Jonathan Cooke BEM 5th Dan
I took up judo quite late in life at 21, having always had an interest in martial arts. Unfortunately, there were no judo clubs in the area where I lived. By chance on a visit to Newtownabbey technical college I noticed that a course of judo lessons was on the syllabus. I signed up immediately and was instantly bitten by the judo bug.
My coach Herman Harpur also had another class at the Valley Leisure Centre and I signed up there too! Before long I was travelling far and wide to as many clubs as possible.
A few years later Herman decided to close the Valley club. However, by that point I was a judo coach and with Walter McFarland I reopened the club under the new name – Abbey Judo Club.
Walter and I continued to run the Abbey club until I decided I wanted the challenge of starting a new club from scratch! I had worked in North Belfast and thought that a judo club in the area would be ideal. I believe that it is important to make judo a fun sport, helping the children to develop self-confidence, self-discipline and respect for themselves and others whilst improving concentration, and leadership skills, as well as physical coordination, power and flexibility. I find it impressive that with the proper techniques a large man can be thrown by somebody much smaller.
I am currently a 5th Dan, a UKCC Level 3 coach in performance judo, British Judo Association (BJA) Level 3 coach, and have been active in the sport of judo for over 30 years. I have also had a long competitive career in judo – winning the Northern Ireland, All Ireland and Irish Open Championships and continue to fight in Masters competitions having won medals in the World Masters Tournament in Toronto, the Commonwealth Tournament in Cardiff and the British Veterans Championships.
In 2018, Jonathan was recognised in the Queen’s New Years Honours List. Jonathan was awarded the Medal of the Order of the British Empire – BEM – for services to Cross Community Relations through Sport in Northern Ireland.