Letters from the Sanix 2013 International Juvenile Team

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See the full report of Noboru Saito

January 3, 2014

I had the honor of representing the United States of America as part of the Konan Judo Club at the Sanix 2013 Junior International Judo Tournament in Fukuoka, Japan. The opportunity was the best of my life, and I will never forget my trip to Japan.

We stayed at the Global Arena in Munakata City, Fukuoka, Japan. The facilities are like an Olympic Village with buildings housing athletes from various countries. The male judokas stayed in one building, and the female judokas stayed in another building. Additionally, the families of the athletes stayed in other buildings. The village has a gymnasium, a dojo, a gift shop and a bakery. There are also bathing facilities which are very traditionally Japanese.

The first two days of our stay involved training. It allowed members of the US team to participate in newaza randori with members of other teams. Then, we arrived at the tournament day. There were 80 boys’ teams in total. 72 of the teams were from Japan. The US team won its first match against a Japanese team from Aya Town in Miyazaki but lost its second match. The next day was practice matches which were even more fun than the matches during the tournament. The practice matches were intense, and we each had over a dozen matches. By the end of the practice match day, we were all tired and sweaty.

After the practice match day, we took a 4 hour bus ride to Mizukami Village in Kumamoto and practiced at the dojo there. It was really fun. The people at Mizukami Village treated us very well. They hosted dinner and even had a drum ceremony for us. We got to pose for pictures wearing the traditional costumes and carrying the drums. The headpieces and drums are very heavy. Once you’ve tried on the costume, you realize how strong the participants are.

The members of Team USA were very nice and supportive. We had a lot of fun together. I am sure I’ve made some lifelong friends. We’ve talked about visiting each other’s dojos and training together. I look forward to continuing the relationships I made in Japan.

Michael P. Mutz


January 4, 2014

Dear Mr. Saito and USJF,

I just want to start out by thanking you for the amazing experience to allow me to not only train, fight, and learn from the Japanese judokas, but I also learned their remarkable culture. One of my favorite things about their culture was their variety of different types of foods, especially certain desserts. Meeting judo fighters from all over the world, especially seeing 80 different teams at the Sanix Competition was another experience I will never forget. The many different languages and cultures that were brought together was very interesting and I especially enjoyed how polite the
Japanese people were to me. The extra time away from the Global Arena at the Mizukami Village and visiting their dojo as well as enjoying the mountains up in Ichifusa Camp was fun, especially watching the ancient tribal Japanese dancers with their drums. Thank you again for recruiting me into the Sanix Competition, I have grown from this experience and I will remember it for a long time.

Respectfully,

Devon Shah


January 5, 2014

Dear Mrs. Julie Koyama,

Thank you for helping cover costs for Sanix 2013. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I got to randori with people from all different countries. All my techniques improved a lot from my time there. I loved seeing Japan and experiencing their culture first hand. Because of you had I had an amazing experience!

Sincerely,

Ellie Keen


Dear Mr. Noboru Saito

Thank you so much for helping coach me at Sanix this year. I have learned a lot. I will keep working on grabbing the left arm just like you said. You were a great coach.

Sincerely,

Ellie


January 8, 2014

Dear Sensei Saito and USJF,

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to attend the 2013 SANIX International Juvenile Judo Camp and Tournament in Fukuoka, Japan last month. It was an opportunity for me to visit the country where my great grandparents were born, where judo was founded, and where judo is cherished. I met many new friends from the U.S., Japan, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and many other countries. There were many helpful Sensei’s and judokas who taught us different judo techniques.

I really liked being part of the Konan team. My teammates and I learned a lot about Japan, the Japanese culture and people, judo, and each other. In the dorms, we met the Netherland team.

The judo camp was really fun. The food was really good; at least I thought it was. There was lots of rice. Some of my teammates did not like the food, but I enjoyed all of it. I think I’ll start eating more rice at home.

