Sixth Dan in judo for Jason King

Jason King at the Gisborne Judo Club dojo, watched over by Master Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo. King has been upgraded to 6th Dan and is wearing a special red and white belt made in Japan. Picture by Liam Clayton

JASON King’s father the late Dave King “chucked’ his son on the mat when he was four years old.

Forty-two years on Jason is still there, teaching and competing.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. Apart from my family (partner Mellissa Jones and their 18-year-old son Caleb), judo is my life,” said King, who was upgraded to a 6th Dan this week after a stand down period of eight years.

“From being a 5th Dan black belt to a 6th Dan with a red and white belt, you have to wait eight years. It can be between eight and 10 years from sixth to seventh. Most black belts 5th Dans are no longer fighting but are upgraded for their services to the sport, coaching, administration or other areas of judo.”

To attain 6th Dan status, judoka must also accumulate 120 points.

King, still competing at the age of 46, had 665 points when he was upgraded.

“I received my belt and certificate after presenting a kata, which is a formation of techniques performed by two judoka.

“My partner was my nephew Dariel Marino which made it special.”

What made the presentation even more special was that Kiki Velloza-Reedy — who King has known for 38 years and has been coaching with for the past 12 years — arranged with New Zealand judo legend and 8th Dan Rick Littlewood to have a red and white belt, with King’s name on it, made in Japan.

Gisborne-born Littlewood, who competed at the 1972 Munich Olympics and has a house in Japan, is one of only two New Zealanders to attain 8th Dan status.

“Kiki was at the presentation and the belt is something I will treasure for the rest of my life, and something I think Dad would have been proud of me achieving.

“After he died (in 2002) I wanted to carry on the work he did with Gisborne Judo Club — keep the club name up there.

“Judo has been my passion ever since he chucked me on the mat when I was four.”

That passion has equated to King coaching juniors to seniors for the past 30 years.

“I’m at the dojo at least four times a week and just before nationals up the club runs seven days a week,” said King, who has sign-writing business King Creations. ‘It’s been like my second home.

“I’m also really lucky that Mellissa (2002 Commonwealth Games judoka) has been unbelievably supportive.

“It helps that she was into the sport in our early days together. Now Mellissa’s focus is on her work as a nurse at Gisborne Hospital.”

Now King has the prestigious red and white belt, what is next?

“The two highest Dan in New Zealand are Rick, from Auckland, and Brian Cloynes (Dunedin). Maybe I will try to join them.

“When I was just starting in the sport they were players who inspired me and to join them as 6th Dans, while I’m still competing, is something special to me.

“To put it in perspective, Rick and Brian are both in their 70s.”

King said one of the biggest motivating factors in him continuing to coach and fight was the joy he got from seeing club members win medals at various championships.

“It’s not just the winning part. Obviously that’s good but it’s the buzz we (King and fellow coaches Kiki Velloza-Reedy and Clayton Kingston) get from coaching good technique, respect and discipline.

“It’s good to see and hear others comment on the technique of our players.

“We’ve had parents, who have brought their kids down for coaching and after a couple of months they want to know what we are doing. They say their kids are more respectful at home and more helpful.”

King and Velloza-Reedy are running a training camp in Nelson in January to help prepare the New Zealand squad for the Oceania champs in New Caledonia in April.

“Kiki will be going with the team but I won’t,” said King. “We’re going as a family to support Tayler (Reid, Gisborne triathlete) at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

“Tayler, a two-time national junior judoka champion, is Mellissa’s sister’s (Bronwyn) stepson.

“Hes like a nephew to me and he’s worked incredibly hard to get to the Commonwealth Games. It will be a fantastic occasion watching him represent New Zealand at the Games.”

JASON King’s father the late Dave King “chucked’ his son on the mat when he was four years old.

Forty-two years on Jason is still there, teaching and competing.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. Apart from my family (partner Mellissa Jones and their 18-year-old son Caleb), judo is my life,” said King, who was upgraded to a 6th Dan this week after a stand down period of eight years.

“From being a 5th Dan black belt to a 6th Dan with a red and white belt, you have to wait eight years. It can be between eight and 10 years from sixth to seventh. Most black belts 5th Dans are no longer fighting but are upgraded for their services to the sport, coaching, administration or other areas of judo.”

To attain 6th Dan status, judoka must also accumulate 120 points.

King, still competing at the age of 46, had 665 points when he was upgraded.

“I received my belt and certificate after presenting a kata, which is a formation of techniques performed by two judoka.

“My partner was my nephew Dariel Marino which made it special.”

