When Ria Jones received her Black Belt Second Dan at Neyland Judo Club, Bill Carne was honoured to present her with the beautifully embroidered belt, watch her being thrown around by every member there, and then talk to her about her achievements . . .

WHEN Ria Jones achieved her Second Dan Black Belt at Neyland Judo Club everyone was delighted for her but her reward at the very next training session was to go on the mat and be thrown by every member at the session, from club coach Damon McGarvie down to a nine year old.

It is a nice tradition aimed at reminding the Black Belt holder that they are still just one member of a club which really does promote the team ethos. So Ria received her coveted black belt, suitably embroidered with her name and status on it, from yours truly, and then submitted to her fate with typical good grace before our chat.

Achieving her second dan was fitting reward for Ria because she trains with Damon and Co twice a week, runs up to 5k on another evening and takes part in a ‘Grit’ course at the Meads Leisure Centre in Milford haven which involves half an hour of high intensity training before she moves to Haverfordwest to take part in her hockey training on the Astroturf at STP School in Haverfordwest, another of Ria’s sporting interests.

Friday is relaxation evening after a hard week’s work and then there’s usually a hockey match or a judo competition sometime on the weekend, just to round things off neatly!

Ria first took an interest in judo when she was a young girl in the English town of Burton and her father used to coach the sport and she went along to watch. But the family moved on and it was only when Ria came to Pembrokeshire that she decided to take up judo, mentioned it to her husband Grant – and they both decided to give it a try.

They contacted Damon McGarvie at Neyland Judo Club and were made very welcome by everybody. Grant eventually reached senior Blue Belt but his involvement was hampered by work commitments and Ria motored ahead of him in terms of gradings.

“I really love taking part,” admitted Ria, “and after moving through the white, yellow, orange, green and blue belts I passed through lower and upper brown belt status, all within two years.

Progress through to Black Belt First Dan was inevitably more challenging because to move up a grade you have to score 100 points against others of the same category, with ten points awarded for a clear win with a throw, which is called ‘Ippon’.

Ria made a giant stride forward when she attended a competition on a tour to Latvia and did really well against very strong opponents, and also travelled to Walsall, High Wycombe and Gorseinon to gain more points so that she gained her Black Belt First Dan in little more than 12 months.

As well as the physical aspect of her success, Ria was also required to pass a written test to show her knowledge in terms of the theory of judo, like the attacking throws, defence mechanisms and submission moves, plus the etiquette of the sport upon which judo is based.

To win a fight, Ria would need to gain a submission where the opponent ‘taps out’, usually on the floor, to show they are unable to carry on, or is held, shoulders down, for 25 seconds, or Ippon.

If either competitor is able to achieve success in any of these the result is decided on a points basis awarded for lesser throws, or deducted for passivity, known as ‘Shido’, which is frowned upon by the referee and his two assistants.

“The fights are only over four minutes on the mat, which is called a ‘Totami’, and although it doesn’t sound much it can seem a long time trying to gain a vital grip on an opponent’s ‘Gi’ or jacket.

Much is made of the term ‘respect’ in judo because when one is in the ‘Dojo’ (hall) or on the Totami then behaviour has to be exemplary.

“We have to bow to the officials and opponent before the start,” Ria told us, “and no decisions can be queried. Bowing to opponents, even after the disappointment of defeat, is another expectation and woe betide anyone who fails to follow judo’s etiquette.”

Ria gained her Black Belt Second Dan in style at the British Judo Centre of Excellence in Walsall and says that one day she would love to move on to third dan – but that is for the future.

In the meanwhile Ria continues to make a name for herself in national events, gaining the silver medal in the Welsh Closed competition at the Welsh Institute of Sport at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff.

“One of main aims would be to become Welsh champion in my weight category and in general I intend to keep very fit and also enjoy my hockey with Haverfordwest Ladies as we play in the South Wales League Division One.

“I enjoy playing and am also treasurer as an added involvement.”

Ria is also proud to be the only female black belt second dan at the club.

“I am really chuffed to have progressed right through from white to black belt with my club, which was started so well by Bill and Joyce McGarvie, who still provide an immense amount of support as son Damon has taken over the reins.

“He provides wonderful leadership and I also enjoy the friendly rivalry with Barry Watson, another Black Belt Second Dan who is often my training partner.

“Then there’s the other club members who form a great family judo club – it is brilliant!”

It is typical that the one person whom she omits to mention is Ria Jones but she can’t escape because Damon McGarvie told us,

“Ria is very good at judo but more importantly for us she provides a great example to others on how to train and compete.

“She has time to help anyone and our youngsters really look up to her – Ria is an inspiration with her positive attitude.”

High praise indeed from a top judo man and we can pay no better compliment – and we wish Ria Jones many more years of success in her chosen sport!