Even though our team did not do well in the tournament, I still learned al lot. We were very happy to make it to the second round, but we were destroyed in the second round. The next day, at the mock tournament, I got beat up, but I learned more that day than I did at the real tournament because you learn more when you lose than when you win. I learned that the Japanese practice really good judo technique. They are also very physical, mentally tough, and fight with a lot of pride and spirit. I also learned that most of the kids were bigger and stronger than me so I need to be faster and trickier than them. I learned that I have a lot of work to do to become a better judo player, especially if I want to become an international player. I’m looking forward using what I learned to become a better judo player.

Even though I really liked the judo camp and tournaments, my favorite part of the camp was the trip to the mountains. It was very cold, but the judo team there was very nice and friendly, even though they beat us up. The people there were very friendly. I really liked the lunch they served. When we stayed in the log cabin it was so cold that I could see my breath. My family slept in there cloths, but we were still cold. We didn’t sleep much, but it was so much fun. I really liked the dam and bridge.

I met many new people and friends on this trip. I learned more about judo and what I need to do to be a better player. I got to see lots of different things, judo techniques, judo styles, an Olympic champion, and meet the 2013 Masters World Champion. I don’t think there are many kids my age who get to visit Japan and practice judo with some the best judoka in the world. My parents kept telling me that this was a trip of a lifetime, and they were right. Thank you again for the wonderful opportunity.

One of my goals is to make the U.S. Paralympics judo team and win a gold medal for the U.S. This trip has showed me how much harder I must work to reach my goal.

Arigato Gozaimasu,

Robert Tanaka, Jr.


January 11, 2014

I would like to thank Mr. Shinichi Munemasa, Mr.Isamu Kondo, Mr. James Murray, Mrs.Julie Koyama, and USJF.

Thank you for giving me a once in a life time opportunity. This experience going to Japan was amazing is showed me my weak spots to make me a better judo player. The training camp was awesome having 9 countries randori and present there techniques in global arena. The randori was tough fighting the Japanese then fighting the other foreigners getting thrown left and right. When presenting the technique like Ochi and Kochi by gold medalist Asami, it was swell teaching us amazing technique and tips and tricks to make the technique better. The 2013 Sanix International Juveniles Team Tournament was a good learning experience for the American team getting beat teaching us a lot and hopefully all of us took advantage of this learning experience. After the tournament we were able to learn other team’s culture and make some friends. I would like to thank everyone for this tremendous experience to Japan.

Sincerely,

Anthony Llamido


January 14, 2014

My trip to Sanix in Fukuoka, Japan was absolutely amazing. This was my first trip to a foreign country, as well as my first time in an airplane. Global Arena was wonderful with plenty of new experiences there alone. I enjoyed the food and the dorms. My teammates made my stay even better. We all got along so well!

The International training camp was tough in comparison to my workouts in America. The first day of training we had three hours of straight randori. I hurt my arm on the first day, making the workouts a bit more difficult. Still, I found the training camp to be a good experience that helped my judo progress. And we met World Champion Ms. Asami was awesome experience.

My team (female U.S.A.) didn't make it past the first round in the tournament, but I know that we all tried our hardest. The boy's team made it to the second round. The competition was very tough, but over all it was an experience worth getting beat up for!

The day after the tournament was for practice matches against the other teams. Unfortunately I had to sit out because I was sick. The rest of our team did very well, winning or drawing a large amount of their matches.

I fell in love with the views and the geography of Japan. We went on an excursion into the mountains to Mizukami Town. The mountains were beautiful! Mizukami Town was very charming and a great experience. The Dutch team joined us on our excursion. They were very friendly and a lot of fun to hang out with. We also visited two schools. At one school, we had a judo practice. The second school was for cultural exchange.

I wish that I could have stayed in Japan longer, but I was also glad to go home. I will miss the people, the food, the scenery and much more. All of the people on my team were great and I will miss them as well. I want to thank everyone who supported me and the rest of the team for this unforgettable experience.

