26th May, 2021 — Good Sports

Cairns Southside Judo is there for their members

When asked to describe what Judo is exactly, Cairns Southside Judo head coach and club founder Luke Ronlund’s was short and interesting. “Wrestling in pyjamas” he laughs. 

To be fair, Judo is a little more complicated than that. Needless to say, Cairns Southside Judo is definitely not the average Good Sports club. Judo is a smaller sport than Aussie rules football or cricket.

It’s based on council land, sharing a facility with rugby league club. It’s the Odd Couple of sporting club venue arrangements.

The story of Cairns Southside Judo’s Good Sports journey is of one’s search for purpose and identity, and a major chapter in Luke’s search for his own. This one-of-a-kind sports club levelled up through the Good Sports program. It’s truly come into its own as a community organisation, and learned many life lessons along the way. 

This is their story.

Cairns Southside Judo is a seriously inclusive Good Sports club

Luke is a fifth-degree black belt in Judo, or a ‘Go-Dan’. He’s also the current National Referee Director (Australian Kodokan Judo Association), and an Oceania A-class Referee in the world of international Judo competition.

But to Luke, this comes second to the title he’s most proud of - head coach and club founder of Cairns Southside Judo.

It’s a fervently inclusive club. They have members like Aimee, a Type 1 diabetes competitor who wears her monitoring device during competition. Vante has brittle bone syndrome, and the club works hard to help her get the most that she can out of Judo, teaching her techniques that limit the impact on her body. 

To get to this part of his journey, he had to learn some serious lessons in life, and think deeply about what he really wants to get out of it. He had to become a psychology officer with the Australian Army, be deployed all over the world, then meet his wife Karen, a fellow psychology officer in the US Air Force. Then everything changed. They moved to Germany and started a family. 

“What a Judo coach needs to be doesn’t begin and end with a black belt”

Luke said as a single man, it was all about winning titles and being the best of the best in competition. “I wasn’t looking outside of that as my motivation. Wasn’t looking at how I could make Judo clubs more inclusive.” 

Luke explains that “Judo clubs are entirely dependent on having a coach with a black belt in Judo, which takes 10-15 years of training. You can’t just complete an eight-week course.” If the coach leaves for whatever reason, you’ve got a bunch of parents left behind with no way of running the club. 

When Luke’s own kids started expressing an interest in taking up Judo, he realised what a Judo coach needs to be doesn’t begin and end with a black belt.

In 2013, the inevitable happened and Luke started Cairns Southside Judo. “I founded it with an amputee friend of mine”. This marked the start of Luke’s mission to build a united, strong, inclusive junior Judo club.

To achieve this, he felt the need to ‘rewrite the rulebook’ and he actually did. He created Kouketsu Na Judo, which translates to “Judo with Integrity”. It’s a concept that centres around safe, supportive, inclusive and enjoyable grassroots Judo practice, and sees Judo as a means for intellectual and moral personal development. 

The whole basis of Kouketsu Na Judo is our eight values. Self-control, respect, courage, politeness, honour, modesty, friendship…sincerity. We have these values written everywhere in Japanese and English on our certificate and all around the club. They’re so, so important. In class, I’ll say Modesty is a great one, the kids love it. When you win, don’t gloat about it, because the other kids will feel bad. It doesn’t matter how long you’re with the club, I want it to be a positive experience.

Cairns Southside Judo

Always prepared in and out of the dojo with Good Sports

Luke first heard about Good Sports after participating in other local sporting initiatives. 

The club could progress to the highest Good Sports level by formalising their expectations of behaviour, which are now “clear as day, especially with the illegal drugs plan, spectator behaviour management,  smoking management and alcohol management plans. It’s been an excellent experience levelling up through Good Sports.”

For Cairns Southside Judo, they have the guidelines there if they need them, not because they needed to address existing situations. 

“The guidelines are there to keep you on the ball should an issue arise. It’s like a member protection policy. The guidelines go hand-in-hand with many of our eight key values – particularly the ones regarding positive social values like self-control and respect.”

Tangible rewards that come through Good Sports

Luke believes the tangible rewards that come through Good Sports pay serious dividends in the long term. 

Absolutely I would recommend Good Sports without question. It engages with clubs on a grassroots level. It’s all about looking for ways it can do good for the club. I have a lot to do with the State and National Judo organisations and always encourage Judo clubs around Australia to join the Good Sports program. 

Luke sums up his journey with Cairns Southside Judo with something he tells his students almost every week. “You’re helping me to live by these values too”.

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