In a quiet residential area roughly a 10-minute drive from Oita Station, children read aloud a mantra at the Shueikan Dojo.
“We will be well mannered. We will greet and reply to people loudly and clearly!”
The voices of little judoka fill the roughly 100-tatami-mat space in a 35-year-old building with marks of a leaky ceiling.
Takamasa Anai, a judoka who won a gold medal in the 100-kilogram category at the 2010 world championships, had been chanting this mantra before each training session for 10 years since he started taking judo at age 5. He still abides by these rules.
Kenichi Yamanaka, 68, the grand master at Shueikan Dojo, remembers when Anai was first brought to the dojo 22 years ago by his father.
“He was tall, but very thin. He couldn’t do forward rolls and backward rolls that other kids could do,” Yamanaka remembers. “One time, he began crying, saying he didn’t know how to do it and that he wanted to go home. I had to console him by telling him that no one can do it on the first try. And I encouraged him to keep trying. After that, he started to love judo.”
Anai looks back on his days in elementary school and junior high school and says, “I was a really strange kid.”
Anai, currently an employee at Tenri University, read manga and played baseball and soccer with his friends, like many other boys his age. But he also spent a lot of time reading judo magazines. If there was a judo tournament in nearby Fukuoka Prefecture, he would go watch it with his father and keep meticulous track of who won and with what technique.
“Judo was my only interest," Anai says. "That’s why I never felt like I was being forced to practice. I did it out of pure joy.”
Anai’s decision to enroll in Tenri High School and Tenri University in Nara Prefecture was largely influenced by Yamanaka, an alumnus of Tenri University, who championed a style of judo in which competitors get a good grip and use proper form to get an ippon. For Anai, who grew up learning that style of judo, it was only natural to choose Tenri.
Because he has been following the Shueikan Dojo’s mantra of always greeting people politely, Anai has often been given leadership positions such as class president or giving a speech at commencement. He didn’t always want to take on those roles, but he always graciously accepted.
“It’s easy to complain. But I think it’s necessary to take on certain roles if people appreciate you and are asking you to do something,” says Anai, who was appointed co-captain of the Japanese judo squad that will compete at the London Olympics.
Anai hopes to follow the dojo mantra again and help his teammates do their best at what will be the most important competition for many athletes. As for his personal goal, he says, “I will stick to a graceful style of judo where I go for the ippon.”
- « Prev
- Next »