I started playing judo at in 1971 aged 5 at a club in Didcot. My Sensei was Marolin Chambers 2nd Dan. I loved judo from the start, especially Morote Seoi Nage, but for years I was the smallest and lightest player in the club.
After a few years at Yellow belt we would stand up in grade order the line of players would go from the tallest to the smallest with me making a small hole in the middle because I was still smaller than the smallest beginner on the end, my friends were asked to join the second lesson but I was not allowed because of my size. However I loved Judo so much that I would do the first lesson then stay for the second lesson and hide behind the other players whenever matte was called!
In the second lesson the green belts all played along with hiding me from Sensei but I don’t know when she figured out I had not gone home with the first lesson! The green belts were always teasing me about my size so I wanted to get them but they were too tall and strong for my Morote Seoi Nage and we were not permitted to use Tomo-Nage below green belt which I was constantly being told off for using! Eventually because I was so small the coach changed the rule to allow me to do Tomo-Nage on any green belt and above player which was fine by me as they were the ones I wanted to throw anyway!
I attended every Oxfordshire Area Championships, Mixed League Easter and Summer Course which were organised by my Sensei’s father Mr. Jim Chambers 6th Dan, who I remember was a very kind and funny man and an incredible promoter of judo. He founded Oxfordshire Judo which had thousands of players and formed a large group of other Judo coaches some of whom later became my teachers again as an Adult namely Colin Morton 4th Dan and Martin Ackland 3rd Dan, possibly the most enigmatic and joyful Sensei I have ever been lucky enough to meet. Also at these O.J.C. courses I remember meeting a small Japanese sensei who I later discovered was Matsuru Otani, Kenshiro Abbe also taught the O.J.C coaches so I will have some of his judo but sadly I do not remember him.
When my friends were winning their Green belts, because I was so small they said I couldn’t have one and did not grade me for 2 years. I detested having to wait until eventually with either Morote Seoi Nage or Tomo-Nage I could throw every Green belt in the club and even some of the Blues so they had to give me a green belt too but only after I became Oxforshire Area Champion. I also became Oxfordshire Area Champion 6 times as a Senior.
My largest and hardest competition was in Herlien in Holland where I came 5th, however, whilst I really enjoyed contest judo from 2nd Dan onwards my focus has always been more on coaching more than contesting.
My Dan grade history is below:
1992 B.J.C. Contest 1st Dan (1 year)
1993 B.J.C. Contest 2nd Dan (2 years)
1997 B.J.C. Contest 3rd Dan (4 years)
2004 B.J.C. Contest 4th Dan (7 years)
2007 B.J.A. Contest 4th Dan
2013 B.J.A. Technical 5th Dan
6th Dan T.B.C.
As a senior I trained at both B.J.C. and B.J.A. Clubs and whilst I visited numerous clubs my main ones were Faringdon and Wantage to start with then High Wycombe centre of excellence, Windsor B.J.C, National Squad Training and of course always my own Abingdon Judo Club.
I started teaching judo as a Blue belt in 1991 and in 1992 I opened my first club in Abingdon, shortly after which a 6 year old trouble maker named Siobhan Tierney started her Judo career! Now AJC is run by my student and friend Sensei Siobhan Tierney 3rd Dan. After a further 7 years part time coaching (6 weekly lessons at 3 clubs) in 1997 I founded Shunen Judo Company Ltd (dedication to ones objectives) and commenced teaching full time in Schools in Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire, and Bristol teaching 350 players per week.
My judo ethos is traditional Japanese judo for all, my greatest achievements in Judo are all my students many of whom are now scattered all over the world but the highest grades I know of are Siobhan Tierney 3rd Dan, Thomas Grandjean 3rd Dan, Andrew Hope 1st Dan and Tim Parsons 1st Dan. I would simply say to all those I have been lucky enough to have taught; If you are still playing/teaching judo well done and thank you but if you are not, well done and thank you anyway but why not? Judo needs YOU!