Saturday, November 18, 2017

Other dojos: TSV Hertha Walheim

In our first installment of "Other Dojos" we featured a smallish judo club in the US which has 20 to 25 members. For this installment, we'd like to showcase the other extreme, a huge judo club in Germany, which has about 170 members.

Sven Thelen is a long-time member of that club and is also an kids/teens instructor there. He trained at the KL Judo Club two years ago when he was doing his internship in Malaysia. He is now back in his hometown and trains regularly at his club.

This is our conversation with him.

In Germany players often wear different colour  judogis for German League competitions. 
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience in judo.
My name is Sven Thelen and I have been doing judo since I was six. I am a competitor and I have participated in many competitions, both as an individual as well as a member of my club's team. I have also been coaching kids between the age of three to 17. In teaching kids, I've had to analyse and figure out how to break down a technique and this has actually helped to improve my own judo.

What is the name of your judo club?
TSV Hertha Walheim 

How long have you been with your club?
Since 1998, so it’s been about 19 years.

How many instructors are there at your club?
A total of 11.

Are children and adult sessions separate?
Yes, we offer different training for different age groups as well as skill level. But it’s possible for ambitious kids and teens to do randori with the more senior players, if they want to.

So you have separate sessions for beginners and experienced players?

Yes, we do.

And there are also separate sessions for recreational and competitive players?
Yes, we do have some special classes for recreational senior judo players and different ones for the competitive types.

What are the fees like?
Kids pay €12.5 and adults pay €14.50 per month.

That’s a relatively low fee. How is your club able to survive? 
We have many members. Currently there are about 170 paying members.

Are the coaches paid or are they volunteers?
Some get paid a small fee while others are there as volunteers, so it’s a mix of both.

Does your club take part in the German League?
Yes. We have four teams. First Bundesliga (1st Division), Regionalliga (3rd Division), Landesliga (6th Division) and Bezirksliga (7th Division).

Can you explain a bit about how the German League works?
The system is basically the same as in soccer. All in all, there are seven leagues. The lowest is the Bezirksliga and the highest, the Bundesliga. The first two leagues can be considered national level while the rest are regional level. The fighting schemes may differ. For example, in the lower leagues there are only five weight classes (for men, it is -66, -73, -81, -90 and +90). This will help smaller clubs to build a team and attend league fights as they tend to not have many players who are very light or very heavy. 

TSV Hertha Walheim  is a big club with a huge membership. On a good day, there could be up to 40 players training on the mat. 

How long does a typical adult session last?
A typical adualt session is about 1 hour and 45 minutes. It starts with a warm up, some uchikomi or technique training. After that some free throwing or preparation for randoris. The randori sessions last between 45min to 75min.

What do you like best about your club?
I have been with the club for my entire judo life. The great thing is that I am not the only one. A lot of my training partners started with me when we were kids. We all take part in a lot of team, league and mixed-team competitions. Fighting alongside your training partners is always a very enjoyable thing. At my club I’m able to do it all – learn techniques, get some fitness training and best of all, to do this with a lot of different people. This is what makes me stick to this club all this while. 

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