What made the presentation even more special was that Kiki Velloza-Reedy — who King has known for 38 years and has been coaching with for the past 12 years — arranged with New Zealand judo legend and 8th Dan Rick Littlewood to have a red and white belt, with King’s name on it, made in Japan.

Gisborne-born Littlewood, who competed at the 1972 Munich Olympics and has a house in Japan, is one of only two New Zealanders to attain 8th Dan status.

“Kiki was at the presentation and the belt is something I will treasure for the rest of my life, and something I think Dad would have been proud of me achieving.

“After he died (in 2002) I wanted to carry on the work he did with Gisborne Judo Club — keep the club name up there.

“Judo has been my passion ever since he chucked me on the mat when I was four.”

That passion has equated to King coaching juniors to seniors for the past 30 years.

“I’m at the dojo at least four times a week and just before nationals up the club runs seven days a week,” said King, who has sign-writing business King Creations. ‘It’s been like my second home.

“I’m also really lucky that Mellissa (2002 Commonwealth Games judoka) has been unbelievably supportive.

“It helps that she was into the sport in our early days together. Now Mellissa’s focus is on her work as a nurse at Gisborne Hospital.”

Now King has the prestigious red and white belt, what is next?

“The two highest Dan in New Zealand are Rick, from Auckland, and Brian Cloynes (Dunedin). Maybe I will try to join them.

“When I was just starting in the sport they were players who inspired me and to join them as 6th Dans, while I’m still competing, is something special to me.

“To put it in perspective, Rick and Brian are both in their 70s.”

King said one of the biggest motivating factors in him continuing to coach and fight was the joy he got from seeing club members win medals at various championships.

“It’s not just the winning part. Obviously that’s good but it’s the buzz we (King and fellow coaches Kiki Velloza-Reedy and Clayton Kingston) get from coaching good technique, respect and discipline.

“It’s good to see and hear others comment on the technique of our players.

“We’ve had parents, who have brought their kids down for coaching and after a couple of months they want to know what we are doing. They say their kids are more respectful at home and more helpful.”

King and Velloza-Reedy are running a training camp in Nelson in January to help prepare the New Zealand squad for the Oceania champs in New Caledonia in April.

“Kiki will be going with the team but I won’t,” said King. “We’re going as a family to support Tayler (Reid, Gisborne triathlete) at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

“Tayler, a two-time national junior judoka champion, is Mellissa’s sister’s (Bronwyn) stepson.

“Hes like a nephew to me and he’s worked incredibly hard to get to the Commonwealth Games. It will be a fantastic occasion watching him represent New Zealand at the Games.”

Huge honour for club

NATIONAL women’s and Gisborne Judo Club coach Kiki Velloza-Reedy says New Zealand’s latest 6th Dan Jason King is a huge honour for the club.

“Jase is the first 6th Dan to be graded in our club and this is a very special occasion for us as a club,” said Velloza-Reedy.

“He’s is a great model for our athletes coming through and for our coaching staff.

“I remember Jase as an eight-year-old. He was already into his fourth year of judo— orange belt with green tabs, blond-headed kid, always with a smile.

Kiki Velloza-Reedy said she, King and Clayton Kingston were the only ones left from the old days.

“We have that special bond between us and tend to look out for each other. We were all students under Jase’s father (the late Dave King), who was a tough task master.

“Jase never got away with anything. No one did if I remember rightly. Dave just had to look at us and we would stand to attention.

“There was some great times, lots of travelling, lots of fun with our judo friends.

“I watched Jase go through the grades — green belt, blue, brown then in 1991, his black belt.

“Jase as a coach is different from his dad. Taking nothing away from Dave, Jase is softly-spoken and his approach to his students is warm and knowledgeable.

Both approaches still got (get in Jason’s case) the most out of their students.

Velloza-Reedy said one memorable trip they both look back on was the 1997 senior world championships in Paris.

“Jason is the only male club member who has competed at a senior world championships. The other five are female.

“Another highlight for everyone at the club was Jase being the national coach at the 2014 senior world champs in Russia.

“Jase has been a national coach since 1997 and is respected by many judoka both here and overseas.”

Velloza-Reedy said King was a sounding board in 2014 when she was involved in the selection process which culminated in Perth-based Gisborne club member Darcina Manuel being picked to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games.

“It was an emotional time for Darcina and myself, and it was good to be able to talk to Jase about how we were feeling.

“Jase’s service to the club just keeps on progressing over the years. “He’s a life member of the club and a honorary member of Judo New Zealand.”

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Ellyn Proffit - 12 days ago
Awesome Jason! I remember the days we used to train in the old nursing home at Cook Hospital on the hill. Your Dad will definitely be proud! Great memories, great friends. Keep up the great mahi.

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