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Eiko Saito Shepherd 8th Dan, Women’s Head Coach

I left the United States on December 21, 2016. When I arrived at the Fukuoka airport, people from Sanix were waiting for me with a sign. I spotted them right away and although I was tired, it was wonderful to be greeted with their big smiles. For a moment I forgot how tired I was.

I met my team in Fukuoka at the Sanix campus. The young ladies on my team were Nikita Harvey, Grace Magee, Jessica Dixon, and Makayla Cox. We had a short meeting about the next day’s open workout. They were ready for the open workout. They were in good spirits.

On day one there was a big clinic for the young Sanix competitors from around the world. Sanix provided top Judo instructors on the mat. The instructors explained the movement and the children were mesmerized by what they were hearing.

In the afternoon Olympian, Sensei Anai, taught for 3 hours and showed his favorite techniques. He demonstrated very excellent techniques.

On day two official competition started. Our USA female team did not win. However, these girls tried their best. Our team for females consisted of Grace, Jessica, and Makayla. Nikita did not participate because of a head injury she experienced during the clinic the day before. Taking precautions, she did not participate in the competition.

On the third day of competition there was many practice tournaments. Jessica and Makayla and Grace participated. Makayla participated more than the other students. I thought these practice tournaments were very beneficial for our teams.

After the practice competitions finished, we went to a big department store. That night we came back to the Sanix campus for the evening. The next morning at 4 am we left and took the ferry boat to Nagoya. The trip took about 12 hours. It was a nice boat ride.

When we arrived at Nagoya, people from Taisei School sent a large tourist bus for us. They took us to their campus which includes both a middle school and a high school. They conducted rice pounding called mochitsuki. Our students enjoyed trying the rice pounding themselves. After that they taught origami for an hour and how to wear a Japanese kimono. I could tell that the people from Taisei really cared and took care of us.

The next day we were invited to their Judo tournament. Taisei School is known for their strong Judo competitors. Their teacher is Sensei Kamiya who is also an Olympian. I thought our girls had a great experience there too.

This trip to Sanix was my second time. I strongly recommend that anyone who likes to compete should go to this competition. They will have plenty of competition experience. Also, it is good for our students to meet the Japanese students and students from all over the world. This is an opportunity for much more than just Judo. It’s a chance to practice social skills with judoka from other countries who are the same age.

I would like to express my gratitude to the other coaches who traveled to Sanix with us. They did a great job taking care of their teams. A special thank you to Mr. Saito. He was working on the planning for this event beginning of 2016. He took excellent care of us. He has been devoted to this project for last 14 years and because of this he has helped many of our young Judo players.

I would like to express my sincere condolences to family of Mr. Munemasa. During my first visit to Sanix in 2013 we had a conversation. He told me that as a child he did not have an opportunity to play sports. That is the reason he started Sanix so other children could have the benefit of such experiences. I think he is a most unselfish and giving person.

After I came home, I heard the news that he had suddenly passed away. At first I could not believe it because I had just been speaking with him. Hearing this sad news hurt me very deeply. Once again I would like to send my sincere condolences to Mr. Munemasa’s family. Once again thank you for everything.

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