Judo, ADHD and inner adversity

Some Tough but Necessary Lessons
13 February 2023
Volunteer Position – Judo Canada Finance and Audit committee member
15 February 2023
Anthony Diao

Anthony Diao Judoka since 1986 and black belt since 1995, this French journalist born in the United States grew up on three continents. He holds a Masters in International Law and has written in French, English and Spanish for various media since 2003 (sport, culture, society, environment), including the French bimonthly L’Esprit du judo, which he has been collaborating with since February 2006 and its n°2. He is the author of immersion stories from South Africa to Poland via Cuba, Russia, Ukraine at war or Slovenia, he was also the sparring and interpreter of Ilias Iliadis during his first seminar at ‘Insep de Paris, the long-time portraitist of anonymous judokas as unavoidable figures (Ezio Gamba, Jeon Ki-young, Ronaldo Veitía …), and followed athletes such as Antoine Valois-Fortier and Kayla Harrison on a daily basis from 2013 to 2016 on the so-called show World Judo Academy. Its guideline? Treat the Olympic champions and the white belts with the same respect – “give everyone the same attention as if I were writing about my father or mother.”

How can judo be a refuge for hyperactivity? What are the existing or to be built bridges between the martial discipline and this behavioural disorder which is all the more difficult to diagnose as it is still too rarely sought? Elements of understanding of a contemporary phenomenon.

Montpellier, France, Friday, April 25, 2014. European Judo Championships. Final of the -70 kg. On the first sequence of the fight, the German Laura Vargas-Koch commits a mistake without return against the title holder, the Dutch Kim Polling: she advances her leading hand without locking the elbow. The penalty is immediate. Spectacular, thunderous, unforgettable.

Belted, stuck to her then raised by her left side, the future doctorate in mathematics is taken up in the air like a Fiat Panda at the garage. In weightlessness, the duet charges one hundred and forty kilos in cumulated, to which are added the laws of gravity. At the impact, the utsuri-goshi maki-komi of the two ladies comes like a hole in the tatami of the Sud de France Arena. On the coach’s chair, with her eternal pale silk scarf around her neck, the former six-time world medallist and three-time European champion Marjolein van Unen is as radiant as her student. Between the hajime and the ippon, the much awaited clash between her protégée and the reigning world vice-champion lasted… nine seconds.

The moments that follow are intense. Smiling up to her eyebrows, irradiated with an incandescent joy, Kim Polling prolongs the aftershocks of the earthquake that she herself has triggered. Claps her hands. Makes two jumps on the side of the coaches’ chairs. A half-turn on herself. Raises her arms facing the audience. Immediately lowers them. Claps hands vigorously again. Moves back into position for the salute. Adjusts her belt buckle. Takes two large steps back. Steps forward again. Salutes her opponent with that ponytail whip so characteristic of days of triumph. Shakes with both hands that of her rival. Leaves backwards the surface of fight by jumping and by striking in the palms. Then takes a sprint until jumping in the arms of the very maternal Marjolein. The two women are in heaven.

In the mixed zone, a few minutes later. The one that her friends on the circuit affectionately call “Kimi” suddenly cuts short her hot debriefing in front of a flock of European journalists to come and… slap a beaming kiss on the author of these lines. And for good reason. The previous summer, long introspective telephone exchanges and then in the stands at the Maracanazinho in Rio de Janeiro had led to a double page spread in the format “Un été avec…” for the French bimonthly L’Esprit du judo. Given the Zevenhuizen native’s hot start to the 2013 season – five international appearances, five titles, nineteen victories as many exclamation points – the article was started as the chronicle of a budding invincibility. It will gradually turn into the chronicle of her “simple” bronze in Brazil – her only world medal to date. Few knew at the time the true miracle behind this performance. A podium obtained on one leg, with courage, with the discretion of fighters who know the importance of not revealing the weaknesses of the heart, the head and the body as the assault approaches.

