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Martial arts club brand dojo conversion “outrageous”

Committees of Cardiff University Athletic Union’s martial arts clubs allege that they weren’t consulted during and after their training dojo was “reassigned”

Cardiff University Sport has been subject to criticism from the committees of martial arts clubs at the University, who have complained that the facilities that they use to train in have been “reassigned” without any form of consultation.

The dojo at Talybont Sport Centre was converted into a “functional fitness room” over the summer, but members of Cardiff University clubs such as Karate and Jiu jitsu have told Gair Rhydd how the facilities at the Talybont Sports Centre ‘field hall’ to which they have been forced to train in are “simply not suitable for training.”

In a statement to Gair Rhydd, Sam Parsons, VP Sport and President of the Athletic Union, said: “The decision to convert the Dojo into a functional fitness room was made by Cardiff University Sport who operate the sports facilities of the University.

“This decision was made following a review of the use of the facility and involved discussion with all clubs affected by the decision. All affected clubs were invited to participate in the consultation process.

“Cardiff University Sport met with each club to review the use of the space and the possible future options for its use. This process included positive engagement from clubs and feedback from a number that stated that the change could bring benefits.”

However, this is disputed in a statement to Gair Rhydd from the a committee member of the Athletic Union’s Karate Club, that said: “I am in the Jiu jitsu club’s Facebook group and a few weeks later I saw a comment on there that the dojo had been reassigned. I brought this up with the Karate committee and this was the first any of us had heard of it.

“It is, in our opinion, absolutely outrageous that a martial arts club that has been part of the university for fifty years should only find out that its training venue has been taken off it through a different club happening to mention it.

“In general, we feel shunted to one side so that University Sports can make a few more pennies out of the gym. The communication from them has been absolutely woeful”.

On top of this, the committee of the AU’s Jiu jitsu club also expressed its concerns at the recent conversion of the dojo: “The Jiu jitsu club would also like to have the dojo back, not only for all the reasons you expressed but also for a series of health and safety issues, mostly due to the noise around which prevents us from understanding instructions.”

Karate also expressed concern at the fact that members of Students’ Union staff did not know of the dojo’s conversion. “Our committee decided earlier in the summer that this year we would run two Give It A Go sessions, and ran through the bookings as such, requesting use of the dojo for both sessions. We got the application done, handed it in on time and received an email from the SU to let us know that our application had been successful.“

In addition, they revealed concerns over safety and alleged that Cardiff University Sport had declined requests to improve potentially unsafe equipment: “The already poorly-suited mats slide around all over the place, leaving gaps between them that could cause serious injury. This wasn’t so much of a problem in the dojo as they more or less fit in the room, minimising the separation.

“The only way to remedy this is to get off the mats and kick them back into shape every 20 minutes or so, which of course takes time out of our already limited sessions. The mats themselves are bulky and hard to put away.

“Various clubs have been petitioning the University for new mats for several years now but as of right now University Sport just doesn’t want to know.

“The AU reckon if we get our own risk assessor in and get all the clubs together we might get them – it’s probably a £2,000 investment for this but it benefits at least five clubs and hundreds of students for a one-off purchase that will last years. Is our safety not worth that?”

In his statement, Parsons added: “Clubs that are not satisfied with the arrangements or are experiencing problems are encouraged to contact myself or Cardiff University Sport. The Athletic Union and Cardiff University Sport are committed to supporting all sports clubs to develop.”

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  • The martial arts clubs have been treated like second class clubs by the AU for years, simply because they want to make a bit more money, ignoring the traditions and cultures of clubs that have been part of the university for decades. We in the Aikido club were ‘delighted’ to have to train in the sports hall on Saturday afternoon just so that TWO girls could squat thrust kettle bells where the dojo formerly was! It is nothing short of discrimination.

  • I would like to confirm, as the treasurer of the Aikido society, and with confirmation from the president, that we were not informed of the loss of our dojo until essentially the beginning of the school year- nor were we consulted or given a chance to object. Additionally I would like to add that every practice session we’ve had so far this school year, without the dojo, we’ve looked in to see if anyone was using the gym during that time. No one has been in the room at all. So why can’t we use it, just as we did before? We’re not objecting to having it used as a gym, we’re simply requesting to use it as a dojo during our respective practice times.

  • It started last year when the mats had to be taken up and put away after each class so it could be used as a fitness room, and constant interruptions for people coming in wanting to get free weights for the gym next door. The clubs last year didn’t get any say, we were invited to a meeting at which we expressed our concerns but we were roundly ignored as we didn’t make the university enough money. Now the clubs have been completely removed from the room that was designed as a dojo into a noisy environment where we have to put away mats at end of session to clear courts so we get less training time.

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