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EBJI and The 1996 National Championships

Home of the East Bay Judo Institute!


Editor’s note: One the reasons why
1996 was such an important year for us was because we
hosted two national championships: the 1996 U.S. Senior
National Judo Championships, and the 1996 USJF Jr., Youth,
and Team National Championships. These tournaments are
the two biggest Judo events every year in the United
States. Although prudence and common sense dictate that
dojos host only one of these at a time, luck and the
nature of national Judo politics resulted in our hosting
both these events in the same year! Needless to say, we
were taxed to the limit of our abilities in conducting
both events, especially because one (seniors) occurred in
April, and the second (juniors) occurred on its heels in
June, and because both occurred after the hosting of our
regular annual tournament in February.

Despite the enormous strains these
tournaments placed on our membership, everyone in the
dojo – students, families, friends and supporters alike –
performed above and beyond the call of duty to conduct
what is now considered the most successful events in the
history of American Judo. The contest areas were superb,
the registration and pooling were flawless, and just
about every other aspect imaginable behind the scenes
necessary to conduct a national sporting event was
executed with precision and professionalism that was
never seen in U.S. Judo previously. Contestants who never
have a chance to witness or participate in national level
competition got their first taste of it with these events,
and EBJI students competed and excelled in both, adding
their names to the list of national champions in 1996.
Their performances are exemplar indeed when we consider
that many of them also helped with the running of these
events in addition to worrying about and training for
their competition.

In addition, while many hosts of
these events break even financially, we were fortunate to
bring in gross revenues of approximately $85,000 for each
event, resulting in an inflow of about $170,000 of
revenue to this area. After expenses, all proceeds were
distributed fairly to all participating dojos that hosted
these two events, building camaraderie and friendship
across dojo and association lines as well. Much of these
positive benefits are due to the hard work and efforts of
the membership of the EBJI, and the Northern California
area, and the entire country, remains thankful for their

The 1996 United
States Senior National Judo Championships

by Dedra Phillips

On April 11, 1997 at San Jose Event
Center, East Bay Judo Institute family and friends
participated in the 1996 United States Judo Inc. Senior
National Championships. The Championships are the United
States’ only tournament where an open invitation to
compete is distributed to athletes throughout the country,
which affords competitors the opportunity to claim the
title of National Champion. The 1996 Championships
ushered in a renewed era of old judo spirit. That spirit
is what makes Judo unique from any other sport. The
spirit of Judo can easily be defined as a the most
efficient use of one’s energy and cooperation, know as
Seiryoku Zenyou and Jitakyouei respectively.

During the planning stages of this
event, EBJI Head Instructor David Matsumoto played a
influential role as tournament co-chair. Preparation for
the championships began almost a year prior to the actual
event. At that time Sensei Matsumoto requested the
assistance of two groups, the northern California judo
community and EBJI family and friends. Both groups
responded positively. As a testament to the spirit of
judo six northern California judo clubs agreed to jointly
host the 1996 Senior National Championships. As with any
organization, political affiliations heavily flavor
individual interactions with others. There is no
difference in judo. But for a period of approximately
nine months six different judo clubs of varying
affiliations (USJI, USJF, USJA, Daiheigen Yudanshakai,
Central Coast Yudanshakai, and Hokka Yudanshakai) put
aside their differences to bring the United States a
first class event and to show the entire judo community
that unity is possible.

As for EBJI, we had just finished
hosting our annual tournament, when the in flow of
competitor applications began to reminded us of the
commitment made last summer to assist in hosting the USJI
Senior National Championships. After all the
responsibilities had been divided, EBJI was well prepared
for our tasks of pre-registration, tournament day
registration, and the officiating of a table on
tournament day. From the prior events experiences,
everyone knew what needed to be done. Now though everyone
focused even harder to efficiently complete their task
for the national arena.