Sincerely,

Hailey Runyon


Sanix Trip 2013 Essay

By Corbin Balitactac

When I first learned about the Sanix tournament, I was incredibly excited. I had always dreamed of going to Japan for judo, and being able to represent my home country was an honor. This tournament was one of the best experiences of my life.

Even before visiting Japan, there was a lot of practice to be done. There were many uchikomi and randori to prepare for this tournament, but, it was all worth it for this opportunity. I spent a lot of my practice studying how the Japanese fought, watching matches of Japanese judokas. The Japanese fight very differently from the United States players, and it was difficult picking out the different aspects of the different style of judo. But without it, I wouldn’t have been well prepared.

Eventually, the day of the trip came. I was already excited for practice, but I had to wait for the rest of the team. We stayed at a sports complex called Global Arena, and it was a wonderful place. When the team arrived, I realized that they are some of the best I have ever met. Over the course of a week, we became close friends and all had a great time!

After the team had gathered and gotten to know each other, we went to the first day of the training camp. As soon as the team walked in, there was an intense atmosphere around the room. There were six mats, and many teams visiting. The foreign teams were The Netherlands, the U.S., Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Korea, and Russia, all with many Japanese teams. The Japanese also had many older and bigger high school judokas, which were amazing practice partners. The first day of training, there were introductions to all the heads of the tournament, and demonstrations of techniques from all the countries. It was awesome, seeing the different styles of newaza and tachiwaza that the countries had. I also got to demonstrate and it was a wonderful experience. Judokas from the high school teams also demonstrated throws at the request of the competitors, and their technique was beautiful. Eventually, we did randori. There were many partners to choose from, and I had a blast fighting all the higher level judokas. I also got to practice with the boys from The Netherlands, Korea, and Hong Kong, and it was an educational and humbling experience.

The second day of training was a technical clinic, where we learned from a Japanese world champion, Haruna Asami. I learned her ko uchi gari was a great technique and added it to my pool of techniques and throws. I plan to continue to practice and use her techniques for a long time.

The day before the tournament was a light training day, we did some warm ups, uchikomi, and nagekomi. After that, we went over grip fighting and technical practice. We discussed strategy and had a pep talk. After this light practice, the U.S. team relaxed near the lawn, where we played cards and other games. That night, we went to bed early, because the team would have to wake up early for the tournament.

The day of the tournament, the team woke up early for breakfast, and then we walked over to the arena for the tournament. We thought we woke up early, but when we walked in, there were hundreds of competitors already on the mat. It was hard to find a spot on the mat, but managed to find one and do some light warm ups. We stopped warming up when the opening ceremony started. The opening ceremony consisted of a few speeches and a flag ceremony, and then the tournament began. The U.S. Boys’ team was fighting early, so we immediately headed down to the mat area. Our first match was incredibly difficult, but we won and managed to pass the first round. We were ecstatic, and went into the second round ready to fight, but sadly, we lost. The tournament was a humbling and uplifting experience, and was one of the best parts of the trip.

After the tournament were the practice matches. These were like the tournament matches, but more friendly and with a more laidback feel. There were many people to fight and all of the teams had good matches in. Through these matches, the team made some good acquaintances and had fights that I will remember for a long time.

The day after the practice matches, we took a bus to Mizukami, where we trained at a local junior high dojo. We made many friends, who we took pictures with, and had very good fights. When we visited the school, we learned that for the Japanese, judo is a way of life because they train five to six to days a week for two and a half hours a day. The discipline they show the martial art is astounding, because they show such respect when greeting senseis and fellow judoka, when they bow, during their practice. To many of us, judo is just a sport, but in order for one to be successful, we should integrate it into our way of life.