Behind the song of gestures

If the celebration of the Dutchwoman on the evening of her continental title in 2014 is detailed in this way, it is because it is symptomatic. It tells the story of an irrepressible movement, often observed during the career of the one who was for several seasons n°1 in the world in the -70 kg category. Nervous adjustments of the bun, of the belt knot or of the jacket panels; a body that, during the rare respite of the fight, suddenly stands up on its tiptoes; shrugging of the shoulders; alternating closed faces and huge smiles; a flow of speech that almost sprains the wrist of anyone who tries to take notes… Kim Polling was four years old in 1995 when she was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADHD). Her parents took her to judo because they “read in the paper” that it was a possible way to channel their older daughter’s boundless energy.

From the memory of an interviewer, the term “agitation” sounds familiar. Statistically, it is even one of the main reasons why a large majority of champions come to judo. But it is not the only one,” weighs up the eighty-five-year-old French eighth dan René Nazaret, while having a coffee at his place. There are two profiles that judo teachers usually see arriving on their tatami at the beginning of the season. First of all, there are the children who, indeed, can’t stand still. For them, the challenge will be to gradually become aware of the framework that surrounds them and to evolve within this framework. The other major category is the shy ones, to whom we must teach confidence and openness to others, and even help them to find a form of spontaneity that they have either lost or that they have never known… As you see, these are two diametrically opposed ambitions. Our role as teachers is to make them coexist on the mat. For these students to complement each other in trying to move forward and grow, if not all together, at least individually.

Judo as a panacea? At the age of ten, Kim Polling started taking Ritalin, a derivative of methylphenidate. A powerful stimulant classified on the list of doping products – “unless written authorization“, the interested party immediately denies. Her career speaks for itself: from 2013 to 2021 she will be, draw after draw, the undisputed scarecrow of her category. In addition to her world medal in 2013, the one who succeeded the legendary Edith Bosch at the helm of the -70 kg oranje – and forced her contemporaries Linda Bolder and Esther Stam to change their nationality, defending respectively the colors of Israel and Georgia -, will have won in the meantime four European titles, four Masters and a flock of international tournaments. A series of injuries – as well as the metronome-like regularity of her national rival Sanne van Dijke in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics, coupled with the latter’s resilience made unprecedented by a succession of personal tragedies during the first confinement – put an end to this blessed decade. On May 23, 2022, Kim Polling and her companion, the Italian -81 kg Andrea Regis, became parents of a little Aurora. A maternity break that she has of course taken care to edge very early and to structure daily. “Judo taught me to control myself and to concentrate my energy to transform it into power.

The symptomatic triad

That’s for the sport. What does science say? To give you an idea of the scale of the problem, ADHD affects “5.9% of young people and 2.5% of adults“, according to the conclusions of the International Consensus Statement of the World Federation of ADHD, quoted in March 2022 by Lilas Pepy in the French daily Le Monde. According to this article, “women have an inattentive rather than hyperactive form of ADHD and are under-diagnosed. Epidemiological studies in children give a ratio of about one girl for every three boys with ADHD.

In order to summarize and not to get bogged down in the eternal debate between “alarmists” and “reassuranceists”, professionals in the profession rely on a famous triad of symptoms to describe this disorder, the origin of which is partly hereditary and partly linked to environmental risk factors. ADHD is thus characterized by “a three-dimensional disorder combining inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity“, begins Nadège Cambon on page 29 of a fascinating dissertation presented in June 2021 at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Psychomotricity Training Institute, in Paris, in order to obtain the state diploma of psychometrician. Then she specifies: “Attention is defined by William James (1950) as ‘the selection in clear and precise form of information or an event external to the thought and its maintenance in the consciousness‘. Hyperactivity, or psychomotor instability, corresponds to the inability to stay in place in a situation of constraints: it is a disorganized and aimless agitation. Impulsivity is defined by an inability to inhibit a response, manifested by an overly rapid response to stimuli, often inappropriate or exaggerated (Bouvard, 2016).