The first of EBJI’s tasks was
tournament pre-registration. Upon receipt of all
tournament applications, EBJI members processed and
categorized each applicant. In addition, EBJI members
were the first contact and representative of a northern
California jointly hosted tournament for all athletes
whether they just had questions regarding hotels and
restaurants to problems in processing forms. In follow-up
to the tournament pre-registration, EBJI was also
responsible for registering all applicants the same day
of the tournament. Although the registration process was
fatiguing, through sheer will EBJI members were up and
ready to officiate the tournament the next day. After
fourteen hours of working as table officials EBJI members
were able to call it a long day, but not before
witnessing some spectacular judo.

Representing EBJI in the competition
were Daniel Israel, Dedra Phillips, and Nate Cutler. Nate
Cutler was the first and only EBJI student to claim the
title of national champion in the Masters’ Division. Nate
soundly defeated his opponents by throwing one and
pinning the other, both for ippon. Nate’s victories gave
his training a great boost because for months following
the tournament everyone wanted to practice with the
National Champion. He’s a lot tougher than we thought!

Dan was a force to be reckoned with on
tournament day. With definitive newaza technical skills,
Dan overcame four tough competitors by applying an armbar,
choking two and pinning the other. Unfortunately, just
short of the medal round, Dan met with a mountain who he
was unable to topple.

Dedra’s first two matches were short
and sweet where she pinned each of her opponents. Coach
Ken Kokka then said, "Well, Dedra let’s watch this
next match. You’ll be playing the winner in tonight’s
finals." Surprise of all surprises the competitors
of that match were the 1996 USA Olympic Team members in
the 61kg division and 56kg division. But undaunted Dedra
played the 56kg Olympian fiercely for two minutes.
Leading the match by yuko, Dedra was caught on the mat
and had to settle for second place.

Indeed as the Senior National
Championships prior to the Olympics, this championships
were a showcase for the finest American Judo and the 1996
Olympic Team members. It was at this premier event that
EBJI showed the Judo community leadership on and off the
mat, in every single way possible. It is a tribute to
EBJI, and all of its members, that the spirit of
cooperation, harmony, and integrity lives so strong and
was seen so clearly through those four days last April.

The 1996 USJF Junior,
Youth, and Team National Championships

by Mark St. Angelo

On June 29, 1996, at the Henry J.
Kaiser Auditorium in downtown Oakland, the largest judo
tournament of the year in the United States began. Among
the 912 contestants, ranging in age from 7 to 20, were a
number of competitors from EBJI, some of whom met with
considerable success. But the story of the tournament,
and its importance to EBJI, began long before that
Saturday morning in June when the competition opened.

Preparing To Host The Tournament:
More than a year before the tournament began, Tournament
Director and EBJI Head Instructor David Matsumoto had
obtained a commitment from the United States Judo
Federation to allow the tournament to be held in the San
Francisco Bay Area, hosted by the Daiheigen Yudanshakai.
Having obtained that commitment, Sensei Matsumoto then
was faced with the first of many problems — finding a
good tournament site.

Finding a good site is more difficult
than it may seem. There are a number of factors which
must be taken into consideration. Because the USJF Junior
Nationals has been for some years one of the largest
tournaments in the United States, a good site must be big
enough to accommodate a sufficient number of playing
areas to enable a large number of matches to be held
simultaneously. The site also must have enough seating
available for the coaches and family members, as well as
the adult judo players and other spectators who come to
watch some of the toughest young competitors in the
nation. But size isn’t enough. The site also must be
located within a reasonable distance from one or more
major metropolitan airports so that the officials,
players and their families from around the nation can get
there conveniently. It also must be close enough to one
or more high-quality hotels with sufficient rooms to
house all of the people who come to the tournament. On
top of all that, the site must be available for the
weekend on which the USJF schedules the tournament. And
last, but not least, the tournament site must be

After much searching and after many
inquiries concerning availability, etc., Sensei Matsumoto
finally decided that the Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium in
downtown Oakland, near the Oakland Library and across the
street from Laney College, fit the many and varied
requirements for an appropriate tournament site. A deal
was cut with the management of the auditorium, and the
tournament had a site.

