Borders judo expert Rick Kenney anything but a fancy dan after being promoted to third-highest grade

Six decades of dedication to judo have paid off for Rick Kenney as he’s now one of a kind in the Borders and one of only three of a kind in all of Scotland.

By Darin Hutson
Friday, 18th March 2022, 12:39 pm
Rick Kenney with his judo eighth-dan diploma

The 69-year-old, of Galashiels, has been promoted to eighth dan, only two steps off the highest grade possible for the sport.

Kenney has run judo clubs across Scotland – in Motherwell in North Lanarkshire, Blantyre in South Lanarkshire and Edinburgh – since the 1970s and is one of JudoScotland’s longest-serving senior examiners.

The Galashiels Community Council vice-chairman was British Judo’s team manager at world and European championships in the 1980s and was vice-chairman of the British Judo Association from 1997 to 2004.

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Rick Kenney being presented with his judo eighth-dan diploma by Ronnie Saez, chairman of the British Judo Association, in Sheffield

He has been a member of the national governing body for the martial art in Scotland since 1963 and joined its executive committee in 1976, being appointed vice-chairman in 1989 and chairman in 1994, until 2004, as well as being elected president of the Commonwealth Judo Association in 2013, a position he holds to this day.

On top of that, he currently chairs ClubSport Borders, an umbrella organisation supporting voluntary sports clubs and individuals across the region.

Among the honours he’s received over the years are Live Borders’ 2018 services to sport award, a lifetime achievement accolade from the Scottish Ethnic Minority Sports Association, a British Judo values award last year and the Order of the British Empire in 2020, although it was only handed over in January.

Originally from Motherwell, the stepfather of one and grandfather of two has lived in the Borders since 2003, mostly in Galashiels but also at Clovenfords for a while.

He’ll be 70 in May, but Kenney, formerly sport and recreation manager at Scottish Borders Council, still keeps his hand in, hitting the mat once a fortnight on average at the Focus Centre in Galashiels or in Edinburgh.

He was presented with his eighth-dan diploma by Ronnie Saez, chairman of the British Judo Association, at a ceremony in Sheffield.

Kenney is chuffed to bits by that latest plaudit, telling us: “I’m absolutely delighted. It’s one of those things that come along once you’ve been involved in judo at a high level for a long time and I’ve been in judo for 59 years.

“It’s really for service to the sport, based on your competitive and coaching career and being a high-ranking official and a referee and senior examiner.

“Once you progress from fifth dan onwards, it’s more about your knowledge and skills than your competitive performance as you’ll be in your 30s or 40s then.

“It comes about via an assessment by your national governing body and it then goes to the European Judo Union and then the International Judo Federation and, in my case, happily, I got a unanimous thumbs-up.”

Scotland’s two other eighth dans are Loretta Cusack and Eddie Cassidy and the country is also home to one ninth dan, Colin McIver, and one 10th, George Kerr.