WHEN Judoka Gemma Gibbons became the first British judo athlete to win an Olympic medal since Sydney, she said she hoped her achievement would inspire the next generation.

And if Oxfordshire is a yardstick, it has worked.

The coaches of Oxfordshire Judo Clubs teach 500 children a week in 20 classes across the county.

Director Jonathan Gerrans said: “The Olympics has definitely boosted interest in two ways. Firstly, we have had quite a few new children coming along after seeing the Olympic Judo, because it was well televised.

“Secondly, a lot of the children who were already doing it, watching the games reignited their passion for the sport.

“Hopefully we have got some budding Olympians here. We have some very good students who fight at a national standard.”

The aim in Judo is to get your opponent on their back, either by throwing them, pinning them to the floor for 25 seconds, or putting them in an arm lock or choke hold.

The name Judo originated from Jiu Jitsu and means “the gentle way”, and tutors discourage their students from practising outside the classroom.

Coach Alan Birchall said: “The kids are not really there to learn how to fight people – we discourage that – but it teaches the kids a lot of restraint.

“Being Japanese you have to be very respectful to your opponent.

“It is great discipline.”

Mr Birchall has been practising Judo since he was 15, but children can start training as young as five.

“It is a good way of keeping fit,” he said. “It builds up your agility and strength. I think these days there are too many people playing on computer games, it is quite noticeable that the children coming to start are not half as physical as people of the same age group when I started.

“Simple things like just doing a roll, people find it quite difficult, but they do soon learn to pick it up.”

To find out more visit oxfordshirejudoclubs.co.uk. The White Horse Judo Club whjc.co.uk is based in Didcot, and there is also an Oxford club oxfordjudo.com