Translated to the judo ecosystem, this succinct statement has found in recent years a golden incarnation in the person of Arthur Clerget. The 30-year-old Frenchman is the youngest of a family where having a black belt and experiencing the high level are the equivalent of gold medals around the neck of swimmer Michael Phelps: it seems to go without saying. French junior champion, fifth at the World juniors then double finalist of the French senior championships, for a title, pillar of the national epics of his club of Sucy Judo, the former French -73 kg, trained like his sister Chloé and his triple world and Olympic medallist brother Axel in the parental stronghold of Marnaval, discovered an ADHD at the age of twenty-six. This late realization generated in him a radical wish to reorient his career, in order to dig into this issue and all those that it induces. Gone are his previous post-baccalaureate studies. Here he is on the way to the study of psychomotricity, a synthesis of observations and “empirical” intuitions, on the one hand, and of an intense watch on everything that has to do with this subject, on the other hand. In the background, this existential question: “in which part of society can we explore and contain our aggressiveness/impulsivity in a secure, containing and rewarding framework? A questioning that is about to become crucial for more and more people, coming out of the recent global experiences of confinement.

A brain that “doesn’t turn on for the right thing at the right time

The reading of Arthur Clerget’s draft academic research is particularly enlightening. Sincere and transparent, the third dan approaches different aspects of what this reality covers. Page 11: “High-level sport generates certain pathologies of time and action, but I hypothesize that the competitive environment calls for or benefits subjects in need of action. I would simply argue that it mirrors the societal rhythm. Page 14: “I realized that I had difficulty integrating the pace of the group’s work, which I felt was sometimes too slow. In addition, I also had great difficulty in paying attention to lectures in lecture halls, over long periods of time, and ensuring a quality of attention for several days to learn. It should be considered that for the last fifteen years, I have taken advantage of schooling arrangements, during my high school years as well as during my previous university studies, in order to free up time for my sports practice. Once I arrived at the Psychomotricity school, I chose to go to school without accommodation, and it is at this moment that behavioural difficulties appeared, most often in connection with a search for stimulation.

Page 15: “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder does not enjoy consensus, either in the psychomotor profession or among psychologists and psychiatrists. This disorder is very complex to conceptualize, diagnose and treat.” Page 16: “In order to understand what this disease entails it will be necessary to understand its repercussions in daily life, classified according to three symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. It is the important ability to pay attention at the right time to the right thing in life that is the main point that dysfunctions in ADHD. You could say that our brain doesn’t turn on for the right thing at the right time.”

Page 17: “High-level sport calls for, or maintains, many profiles like mine, since the daily energy and motor expenditure channels this search for excessive sensations.” Page 19: “For the past ten years, my time and energy management were both structured toward a common goal by my entire team, my hyperactivity was rewarded, and my time planned and structured by others. Some authors describe adult ADHD as an imbalance between the mental load in one’s life and the ability to manage it.” Page 45: “‘The teacher is the student’ I heard in a dojo. The patient is the master’ I was taught in the Jean Bergès practice room at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital… During all these years of study, I have sought knowledge, I have seen the know-how, I am now discovering the therapeutic know-how.

Being clear about your own darkness

Arthur Clerget is fond of quotations and sprinkles them cheerfully in this final year thesis of psychomotricity. Three of them are particularly striking and tell a story. Thus, introspection as seen by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (“It is not by contemplating the light that one becomes luminous, but by looking at one’s own darkness, which is much more unpopular because it is much more difficult”), the relationship to time according to the Japanese writer Miyamoto Musashi (“Make impatience your worst enemy”), or the role of psychomotricity according to the French neuropsychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jean Bergès: “It is to put the body in the place where the child can say ‘I.’

