All posts by Sara Connerton

19th September, 2015: Croydon – Ne waza Competition

A big Well Done to Sara Connerton for her Gold and Silver Medals and James Veal for his Bronze at the Croyden Ne-waza Competition.


This is Saras story..
Croydon 1st place

Since my first two competitions required me to wait some hours before fighting, I expected the same this time. How unpredictable judo can be though when I actually got to fight a lot sooner than expected. Luckily there was a green-belt adult within a kilo of my own weight, and it was her I was expected to fight for the ‘best out of three’ matches. I was surprised with how fast and aggressive she was: she threw me almost immediately but the ploy lacked the precise control needed and I landed on my side, gained control and tried to apply an arm lock, a strangle, mune katame and then I tried juji, taking advantage of her unclosed elbow. I couldn’t get my ankles to the floor or crossed behind hers in time though, and she countered by rolling towards me. Despite having my foot trapped, I managed to get on top of her again and found myself in a good position to try juji again. She rolled me again and pulled me down, but didn’t maintain proximity so I was able to edge away and reposition myself to take hold. I kept hold of her sleeve as she turned me and her failed strangle somehow enabled me to turn, pull my head from under her arm (giving myself a bruise beneath the eye as I did so) and escape. On the next resume, I took a different grip, almost wrapping each of my arms around each of hers. This allowed me to get closer and throw her tidily, almost straight into kesa, which turned into mune as she wriggled against me. I was really pleased to hear the sound of the ‘sore made’ bell and the ref’s “Matte!” signalling time was up.

In my second match against her, within seconds I was in a hold (stupidly I’d had a flat left foot that had made me vulnerable) which, within a few seconds, I managed to escape from by turning. When my rival put her hand on my waist, I thought of the Sarah Digweed moment and how the following training session in Basingstoke had addressed that error and how to take advantage of it … but I completely forgot what I had been taught. I rolled backwards instead of sideways and would have got myself into a strangle had I not anticipated it in the nick of time. My opponent next turned me by a clever move I hadn’t learnt, where her far leg extended sideways to allow her near leg to begin moving around me in a circle. I lost that fight and felt exhausted afterwards, thirsty and hungry.

By the third match, I had refuelled myself with a banana and more water than a camel could drink, and I won. Just before the match, I was advised to push her away and then pull her with her own reaction, and it was that guidance that gave me the advantage very quickly into the fight. I’m not sure what happened after that or how I won (my phone ran out of memory and didn’t record my victory!). It was a much tidier fight though.

Having won two out of three fights, glory was mine, but there was still one match to go – against an eighteen year old blue belt I’d chatted with during my warm-up. She went in fast and furious to put me in a hold I was quick to get out of. I sensed a few loopholes where the grip wasn’t tight enough though and persevered until I was out. When the match resumed, valiant efforts enabled me to keep my opponent suppressed on all fours and she was given a shido for not retaliating. I was pleased I didn’t get the shido for not doing anything else, but it seemed – at least at that point – that I was responding adequately. I won the match by being dominant and not having any penalties against me. Ironically though, when the medals were awarded for the Open we didn’t know we’d been participating in, I was given silver. My opponent and I looked at each other confused but the lady in charge explained that the blue-belt’s “ippon hold” had given her ten points whereas I’d only scored five for the win. Not fully understanding the information, I chose to accept it anyway out of respect for the lady’s expertise and my own lack of experience in the game. Before, the teenager had been quite cross to have lost and immediately she shook my hand and was happy. I was pleased for her to have kept face, and pleased with myself for beating her. This way we were both top winners.

As I left the dojo, I felt the weight of my handbag on my shoulder, anchored almost by my third gold medal in a row, and the silver one. I was shattered and that was only the start of my day….

18th July 2015: High Wycombe – Ne waza competition

Having waited much longer than expected for my first fight, I was pleased when it was actually my turn to get on to the tatami. Still a relatively new face to competitive judo, I didn’t know anything about any of my components but sometimes that can be an advantage. I first came up against one Sarah Digweed, who is a dan grade, and initially I was pleased with my performance – although I was somewhat sceptical about why I was winning, and I kept myself on edge waiting for the moment to come when the tables would turn. It wasn’t the tables that turned though; it was me! When Sarah was on all fours, I put my hand on her waist – I’m not sure why; perhaps because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Her arm clasped my hand where it was, and she tried to turn me. I blocked the turn with my leg outstretched and then cleverly she turned me the other way. When I landed, she had both my arms trapped (although at the time I didn’t know how) and I had no chance of escape. I lost that one but at least managed to last about a minute.

