If Carlsberg did success, they’d have made it like 2016 at Edinburgh Judo! Ask pretty much any member of the club ‘How was the year in judo?’ and they’ll be able to tell you something we’ve achieved this year.

At all levels, we’ve been throwing, submitting and holding down our way to victories, successfully grading and getting involved in fundraising events. Most importantly of all, we’ve had a bucket load of fun along the way! And did you see our Edinburgh Judo-mobile zipping round the city?

As the title of that classic Sinatra song goes, it was a very good year. Fold up your gi for the year, grab yourself a cup of tea and look back over some of the club highlights of 2016 with us.

It’s all about the winning


pic-1No – this section really is all about the winning! 2016 was just in its infancy, but we were already cracking on with the achievements. In January, club instructor and ne-waza specialist Rod McLean blasted out of the blocks with a gold medal in the Scottish Masters Open, setting the tone for a successful 2016 for the club. Top job, Rod! If you’d like to do the honours again in 2017, please be our guest!

Following in ‘Hot Rod’s’ footsteps, the junior squad donned their judo gis in February for a hard day of competition at the Ultimate Judo Open. Callum W ruled the roost in his weight class, with Rachel and Oli taking silver in theirs and Nikki F claiming bronze.

Instructor Nick Thwaites – hey, he’s young at heart! –added to the above tally with a bronze, and in the same month Stephen Thompson strutted his judo stuff down south at the Surrey Senior Open blue belt tournament, fighting his way to a gold medal. Excellent work all around, folks!

Competition-wise, March was Sarah Adlington’s month. Most people visit Peru to see Machu Picchu and learn a little about the Incas. ‘Big Sarah’, however, had other ideas: she flew out to Lima to tangle on the tatami at the PanAmerican Open and won a bronze. Fast forward two weeks later to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Sarah was collecting her second bronze medal of the month (and also about a million points in air miles!). Well done, Saz –but back to Machu Picchu to learn about classical civilisations like everyone else!

The Summer of Success

If you’d been in the Lake District in May, you wouldn’t just have had the chance to hone your landscape photography: you’d have been able to break into sports photography as well! Our juniors travelled down to ‘the Dojo’ in Kendal and ripped into their opponents, taking four golds, a silver and nine bronzes away from the tournament. It’s a wonder our bus didn’t collapse under the weight of all that precious metal!

These junior victories kicked off a summer of success for the club, for afterwards, instructors Nick Thwaites and Reece Calder, and club member Scott ‘No Nonsense’ Cusack, all fought on the Scottish men’s national team that won the National Team Championships in Walsall, in July. In the same tournament, the lovely Connie Ramsay did battle on the Scotland women’s national team, who were equally determined to get in on the medals, and returned with a silver. Respect!

pic-2August was the month of ‘Super’ Sally Conway as Olympic fever hit the club. Thousands of miles across the Atlantic, Sally was fighting for Olympic glory at Rio 2016. Even way out in the Southern Hemisphere, the cheers from the club must have carried across the oceans as Sally did Edinburgh Judo and Team GB proud with a well-deserved bronze in the women’s -70 kg. What a phenomenal achievement! We went absolutely mental back here for you, Sal!!! Congratulations!

Into September and the winning streak for the club continued. This time it was club member Big Gav McNeill bringing home the bacon. Gavin successfully defended his title as British Policemen’s Champion for yet another year, illustrating why you should never backchat a police officer!

Not even the cold weather stood in our way

pic3Autumn was upon us but, rather than stay indoors in front of a warm fire as temperatures started to cool, or play conkers, our judo players were out fighting at the Granite City Open – every bit as tough as it sounds. Callum W, Natalia J and Nikki F led the charge with silvers, with Jason D and Ethyn S close behind with the bronzes.

But there were still a couple of weeks left to go: time enough to cram in further achievements (hooray!). This time it was the seniors putting on a show at the British Masters, with Nacho, Big Gav, Omar, Stuart, Steve, Jamie Williams, Jamie Conroy and Christoph all giving us something to smile about. Three golds, three silvers and two bronzes, to be precise! Sweet!

You’d think by the time December rolled around, we’d have been taking a bit of a breather or doing some Christmas shopping, but no, there was still the small matter of the British Senior Championships, in Sheffield, to address. Enter Malin Wilson to get things rolling with a silver in the Women’s -57kg; Alex Short, taking silver in the Men’s -66 kg; Jonny Dewar, with a bronze in the Men’s -66 kg; and Reece Calder, battling his way to silver in the Men’s -90 kilo. You don’t get them on Princes Street!

From strength to strength

pic-4It’s not only when our judo players have gone head to head in competition that we’ve seen achievements on the mat this year. We’ve held several junior and senior gradings, which have allowed members to take another step forward in their judo journey. Mark Wilson, Shannon Reid and Stevie all joined the Dan Grades Club, which is a pretty cool one to be part of. Train hard on and off the mat and you can be a member, too!

Speaking of dan grades, did anyone around here receive their 7th dan this year? A round of applause for the main man, Billy Cusack, who was awarded his 7th dan in March. The lesson: the hard work doesn’t stop just because you get to the top; in fact, you work even harder. Always moving forward: it’s the Edinburgh Judo way.

Further testament to the quality of coaching here, instructor Nick was awarded the Judo Scotland Young Person’s Coach of the Year 2016, in September. It was a splendid way to round off the club’s Summer of Success. Fist pump!


Who wants a Mastermind trophy when you could have one of these? Judo Scotland’s Young Person’s Coach of the Year 2016 was awarded to Nicholas Thwaits, head coach at Edinburgh Judo.

Other nice judo business!

Earlier this year, the judo community received a shock when a motorcycle accident left judoka Stephanie Inglis, a Commonwealth Games silver medallist in 2014 and friend of the club, in a life-threatening condition. Like the rest of the judo community, we leapt into action to raise as much money as possible to cover the medical costs and bring Stephanie safely home for treatment in the UK, holding meet-and-greets with our judo stars and other fundraising events, including Nick putting himself on the business end of some chest waxing! Steph: we were over the moon to see you in the club back on your feet and smiling. Oh, and in case you’re all wondering, Nick’s chest hair has been growing back at a healthy and steady rate!

The year has been jam-packed with achievements, successes and good vibes. We got our Edinburgh Judo-mobiles on the road. There have been numerous birthday parties for our younger members. A certain head coach turned 50 (can you guess who?)! Our work with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust is going swimmingly. The mat is getting busier and busier. It’s been a sensational year for the club.

And so we say thank you

We’d like to say an ippon-sized thank you to everyone who has supported us this year. Thanks to all the judoka who have represented us at the competitions, as well as to the friends and family who cheer them on. Thanks to everyone who has taken part in our fundraising events and made them such a success. Thanks to everyone who has told the world what a cracking place we are to train, whether on social media or just in chatting with your pals.

After such a successful year, we can’t wait for the first ‘Hajime’ of 2017, and we wish you all the merriest of Christmases. Roll on the New Year so we can do it all over again!

Until then, as Billy says at the end of the class: ‘Have the rest of the evening off.’

See you in 2017!

By Peter Jenkins

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