In a four-handed article written by the co-founders of ADHDadultUK, a peer-led support group for adults with ADHD, and published in August 2021 on The Conversation, British James Brown, associate professor of biology and biomedical science at Aston University, explains what being an adult diagnosed with ADHD means to him in practical terms: “On a daily basis, I forget a lot of simple things, like where I left my keys or to turn off the faucet when I fill the tub. I have a very hard time controlling my emotions, especially rejection. For example, when no one laughed at a joke I made about my ADHD in an executive messaging group, I wanted to quit my job. I am completely unable to maintain attention at meetings or seminars and make impulse purchases.” Alex Conner, the article’s co-author, a senior lecturer in biomedical science communication at the University of Birmingham, and also a late diagnose, says no different: “My main challenges remain prioritizing tasks based on importance (instead of excitement) and fairly extreme anti-authority behaviour (sometimes called oppositional defiance). I’m also a terrible bystander, having trouble attending lectures or sitting still in the theatre – it can even feel like a physical pain.” The two researchers’ pet peeve? “Understanding this disorder in adults, taking it more seriously, raising awareness, and investing in services to improve diagnosis times is critical. Diagnosis paves the way for treatment, which can have a dramatic impact on living with ADHD, including improving self-esteem, productivity and quality of life.” The societal stakes are considerable because, according to the aforementioned March 2022 article in Le Monde, more than 50 percent of adults with ADHD have anxiety disorders, one third have depression and one quarter have personality disorders.”    

In the spring of 2022, at the initiative of Arthur Clerget, we met with two leading experts in these fields in France. The first, Vania Herbillon, is a psychologist specialized in neuropsychology at the Épilepsie, sommeil et explorations fonctionnelles pédiatriques à l’Institut des épilepsies de l’enfant et de l’adolescent (Idée) à l’hôpital Femme-mère-enfant near Lyon. The second, Jean-Philippe Lachaux, is a researcher in cognitive neuroscience and director of research at the Centre de recherche de Lyon de l’Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (Inserm). Over coffee in the shaded garden of Inserm’s studious Building 452, the exchange begins. The two men are careful to avoid jargon. Better still, they try to remain accessible. Their crossed eyes are as erudite as they are open to hypotheses on the subject. It must be said that the digital revolution at the beginning of the 21st century, coupled with the physical distancing induced by two years of the pandemic, have brought the question of attention back to the forefront. This is a central theme in the work of Jean-Philippe Lachaux, an expert in “attentional disengagement” and other “early distraction factors“, author of books such as Le Cerveau attentif, Les Petites bulles de l’attention (se concentrer dans un monde de distractions), La Magie de la concentration and Le Cerveau funambule. This polytechnician has been at the helm since 2014 with a few teachers of the ATOLE program (ATtentif à l’écOLE), in which students learn to develop “robustness in relation to anything that can cause them to deviate“.  

 Attention is the connection to others, what makes contact when there is no contact,” he says at the outset. Achieving this is a source of satisfaction and therefore of confidence. This is very positive. From what you both tell me, judo has everything to do with attention education. The joint attention to one’s own gestures and to those of the other. An attention to the group and multiplied tenfold by it. The child here is emotionally nourished by the group. Vania Herbillon, judoka himself in another life, nevertheless nuances: “In itself, judo is indeed a collective sport. However, it is not for everyone: on the one hand because some ADHD do not like sports, and, on the other hand, because, in addition to the environmental and family factors that reduce or increase ADHD, one must also be lucky enough to find the right teacher. It is a discipline that is well suited to impulsive people, on the other hand. Not thinking before acting exposes them to reprimands and therefore, in a way, to confrontation. It can be relevant to channel the energy generated by the resulting emotional state into these pipes.

