To celebrate Volunteers' Week we're saying a huge thank you to our Welsh Judo volunteers. Here, Ashley Bowen of Sanshirokwai Dojo shares his judo and refereeing journey...

How did you get into judo?

I started judo as a kid, as a result of my father and his father doing it. You could say that judo runs in my blood, and I am the third of four generations of my family to partake in the sport and go through my home club of Sanshirokwai.

As a kid, I was in and out of the sport, finding it very difficult to stick to, however as a teenager, I found a new love for the sport and took it back up. I have been involved ever since.

When and how did you get into refereeing/ officiating?

In 2013, I injured my back in judo whilst doing a throw and as a result couldn’t fight much anymore. Still wanting to partake in the sport in anyway I could, I decided to look at other options available to me. This is when I decided to start refereeing and quickly attained my Area award. Over the years I have then progressed to National C and on to National B which is my current level.

At my current level I have been given the opportunity to be the assistant refereeing representative for the Welsh area which offers a great deal of responsibility.

More recently I decided during covid to complete my Timekeeper qualification, which allows me to see the fight from another side and provides the benefit of further knowledge.

What motivates you as a referee/ official?

It’s thrilling to see so much judo and occasionally someone surprises you with a technique or variation you haven’t seen before. Being able to give back to a sport that has played a crucial part in my family’s lives over the years in so many ways is incredible. Achieving great knowledge from my peers is key not only with my own personal development in terms of refereeing but also assists with my coaching and players’ own development.

What has been your favourite judo memory?

With judo in general I would say my favourite memory would be when I helped coach players at the Commonwealth Championships in 2019, which was a sensational feeling. Hopefully there will be many more opportunities like this with the talent on display at my home club.

In relation to refereeing my favourite memory would be attaining my first award and starting my journey of officiating which I hope to continue, eventually reaching IJF level.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to get into refereeing / officiating?

I would say go for it and take full advantage of all the opportunities, as it can only improve your judo or the judo of those affected by your knowledge.

Speak to any official regarding getting involved, they would be more than happy to offer any advice and help where appropriate or you can approach your area representative who can direct you accordingly.

If you do get involved, make as many notes as possible, ask for feedback as often as you can and find that person who can mentor you through your progression.

Thank you to Ashley for all he brings to our judo community. Find more on how to get into refereeing and officiating here.

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