Ziggy Tabacznik practiced high-level judo while studying at Johan Cruyff Academy and is co-founder of Judo in Schools and MQ Scan, primary education initiatives to support children’s development and performance
Ziggy Tabacznik is convinced that people are meant to move. “When people move more, they enjoy life more, have more energy and are able to create a better society together. And judo is an ideal sport to support children’s development as well as their social performance”, says the Johan Cruyff Academy alumnus, who practiced judo at the highest level while he completed his studies in sport marketing.
“There is ample evidence that children learn best when moving, while at the same time there are signs that the motor development of children in the Netherlands today lags behind what it was the past, especially among children from vulnerable groups,” says Ziggy. “There are those who want to stimulate exercise more strongly in education, because children all come together at school, but while that may seem obvious, not everyone agrees, because many people claim that this in fact should be the responsibility of parents.”
“Judo is an ideal sport to support children in their development and social performance,” says Ziggy. “Our approach is based on the philosophy of the Japanese pedagogue Jigoro Kano, for whom the continuous pursuit of personality improvement was a primary goal. Kano was convinced that judo leads to becoming a more sympathetic person in a healthier body. One of Kano’s statements is the Judo in Schools motto ‘It is not important to be better than anyone else, it is important to be better than yesterday.”
Ziggy has since become involved in yet another holding company: MQ Scan. The aim of this initiative is to improve children’s motor skills since these skills play a crucial role in their health.
“In collaboration with VU University Amsterdam and The Hague University of Applied Sciences, we have developed the first scientific motor scan in the Netherlands, which enables professionals to gain insight into the motor level of all children in the class within one gym class,” explains Ziggy. “The first 10 years of life of a child are crucial in creating a commitment to lifelong sport and exercise. MQ Scan provides fast, simple and reliable insight into the motor skills of an entire group. With these insights one can improve the motor skills of children in a targeted way, so that they experience pleasure in moving, exercise more, suffer fewer injuries and develop more social qualities.”
“The first 10 years of life of a child are crucial in creating a commitment to lifelong sport and exercise. MQ Scan provides fast, simple and reliable insight into the motor skills of an entire group”, says Ziggy
“Before that, we met René Wormhout, who at the time was the strength and conditioning coach at Ajax, and currently of the Dutch national football team. Within the Ajax training, they have implemented judo, athletics and gymnastics in their approach to ensure that football talents develop into better athletes, and from that base also become better football players. René had developed a kind of obstacle course, from which they could read how things were going with the motor system. When I saw that, I said that we must develop one for education. There are now six scientific studies underpinning the MQ Scan and we have built the most advanced system that is currently available in this area.”
What insights have you gained in the motor development of children?
We have developed a database system, which in the near future can provide interesting insights at both national and international level. From the scans that we have performed so far with around 50,000 children between the ages of 4 and 12, we can conclude that just under 25% of them are unfit motorically. I think that is very disturbing. We have noticed that this is not only a huge issue in the Netherlands, but also beyond. Our MQ Scan method is currently implemented in more than 500 schools and the enthusiasm is growing day by day, so we expect a lot from the upcoming period. The growing insights into the motor development of children are becoming interesting for governments and the health sector. I think that the motor discussion is still too much focused on the education sector, while playing outside and active exercise play a much more crucial role in my view. Personally, I think sport falls short, with a few exceptions. At sports clubs and associations, you can see that the focus is mainly on competition and winning competitions, and in my opinion, there is far too little attention given to fun and broad development in the field of exercise.
Within the Ajax training, they have implemented judo, athletics and gymnastics in their approach to ensure that football talents develop into better athletes, and from that base also become better football players
So, judo is more than ‘play’ …
Yes, definitely! The philosophy behind Judo in Schools is based on life skills that can be associated with judo, such as respect, resilience, trust, discipline, mastery and pleasure—as we have named them—to help children a little further in their personal development as a human being. The program therefore does not focus on fun judo lessons, but on the underlying values and what they can mean for the child, the teacher and the school. More than 40,000 children participate in the program each year. Our goal is to reach 100,000 children per year. Disney has now become our partner and as a result we have been able to further develop the program, by supporting and reinforcing the values through the Disney films. In addition to the lessons on the judo mat, the values are now further explored in the classroom through a digital lesson program. Our successes have been noticed by the International Judo Federation. We coordinate the Judo in Schools program for them and help to set up the same type of program in countries around the world. There are now around 40. In the coming years, we want to become a player in the field of social-emotional development in primary education. We firmly believe in the power of touching each other for the social-emotional development of children. That is where the pedagogical power of judo and physical play lies.
Disney has now become Judo in School’s partner and as a result they have been able to further develop the program
What would be your advice to policymakers, based on your findings?
A great deal of energy and money is being invested in society by all kinds of organizations and the government to get people moving more. Statistics show, however, that many groups do enough exercise. It is primarily an issue with some vulnerable groups, such as disadvantaged families. We say: “It’s better to focus on motion”. People with poor motor skills do not like to move, so you have to solve that, before you say to them: “Move more”. It is about gaining insight into motives for moving or not, and into the motor skills of children. In addition, many policymakers and exercise professionals do not have a clear view of the effect of their policies and activities. By giving yourself insight, you are much better able to see where the needs or disadvantages lie. Or what progress you have made over time. In this way you will achieve much more return from the policy, save your money because you can work in a more targeted manner and you can guide children much more effectively and offer the right thing.
“Johan’s sentence ‘you have to shoot to score’ appeal to me very much. After many years of marketing, you just have to “shoot a lot of balls”. Is my experience, and over time you learn better which ball to hang on to and which to shoot”
How has Johan Cruyff influenced you?
The sayings “you need to have the ball to shoot” and “you have to shoot to score” appeal to me very much, but that’s logical. It’s very expressive for the business world as well. There is so much talking going on within the business world. Before you know it, you are only meeting or writing big plans. It is about doing. If you don’t shoot, nothing happens, and after many years of marketing, you just have to “shoot a lot of balls”. Is my experience, and over time you learn better which ball to hang on to and which to shoot.
This post was originally published at Johan Cruyff Academy: