ONE of the questions most often asked of a Judo player is, “How long does it take to get a black belt?”
In the case of Lee Allan from Focus Judo Club in Galashiels, it took seven years.
Lee’s journey began when he took his oldest son Jay, now 15, down to the local Judo club in 2005. But, after sitting on the sidelines spectating for two weeks, the then 34-year-old was on the mat himself training with the seniors. That was it. He was hooked and began the long process of going through the grading system, which starts at a red belt, moving through yellow to orange in the club environment, then competitively through green, blue and brown, before Lee had the chance to compete for the prized black belt.
After four years of competing as a 1st Kyu brown belt the married father of four entered the national grading at The Dojo in Alloa three weeks ago and secured his final points to earn him one of the most highly regarded honours in Judo, the 1st Dan Black Belt.
Speaking of his journey Lee told TheSouthern: “Judo is a very hard martial art to learn and very tough as a sport too. Competitive Judo is generally a young man’s game so, as I started at thirty-four, it became an uphill struggle for me as I rose through the grades.
“I have excellent coaches and they kept me on the right track and made sure I didn’t give up. I also started training with the Scottish Masters at Ratho and recently with Kenka Judo Club in Edinburgh, which helped me prepare for my last grading. Finally achieving this grade means a lot to me and now makes all my hard work worthwhile.”
Lee also wanted to thank his coaches, Tam Hardie (5th Dan), Stuart Gordon (3rd Dan) and James Hunt (2nd Dan), who he attributes his recent success to.
Despite his late entry to the world of Judo, combative sport has always been a passion for Lee who trained at Tweedbank Amateur Boxing Club throughout his school days at Galashiels Academy and into his late 20s.
A joiner to trade, he currently works for Mitchell Glass in Galashiels where he lives with his wife Tracy and there four children Jay (15) Miyah (9) Kai (7) and Tala (5). The older three children all participate in the sport, while Tala will start this month.
Last year Lee, Jay and another seven members of the Focus club made the journey to London to watch the Olympic Judo at the Excel Arena, an experience that none of the local enthusiasts will forget.
Lee told us: “Watching Judo at that level was certainly an inspiration and a once-in-a- lifetime experience for me.”
Now that he has reached this level with his Judo, Lee plans to relax for a while and concentrate on developing his coaching skills through which he will hopefully progress to the next level of the UKCC coaching program.
Focus Judo is hosting it’s own junior competition this year, which will attract kids from Judo clubs all over Scotland and North of England, is due to start in the spring.
Tam Hardie, the club’s senior coach is the driving force behind these events and Lee believes that the work put in by him and the other coaches can contribute to many important development skills in youngsters.
“The children’s class in particular is not just about teaching Judo techniques, but is as much about developing coordination, fitness, confidence and discipline,” explained Lee.
“We also try to make it as fun as possible, with various games devised to develop all of these attributes.”
Last year the club welcomed two time British Olympian Sarah Clark to their Galashiels venue to hold a very successful and well attended masterclass coaching session and the team now have plans to invite another ranking Judo player this year.
But, having been training over the past year with the Scottish Masters squad at Judo Scotland headquarters at Ratho, for Lee, the competitive bug is never far away.
“This has been a big step for me and I hope to compete next year to represent the Scottish Masters,” he added.
If you would like to try Judo, whether you are a child, a teenager or forty-one years old like Lee, you can find him and the team at the Focus Centre in Galashiels on Monday nights.
Lee continued: “Judo has something to offer to all ages and abilities, whether it is an interest in martial arts, self-defence or general fitness.”
The next session in 2013 is on Monday, January 14.
z Five to seven years old, 6pm- 6.45pm
z Eight to 13 years old, 6.50pm -7.50pm
z Adult Class – for Secondary S1 to S6 and adults, 8pm-9.15pm
Children’s classes are held during school term time only. The adult class continues throughout the year.
For more information, visit www.focusjudo.org