Editor’s Note: The United States
International Invitational Judo Tournament is the premier
international Judo event held every year in the United
States. Sponsored by the United States Judo, Inc. (USJI),
the National Governing Body of Judo in the U.S., the
tournament attracts hundreds of top competitors from
around the world every year at the end of October to the
Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. The
tournament is also the site of the semi-annual meetings
of the Board of Directors of USJI. EBJI is usually
represented at this tournament by a handful of
contestants, officials, and supporters, and 1996 was no
exception. The 1996 tournament was special because, not
only did we witness the best performance at any national
or international tournament by one of our competing
instructors, Dan Israel, but also the accolades bestowed
on the Judo community on two of our instructors in an
official capacity – Robert Fukuda and David Matsumoto.
EBJI can be proud of all of their contributions to this
major event, recognized as an "A" level event
by the International Judo Federation.
Every year, United States Judo Inc.
hosts the United States International Invitational, an
international B-level tournament. This year, like most,
the tournament was held at the US Olympic Training Center
in Colorado Springs. The East Bay Judo Institute sent
Head Instructor David Matsumoto Sensei and Robert Fukuda
Sensei as officials, myself as the sole EBJI competitor,
and support staff consisting of Sayaka Matsumoto as the
cheerleader, and visiting instructor Masayuki Takeuchi
Sensei as coach.
As is normal at these events, the
actual tournament was preceded by several organizational
meetings, and, in this case, the 4-year USJI elections.
Matsumoto Sensei, who was the chairman of the National
Coaching Staff, was in the race for Director of
Development. As such, he had to be present for the
elections which were held two days prior to the
tournament. As is normal for these events, Matsumoto
Sensei was running from meeting to meeting, holding talks
on the side, reporting to others via cell phone, and
performing his countless other duties. His hard work paid
off, and brought him more work, as he was elected as the
USJI Director of Development. I’m sure I don’t need to
tell anyone who knows him what a driven, hard-working
person that he is, so we should all expect to see him
excel in this position as he has done in countless other
positions in the past. Knowing him, I am sure that his
schedule for the coming four years will be ambitious, and
I hope they are fruitful. I would like to take this
opportunity to say congratulations and best of luck!
Fukuda Sensei, being the official
administrator of the United States Judo Federation
national office, was also required to be present early to
this event. He also had to run crazy and attend countless
meetings in the days prior to the tournament. This
tournament also afforded him another honor this year.
After his organizational performance at the last
International Invitational, he was appointed floor
manager for the 1996 Olympics! This year, however, he was
asked to officiate as a referee in this tournament.
Normally, only IJF-B level referees are permitted to do
so, but as the host country, the United States is
permitted to ask a few of the very best Nationally
certified referees to assist as well. As much as he
whines and moans about what a horrible referee he is, we
all know him to be hard-working, diligent, efficient, and
an overall excellent official! This was his first
international tournament to referee! Best of luck on
I arrived on Wednesday evening. After a
good nights rest and a brisk morning run, I was off to
the Training Center to check weight, register for the
tournament, and to assist Fukuda Sensei and Matsumoto
Sensei. Being the day before the tournament, I wanted to
keep a good eye on my weight. I figured if I could be low
enough to eat two good meals that day, and still be below
weight in the morning, I would be fine, with plenty of
energy. I had a waffle lunch and a pasta dinner, and
still came in a pound under weight. Boy, did I feel good!
On Friday morning, the tournament came.
I was the first off, as weigh-in time was 6am at the
Training Center. I returned back and picked up the rest
of the crew. It was to be a big day. We had to be back at
8am. It was not just a big day for me, but Matsumoto
Sensei had endless official work to do, and Fukuda Sensei
was to debut as a referee in his first international
tournament! After a nice breakfast, I was ready to go. I
felt good, with no sign of the Colorado air affecting me.
Fukuda Sensei, as a referee, was on the
spot first. Nothing to worry about. As an excellent judo
official, he handled each situation to the best of his
I was on next. I had a short stocky guy
from New Zealand. I was ready! I was convinced I could go
right in there and throw him for ippon! I pushed the
butterflies out of my stomach. I wanted my first win at
an international event! As I got my initial grip, I
blinked. When I opened my eyes after that blink, I was 5
feet in the air, courtesy of a lightning fast foot sweep!
I landed hard for ippon, and the match was over. So much
for being so ready. To say the least, I was bummed! I
went all that way for ONE match! Takeuchi Sensei told me
to be ready, because he would win. I went outside to
ponder my thoughts and clear my head. As I was thinking,
I remember something Jeff Suess Sensei once told me. He
always said, if you feel bummed out and don’t know what
to do, just think what you would tell the kids to do.
Then do it! Revitalized, I returned inside to find the
guy that beat me had advanced to the finals match leaving
me with a second chance in the repechage! My first match
was against a guy from Canada. He was about 5’6"
tall and about 200 pounds
all muscle. A friend told
me he had "mauled" a guy in his first match.
The referee said "Hajime!" and I stepped
forward, and took my grip. As I moved I hit my throw and
caught the guy with Harai Goshi for Ippon. I was so happy
that I felt 10 feet tall! After leaving the mat, Takeuchi
Sensei informed me that my throw was very good, and that
I had corrected all the things I was working on in
practice! This made me feel even better! I won the rest
of the matches in the repechage, all by ippon, to finish
up in the match for third place.
I was very nervous now. Coming into
this tournament having never won a match at an
international event, I was now competing for a medal! As
I warmed up, I tried to get rid of the butterflies. When
I stepped onto the mat, I didn’t feel anything. I wanted
to win that match like I wanted nothing before. Early in
the match, I took the lead. I kept attacking. I didn’t
want to lose a medal on a stupid penalty. About two
minutes into the match, the other player countered me for
ippon. As I left the mat, I went straight for the back
door. A friend was standing there and said that the
entire area was PACKED, but my face was bright red, and
they made a pathway for me to walk outside. The next day,
I was eliminated from the Open division by a strong Cuban
player, and the competition was over for me. Looking back,
I can see that I made marked improvement of previous
events, but I also see a lot of room for more, so back to
the drawing board, there is another tournament coming!
We all hung out at the Training Center
until after the ceremonies. Fukuda Sensei had to referee
all day, both days, and Matsumoto Sensei had business to
do, as well as participating in the medal ceremonies.
True to form, he was already on the job. On Friday night,
we had dinner with another colleague, Dr. Allen Gordon,
and Matsumoto Sensei was already on the job as Director
of Development, asking him for data and studies that
could help his plans.
The last day there, Sunday, was a lazy
day. Sayaka, who had spent most of the week doing
homework, then yelling for me, got some free time to
build a snowman. Complete with eyes, nose, and tree
branches for arms! The rest of the time was spent
traveling home. As per normal, the event left us all
exhausted, Fukuda Sensei and Matsumoto Sensei most of all,
and we were happy to be home. It was time for rest and
holidays, then off the prepare for the next event, each
in our own way, for our own goals.