After visiting the school, the U.S. team went to a cultural exchange, where we met some local students. They were really friendly and we made even more friends, and even though it was hard to communicate, we told jokes and had fun. We also exchanged facts about our respective cultures. We stayed the night at a camp in the mountains with beautiful scenery.
The next day, we went sightseeing. We took a bus everywhere and saw tall mountains with lots of greenery and crystal clear lakes. We visited a dam, with a wonderful fountain and a suspension bridge, which was a feat of engineering. We also went souvenir shopping and eventually got back to Global Arena. When we got back, we had to clean up the dorms and it was the last full day with the team. We spent it bonding and getting closer, and had an amazing time. The next day, when we all left Global Arena, it was painful to leave, but we are still great friends.

After this experience, both my judo and me as a person was changed. To show respect during randori and practice, before working, you must say onegaishimasu, which means “please,” and after a match, arigato gozaimasu, which means “thank you.” I also learned that when you challenge one judoka, many will want to fight you. So when you are in a different country, if you want as many fights as possible, you must challenge everyone you can to get the best out of it. I also learned many social skills, such as making new friends and breaking the language barrier. Since I was separated from my parents, I learned how to be independent and how to organize my day and be responsible for myself. It was a very positive experience and I would love to do it again.

I would like to thank Saito Sensei for organizing the trip, Eiko Shepard Sensei for selecting me to participate, Truong Sensei for coaching the team and myself, Sanix for organizing the tournament, Global Arena for providing wonderful food and lodging, and the USJF for giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity.


2013 SANIX Experience

By Akiko Balitactac

When Eiko Shepherd Sensei first asked me if I wanted to represent the United States in Japan for SANIX I was in shock. Never in my life would I have imagined myself to represent my home country all the way across the globe. Knowing the tournament was in Japan, I knew that judo practice would get harder, times at the gym would get longer, and that I would have to work a lot harder.

After the national tournament season was over, I started training harder probably ever than I had ever. At the gym, our trainer started to add some weightlifting and lots of extra workouts like the Stairmaster, treadmill, rowing machines, and running. At judo we focused more on how Japanese people fought, technique, and tournament strategies. The time passed so quickly, all of a sudden it was time to leave. I said bye to all my coaches and with my mom, dad, and my brother we all hopped on a plane to Japan.

As soon as we landed the manager from global arena named Stefan greeted us and he drove us to Global Arena. We arrived a day early so we had an extra day to look around town with the Dutch team. Later that night the other teammates came, but I didn’t get to meet them until the next morning. The next day was the first day of training and it started at about ten o’clock and ran to five o’clock. That day was the most randori I’ve ever done in my whole life, 3 hours and 30 minutes straight! I felt like I was going to die. The next day was almost like the first except the overseas teams showed what their specialty moves/throws were. We met Haruna Asami sensei she is a 2X Gold World Champion and Silver medalist. She showed us how to do ochi gari and many more things.

The next day was Christmas and we woke up to our neighbors playing “Gangnam Style” and tons of gifts on the bench. (Thank you Ellie’s mom) Since it was Christmas, the day before the tournament, the teams could either stay and train or go shopping for the first half of the day. The US team decided to stay and train at the martial arts dojo. The whole team worked on uchicomi, kumi kata, and throws. Then soon after we got the order for the tournament. For the girls it was Hailey, Morgan (they switched off), Ellie, and I, Then for the boys it was Devin, Tony, Corbin, Michael, and Robert.

After the last day of training was over we had a lot of down time to do whatever we wanted. We used this time to get to know each other a little bit more. We played tons of games of Uno and other interactive games, this gave us all a chance to bond and come close together as a team. Soon after all the fun it was time for the last clinic by Haruna Asami sensei she basically showed the same thing as the day before, but this time she went into more depth. Also on this day we got the rules of the tournament. It was kind of surprising they were using the old IJF rules instead of the new ones. After training we had dinner, hung out a little bit, and then went to bed early since the tournament was the next day.
Tournament day started really early, 6:00 to be exact. We ate breakfast then headed over to the site. The tournament started off with an opening ceremony and shortly after that came up the men’s and the women’s matches. The men got past the first round with two loses and 3 wins, but in the second round all of them lost. The women didn’t get past the first round we had one win and two loses. After a long day, the tournament ended with a closing ceremony dedicated to the teams that placed in the men and women brackets.

