Sir Mick Jagger's former judo instructor becomes fourth Edinburgh Award recipient

Acclaimed judo veteran George Kerr, who was awarded the CBE in the recent New Year Honours list, has been announced as the fourth recipient of the prestigious Edinburgh Award.

Nicknamed Mr Judo, the 73-year-old, who once coached Rolling Stones frontman Sir Mick Jagger at the Budokwai Club in 1960s Chelsea, now continues his incredible career by following in the footsteps of Sir Chris Hoy, JK Rowling and Ian Rankin. Coincidentally, George used to coach Sir Chris back in the 1980s when he was a boy.

George's achievement of the Edinburgh Award comes only weeks after the British Judo Association President made history by receiving judo's highest honour, the 10th Dan, which has only been bestowed upon 15 people since it first began in the late 19th century.

Lord Provost George Grubb chaired the Edinburgh Award panel, made up of representatives from all political groups on the City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council and Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.

He said: "George Kerr is an exemplary ambassador for Edinburgh and for Scottish sport and it is a tremendous honour to be able to present him with the Edinburgh Award for 2010, a year in which he made countless headlines in the UK and beyond through his extraordinary achievements in judo.

"As well as clocking up an awe-inspiring tally of international judo medals and accolades, both as a competitor and a coach, George is a well-respected and much-loved local hero in Scotland's Capital city, where he has coached literally thousands of youngsters - including none other than Sir Chris Hoy! - over the years at The Edinburgh Club and Junior Judo.

"The Edinburgh Award is a way for Edinburgh's citizens to pay a lasting tribute to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the city through their achievements. With Ian Rankin, JK Rowling and Sir Chris Hoy as past recipients and with George Kerr now joining their ranks, this is becoming a very distinguished group indeed."

Preparations are now under way for a special presentation ceremony next month. George Kerr will be the guest of honour for the event, to be held at the City Chambers, where he will be presented with an engraved Loving Cup. He will also have a mould taken of his handprints, which will then be engraved on a flagstone in the City Chambers quadrangle.

George Kerr said: "The Lord Provost phoned me himself to tell me I'd won the Edinburgh Award and I was just thrilled. I think it's amazing, it's the nicest thing in the world to be honoured by your own town. You can't get any better than that really."

Asked what he felt about having his handprints preserved for posterity in the City Chambers quadrangle, George added: "It'll be just like Hollywood!"

The Edinburgh Award was established in 2007 to honour an outstanding individual who has made a positive impact on the city and gained national and international recognition for Edinburgh as a result of their work.

Nominations are sought annually from communities, businesses and individuals across Edinburgh and the winner is selected by a panel chaired by the Lord Provost. Nominations for the 2010 award were invited in October and the panel reached agreement on the winner shortly before the end of the year.


George Kerr first began practising judo at the age of eight.

His love affair with the Japanese martial art was cemented in 1957 when, aged 19, he won a four-year scholarship to Japan, the home of judo. George studied physical education but majored in judo and learnt fluent Japanese.

Judo has taught George a lot besides how to beat an opponent on the mat: respect for elders, honesty, honour, the need to look after people who are weaker than others.

As a competitor, George was one of Britain's best, winning a gold medal at the European Championships in 1957.

Nicknamed Mr Judo, George is a former captain of the British Judo team, former British Olympic coach, Olympic referee (1972 in Munich and 1976 in Montreal) and coach to the Austrian Olympic judo squad (1976-1988). George holds a B.Ed. degree and is currently President of the British Judo Association.

George's medals history is medals tally is very impressive:

Gold medallist: European Championship, 1957 Silver medallist: European Championship, 1962, 1963, 1967 Bronze medallist: European Championship, 1964, 1966

Winner: British Open, 1966, and 1968.

He also found success as a coach, guiding the Austrian Peter Seisenbacher to judo gold in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. In addition, George coached at London's Budokwai Club where, in the 19060s, he counted Sir Mick Jagger as one of his students.

Subsequently, George founded The Edinburgh Club, which has produced a string of top-level judo players such as current day contenders Euan Burton, Sarah Clark, Sally Conway and James Millar.

From 1991-1997, George Kerr was Chairman of the British Judo Association, and then Vice President until Charles Palmer's death in 2001 when he became President, a post he still holds today.

In 2002, George became an inaugural inductee into the Scottish Sporting Hall of Fame. He was awarded an International Judo Federation Gold Medal in 2003 as recognition of his dedication to judo.

Now a sprightly 72, George recently became the youngest person ever to be named a 10th Dan. This is the Japanese martial art's highest honour and one that'shas been held by only 15 other men since it began in the late 19th century.

The honour was conferred by the International Judo Federation at a ceremony in Paris in recognition of George's lifelong contribution to the sport as competitor, coach, referee and administrator. It signs him up to one of the sporting world's most exclusive clubs and he now joins the ranks of the Japanese masters who brought judo to the world.

George has run The Edinburgh Club for 40 years and today he combines his BJA duties with coaching youngsters coming into the sport at his centre, Junior Judo in Edinburgh.

2010 was certainly George's year:

- He received the Order of the Rising Sun, one of Japan's highest awards, the Japanese equivalent of a CBE, in recognition of his contribution to the sport and to UK-Japanese relations

- He was given the sport's greatest and most exclusive global honour when he was awarded the 10th Dan, a title held by only five other people in the world

- He received an honorary doctorate from Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University.

- And to cap it all, George was awarded a CBE in the Queen's 2011 New Year Honours list.

The City of Edinburgh is proud to join the ranks of those who recognise and celebrate George's great talent and contribution to his city, his sport and his community. It is a huge honour, therefore, to bestow George Kerr CBE with the Edinburgh Award 2010.


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