Tuesday December 11, 2018

art1Dozens of 50th State Judo Association members on two separate islands took in the opportunity to learn from two of the United States Judo Federation’s top kata practitioners last week.
Sensei’s Eiko Sheppard and Noburo Saito conducted two-day kata clinics on both the Big Island and Oahu and finished off their week-long trip to the Islands by taking in Sunday’s 50th SJA tournament at Salt Lake District Park Gym. The pair also gave a kata demonstration prior to the start of the tournament, which was hosted by Hodokan Judo Club. The clinic was the brainchild of Hodokan head instructor and 50th SJA kata chairman, George Tsubota. “I think it was past due,” Tsubota said.

“It has been a while since we had this type of a clinic where we bring clinicians down here. The planning for this particular clinic had started about a year ago.” Tsubota said “at least 40” judoka participated at the Big Island clinic, which was held at Hilo’s Waiakea Recreational Center. “I didn’t expect that much for Hilo,” Tsubota said.

“I was really shocked. It was a good thing to see.” Another 30 or so judoka took part in the Oahu clinic, which took place at Pearl City’s Leeward Judo Club. Among them was 17-year-old Mylinda Jefferson, who admittedly was “very new” to kata. “I’ve only been learning (nage-no) kata for one month,” said Jefferson, who attends Pearl City High. “The way they explained everything was very detailed, but easy to understand.” Jefferson said she has a new-found appreciation for kata. “It’s a lot of hard work actually,” she said. “You have to pay attention to the littlest of details.” Sheppard, who grew up in Japan but now resides in the Midwest, said she was very pleased with how the clinic went. “I thought it went very well. People were on the mat and they showed a lot of enthusiam to learn,” she said. Saito echoed her thoughts, but especially was glad to see younger judoka participating in the clinic. “It was pretty amazing to see some of the younger ones doing kata, it was impressive,” he said. “We had good numbers, which was encouraging and we hope that they will stay with it.” Saito said he hoped the participants appreciated the teamwork necessary to execute any kata. “It’s purpose is to teach the basics of judo,” Saito said. “But, it also stresses the importance of working together, working with a partner, while displaying proper respect and etiquette.” He also noted that unlike Japan, where judo originated, the U.S. has embraced kata for former shiai competitors, and is truly one of very few life-long sports. Sheppard believes the kata keeps judoka in touch with its truest and earliest form. “Some people call it ‘old school,’ but it’s about having manners and respecting traditional values and I saw that a lot here from the children on the mat and it was very refreshing to me,” she said. Tsubota hopes the success of the clinic will parlay into more kata competitors at more tournaments. “I hope they do compete, especially at the (USJA-USJF) Junior Nationals,” Tsubota said. “Of course, it was be nice to have a lot of local players compete in kata when we host the 2014 Jr. Nationals, but we will need the instructors to push it.”

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