The Chicago Judo Black Belt Association has been a proud sponsor of the Tohkon Judo Academy’s Kata Clinic, held each year over President’s Day Weekend. USJF Hall of Fame Inductee, Sensei Eiko Shepherd and Tohkon Judo Academy’s founder, Douglas Tono, who also competes at the highest levels of international kata competition, are the head clinicians for the weekend, as they lead a 3-day weekend of intense kata study.
Jigoro Kano developed judo as a complete education system of the mind and body. He wanted to develop good people who were both physically and mentally strong. The physical training was supplemented with technique repetition, free practice and competition whereas the mind was trained through the study of kata – an organized set of techniques and movements that highlight different aspects and principles of our martial art. Each one of the eights katas has a rooted history and must be carried out in precise harmony with a partner. The Chicago Judo Black Belt Association requires all of its members who are testing for their dan ranks to demonstrate both sides of the required kata. The Tohkon kata clinic was started in 1992 to prepare CJBBA members for their upper rank gradings, and also served as a way to bring members of the Midwest judo community together to learn from one of the highest regarded members in the international judo community, Sensei Eiko Shepherd. She is world renowned for teaching all of the eight katas. Sensei Eiko uses the analogy of learning your alphabet before learning to read and write. Kata is the alphabet. Randori and shiai is the reading and writing. Sensei Eiko reminds everyone of this at the start of every clinic that she conducts.
The annual Tohkon kata clinic started out with just dojo participants, but over its history, has grown to be attended by people from all over Illinois and neighboring states such as Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana. The 2019 and 2020 clinics (just before the start of the pandemic) drew participants from as far away as New York state. Sensei Shepherd and Sensei Tono have rotated through all of the katas over the years and have coached thousands of students, encouraging them to continue studying and even going on to compete at tournaments. The weekend of clinics usually ends with an optional certification examination. After an intense 3-days of practicing every aspect of the kata, people feel very confident for the written exam as well as a full demonstration of both sides of the kata.
Sensei Shepherd is responsible for growing the kata in the United States through her highly demanded clinics that CJBBA has fully supported her endeavors to host two high profile kata conferences in the St. Louis area. In 2017, she hosted a 5-day kata conference with guest instructors from the Kodokan. She welcomed Sensei Toshihiro Ustugi, 8th dan and Naoki Murata, 8th dan. Each day focused on a different kata. It was well attended, with over 65 participants each day, some travelling from as far away as Hawaii. In 2019, the CJBBA also supported Sensei Shepherd with bringing in IJF Sports Director of the Kata commission, Michael Kozlowski to lead a two-day session on kata judging. This was also well attended with attendees from California, Hawaii and Canada.
The Chicago Judo Black Belt Association is proud to have Sensei Eiko Shepherd as an anchor of the yudanshakai. Her tireless efforts to develop kata from the grassroots level is fully supported by us and we are proud to have this judo pioneer in our corner.