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St Albans Judo Club



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St Albans Judo Club

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St Albans Judo Club was formed in 1950 by Mike Baker who was a resident of St Albans. He felt a local judo club would be an asset to the community. History has proved him right!
The first dojo was set up in the buffer depot behind what was the bus garage. The premises were used solely for judo, allowing permanent mats to be put down. The mats in those days were canvas bags filled with straw, very much like palliasses. There were 3 mats giving a substantial space for judo practice.
During the period at the buffer depot, the Club, which had previously belonged to the British Judo Association, joined the newly formed Matsuo Otani Society of Judo (MOSJ), which later merged with Kenshiro Abbe's school to become the British Judo Council (BJC) - the organisation to which St Albans Judo Club is currently affiliated.
The Club grew, and in 1963 moved to new premises in Westminster Lodge. The premises were an empty MT garage and again St Albans Judo Club had exclusive use and were able to lay permanent mats. Initially the mats were the same ones used in the buffer depot, but after a number of years rubber mats covered in canvas replaced them. There were still 3 separate mats. The Chairman of the Club at that time was Neil Moffatt and although the Club only operated on Monday and Thursday evenings, membership grew steadily.
A dynamic local resident Donald Bishop joined the Club and became Honorary Secretary. He was a professor at the local College of Building, and had many links with county and local councils, and the local community. He persuaded Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) to provide a new permanent site for the club at the 'Ariston' site at Bernards Heath, and the lease was was made between HCC and the Trustees of St. Albans Judo Club, for 28 years from 14th February 1981 to 13th February 2009. At that time the trustees were Donald Bishop, Patrick Mooney, Peter Pendell and Ian Stebbings. The Club remembers, with affection, these benefactors who took on the financial burden and gave the Club not just a lease on the land, but a new lease of life.
The new building used the foundations of an old factory, and a purpose built dojo was constructed. HCC gave the club a grant and a loan to help cover the cost of construction and the Club raised the balance needed. The loan has since been repaid.
The mats from Westminster Lodge were initially used at Bernards Heath but a single large canvas, to cover the full size of the 3 matted areas, was purchased to make one large space that could be used for practice or divided into contest squares.
After the move to Bernards Heath, Don Bishop continued as Hon. Sec. (until 1996), and Brian Lynch became Chief Instructor shortly after the move. His drive and enthusiasm, particularly with the children, helped build the club to its current level. He was determined that the Club would excel in all aspects of judo: From competition success to proper judo etiquette; and from high technical skill to enthusiastic fun. The Club still has strong primary and junior sections with as many as 40 or more children on the mat at one session. There is also a growing senior section which includes many parents who have been persuaded by their children to have a go!
Tragically, Brian Lynch died suddenly on 26th November 1998, at the age of 53. The task of Chief Instructor was first passed to Paul Brindley, who was already a trustee and a senior judoka. From 5/7/03, Peter Wortley took over the Chief Instructor role, when Paul retired. Pete had been Chairman for four years prior to that. Both continued to drive the Club forward, and gave sound leadership.
Plans and negotiations are currently in progress to rebuild the Club premises yet again. This results from plans for redevelopment of the 'Ariston' site at Bernards Heath, because of the need to re-site the fire station, which is presently situated 50 yards from the dojo. The present Trustees are aiming to build an up-to-date dojo, either on another part of the present site, or elsewhere in St. Albans. Needless to say this is easier said than done.
Although the club is affiliated to the BJC, recent changes in the relationship of the BJC and the British Judo Association (BJA) mean that members of BJA clubs are more than welcome to come to the club and take part in the sessions.