Ahead of the Hong Kong Junior Judo Championships this month, Beverly Au meets three DB brothers who are fanatical about the sport – Nitai, Arbel and Yahav Delgoshen
To find two brothers under 12 who excel at judo would be quite something, finding three – Nitai, Arbel and Yahav Delgoshen – is something to write about. So far, these pint-sized, DB Judokas, aged 11, 9 and 7, have amassed an impressive haul of 25 gold, five silver and four bronze medals between them – and it would seem they are just getting started.
Judo competitions are held throughout the year in Hong Kong, the big ones for kids being the Hong Kong Junior Judo Championships in May (11 years+) and December (six years+). While his brothers will have to wait a few months, Nitai is hoping to continue his winning streak at Yuen Wo Sports Centre, Shatin, on May 22.
Nitai started training with Daruma Judo Club here in DB in 2010, and his brothers quickly followed suit. Progression in judo is recognised by a series of ranks, as participants go from white belts for beginners through yellow, orange, green, blue and brown, to black. Arbel and Yahav are now both green belts, while Nitai is already a blue belt.
The boys’ coach, Cedric Sum, attributes his charges’ success to hard work, perseverance and support from their parents. “Being hardworking is very important if one wants to do well in judo,” says Cedric. “Their parents, Ya’ara and Udi, 12-year DB residents, also try very hard to let them practise all year round, including back in their native Israel every summer.”
Part of the secret to the Delgoshens’ success lies in their total dedication to the sport. In addition to twice-weekly judo classes at Discovery College with Cedric and his wife Emily, the boys practise together at home. They also enjoy watching big judo tournaments on YouTube, and try to learn as much as they can from the professionals. Israel’s 2009 World Championships bronze medallist, Alice Schlesinger and 2004 Olympic bronze medallist, Arik Ze’evi are their favourite Judokas.
In addition to judo, the boys, who attend Lantau International School, head to Tung Chung Swimming Pool once a week. Swimming helps improve their stamina, which is vital for energy-sapping, two-minute bouts on the judo mat. They also focus on aerobic fitness.
“We do exercises such as sit-ups and push-ups; we stretch properly and practise techniques,” Yahav explains. “In Israel, at our judo summer camp, we climb up ropes six times in a row. This helps our hands and fingers get stronger through gripping the rope, as we climb up and down it.”
Cedric points out that the boys have different strong points, which help them during tournaments. About Yahav, the youngest, Cedric says, his attitude towards practice is very good and his “break-fall skills are excellent”. Arbel, meanwhile, is fearless during matches. “No matter what size his opponent is, Arbel will fight hard and is not afraid to lose. In fact, he seldom loses his fights.”
Big brother Nitai is an all-rounder. “Being big and muscular was Nitai’s advantage in the beginning, but then he improved his technique by showing the key points to his junior classmates,” Cedric explains. “Through teaching, he has memorised techniques which make him faster during fights.”
Discussing the judo concepts of kate (basic techniques), tori (the person throwing their partner) and uke (the person being thrown), it’s clear that the Delgoshens are totally clued up about their beloved sport.
“Judo teaches a person about agility, courage and perseverance. You have to learn to lose and win, and how to live with the result. You learn to keep trying,” Nitai says.
“Judo gives me confidence in my everyday life,” he adds. “I feel a lot less nervous than I used to when I was younger. Your whole body needs to be operating at a top level. You need to use your legs, waist, shoulders, hands, elbows and head when you are in a match. Every part of your body matters. Everything needs to work together otherwise you cannot execute the moves and techniques properly. Judo is both mind and body, psychological and physical.”
Psyching out their opponents is one of the things that makes the brothers hard to beat on the mat. “It’s important that you don’t look scared,” says Arbel. “If you do, your opponent will know you are weak. You don’t want your opponent to think he will have an easy fight. I keep my back straight, I put on a serious face and I don’t crouch.”
“Your confidence can weaken your opponent,” Nitai says in agreement.
“It’s best to have a relaxed grip when you are with an opponent because you get tired quicker if you don’t,” adds Yahav. “You have to adjust to situations during a bout, depending on what you and your opponent are doing. It’s ok to get thrown by your classmate in practice because you learn from your mistakes.”
There’s a lot more to judo, however, than sparring and throwing. As mum Ya’ara says: “The spirit of judo includes friendship, support of each other and teamwork. We really like that it elicits respect for others in the judo club and in life. You need to know how to be a teammate.”
“Judo helps kids to adjust better to real life situations from what they learn during training and competing. It is a contact sport that needs to be done with respect for each other,” dad Udi adds. “The kids also have a lot of respect for their senseis (coaches).”
“Another reason we are good is our senseis are really good,” says Nitai. “They help with our technique, power and speed. We aren’t the biggest club in Hong Kong but for our size, we do really well in competitions.”
• Daruma Judo Club, www.darumajudo.com
• Hong Kong Junior Judo Championships, www.hkjudo.org