Club history

Reading Judo Club was founded in 1949 and took up residence in Bridge Hall on the Oxford Road.  There is little information to be found on the early years of the Club's history.
In the late 1950's and early 1960's, the Club was fortunate enough to have Geof Gleeson as a visiting coach.  One of the attendees at these coaching sessions was Don Werner, who was very impressed by Geof's methods of coaching.  From this, Don developed his own inimitable style of coaching which he still uses to this day at Pinewood Judo Club.
Don Turnbull started judo at the Club in 1957 after seeing a display performed by the Club shortly after he had left the army.  He progressed through the grades whilst at the Club and went on to become a member of the Committee and, eventually, Chairman.  In 1964, he became the Coach to the junior players, taking them to various team competitions within the Area.  In 1965, he left Reading Judo Club when he moved to Tadley.  Don is still very active within judo, both running the AWE/Hurst Club and refereeing at various competitions throughout the country.
Throughout the 1970's, the main coaches at the Club were Dave Croton, Christine Bannister and Charlie Maddox.  It was during this time that the classes for the juniors became mixed for the first time.  The first training session after the merger was quite interesting - girls training together at one end of the mat, boys at the other!  That didn't take long to change - the players were told in no uncertain terms that training together was not an optional extra!
Throughout this time, one of the highlights of the year was the Club Competition, which was usually held at the Town Hall.  As well as the individual finals, which players had to qualify for through a knockout tournament held in the preceding weeks, there was also a team competition involving other local clubs, such as Pinewood and Newbury.
The transition from the 1970's to the 1980's saw changes taking place in the coaching personnel at the Club.  A lot of the older coaches decided, for various reasons, to move on to pastures new.  Taking their place was, among others, an Oriental-looking gentleman .... with a broad Liverpool accent, Keith Chu.
In 1987, the Council decided that they had other plans for Bridge Hall and so, the Club was forced to look for alternative premises.  The attached photograph (judo001) was taken on the Club's last day at Bridge Hall.
L-R:  John Hern, Keith Saxon, David Hannington and Roger Gower.  Doing his best superman impression is our athletic Chairman, Brian Hunt
The Club packed up their display mats and took up temporary residence at South Reading Community Centre.  It wasn't an idela venue as the Centre was closed for the whole of August every year.  The Committee started looking into securing a more permanent home.  In 1989, a new Leisure Centre was going to be opened in the centre of Reading, Rivermead Leisure Centre.  Keith Chu entered into negotiation with the Council and the Centre management.  They agreed to not only allow us to use their facilities, but also to supply the mats.  In November 1989, we moved to our new home and remain there to this day...... only now, there's a permanently laid mat area and almost no cancellations because of other events taking place.
Having done all this work in finding a new home for the Club, Keith moved to America to work!  The coaching duties were taken over by Kim Tilley and David Hannington.  David has now moved on to pastures new, but Kim is still coaching at the Club with assistance from David Napper, Marcus Hill and Samantha Napper (when she's not at University!)
The Club has been in existence for over 60 years and, whilst not being the most competitively active club within the British Judo Association, has provided a fun environment for people of all ages to learn judo.  That is not to say that nobody attending the Club enters competitions.  Some players are keen to enter them, varying from Red Belt Rumbles to World Masters Championships, with various steps in-between.
The picture below shows the juniors at the Club Competition in November 2010.
Brian Hunt,
28 Nov 2010, 02:29