BeterJudo, the Special Needs Judo club of SNJF, have started their lessons again after the summer holidays. The Dutch government allowed contact sports to proceed as per July 1st already, under strict rules:
Only judoka and teachers can be present, and no parents or supervisors are allowed to be in the room, or indeed in the building. Outside the tatami, a distance of 1,5m needs to be adhered to. Hands need to be disinfected on entering and leaving the tatami. Locker rooms are closed so judoka are required to come to the dojo in their Judo uniform.
Of course, this gives all sorts of trouble. Younger judoka (and BeterJudo teaches children as young as 3!) are not used to their parents being out of the room. On the other hand, for some other judoka this seems to be a blessing: they seem less restricted! For yet other judoka, the parents have decided not to come to the lessons until the crisis has blown over.

At least 95% of the SNJF judoka are in some way handicapped, and many of our older judoka live in what is called a “living group”, an institution that takes care of their main life’s necessities. Some of these institutions have decided not to let their residents participate in any extramural activities to avoid Corona contamination, so these people are effectively living in isolation since mid-march 2020. Of course we do encourage everybody to take part in our lessons, but on the other hand we understand that people stay away for fear of contamination.

Another challenge is that a number of our judoka are incapable of understanding the corona rules, simply because they lack the intellectual capability. They cuddle, highfive, cough and sneeze as if no Corona ever existed, oblivious of the dangers. So yes, our teachers are at some risk, reason why we are extra careful and will go and have ourselves tested at the first sign of trouble.

We also discovered a very interesting phenomena: Some judoka consider the dojo as some sort of “safe haven” where the strict Corona rules do not apply or indeed where Corona does not come. Several judoka, when asked why they do not follow the rules, go: “But this is Judo, it is safe here” or “But you are taking care of us, don’t you?”. As if the dojo and its teachers have magical anti-Corona shields. Flattering.. but alas, we do not.

We do convey all the Corona information through our website, and there also is a dedicated WhatsApp group for important messages. But.. even though the parents may be able to read, some of our judoka are effectively illiterate. They are used to the fact that longer texts are read by their parents and supervisors and, if important, that they are told about it- but of course, that doesn’t always happen.
But it is not all doom and gloom. We have done two weeks of happy lessons already, and last week we introduced a streaming webcam for the parents so they can at least see what their children are up to. We get compliments for the way we handle things, we are training for a European Kata Championship that may or may not happen- but at least we have something to look forward to, and we are moving into the future.
Special Needs Judo in the Corona Era – SNJF