Lessons Come to Miami From Netherlands and War-torn Africa On Building Great Kids with Judo

By Ernest Pund | July 30, 2013, 4:25 p.m. (ET)

Lessons on how to build healthy, happy kids and better communities through judo will come to Miami from the Netherlands and war-torn countries of Africa at a seminar coinciding with USA Judo’s World Cadet Championships in two weeks.


Featured speakers include World Champion and Olympic Medalist Ruben Houkes of the Netherlands, a founder of Schooljudo, a program that has put judo classes in more than 350 primary schools with as many as 30,000 Dutch kids participating. Also featured is Nicolas Messner, media director for the International Judo Federation, who created judo programs to promote peace in some of the most painfully torn countries of Africa.


Experience From the Netherlands

Houkes took a gold medal at the 2007 World Championships and a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, providing him with instant star quality for grabbing the attention of Dutch kids. He is also a member of the International Judo Federation’s Judo For Children Commission, promoting judo “as a sport that contributes to society … Judo has a lot to offer in a social and educational way,” he said. “And it has the values to change lives in a positive way.”


The seminar will include how-to information on replicating these programs, including background on funding, marketing and public relations.


Experience From Africa

Messner started building judo programs in Africa in 2000 when he traveled to Burundi in the middle of that country’s bloody civil war. He started the Turikumwe project there in 2006, traveling to Burundi 14 times by 2009 – turikumwe means “together” in the national language of Burundi.


“The idea was simple, to use judo as a social development tool to help the populations to live again together,” said Messner. “The main targets were the children and young adults.” Seven cargo containers with more than ten tons of equipment each – judo mats, judo gis, computers and school books – have been sent to Burundi as part of the program.


And the expertise gained in Burundi has been used to replicate the program in Eastern Congo, Rwanda and elsewhere through the IJF’s Judo for Peace and the Judo for Children Commission.


World Cadet Championships, Aug. 8-11, in Miami

Both will share their call-to-action in Miami on Monday, Aug. 12, at an international seminar for coaches and sports administrators, “Building Better Societies Through Judo,” immediately following the World Cadet Championships at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa. Like the programs championed by Houkes and Messner, this seminar sponsored by the International Judo Federation and USA Judo focuses on engaging children in the sport.


More than 550 teens from more than 80 nations will meet on the mats for the World Cadet Championships at the Doral Golf Resort And Spa, Aug. 8-11, for a shot at $50,000 in prizes and a berth on their national teams headed to the Youth Olympic Games next year in Nanjing.


Go to the U.S. ROSTER of 19 U.S. athletes, ages 15-17, including six from Florida.


What anyone will see at the World Cadet competition are the finest young judo fighters who qualified for this super elite tournament from around the world. The U.S. athletes won spots at this tournament by claiming mostly gold medals at two national junior tournaments earlier this year. A resounding message of the seminar is that these kids, and so many others in judo around the world (judo is the second most practiced sport on the planet – soccer is first), are the ingredients for great societies. That is because judo training builds a child’s self-esteem, their sense of discipline, collaborative learning and self-control. Founded in Japan by Jigoro Kano, judo means the “gentle way.”


For more information on the Netherlands program, go to WWW.SCHOOLJUDO.NL and on Ruben Houkes at http://www.worldjudoday.com/en/Ruben-Houkes-Testimonial-75.html.


To learn about the “Turikumwe Project,” go to http://www.turikumwe.com

The World Cadet Championships is sanctioned by the International Judo Federation and hosted by USA Judo, the national governing body under the U.S. Olympic Committee that fosters the sport and builds teams for Olympic and other elite competition. The World Cadet Judo Championships is made possible with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners.