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    So that's who it was...


    Posts : 14
    Join date : 2013-01-21
    Location : Tsurumaki, Tokyo

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    Post by Tsurumaki Wed May 01, 2013 11:28 pm

    Another post from the old forum, that I have slightly modified. I hope that other members of the old forum try to retrieve some of their posts too, for reposting here. It’s getting harder; google cache is very useful still, but often the cache shows a thread starting from the second page.

    In Judo, knowing that someone is better is not the same as knowing how much better. The fact is, you have no way of judging that on a first encounter with someone you know nothing about. That nugget of received wisdom came from Trevor Leggett.

    A month or so after I arrived in Japan in early 1967 (after a seven-week sea voyage from Wales), the Kodokan cleared the decks for a special training session in preparation for the upcoming Salt Lake City world championships.

    Everyone in the main dojo was divided into two groups, by size. At 178 cm and 75 kg, I was put in with the lighter weights, and we started practicing in the usual two lines, changing partners every few minutes. Afterwards, I could only remember one of them, although at the time I didn't know him or his name. He was smaller than me and quick rather than fast. I couldn't quite throw him, but I came close a number of times. Or so I thought.

    The thing was, I could get right in on him, but that was as far as it went. I couldn't quite work it out. You usually know when you are blocked. You bounce off if he's strong and fast, or perhaps get stiff-armed if he's strong but not so quick. The quick and nimble will get around a tai-otoshi that's not well executed. But with him, there was no bracing or stiff-arming, nor did he break away.

    The fact I could get into the position I wanted was encouraging. I felt that with a little more effort I would get him over. He seemed to have a knack for getting off the hook. I'd fought and beaten the French internationals Bourreau and Lesturgeon a few months before, and they seemed physically stronger than him. At the same time, I kept falling over his feet, first one way then the other.

    All in all, it was an enjoyable randori. He never looked at me; he seemed totally focused on a spot in the space between us. He was like a workman going about his job. As the practice continued, I started to think he looked more like a craftsman. I should have kept my concentration, because he hooked my ankle and I fell over on my back trying to shake myself free.

    A week or so later, I had the first of a number of encounters with a much tougher customer: Hiroshi Nakamura*, a former captain of the Chuo University judo team. In October 2007, he participated at the 1st Kodokan Kata International Tournament as a judge representing Canada. Nakamura was stocky and very strong. Whenever I was around, he'd grab me for a practice. He was known for having a fearsome osotogari. Once, I saw him knock out an American with this throw. After he came around and was staggering out, I commiserated with him, saying that must have hurt. He said it did, and that it was the second time it had happened.

    Hmmm... If something like that has happened to you once, you shouldn't let it happen twice. It wasn't that Nakamura was trying to hurt you. He was friendly, and a good friend of Terry Farnsworth, who invited him to Canada. It was just that osotogari was his throw, and you had to deal with it. I used to hold somewhat high on his left lapel, but he had a way of sliding my hand a few inches lower. I have big hands and a strong grip, but Nakamura had his move down pat, a powerful, lightning-fast push down on my wrist with his left wrist. Thinking back, the move was probably helped by something he did that distracted the opponent at that instant. Then, he'd start in with the osoto. Every practice he'd get me a few times with the darned throw, and each time I could feel my legs getting higher as he drove my head down into the mat. As soon as I felt myself going I kept my eyes fixed on my belt knot to keep my head safely forward. So with Nakamura the best I could say is he didn't knock me out. That's kind of like when Michael Jordan scored 69 points against the Cavs and Craig Ehlo said that, well, he held Jordan to under 70.

    A couple of months later, at the Kodokan, I watched the Tokyo eliminations for the All-Japans. The usual suspects were participating. These included Murai, who came third three times in all, spread over eight years. He was a Nichidai man, as was Yukio Maeda, a huge man that we in the kenshusei nicknamed "Lurch" because of his uncanny resemblance to the Addams family butler. Maeda was second once, after placing third four years before. Nakamura was there too, and so was that little guy I'd practiced with, whose name was Takahide.

