7 June 2024

HARPER OFFICIALLY BECOMES A HISTORIC FIGURE

European Judo Championships Veterans 2024

HARPER OFFICIALLY BECOMES A HISTORIC FIGURE

The first ever Ne-waza European Judo Championships took place in Sarajevo as part of the European Judo Championships Veterans 2024, with the M1 – M3 categories contributing to the debut. Due to the limited number of entries, a single championship was held in the -100kg category. In the end, Daniel HARPER (GBR) became the first European champion in Ne-waza in the history of judo, thus becoming a historical figure.

Harper’s first outing at a veteran Europeans was back in Glasgow 2018 where he grabbed bronze. Until 7 June 2024, he took a break from international tournaments yet kept up with his routine on national level. The question was immediately asked: what brought you here for the Ne-waza event?

It was, to be fair, becuase I have done a bit of BJJ and I was excited when I have seen the Ne-waza element on the form. I thought it was quiet compelling to be part of it.

What do you think of the concept?

I think it is really cool. It is a really good way of keeping judoka who potentially struggling with the standing element in judo. Also it is really good to mix things up. I think Jigoro Kano was always one of those people who was trying to make judo be different and evolve and I think this is another step forward in that. I really support it. Although, it would be really good if we were allowed to compete in both, standing and the ground work. Perhaps in future tournaments. All in all, as a concept I think it is really good.

You mentioned doing BJJ yourself and there are many others out there in the same situation. Do you think this event could bring some of our own back and maybe even draw in some of the BJJ community?

Absolutely, I was actually even talking about this to my BJJ coach and he was like ‘Oh I would like to have a go at that’, so I think it is the way forward for both sports to mix in a really productive way. I would really recommend everyone to have a go at it, I really enjoyed it.

What is your intake on the rules?

To start gripped up made it a bit harder to be fair becuase once you gripped up you both strong and you are fighting for positioning. Felt a lot of it was like fighting for position to get on top of the opponent. Maybe if it was something like one goes down, the other one on top and swap at each exchange, maybe that way there was more judo happening. If we weren’t gripped up that might have helped too. It felt weird but then again it may make people to start training that way.

What I thought was really cool thought is the golden score element. That was absolutely awesome, it was like a penalty shoot out. I found it really cool, the fact that you hold down and then they hold you down and you need to beat their score. This is a fantastic addition that really adds some buzz to it!

Let’s talk about your fights today, thoughts around your opponents?

They both were really strong, my German opponent, Michael, he has done BJJ and I could tell that when I was fighting him. They were both strong and that is what I felt as well being different competing in BJJ as opposed to this Ne-waza event. Physically this was way more challenging. It is a lot harder on your body as you don’t have that time to rest as you have in BJJ. It is a different sport, definitely a different sport for those people who say in BJJ and Ne-waza judo you are just trying to play to the BJJ people. But it [Ne-waza judo event] is a different game, it is a different game and I think a lot of the BJJ guys would struggle in this event so yes, it is not as easy as it might look like.

Well, you are European champion and the first ever one in Ne-waza. It is a pretty big deal, has it sank in yet?

Yes, it is the first time it happened and to be the champion…[he pauses] it feels amazing. I was so happy when I won my second fight. I was buzzing. Time for celebration and I am definitely going to be on the look out for the next event as such, as I said, it was really cool.

The inaugural European Champion in Ne-waza has been officially crowned. In 10 years’ time, when the question is posed as to who was the first ever European Champion in Ne-waza, the answer will be firmly established: Daniel Harper of Great Britain on the 7th of June 2024 in Sarajevo.

Author: Szandra Szogedi