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Judo is for everyone, truly everyone, according to Mohamed Soualmia from Jikan club

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“Judo is for everyone! This is what drives Mohamed Soualmia, who has worked for nearly twenty years in the community and with school students with special needs.

His club, Jikan, is based at Jeanne-Mance High School, but its counselors also travel to several other schools. The courses are offered to a multitude of students: including people with behavioural, learning or social integration problems, as well as people with autism, those that are visually impaired or with other disabilities.

“We have several social projects. It’s a source of pride for the club,” said Mr. Soualmia of his “baby,” born in 2012 following the closure of the IMCO judo club, whose name means “time” in Japanese.

“We used to stand out competitively, now we stand out in a whole new way. These young people have many needs, they want to be like others, and to find their place in society. At the same time, we discover ourselves through all these projects and we are able to transmit the values of judo to all our students.”

Mohamed Soualmia

Despite the adaptation necessary for the success of his integration mission, Jikan’s teachings are in fact directly linked to the values of the sport: modesty, politeness, sincerity, friendship, self-control, courage, respect and honour.

“We feel a lot of pride when we see our young students succeed,” says Soualmia, recalling several inspiring programs, including one that particularly touched him. “We had a project with about twenty young people living with an intellectual disability at the Jeanne-Mance school. At the end, it was wonderful, the kids were doing judo! They were doing techniques and they knew how to fall. They had smiles on their faces and displayed confidence. They were able to make contact even though it was young people who often did not like contact.”

The great victories experienced with their young students fuel the passion of the club’s staff. “We are so happy to see the results that it inspires us to do more.”

In this sense, they can count on the Association for developing adapted martial arts (ADAMA), of which they are members, which aims to advise and support martial arts clubs that want to include people with an autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, or physical limitation. “It’s a great experience with people who work with people with special needs. It enriches our way of seeing things and helping these young people in our sport.”

Nicolas Brisson, Domestic Programs & Events Director at Judo Canada, congratulates the managers of Jikan judo club, who set a perfect example of the integration of judo to the entire population. “Judo founder Jigoro Kano saw judo as a lifelong training and an educational tool based on motor development. The resulting educational message had above all a social connotation. The competitive route came second. This is why we are convinced that judo is for everyone, regardless of age, limitations or special needs. We have also developed tools to help guide the practice of judo for people with special needs. A certification in this direction will soon be offered to coaches. The Jikan club, through Mr. Soualmia and his speakers, is therefore a perfect example of the philosophy of judo, in particular, through its social projects and a practice open to all. An inspirational example.”

Judo, a subject taught in school
Mohamed Soualmia has also set up pilot projects in various schools. “We promote judo to young people. They learn about our sport and join clubs afterwards. We were among the first clubs in Quebec to get involved in school judo.”
A school competition for schools from underprivileged backgrounds even emerged, which earned Jikan some recognition. “Since 2004, judo is like a school subject at Charles-Bruneau Elementary School, a school for young people with adjustment disorders. Judo has proven itself and is always welcome in school projects.”
The ultimate reward, several children put in contact with judo continue the practice. “There is a continuity which is impressive, the judokas trust us.”
“We are proud of our inclusive approach. We have succeeded in ensuring that the club welcomes young people with special needs. We have become a resource club for them.”
And the turn taken by Mr. Soualmia and his team from a more competitive vision to a social one has not affected the importance of the club, on the contrary. “We were at one point first in Montreal in terms of the number of members.”
Even more impressive, Jikan is keen to offer its expertise to everyone, absolutely everyone. “We have a very simple [registration fee] system. Even if you don’t have the money, you can practise judo with us.”
Where does the money come from to operate? “We are going to look for financial aid everywhere in order to be able to help in return. Sometimes we have donors and some parents who will donate to us. We are able to self-finance.”
Mr. Soualmia thanked the president of the club, Chantal Beaudet on this point. A volunteer since her son’s beginnings at the club ten years ago, she works tirelessly for its success every day.
A problem? A solution! This could be another trademark of the Plateau—Mont-Royal borough organization. “We are committed to our mission, we promote the inclusion of young people with special needs, we give them the chance to discover a way of life: judo,” concludes Mohamed Soualmia.
Looking for a club in your area? Visit judocanada.org/club-finder-tool/.
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