In the absolute, sport in general and judo in particular are not always the first recommendation of the practitioner. When the child is too inattentive,” continues Vania Herbillon, “this will be reflected in his relationship with the group, and this is as true in sports as it is in school. Already at school the feeling of exclusion can happen quickly, if we have to find the same problematic consequences for self-confidence in sports, we might as well preserve the child. And the researcher plays the game of the seven differences between school life and the tatami, insisting, for example, on certain martial specificities well known in the dojos (where the arrival of a latecomer sometimes leads the whole group to do push-ups, a strict pedagogy that is not very feasible in the classroom), or on the importance of the guidance of the entourage: “A lot of things are played out in the eyes of the parents and teachers.”  Jean-Philippe Lachaux, on the other hand, prefers to insist on the need to think of attention as a network, where everything is first a matter of balance and complementarities. “Distraction is also a form of attention, but attention that does not come at the right time.

Finding the right balance

What about medication? According to the Canadian website ADHD.ca, which centralizes the research of “front-line professionals in education, health and social services”, medication to help ADHD children consists of “brain stimulants that activate the secretion of neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine. It is not, however, “the complete corrective solution“, given that “Ritalin and Concerta are the most commonly used medications for ADHD“, that they are effective “in 79% of cases” but that it will “always be necessary for the student or child to work harder than others“. The site warns that “these medications belong primarily to the amphetamine family” and that they “still remain the subject of controversy regarding their use and side effects”. In athletics, it is precisely for a treatment with methylphenidate, the molecule at the base of the above-mentioned drugs, that the American sprinter Justin Gatlin was tested positive at the beginning of his career, an incident which, added to a second positive test a few years later, threw a veil of suspicion over all his performances when he returned from suspension… In 2016, just after the Rio Olympics where she had won five medals including four titles, the American gymnast Simone Biles had to justify having provided an authorization for the use of methylphenidate for therapeutic purposes to treat her ADHD after the Fancy Bears, Russian hackers, revealed confidential medical information about her. “Simone has filled out the proper forms in relation to the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and WADA requests, there is no violation. The International Gymnastics Federation, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USADA have confirmed this” were the words used by the U.S. Gymnastics Federation, which came to the support of its fallen icon.

This cautious observation is shared by the French psychoanalyst Sébastien Ponnou, lecturer in Education Sciences at the University of Rouen-Normandy. The academic sounds the alarm in an article published in March 2022 on the website The Conversation, with the explicit title: “ADHD: the dangerous explosion of drug treatment for children.” According to his research, “this increase is coupled with a considerable lengthening of treatment duration: the median duration of use among 6-year-olds in 2011 was 5.5 years and up to more than 8 years for 25% of them. Even more concerning: the youngest children have the longest treatment duration. These durations are without comparison with those highlighted in the 2000s: the median line of the prescription of [methylphenidate] in children in 2005 in France was then 10.2 months.

It is an understatement to say that the scientific community is divided on the subject of medication. For Vania Herbillon, for example, France remains cautious on the issue, and this for a simple reason. “In France we are very late because this subject has been denied for a long time. As with dyslexia, the straitjacket of psychoanalysis has, for example, made mothers feel very guilty, and has proved to be an obstacle when it comes to considering the neurobiological origin of this disorder. Moreover, we are still very cautious about the use of methylphenidate because the side effects of this molecule still need to be studied… The Anglo-Saxons, on the other hand, medicate more easily… with, inevitably, the risk of drifting toward a business aspect. There is a middle ground to be found and Quebec is a very interesting model in this respect since psycho-education and guidance are at the heart of the treatment“.

