In a remarkable achievement that has left the martial arts community in awe, Michael Leigh, a 90-year-old Judo master from the UK, has been awarded his ninth degree, or dan, in Judo. This prestigious rank makes him one of only six individuals in the country to hold a ninth dan and the oldest judoka to reach such a high rank. With a lifelong dedication to Judo and a rich history in the sport, Leigh’s story is an inspiration to both young and old alike.
A Lifelong Journey in Judo
Michael Leigh’s connection with Judo dates back to 1955 when he first discovered the sport while serving in the Royal Air Force. During his time in the RAF, he stumbled upon a judo book written by the co-founder of the London Judo Society in a charity shop. Intrigued by its contents, he decided to give it a try, little knowing that it would shape the course of his life.
The Birth of Kin Ryu Judo Club
Motivated by his passion for Judo, Michael Leigh founded the Kin Ryu Judo Club in Crawley, West Sussex, in 1976. Over the years, the club grew to become the largest of its kind in the UK, boasting a membership of 520 individuals across three locations: Crawley, Horley, and Horsham. Leigh’s dedication to the sport and his commitment to fostering a vibrant Judo community played a significant role in the club’s success.
Contributions to British Judo
Leigh’s influence extended beyond his club as he took on leadership roles within the broader Judo community. He served as the chairman of British Judo for two terms, leaving a lasting impact on the sport’s development at a national level. Additionally, he lent his expertise as a national coach and an international referee, showcasing his deep understanding and mastery of Judo techniques.
Recognition and Gratitude
Receiving the news of his ninth dan was a profound moment for Michael Leigh. In an emotional reflection shared on his club’s news section, he expressed his gratitude for the recognition and acknowledged the esteemed company he now joins. Knowing that there are only five others in the UK with a ninth dan fills him with admiration and respect for his peers. Leigh pledged to hold this grade with immense pride and honor, a testament to his lifelong dedication to the incredible sport of Judo.
A Life Well-Traveled
Beyond his achievements in Judo, Michael Leigh’s life has been one of adventure and exploration. Having traveled to approximately 160 countries, he has amassed a wealth of experiences and cultural encounters. This globetrotting journey has enriched his understanding of the world and provided him with a broader perspective on the sport he loves.
The Legacy of Judo
Judo, a grappling martial art, is characterized by its emphasis on leverage and grips to execute powerful throws and takedowns. It demands strength, technique, and discipline, making it a physically demanding and mentally challenging sport. Throughout history, Judo has produced remarkable athletes who have left an indelible mark on the martial arts world. One such figure is the renowned Rhonda Rousey, former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, who propelled Judo into the mainstream.
Judo’s Path to Inclusivity
Both Michael Leigh and Rhonda Rousey have played significant roles in making Judo a more inclusive sport. Despite their different backgrounds and generations.
As a senior citizen, Leigh has dedicated himself to organizing championships in the UK specifically tailored for older judokas.
By creating platforms for seasoned practitioners to showcase their skills and compete against peers of similar age, Leigh has fostered a sense of camaraderie and camaraderie within the older Judo community. Through his efforts, he has provided a space for older athletes to continue their Judo journey and find fulfillment in the sport they love.
Additionally, Leigh has made remarkable contributions through his special needs Judo program. By recognizing the unique challenges faced by individuals with disabilities, he has developed initiatives that promote inclusivity and empower participants to engage in Judo at their own pace. Through adaptive techniques and a supportive environment, Leigh has opened doors for individuals who may have otherwise felt excluded from participating in martial arts.
Michael Leigh’s journey in Judo is an extraordinary tale of passion, perseverance, and dedication. As a 90-year-old ninth dan holder, he stands as a living testament to the lifelong pursuit of excellence in martial arts. From his humble beginnings in the Royal Air Force to the establishment of the renowned Kin Ryu Judo Club, Leigh’s impact on the Judo community is immeasurable.
His recognition as one of only six individuals in the UK with a ninth dan showcases the depth of his knowledge, skill, and commitment to the sport. Through his leadership, inclusivity initiatives, and tireless efforts, Leigh has left an indelible mark on Judo in the UK and beyond.
As we celebrate Michael Leigh’s extraordinary achievements, let his story serve as an inspiration to all martial artists, regardless of age or background. His journey reminds us that the pursuit of excellence knows no bounds and that the true spirit of martial arts lies in lifelong dedication and love for the craft.