AT BENG!
Two of our board members have resigned from SNJU but our enthusiasm and drive to make things better for our audience did not diminish a bit. Nevertheless, we feel it is time to re-build the SNJU and make some changes. Let us make a simple list:
- SNJU is not a member organisation anymore. We feel that it is unnecessary and indeed counterproductive to make an organisation in-between the country federations and the EJU and IJF. Instead, SNJU will form ad-hoc relationships with other organisations that need our help or advice but we do not require such an organisation to become a member in turn. However we will keep acting as spokespersons for the ideals we represent, using our extensive network in the judo world.
- SNJU will therefore become a service organisation, providing the SN Judo community with advice, documentation and whatever may be needed to give proper support.
- SNJU will not ask any financial remuneration for its services, except when we need to use third parties to accomplish what is asked of us, for example to hire a venue, or book a flight. This means our documents, trainings, videos, seminars itself are free. We do however take the liberty to ask for a -voluntary- donation.
- One thing remains the same: We stand firm behind all judoka of good will who go for safety and fair play, according to the ideals of Kano Shihan.
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This is a presentation by Tycho before a group of Special Needs Judo teachers in the judo 3.0 Seminar in Zagreb, May 2021. We are publishing this because coming Sunday the 5th of September, Tycho will give another presentation, this time about adapted kata and we will publish that video too when it becomes available.
This video shows how to make use of ushiro-ukemi to help handicapped judoka become familiar with the judo lessons.
You can now receive SNJU news through Telegram!
If you do not yet use Telegram, the secure brother of WhatsApp, you should! Because then we can supply you with all the news from the SNJU website! New information includes:
- New articles of course
- New publications
- Updates to the Special Needs Judo Calendar