Having enough randori partners is always a challenge.

I've done lots of interviews with judo players from around the world, including top international champions. I also know coaches and judo players from various judo clubs around the world. If there's one challenge almost every judoka faces, it's getting enough randori partners.

Sure, there are exceptions. Japanese, French and Brazilian judo players don't have a problem getting enough training partners. But almost everyone else does. Believe me, I've spoken to a lot of judokas, including those from countries that have produced world and Olympic champions. And all of them tell me the same thing: It's hard getting enough randori partners.

At KL Judo, we've had to build up our membership literally from scratch. At one point, in the early days, we had only three or four players. Talk about lack of randori partners!

Since then, our membership numbers have grown quite a bit and I dare say that these days, our players always have enough people to randori with. Certainly enough to give them a good workout. But there's still plenty of room for improvement.

I would say a really good session should have around 15 to 16 players on the mat. We still haven't reached that level yet. On most days, we have about eight players on the mat (sometimes more, sometimes fewer). Having eight adult players on the mat for any given session is pretty good, mind you. But we can (and must) do better.

When you're talking about a membership base that consists largely of working adults, you will need roughly four times as many members as the average number of members you want on the mat for any given day. So, if you want 15 as your average, you will need about 60 members.

That's quite a tall order but at the beginning of the year, that was my target. We were at about 30 adult members then. I figured if we recruit an average of three new members a month, we would be able to reach that magic number of 60 members by the end of the year (even if some people were to drop off).  

Then, the pandemic hit. For a while, I thought there would be absolutely zero growth. In fact, I was quite resigned to the fact that we were likely to have a reduced membership as some players would quit during the lock-down. I figured if we could retain at least 70% of our membership, that would be a good achievement.

Turns out, thanks to some new members, our numbers are back to pre-lock-down levels. Basically, we have about 30 adult members now. Can we still hit 60 by the end of the year?

One can always hope but I'm a realist too. I think if we can get two new members per month through the rest of this year, we would end the year on a very high note.