    In fact, Takahide versus Nakamura was one of the early contests. "Oh that poor little guy," I thought. I was right: it was an easy contest -- but the winner was Takahide. Nakamura didn't stand a chance. Like me, he'd trip over Takahide's feet, and get up only to fall over the other foot. Waza-ari, ippon. Takahide worked his way through a couple of others, bringing him up against the upper echelon players, all of whom were much bigger. Murai? No problem; he looked like he was sliding on ice. A step or two and he fell over onto his face. He got up, only to have his foot hooked away by a sticky kosoto-gake. Murai jerked his foot free but ended up on his right knee, with his left leg a perfect right-angle, almost like a kata pose. Takahide seemed to have all the time in the world to take several steps over to Murai's left and hook the inviting leg, throwing him with uchimata to end the contest.

    The relatively tiny Takahide had already taken out some of Japan's top judoka. Next up was Maeda, the biggest man left. He towered over Takahide. It was a fascinating spectacle, almost like watching Osawa at the height of his powers, but without his ferocity. Maeda started off much like the others, being dropped to his knees and otherwise stumbling over Takahide's feet. I can't remember for sure, but I think Maeda tried to get him in a hold-down, which he escaped (turns out that he was also pretty good at newaza). But finally, when Takahide was partly sideways, Maeda wrapped his arms around him and executed a huge ura-nage that ended the contest.

    It was, however, a very inspirational run by Takehide -- Takehide Nakatani, the first person to win an Olympic gold medal in judo, which he did in 1964, of course, winning all his Olympic bouts with ippon. Brian Jacks, watching the gold-medal battle, said that what with the speed and non-stop action it was like watching cats fighting. What a fine judoka! He went to Nichidai too, but I think he had trouble breaking into the university team because of his small size. His chance came with the introduction of weight categories, and he made the most of it. In subsequent years, I believe he was West Germany's judo coach for a few years, working with Glahn, among others. Nakatani’s Olympic feat was partly overshadowed by Geesink’s win, or rather, by Kaminaga’s loss.

    This was the year that Okano won his first All-Japans.

    Maeda dropped dead on the mat a few years later, in the middle of a contest.
    Nakatani entered the All-Japans three times in all, but I have to feel that this was his finest performance was in that eliminations. And yet, he did not win the world championship in August that year.

    *On the old forum, “Sam”, like Nakamura a Chuo University graduate, had a comment on ...
    “…Nakamura Sensei. His unique Osoto-gari is still a legend. [In 2006] we did some serious study of Osoto-gari, and we sorted out some "types" but he did not belong to any of them. He`s from Chuo and Chuo did produced quite a few unique Judoka like Nakamura, Sekine, Okano etc. Was it due to Yamabe Sensei or Kikuchi Sensei that Chuo produced such creative Judoka? I`m glad you mentioned about Maeda. When I used to go to Kodokan to practise, I often met him. My first impression was, he was huge…and of course fierce.”
    genetic judoka
    genetic judoka

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    Post by genetic judoka Thu May 02, 2013 3:40 am

    I have nothing of value to contribute to this, but it was a fascinating read.
    Cichorei Kano
    Cichorei Kano

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    Post by Cichorei Kano Thu May 02, 2013 4:49 am

    Some of the people mentioned by Tsurumaki are also featured in a historic article on Chûô University jûdô that appeared in Black Belt 47 years ago and which people might enjoy reading:


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    Post by DougNZ Sun May 12, 2013 9:52 pm

    Stories like this are why I log on to this forum ...

    Thank you

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    Post by Udon Sun May 12, 2013 11:27 pm

    Tsurumaki, Thank you for that entry. What a great time to have been at the Kodokan. I have never been there and likely never will and that is something I regret.
    It is fascinating to hear about trips to the Kodokan, or the various Japanese universities, or police departments and the high quality judo usually found at those institutions

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