Canada, precisely. In 2021, Americans Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen devoted their gripping documentary The Alpinist totrying to understand where the quest for the absolute came from for Canadian Marc-Antoine Leclerc, an extreme mountaineer who disappeared at the age of 25, at the very end of filming, on his return from an expedition to Alaska. The very dignified testimony of Michelle Kuipers, the climber’s mother, is particularly eloquent: “When [Marc-Antoine] arrived in this world, we can’t say that he fit the mold perfectly. He had ADHD. He had a hard time staying in place and the educational system didn’t suit him. [He was full of energy and loved to learn, but he was losing the pleasure of learning and going to school. So I took the plunge and homeschooled him for a while [with classes until noon and then outings to the forest in the afternoon]. […] If you never let a child be free to have his own adventures, he will never learn who he is, what his strengths or weaknesses are, and what he is capable of.” An approach in line with that of the aforementioned Marc-Antoine, who states in the film that he experienced each return to high school as an “incarceration“: “When I go on an adventure in the mountains, life becomes incredibly simple. I’m totally focused. I don’t have the attention span of a squirrel. I have a calm mind and I’m in control.

What about indoor sports? World Cadet Champion in 2013 and solid hope for the Canadian team on the road to the 2024 Olympics, Canadian international Louis Krieber-Gagnon gives his judoka’s point of view on the issue: I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder at the age of twelve-thirteen. My parents took me to see a doctor because I had behavioural problems and I was impulsive, especially at school. In elementary and early high school, my teachers would complain about my attitude or actions. At every parent meeting, there were always problems reporting to them because I would get into trouble with friends. I was often pulled out of class and often had detention after school. This impulsivity manifested itself in the fact that my attention was captured by the flashiest or most exciting things, and in the fact that I never thought about the consequences of my actions. My parents wanted to break these automatisms so that it wouldn’t get worse as I got older. I was already doing judo but it became the solution with the sport-study program. School was long and boring. With the sport-study program, I could spend less time in school and do more judo. It was the perfect solution to keep me busy and reduce the chances of me getting into trouble. Instead of hanging out with my friends after school, I was at judo. On weekends, I often had competitions or was too tired from my week to hang out. In addition, I took Concerta. Judo helped me a lot in my development. I acquired very good life values. I developed a certain discipline that I doubt I would have learned otherwise, and I learned to set goals. In addition, judo has allowed me to develop a new circle of friends that has kept me away from bad company.

Pay attention to attention

At the end of October 2020 in Hungary, after a six-month break, the international judo circuit gradually resumed its rights. Sanitary bubble, quarantine at the arrival, a gauge limited to the competition’s actors only, a hydro-alcoholic gel bath at the entrance of the tatami, masks to be worn just before and just after the fight, ban on handshakes… This lunar context also allowed, for those interested in the theme of the economy of attention, to observe in a brilliant way in the stands a phenomenon which, until then, was drowned by the effervescence of the occasional – and therefore enthusiastic – spectators. Now scattered and easily identifiable in the sparse stands, the fighters of the day before, the day of or the day after, the only ones allowed in the sports arena with the officials and a few very rare journalists, now stood out on the streaming screens of Internet users around the world. One thing was striking: their difficulty to be interested in the fights which took place under their eyes. Lassitude? Exhaustion at the end of often exhausting vigils of arms to fulfill the multiple constraints of a health protocol in perpetual evolution? Or was it a genuine generational trait that had been brewing for a long time and was exacerbated by the confinement? In any case, few of these fighters did not have their attention caught by their cell phones. WhatsApp loops, Insta stories, Snapchat notifications: when leaving confinement, digital distraction and scrolling seemed – seem – incessant. Even sitting in the front row of a competition that the rest of the judo world would dream of attending. This reality says a lot about an era overfed with brief and rewarding solicitations, where committing to a long-term effort gets, at best, an amused wink.