My next fight was against another black belt – I later found out a second dan. She was not that difficult to dominate and watching the video of the fight afterwards, I saw we both made a handful of mistakes. Suffering from discomfort in my elbow, I was wearing a bandage which came undone mid-fight and I was pleased when the ref stopped the match and allowed me rectification. With the bandage rewound and taped up this time, I resumed my fight with determination. I was dominant for a lot of it and, towards the end, I wondered if a yamara arashi move would work. In hindsight, I thought I had tried it, but watching the video, it seems that I just turned my body to move uke and secure her in a tight kesa hold she told me afterwards she would “never get out of”.

Newaza gold Croydon
Me on the podium

Knowing the competition was tough, I stayed clear of complacency and approached my next fight with justified caution. My rival was Olivia Spellman (who I was later told ranked nationally in the top 3). Her strong posture and confident movements as she shuffled towards me immediately made me realise she was very different to my first two competitors, and although I tried my best, it wasn’t long before she had me in an arm lock that was applied so competently, I was actually quite scared. I matte’d the fight abruptly and, after the reis, I walked off the mat shaking. I calmed myself gradually and was pleased to have been given the gold medal for being top of my own league (even though the women I’d fought were in a different league altogether albeit for different reasons).

Sensai Claire – an inspiring woman

Sensai Claire Brown has enjoyed judo throughout her life. I caught up with her to find out about how and why she has achieved so much….

As a child, Claire was a keen participant of ballroom dancing – a hobby which developed her balance, coordination and general fitness. When she read a leaflet advertising an 8-week judo training program at the same location, her interest was sparked: very soon she became immersed in that sport too, extending her own learning beyond the training program to span several years. After a while, a decision was needed and Claire had to choose between dancing and judo. Luckily, she chose judo but maintains that dancing gave her a good foundation upon which to build her physical skills.

At ten years old, Claire was in the Southern Area squad and Hampshire squad. She trained thrice a week and participated in advanced classes one weekend a month where lessons lasted from 9am until 4pm. Now that’s hard work! On the plus side, she got to take Friday afternoons off school in order to get to the competitions and training.

At 14 years of age, Claire fought in a team event in Dusseldorf, Germany. The team won. Aged 15, Claire won the bronze medal in a national judo competition; aged 16, she won gold at the National Championships in Crystal Palace and was overwhelmed when Olympic silver-medallist Nicola Fairbrother presented the award to her.

Claire eventually stopped judo after some years: a teacher-training course was undertaken at King Alfred’s and family commitments ensued. Some years later, around 2011, when Sensai Paul Hamilton advertised judo at Claire’s son’s school, Claire brought herself back onto the mat to support her son… which seemed a good enough excuse at the time. Soon after, she was encouraged to participate more fully in the sessions and with an enhanced disclosure from her profession, Claire was encouraged to join AWE Judo Club and jumped at the chance to revamp her judo career.

She was tested for 1st Kyu by Pete Powell and pushed to work on revising and polishing her theory in order to qualify for her black belt. She successfully competed At High Wycombe Kyu-grade cup and was awarded a trophy. Proceeding then to win the Hampshire Closed Competition, she beat a handful of opponents much heavier than herself, and then formed part of the Hampshire Ladies Seniors’ Team three years in a row. In 2013, Claire won the British Masters Open, and in 2014 at Kidderminster she won all of her fights except the last one: an earlier fight had caused her a broken rib – that she fought in spite of – and in that last fight, it was probably broken a bit more when her opponent turned Claire onto her back and squashed down on her. Nevertheless, Claire came out with the silver medal.

