“Anyone can contribute, regardless of thecolour of their belt” – Ruth Lam

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Montréal, March 28, 2024 (Judo Canada) – Black belt or no black belt, Ruth Lam will not be held back from furthering the development of judo in Canada, just as she’s done for more than twenty years.

In 2022, Lam became the first woman without a black belt in judo to sit on Judo Canada’s board of directors. She was quick to acknowledge the honour, and was keen to use her position to help develop the sport on a national level. The skills she possesses outside the tatamis enabled her to become more involved, much to her delight.

Ruth Lam

“To be honest, I didn’t think I would be given the position because I don’t have my black belt,” said Lam, who holds a brown belt. “But the council has changed, and there’s been a break from certain traditions. They were aiming for parity and were looking beyond simply the belts. They also recognize people’s skills and expertise, beyond the tatamis.”

One thing the administrator from Ontario does not lack is experience. She first became acquainted with judo in 1998, when she was living in Fukuoka, Japan. She worked as a teacher and an educational consultant there until 2000.

“Every teacher had to volunteer with a sports club,” she explained. “At first, I was going to work with the boys’ soccer team, but the kids didn’t want a female coach, so I had to find something else. I ended up in the judo club, and everyone there was very welcoming.”

To her great surprise, the Ontarian fell in love with judo at the age of 25. The values imparted by judo struck a chord with her, so she decided to jump in. When she returned to Canada, she was approached by sensei Brian Kalsen, who said he needed her teaching skills at the Ottawa Judo Club, which he had founded in 1988.

Since then, Lam has remained eager to give back to the community in numerous ways, be it through tournaments, training, or assessments. She has made great contributions to the development of the sport in Eastern Ontario and has helped draft and implement various policies at Judo Ontario, where Kalsen is now president.

“Even though I can’t compete or always be on the mats, I can still contribute to the sport and help develop it. I think being a member of Judo Canada’s board of directors is helping me do that. Judo helps me grow and challenge myself. With support and proper preparation, anyone can contribute, regardless of the colour of their belt.”

Very few women were involved in judo when Lam made her debut in the sport at the turn of the millennium. “Very, very few,” she said. In fact, she was the only woman in Eastern Ontario to volunteer her time to the sport.

Although there has been progress over the past 25 years, Lam insists there is still work to be done to achieve gender parity in the discipline. Judo Canada is moving in that direction, she maintains, by opening the door to a broader range of people on its board of directors, as well as through various programs.

“Women are no longer sitting on the sidelines. We’re getting involved in making changes and have taken our place at the table. We want to pave the way for the next generations. Judo Canada is doing so by supporting its members and providing more opportunities to get involved. With a solid action plan, we hope more and more women will get involved. There’s still room for improvement at the national, provincial, and regional levels.”

By refusing Lam’s help in the late 1990s, a boys’ soccer team missed a golden opportunity to take advantage of the Canadian’s dedication and support. Instead, the entire Canadian judo community has benefitted, and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come.


Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada

For more information:

Patrick Esparbès
Chief Operating Officer
Judo Canada
(514) 668-6279

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