Posted On:9/21/2010 1:07pm
Martial arts: Respect due for city's Mr Judo
Published Date: 21 September 2010
By ALEX SCHWEITZER-THOMPSON
Edinburgh's "Mr Judo" earned his nickname by enjoying sporting success unparalleled on a British scale, winning the European Championship title three times and being bestowed with the tenth Dan grade earlier this year - becoming one of just six men still alive to achieve the highest rank in judo.
As well as one of the finest judo players in history, George Kerr has cemented his reputation as a world-class coach, having led Austrian Peter Seisenbacher to Olympic gold in 1984 and 1988.
Last week, Kerr had more coaching success to celebrate as a former prodigy, Edinburgh's Euan Burton, claimed gold at the World Championships in Tokyo and Capital youngster Oscar Di Domenico, a student at George Kerr Junior Judo, won silver at the Scottish Championships. "Euan did really well to win gold at the World Championships and is now hoping to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014," says Kerr, 73.
"The junior club has been running for three years now and last week Oscar won our first big medal. He's a super little kid - he's just 15 and he looks like an athlete. He got a silver medal, which is phenomenal as he only started judo a couple of years ago."
Born in Craigentinny and a former pupil at Leith Academy, the ex-schoolteacher has taught the art of judo to children since he was 15 and has seen thousands of young "judokas" pass through the doors of both The Edinburgh Club, which he formed in 1964 and which formerly stood on Hanover Street then Hillside Crescent, and the present-day junior school.
"I got my black belt when I was 15," explained Kerr. "People back in the 1950s weren't really that interested in teaching kids and I kind of fell into it. Judo is about the way you deal with people, respect, and honour. I think that's what attracts the parents to the sport - the code of discipline, and the bowing at the beginning and end. I think in society today, it's good for them to get their kids along.
"Now, I'm one of the few instructors who teaches pre-school kids, from four years old.I often ask the parents how they heard about the club and the comment comes, 'You're Mr Judo - and I think it would be good for my child to have a bit of discipline and self-defence.'"
Although he despairs at the cheating and lack of sportsmanship in more mainstream sports, Kerr says he has adopted a coaching style with his young judokas similar to that of a football manager, Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson.
"He is like I am in Judo," says Kerr.
"When you have a situation or a personality like David Beckham, he says, 'Get out of here!' I try to instil honesty, fair play, and respect.
"We do taster sessions for young kids, and I tell the parents, 'I hate soccer, because they all cheat - they try to get the other player sent off and attempt to spoil the play.'
"If you did that in judo, you'd be disqualified. Even in rugby with the blood capsules - how low are we going to go here?"
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