Securing the site was only the first of
many steps taken to make the tournament a success.
Recognizing that it takes a lot of work to organize and
run a tournament this large successfully, the member
dojos of the Daiheigen Yudanshakai arranged to take
responsibility for various aspects of the tournament.
EBJI took the lion’s share of the tasks, including
responsibility for setting up the tournament site, for
"running the floor" to keep the tournament
operating smoothly throughout each of its two long days
of competition, and for security. EBJI also took
responsibility for operating the "hospitality suite"
for the many referees and other officials necessary at
such a large tournament. On top of all that, EBJI was
responsible for running two of the seven competition
areas, including the "medal mat" where all the
division championship matches were held.

Setting up the tournament site was
itself a large task, requiring the members and parents of
EBJI to obtain and arrange the hundreds of mats to be
used for the actual competition. Each mat is one meter by
two meters, and approximately two inches thick. The mats
come in two colors — red for the danger zone at the
perimeter of each competition area, and green for the
contest area and the safety area between competition
areas. In order to keep the mats from moving and forming
dangerous gaps during the tournament, the mats had to be
placed in accordance with a precise plan, which had been
worked out on a computer beforehand. Moving the pallets
containing the mats into the tournament site, and then
placing the mats on the floor according to the plan, took
all day Friday. With the exception of a few people who
were needed at the tournament headquarters hotel to
handle administrative details, and with the help of a few
people from other dojos in the Daiheigen Yudanshakai,
virtually everyone from EBJI — students, parents and
even family members not actually participating in judo,
many of whom had to take a "day off" from work
— toiled all day Friday and well into the evening
preparing the auditorium for the tournament. In addition
to placing the mats, preparations included getting the
hospitality suite ready, setting up the tables and chairs
for the timekeepers, scorers, referees and other
officials, hanging banners provided by major tournament
sponsors, setting up the sound system and the stands for
television cameras, and generally taking care of a host
of other matters necessary to ensure that everything
would be ready for the opening of the tournament Saturday

Despite being exhausted from their work
the day before, EBJI family members had to arrive well
before the beginning of the tournament Saturday morning
to put the finishing touches on the auditorium, to make
sure each set of scoring tables had all of the necessary
supplies, and to greet the arriving coaches and
contestants, many of whom came early to inspect the
auditorium and the competition surface. Finally,
everything was done, and the time to start the tournament
arrived. This is when all the hard work and preparation
was rewarded.

Preparing The EBJI Competitors:
Like the EBJI family members who assisted in planning and
setting up the tournament, the EBJI students who elected
to compete in the tournament also began their preparation
for the tournament months in advance. The primary element
of each competitor’s preparation was participation in
normal EBJI practices three or four times each week.
Their preparation also included competing at local
tournaments, in many instances against the same
competitors they would meet at the Junior Nationals. Last,
but certainly not least, were the weeks of "special
training" each Saturday morning for all Daiheigen
members planning to compete in the USJF Junior Nationals.

Each special training session was three
hours long, and was taught by instructors from EBJI and
other dojos in the Daiheigen Yudanshakai. The two primary
instructors for these sessions were Ken Kokka from EBJI
and Victor Lameyse from Redwood PAL. In addition to the
instructors and the junior students who intended to
compete in the tournament, these sessions were attended
by a number of the senior students from EBJI. In the
typical spirit of judo generally and EBJI in particular,
these senior students assisted the instructors and their
younger compatriots by providing the juniors with the
challenge of practicing against older, bigger and more
experienced judo players.

Many of the special training sessions
were preceded by a "training run" for the older
(12 and up) junior students, led by Dan Israel. In
addition to running for 2-3 miles, the students who
participated performed a number of general and more
specialized judo exercises. Then, they would join the
remainder of the junior students for the full 3-hour
training session.

Each of the training sessions
emphasized one or more techniques or training to deal
with one or more specific types of circumstances likely
to be encountered at the tournament. For example, at some
training sessions the students learned and practiced
different techniques to deal with an opponent who, while
engaged in newaza (grappling after on the mat after one
contestant has been thrown), takes a defensive posture to
avoid being pinned. At other training sessions, the
emphasis was on a particular throwing technique.

