By Christopher Tobutt
Elvis Coward, President of the Cayman Islands Judo Association, along with the Ivette Dixon, the Association’s Technical Director, want to get school kids across the island more involved in judo, especially during the YMCA-run Government-backed afterschool program. The new judo sessions began at the John A Cumber Primary School in West Bay about five years ago, but now operates at several other primary schools. Mr. Coward would really like to see all the schools in Cayman involved, including secondary schools, so that all school kids get a chance to join in Judo. He is founding member of the Cayman Islands Judo Association, is a second-degree black belt, and presently helps show the afterschool kids judo moves for around an hour and a half, John A. Cumber Primary School twice a week. Ms Dixon has been extending the programme first to Red Bay Primary, and three other primary schools, but the dream is to extend the opportunity to all of Cayman’s schools. In order to do that, the Association are looking for adult volunteers who are willing to help.
The Association caters for all ages, from six years old to adult, so that all the primary-school kids can take part if they want to. Mr. Coward feels that if they choose to participate in judo, it can do them a lot of good, physically, mentally and socially: “A lot of the kids are at-risk kids, so this will utilize some of the spare time that they have, so it keeps them out of trouble. In addition, it allows them to exercise, teaches them discipline, and it also teaches them sport so they can possibly compete for Cayman if they decide to continue with it,” Mr. Coward said. Feedback from teachers suggests that taking part in judo on a regular basis has a positive effect on kids’ behavior, Mr. Coward said.
The kids’ very first belt is always a white belt, but once they show the right throws and holds, with a particular emphasis on technique, they can progress through yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and finally black, but there are different degrees of black, belt, too.
We want to extend this programme to all the schools, and in order to do that we are going to reach out for people who have practiced judo before but are not involved at the moment, to get them to come out as volunteers.” But they don’t all have to be black belts, and Mr. Coward believes that as long as people are interested, they can be taught: “Once we get some people willing to assist, then we can train them in the proper techniques and oversee them because of course we can’t be at every school every day,” he said.
YMCA’S Youth Development Coordinator, Liesl Hope, believes that offering judo as an option is a great compliment to the YMCA’s other activities: “We aim at developing character in our youth so we have five core values of honesty, caring, responsibility, respect and faith. Judo teaches a lot of self-control, and I think that having that self-control and respect for oneself and others fits in very well with our values,” she said.
Busy on the mats, a group of afterschool kids were being taught throws and holds by Ms. Dixon. It was Andreanna’s very first session. “It’s fun,” she said. “It makes you get all your anger out of you and you feel much better.” Kourtney, in Year 6 has been doing Judo for three years: “It has taught me self-defense and it is a fun experience,” she said. Esabella, aged 10, has also been doing judo for three years: “I feel good, and better and great,” she said.