The appeal of judo to a refugee family

IF Castle Hill's Burdokan Judo Club ever wanted a free plug, this one would be hard to beat.

"This club is not only for judo," said the happy customer. "This club for me and my sons, my wife and my baby sons, is like a school or a family.

"We have no family or friends here. This club is very good for us."

Then there is the short character reference for the club's manager, Rob Katz, former Olympic coach, coach of world championships competitors and judo organiser at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

"He is a very nice man, very kind," said the customer.

Katz can reciprocate with kind words about two of his new students.

"Obviously, they have been out of training for a year, so some of the technique isn't quite there, but what they have is fight," he said. "They know how to fight and you can't always teach that.

"They're training three times a week and are very committed.

"They've made significant progress."

They're so committed and progress has been so swift that Katz considers them good enough to represent NSW at the national championships.

There's a story attached to this shared admiration.

The aspirants are teenagers Shaheen and Hussain Moghadamshaidie and the happy customer is their father Ali.

The family is from Iran, living in North Parramatta on bridging visas and in limbo, awaiting the outcome of an application for refugee status.

Katz said Ali had approached him because judo was popular in Iran, but the sons hadn't trained for nearly a year.

"Only later did I find out they were in a detention centre," he said.

"I found it amazing that one of the first things they wanted to do was get on a mat and start training again."

But the family has indeed been dependent on the kindness of strangers.

The club has supplied the boys with free membership and uniforms and subsided travel and accommodation for a year.

They're off to this weekend to a Canberra tournament, one of a series of qualifiers for NSW selection.

"I like judo because I see it on TV at Olympic Games," Hussain said.

"One day I would like to be like them and go to Olympics for Australia."

That's putting the throw before the horse, and it would be enough to go to the national titles, but they need extra funds for the qualification series.

Details: Rob Katz, 0411 409 632.

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