In addition to the emphasis each week
on a different technique, every session had a number of
things in common. Each session involved practice in both
tachiwaza (throwing from a standing position) and newaza.
The students would practice their throwing and grappling
techniques with a number of different partners each week,
thus giving each of them a broader range of experience
and the ability to respond appropriately to competitors
with a wide variety of personal styles of performing judo.
The students also practiced various types of drills each
week. Each drill was designed to emphasize one or more
skills important in competitive judo. Some of the drills
emphasized speed, others concentrated on a particular
throwing technique, and still others were designed
primarily to improve the students’ physical condition,
either by increasing stamina or strength (or both).

The training was so difficult that by
the end of each session, most of the students were
physically drained. A number of times, particularly in
the earlier sessions, some of the students would become
convinced that they were unable to continue because they
were so tired. Each time, the instructors and seniors
taking part in the training session would assist these
students to "get over the hump" and keep going.
As a result, by the end of the special training sessions
all of the junior students who participated realized that,
with determination, they could push themselves to levels
of accomplishment which they previously believed to be
unattainable. Thus, regardless of whether they received a
medal at the tournament, all of the students who
participated fully and tried their hardest learned
something of great importance from these training
sessions. In a sense, therefore, the special training
sessions, more than the tournament itself, provided the
students with an insight to the essence of the study of

Hosting The Tournament: Once the
tournament began, everyone from EBJI was kept busy all
day. With the exception of the students who actually were
competing and Ken Kokka, who had the difficult task of
serving as their coach, EBJI personnel were kept busy
maintaining security, hosting the hospitality suite,
operating the officials’ tables at two of the seven
competition areas, and running the floor of the
tournament. This latter task included making all of the
tournament announcements, making sure the right
contestants from each of the six preliminary competition
areas were escorted to the championship mat at the proper
time, and handling the awards ceremonies.

This went on for two grueling days.
Then, at the end of the second day, after all the matches
had been held and all of the awards given out, the
tournament was over. EBJI’s work, however, was not yet
done. After the competition was over, the same students
and their families from EBJI who performed all of the
other tasks necessary to make the auditorium ready for
the tournament had to return the auditorium to its
original condition. Although most of this work was done
by EBJI personnel, fortunately we were assisted by a
number of members from the other dojos in the Daiheigen
Yudanshakai who had been handling their own pre-tournament
responsibilities during the set-up of the facility. >/p>

The mats were put back on their pallets
and then wrapped in plastic to keep them safe during
transit back to the manufacturer who had leased them to
us for the tournament. The tables and chairs were folded,
stacked and put away. The hospitality suite was cleaned
and all of the leftover supplies were boxed and stored.
Banners were taken down and folded, and the sound
equipment was disassembled and removed. Finally, late on
Sunday evening, everything was finished.

EBJI Competitors At The Tournament:
A number of EBJI students competed at the tournament. For
some of them, it was their first appearance at a national-level
tournament. Others had competed at the USJF Junior
Nationals in one or more prior years, including three
EBJI students who had won medals at the USJF tournament
the prior year. As in 1995, three students from EBJI won
medals in 1996: Stephanie Hata won the gold medal for
competitors in the Female Intermediate B division
weighing less than 70 pounds; Sayaka Matsumoto won a
silver medal in the Female Juvenile A division for
competitors under 105 pounds; and Angel Martinez won the
bronze medal in the Male Juvenile B division in the under
172 pounds category. As a testament to the quality of the
special training provided at EBJI for all students in the
Daiheigen Yudanshakai, a number of competitors from other
dojos affiliated with Daiheigen also won medals at the
tournament. More importantly, even though none of the
other competitors from EBJI won a medal, they all showed
by their performance at the tournament that they had
learned how to compete at their own highest personal
level, and that they had learned how to keep trying no
matter how difficult the task. As a result, it can be
said that the tournament, and the special training
preceding the tournament, was a success for each of them.