This observation is fully in line with the observations of Arthur Clerget. Reduced to the symptomatic triptych hyperkinesia, inattention and impulsivity, they lead the Frenchman to the following formulation:

  • One, “We often speak of the ‘hyperactive illusion’, which results from a semblance of control over one’s body. However, if we look closely or if we give him standardized tests on his motor skills, we often find that he has great difficulties in motor control, notably because he is unable to inhibit muscles or gestures that are irrelevant to the task at hand. However, in judo, we spend most of our time educating the gesture of the practitioner, with clear instructions and by placing him in his ‘proximal learning zone’, i.e. at a level neither too high, which would generate frustration or agitation, nor too low because it would not interest him “;
  • two, “the teachers of our martial art have the gift of capturing the attention of the children by clearly stating what they have mastered, while encouraging motivation through small attainable objectives and by allocating breaks to let the whole thing settle down – something that is not cultivated enough, unfortunately… This works even if the attentional resources are limited or even exceeded. The child that I was, who did not always grasp everything in the sometimes too long instructions, could always make up for it by using imitation, whether it was the teacher or the peer group“;
  • three, finally: “on the cognitive or behavioural level, the noisiest signs of call – behavioural disorder, aggressiveness, intolerance to frustration, aversion to delay… – are very quickly framed on the educational level by the operating conditionings, very powerful in this martial art. The reinforcement can be negative when the moral code and its values are exceeded: bullying, punishment, exclusion, call to order, all of which is correlated to the very strict image attributed to judo teachers, guarantors of this very Japanese framework… The reinforcement can, on the other hand, be positive when the expected behaviours are respected. What’s more, our social rituals of greeting generate a very clear sense of frameworks and containment, even if the most important thing is hidden in the sense of respect for the partner.

In March 2022, in Lyon, France, the Neurodis Foundation organized a conference on the subject of children’s attention, in the presence of Marine Thieux, a doctoral student in neuroscience, and the neuropsychologist Vania Herbillon. After defining the framework of the debate, the two scientists gave their recommendations to promote children’s attention and the levers to achieve it.

Framework of the debate. 1) “Attention is an essential prerequisite for learning, emotion regulation and social integration“; 2) “There are three types of attention: automatic (reflex) attention, voluntary (requires effort) attention and floating attention. Being attentive corresponds to a permanent search for balance between attentional forces that have opposing objectives“; 3) Vigilance is our optimal state of wakefulness, ahead of drowsiness and sleep. “Sleep pressure and circadian rhythm influence alertness, which underlies attentional mechanisms. Preserving them means taking care of our attention and our children’s attention.

Recommendations. To encourage children’s attention, it is necessary to “give them a clear objective“, to “organize and plan the steps“, to “select relevant information“, to reduce external stimuli, to focus attention on a short period of time, to avoid multitasking and to automate procedures: “repeat the learning phases to free up attentional resources“.

Levers. To promote the above, the two scientists recommend “qualitative and quantitative sleep“, limited screen time, support for physical and cultural activities, “regular cycles of eating, sports and social activities” as well as a time for work, a time for quiet and a time for boredom.

So is the dojo the ideal setting for treating ADHD?

Arthur Clerget, again, shares his feelings about what some see, also, as a compensation strategy. “I think judo is a gift for ADHD. To me, treating this population is about identity. The label of being a pushover, a fighter, or a dunce can stick for a long time and undermine self-esteem. Judo can strengthen this self-esteem, especially through the group, the opposition and the competition. This is the story of many hyperactive people sent to the dojos. Some persevere in this space to become professionals, teachers or athletes. The dojo is a social space where hyperactives are valued, whereas school sends them an image of themselves as dropouts or maladjusted children. It all depends on the setting and the context in which we evolve. At the highest level, the problem is even more acute. For the former international athlete, who lists off a number of partners he met in the not-so-distant past as “ADHDs who don’t know they are“, “the structures of high-level athletes are full of these profiles who no longer dare or believe in any other model of development than sport, while massively dropping out of school”. At the same time “cruel and elitist” but also ultra-protective (“relief of executive functions, very supportive and very structuring environment that breaks down when the career stops…“), high-level sport makes the process of reconversion and return to “normal” life complex in essence… Anyway. The great lesson of combat sports is that, if there is a fight, it is anterior, a little, and interior, a lot. ADHD is a formidable example of this. – Anthony Diao


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