top of page


CAMPBELLS STORY - World Autism Day

We're delighted that recently the European Judo Union chose to spotlight our talented student Campbell - and published his interview for World Autism Day, so that others can be inspired by his Judo Journey....

Campbell as you will read in his interview below started with us as a young boy at the aged of 8yrs - and we are so proud of all his achievements - and impressed as he continues to climb and grow with us. Currently a 1st Dan Black Belt, Support Trainer & Level 1 Judo Instructor at RSA, & an active competitor & represents GB as part of the GB Adaptive Judo Team!!!

Campbell extends his thanks to our entire team of coaches for all his Judo Achievements. Ed Semple very much his main coach & mentor - but also with strong support from Len Stevens, Ray Stevens, Frank Eustace & all the Judo Coaches & team at Ray Stevens Academy.

Here's the full article - which can also be found :

It is estimated that there are around 700,000 people in the UK, including one in 100 children, with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Campbell is one of those and whilst life not always been easy with his high-functioning autism, ADHD, and verbal dyspraxia, judo allowed him to cope with it all, on and off the mat. Yet, the journey to get to the point of being able to cope was rather rigorous with his coach, Dr Ed Semple. The pair of them are member of Ray Stevens Academy located in South West London and were delighted to share their story on World Autism Day. 

Campbell, you up first, when did you start judo? 

I started judo at the age of 8, before beginning judo I played football and mini golf. I will never forget my first judo class, Ray Stevens held judo lessons for kids in my old School in Wimbledon. My mother suggested I should do a class there, after school, I went into the sports hall where it was being held. 
My young mind was amazed by how amazing judo looked! When I first heard of judo thought it was a board game you would play like a chess club. I was happy that it was the complete opposite of what I imagined as a child. 

C: Memories of your first judo lesson? 

I was introduced to the class by none other than Ed. He and another sensei introduced me to what judo was. I remember running around with my sports kit on and performing osoto-gari in front of the class while Ed was watching, by the end of the day, I felt that judo was the sport for me. 

Campbell with former Olympic silver medallists, Ray Stevens. © Ray Stevens Academy

Ed, care to comment? 

When Campbell first started judo, he had anxiety and learning issues. He found it difficult to mix with other children and be part of a group. If he felt he could not cope with a situation he would go and sit in the corner of the room until he felt better. He would then re-join the group and continue to train/practice until he felt stressed or anxious again when he would repeat the whole process. 
For the first 6 to 9 months, he probably spent more time sitting in the corner than he did on the mat but as he grew more and more confident over time, so he spent less and less time in the corner. The important thing was to let Campbell learn at his own pace.

C: What were your likes and dislikes about judo at the initial stage? 

What I liked about Judo was the sparring, I loved fighting other kids and beating them after 6 months I had my first competition which was held at my school’s sports hall, I remember beating my opponents and receiving a trophy which I still have to this day. I also had my first picture with Ray Stevens. 
What I disliked about Judo was the repetition, I hated doing a class where I did not get to fight anyone at the end. It became boring for me after a while, but I am glad after I reached 15, I started taking judo more seriously. 

Ed: With such a demanding start, how did you get Campbell into competitions? 

When he first started competing he would only take part at venues he had visited before. If the venue was new to him he would refuse to take part because he found it difficult to cope with different environments/situations. So I would take him to all the different

Campbells first competition. © Ray Stevens Academy

competitions the other children went to so he could get used to the different venues. Then when he was ready he would come and compete.
The Surrey County competitions were really important to Campbell because they were all at the same venue and of a high standard of Judo. It allowed Campbell to compete regularly in an environment he felt safe in and really develop his judo skills. 
When he was a teenager, Campbell started to compete at Area and National level. He was now much more confident, attentive and focused. In training he could now interact well with the other students and this allowed him to learn and develop more quickly. This meant that when he went to the British Schools Championships for adaptive judo where he was confident and well prepared and won with ease. Since he has gone on to represent Great Britain in adaptive Judo. 
For Campbell to get on a plane (on his own) fly to Holland and fight in an International Competition (and get Silver) is testament to how far he has come.

C: Looking back on your over a decade experience on the tatami, what are you the most thankful for?

Judo changed my life. I was a kid with Autism and ADHD and I didn’t know how to control myself, Judo was a space where I could let my frustrations out through physical activity which taught me how to better myself mentally as well. 
I am thankful for how Judo humbled me, it taught me to let go of anger when facing defeat and it disciplined me when I had to follow the same rigorous technique over and over refining it until the point of perfection. 

C: You and Ed had a unique journey. Anyone else influenced your judo career? 

On the international stage, Ono Shohei is a big inspiration for me when it comes to competitive judo, watching him perform his signature uchi-mata and osoto-gari amazed me I knew then that I wanted to train to be as strong as he was. 

The biggest influence on my Judo career was none other than Ed who has been there since day one. He has taught and trained me. He has lifted my spirits when I would feel down about a competition or in life. A man whom I look up to and who I see as a second father there’s no other coach that has had the same influence that he has had on me throughout my judo career. 


There is more as Campbell is now a Level 1 coach and helps me train and prepare the new crop of young students coming through. He helps mentor the other adaptive judo players we have coming through as well. He continues to compete to a high level and still loves his judo.

L-R: Ed, Campbell and Ray at the Ray Stevens Academy. © Szandra Szogedi

C: Do you enjoy coaching? 

I look to inspire the next generation, to take the place of those who taught me, and to work alongside kids from different backgrounds. 
I want to train the old and young, there are many adults I inspire to train to become the best of themselves. The greatest feeling is knowing that you have made a positive change to someone who you have trained with starting. I also looking to coach a visually impaired adaptive player in their competitions in the future. 
I am also looking to make a name for myself on the international stage for adaptive judo and I hope that my efforts will inspire individuals with similar disabilities to me.

Lastly, a question for you Ed. Advice for coaches planning to take on adaptive judo roles? 

My feedback to any coach working with adaptive players is to try and create an environment in which the student feels comfortable and safe. Then let the student learn and develop at their own pace. Patience is essential but most important is that your student feels that when they come training, they are a valued and important part of the group.

With stories like Campbell’s, time and time again it is proven that judo is for all, irrespective of one’s abilities. 

Cover image / Last image: Andrew Cleminson

Author: Szandra Szogedi




bottom of page