Written by Nicolas Messner on 09 Sep 2023


Saudi Arabia has been very active in recent years developing judo in all sectors. The latest proof of that has just happened in the capital city of Riyadh, with the grand opening of the Judo in Schools programme in the presence of Ruben Houkes, head of the IJF Judo for Children Commission, Leandra Freitas, IJF Sport Department and Judo for Children Commission member, and Jimmy Van Meurs, commission member.

Abdulaziz Albassam together with a young judoka from the Judo in Schools programme

The opening of the programme took place at the Al-Motaqadimah School, where the guests, including the commission members and representatives of the Ministry of Education and the judo federation, were welcomed by the President of the Saudi Judo Federation, Abdulaziz Albassam​.

Judo demonstrations were performed by boys and girls, who showed great enthusiasm, while there were more than 150 spectating children in the audience. After the show, the guests signed a co-operation agreement between the school, Saudi Judo and the Judo in Schools Commission.

Young judoka together with Leandra Freitas

During their stay, the three IJF representatives, Ruben, Leandra and Jimmy, visited the school, the Saudi Judo Federation, the Olympic Centre and the Mahd Academy. They had the opportunity to give presentations and lead workshops about the Judo in Schools programme, its methodology, implementation and the marketing and communication of the programme.


The grand opening marks the start of a close collaboration with Saudi Judo to implement Judo in Schools all over the country. The national federation and its President, Abdulaziz Albassam, together with the CEO of the organisation, Hassan Alanssari, and board member and member of the Ministry of Education, Dr Nahla Al Subai, all aim high and are very ambitious for the future, having a vision that goes from grassroots development to talent recognition and all the way to the Olympics.

Ruben Houkes

Ruben Houkes said, “It is amazing to see how judo in Saudi Arabia is developing. They have everything in place to be successful.”

Jimmy Van Meurs explained, “I think we inspired a lot of coaches during the workshop with ideas around how to build a Judo in Schools lesson, how to be creative and implement a lot of fun moments in the lessons. Children who have fun will learn better and focusing on social emotional development will make them champions for life.”

Jimmy, Leandra and Ruben together with Abdulaziz Albassam

Leandra Freitas concluded, “It was great to see an increase in the number of girls who are practising judo. It’s really wonderful to see more girls joining judo activities in Saudi Arabia. The country’s vision, ambition and potential for a successful and sustainable school judo programme are truly promising.”

More and more children will now have the possibility to discover judo and its values in Saudi Arabia. Judo enjoys education around values, always associated with the sport element, an important factor for development.

In October, the World Combat Games will take place in Riyadh. Judo will be represented by a mixed team competition, including some of the top teams in the world and a Saudi mixed team. This is another sign that judo in the country is developing fast.

If you are interested in the Judo in Schools programme, visit schools.ijf.org