JFAUK have just returned from Sofia where we enjoyed an exchange with our Bulgarian friends.
The exchange was initiated last year when the Bulgarian team, led by Kayolan Kolev (2nd Dan) – a highly skilled judoka and Sambo world medalist – visited the U.K. This weekend we returned the visit with a team of 9 Judoka keen to experience true Eastern European judo. The friendship between JFAUK and Bulgarian has been blossoming over the past 5 years after first meeting in Thessaloniki on the WJF international circuit during 2015. In 2018, after many talks and growing frustrations with modern judo, Kayolan Kolev and his team decided to follow the path set out by the founding members of JFAUK and initiated his own Bulgarian extension of JFAUK and the WJF, JFABG. The decision saw the new Bulgarian federation join a growing series of newly established judo federations keen to keep true traditional judo alive. With JFABG, there are now five separate federations all directly working alongside Sampson and JFAUK to further ignite traditional judo, joining the many other countries each supporting the WJF. Our visit to Sofia therefore further extends our friendships and continues the visions first shared when Kayolan and Sampson first met.

The weekend exchange began with a one day seminar led by JFAUK President Sampson Sampson and JFAUK International Referee Samuel Betu, who together spent the morning focusing on movements developing Ippon Seoi Nage. Toward the afternoon, Sampson showed a series of twisting eri jime techniques to highlight how creative judo ne-waza techniques can be. A video highlighting the session will be available on Sampson’s YouTube channel, Sampson Judo. The training session was supported by JFABG President Kayolan Kolev, JFABG Chairman Radoslav Dachin and their team. Also supporting The training session was JFAGR President Avgerinos Mastresllis who travelled from Thessaloniki to support the event and enjoy the exchange between friends.

Following the training, a friendly inter-club open weight tournament took place between 23 Bulgarian and British judoka. After a truly superb display of ippon judo, the friendly competition came to a close with JFAUK’s Sam Sampson taking gold and Jason Baird taking bronze alongside the silver and second bronze won by Bulgarian Judoka. After the open-weight tounament a mixed nation team event was held to further encourage integration and friendship between the Judoka, with 4 means each consisting of 4 Judoka from both Bulgaria and the U.K.

Concluding a long day of judo, our Bulgarian hosts treated the team to a night of traditional Bulgarian cuisine before the teams headed to bed.

The following morning the Bulgarian team were keen to show off their city by providing a tour of Sofia, highlighting its culture and history along the way. After an enjoyable walk around the Bulgarian capital, it was time for team JFAUK to head home.

The exchange proved to be a resounding success with much judo and friendship shared each step of the way. The relationship between JFAUK and JFABG growths in strength each day and we are excited to have Bulgaria as one of the many destinations on our annual calendar.

We thank Kayolan Kolev, his team and all our hosts on their extremely generous hospitality and can not wait to see them again in the near future. Next up for JFAUK is the WJF Matsuura international Cup which will be taking place in Thessaloniki, Greece!

Full photos can be found here