Since her come-back four years ago, Claire has completed a Level 1 coaching qualification, been certified as a judo referee, and gained her first Dan and 30 (of 100 points) towards her second Dan. Additionally, she has got through to the British Masters Competition and GB squad. Claire is now in the Hampshire Squad and focusing on the World Masters in Amsterdam and the European Masters in Hungary – both later this year. Motivated by love of the sport and her peers, the only thing now stopping Claire is money: it is not cheap to stay in Hungary for 4 days.

Overall, Claire has won over 140 medals for judo and does not intend to stop there. Please support Claire in her Masters’ Competitions so she can further her inspiration to those who know her.

Southampton Competition: 8th November, 2014

Cameron Broughton O73 KG Senior Men – Gold

It is always interesting to watch Cameron’s judo; his performance in the November competition brought no exception.

Cameron’s first fight was against a formidable gentleman who didn’t get many attempts to throw young Cameron, and those he attempted – like the hiza guruma – were stepped off without too much real difficulty. Taking a high-collar grip, Cameron attempted ko-ouchi gari and uchi-mata with little conviction, and it wasn’t long before the man became vulnerable through one of his own attacks – a position Cameron was quick to take advantage of with a gaki, which lead the referee to call “Ippon!” awarding Cameron the first win in his first match.

In his second match, Cameron fought a player his own age who was slightly shorter than him. This time, our boy took a sleeve grip and a slow start was endured. Ben tried the uchi-mata unsuccessfully and Cameron played unusually defensively until the first ‘matte!’ When Ben tomoe-nage’d Cameron, the throw had minimal power but partly worked nevertheless, with the kazuchi bringing Cameron to the floor over his opponent until the ref stopped the match. Ko-ouchis were attempted from both players and then finally Cameron lost to a gake which Ben did with his back to Cameron.

Cameron next fought against a judoka called Robert, who was slightly heavier than him. Cameron took a high grip under the arm to defend against Robert’s brute-force pushing-attacks and leg attacks – which largely failed because Cameron craftily managed to keep his long legs out of the way. A weak uchi-mata was enough to get Robert straight down onto the tatami: Robert hopped off the throw but Cameron’s rotation directed him downwards and allowed Cameron the upper hand. As Robert was turned over by Cameron, it looked like Cameron was trying to put a strangle on him. I don’t think he achieved that end though, although thankfully Cameron won the fight anyway (despite a shido for putting his fingers inside Robert’s gi).

James Veal – Open Weight Dan Grades – Bronze

James’s first match was quite an exciting one – and his opponent was certainly well matched – or so it seemed at first. James’s initial uchi-mata and gake attempts failed when his opponent twisted away and out of them. The uki then tried an uchi mata himself and failed, giving James the opportunity of a strangle and arm lock – neither of which fully worked. After a matte, James’s attempt to throw the opposition was countered by ushiro goshi – a cunning move which sent James flying across the mat (rather dramatically, I thought) and then set up juji gatame, but one that was not applied strongly enough to hold and, ably, James twisted out of it and stood up. Our black belt attempted harai goshi but was pushed off balance by his opponent; a wazari was awarded and, in the ground work which had transcended, James won with an armlock and a tap from uki.

James’s next opponent was an electrician whose favourite move seemed to be uchi mata. But that first waza did not work so, to follow it up, he tomoe nage’d James, which brought James onto his back and made him susceptible to a strangle – from which he escaped. When the fight resumed after a ‘matte’, James’s failed tomoe-nage landed him on his own back and uki was quick to apply the scarf hold and take victory.

James’s last fight was against a bearded player called Perry. This was a fight where every move seemed to be being methodically calculated ad hoc. Commencing the fight were leg sweeps from both components; Perry’s ouch-mata failed as did James’s tani otoshi – and tai-otoshi, which Perry just stepped off. Another failed ouchi-mata of Perry’s put him in trouble in newaza as James tried to apply a strangle. After a ‘matte’ and ‘hajime’, Perry slid his leg alongside James’s to control tori’s leg movement, which knocked James onto the floor and gave Perry the ippon.


At the end of the competition, James was proud to be awarded the Bronze medal, especially because he was by far the lightest of the black belts, and one of the shortest. It was thrilling, of course, to see Cameron awarded the gold medal – a triumph he well deserved and indubitably one that reflects the practical-intelligence, flair and skill he exemplifies in weekly judo sessions.