The next day also started early, we woke up at 6:00 and left our dorms at 8:00. This was the first time the girls and boys were ever going to be separated so the men went to the martial arts dojo and we went to the tournament site. During the practice matches I felt like I did good, these gave me a chance to fight the other foreign teams in a mock tournament since we didn’t get past the first round earlier. (The girls lost two and won one.)

After all the matches were over we headed over to our normal hangout called “the Gazebo”, and stayed there for a while talking and shortly after we all went back to our rooms to pack for the trip to Mizukami town the next day.
The trip to Mizukami town was about 5 hours with all the stops on the way. First, we stopped at a rest stop with tons of amazing shops and tons of food. Next, we stopped at white castle to eat our lunch (McDonald’s) Lastly; we finally arrived at the judo practice.

The practice was like some of the practices that I do back in the States, so it was kind of cool to see how the Japanese does it. After practice we hopped on another bus to the Community Center to make the cultural exchange with the other teams. This was a great opportunity to get to know the Japanese culture better by asking the kids questions and the kids got to know more about us by asking us questions too.

After a long night of talking and eating we finally got to the camp we were supposed to stay at for the night, it was called “Camp Ichufusa.”  The rooms were log cabins and it was cold but nice. The next day was our excursion day, but it was also the last day as a team. The excursion was nice, we went to a manmade geyser, a suspension bridge, a dam, and a mall. We got back to Global Arena at about 7:00 then we had dinner at 7:10.

After dinner we had to pack because the next day we were all leaving, but we were already done so we ended up hanging out with each other until 10:00! We talked, played games, and we also hung out with the Dutch team. The next day we said our goodbyes and we all left. This tournament was a great opportunity for me to connect with other people my age through a sport I love. During this trip I made tons of new friends from America and other places around the world. Also it left me with tons of memories I will never forget.

This trip also allowed me to learn a lot of things. I learned how to speak a little bit of Japanese and how to communicate with other kids better. I also learned how to be more independent, responsible by having to clean up the dorms and showing up on time. This was a great trip that I will always have in my mind.

I want to also want to thank Stefan for helping us throughout this whole trip. Paul and Saito Sensei because they really helped me through this whole experience by coaching me. Lastly, thank you Eiko Shepherd Sensei for inviting me to this great opportunity.


January 18, 2014

By Madison Nakayama

Before my trip to Japan, I was apprehensive and excited yet terrified at the same time. I never would have dreamt that I would have been able to travel to Japan and train with some of the best judoka in the world! I didn't know what to expect because it was my first international trip. I was terrified because I was going to be a stranger in a foreign country with people from all over the world. But instead of being excluded from all of the other kids, I felt welcomed. I could tell that some of the other judoka were just as nervous as me. The more time we spent with each other, the more we got to know the other teams despite the language barriers. Even though I couldn't understand most of the other people, I managed to make some friends from different countries. The first day of training was composed of three hours of warm ups, uchikomi, and ne waza and then we had an hour of lunch at the cafeteria. After lunch was another three hours of warm ups and randori. When training was done, everybody was free to do whatever they wanted in Global Arena such as shopping, sightseeing, or just relaxing after a long workout. Later, people would gather at the Global Arena cafeteria where they served really delicious food! After workouts, I would usually walk around with the US team and hang out. I became friends with everyone almost immediately on the girl's and guy's team. We all bonded and soon became the best of friends. Then we soon came to be friends with the Dutch team. We would joke around and play pranks on each other. But by far, my favorite memory of this trip was our excursion to Mizukami. The mountains there were so beautiful and snowcapped and the town was like a whole different universe compared to where I live. By the time we had to leave, I was already missing all of my friends and the beautiful country. I still miss everyone and I plan on going back to Japan in the future. In all, Sanix was an amazing experience and has opened my eyes to the world and how the love of judo can bring people from different countries together.

Madison Nakayama

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