11 June 2019


With the 6th Judo Festival well under way, it is a pleasure to welcome the new addition of the Special Needs Seminar to the Festival on the second day. As such a new contribution, it was incredible to see the amount of judoka and coaches that arrived to discover new ways of learning, as well as have a lot of fun. 

The lead coach was Tycho VAN DER WERFF, a special needs specialist, not only delivering the fundamentals but doing so with a tremendous personality which engaged the various attendees affected by autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, dyslexia and blindness among other needs. There are so many practitioners that are affected in some way which prevents them from training in the same way as mainstream athletes. 

Sören Starke

One of the judoka attending the Festival is Laura BICANIC, a Croatian practitioner with cerebral palsy who attends the Fuji Judo Club for disabilities in Velika Gorica. 

It’s my first time here, it is the first time here in Porec that there is special needs seminar, it is an enormous breakthrough for judo as a sport, for people with disabilities, it is a great way for judokas to connect on an international level to learn from each other. I think my coach and judoka friends have learnt a lot today from really esteemed coaches from the Netherlands and Slovenia. This is a great opportunity to have fun but also learn valuable lessons.

Over the course of two hours, VAN DER WERFF educated both coaches and athletes, using an array of activities and games to help some of the judoka relax in their new surroundings. These games also allowed the coach to test the power and strength of their judokas, coordination games were used to control movements which would usually be difficult, for example, training the neck in a break fall. Furthermore, there were exercises to help build trust in ne-waza, building up to core strength and balance training using an o-goshi hip movement whilst still on the knees before moving up in to tachi-waza.

Sören Starke

VAN DER WERFF explained the importance of bringing this seminar to the Festival in order to be inclusive of these practitioners as well as give the coaches the opportunity to learn new techniques from one another. 

The aim of this seminar is to show that these judoka know a lot, of what’s it all about, instead of competing against each other, we make games and have fun so everybody can grow, not just judokas, but I have learnt as well, to feel their movements, to understand their level. Games are always fun, it helps you to let your guard down and the tension will drop, some of these judoka are away for the first time and were afraid to begin with but now have integrated. I want to be able to introduce those low level kids in to judo, this sport is by far the best to get them in to this world, physically and mentally to give them the opportunity that we have.

A strong group is attending from Great Britain, Chris Murphy who trains at the the Shettleston Judo Club explained how he feels about the camp and the beautiful location,

It's been incredible, the location and everything is great from the resort to here on the mat, the session was really good for everyone, showing how other countries deal with lower level judoka, from autism to cerebral palsy.
Author: Thea Cowen
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