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Joseph Fitzsimmons

Joseph Fitzsimmons

Inducted 2016

Dr Fitzsimmons tells his own story.

I was born in Piqua, Ohio, a small farming community, on January 31, 1924. I am now 92 years of age. I attended St. Mary’s Grade school. I flunked the second grade, probably because I was deaf in the right ear and wore spectacles for being cross-eyed. I graduated from Piqua Catholic High School in 1942.I lived in Piqua until I went into the Army during World War II, and on my return, until I enrolled at Marquette University School of Medicine in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I graduated from Marquette Medical School with a Medical Degree on June 12, 1952.

I began my year long General Internship on July 1, 1952. I really wanted to be a Family Doctor at that time but when Dr. Walter Blount asked me to put a correcting cast on a baby’s clubfoot—that really woke me up. I began the standard four year Residency Program in Orthopedic Surgery which would lead to a Membership in the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. I finished the Residency Program on June 30, 1957. We then moved to San José, California. I opened an Office for Orthopedic Surgery until I retired, when I was sixty-five, and that was a mistake.

While I was still a Freshman in Medical School I met Antoinette Vermilion, a junior at Marquette Medical School. We were married on December 30, 1950 in Saint Mary’s Church in Piqua, Ohio. We eventually had five children, two boys and three girls.

About the year 1963 my wife asked me to come home earlier and more often in order that I might better know the Children and help her take better care of the Children. Actually, that was a great idea but how was I to do that?

After a great deal of thought I remembered when I was about twelve years old seeing a small Japanese man in my hometown theater’s Pathé News Report on an Ocean Liner that was entering Los Angeles Harbor. He was throwing men around like they were confetti! After looking around San José I was happy, and lucky, to be able to enroll my sons, Pat and Mike, with the Santa Clara Judo Club with a Mr. Tosh Higashi as their teacher.

After about a month of my sitting around in the Dojo waiting for Pat and Mike, I asked Mr. Higashi if I might walk around on the mat with someone. (Actually, it wasn’t a mat. It was sand, sawdust, and newspaper on cement). He looked me up and down, and said, “Be careful.”

It wasn’t too long until I was stretched out two feet above the mat while I was looking at the ceiling and thinking “I am going to die” but the landing was wonderful. The first fall was wonderful but the next three were even better. Sensei Higashi threw me with a combination—Hizaguruma and an okuriashiharai. I did not feel a thing. Where do I sign up—–for everything—? I was forty years old—-but what the hey—?—. And the people in Judo are extra nice, polite, and courteous.

The next time I had that feeling of exultation was, “I was promoted to Sankyu, Brown Belt.” I belonged!!! There is nothing like that feeling of being promoted to Sankyu.

It was not too long after I became a Judoka before I began to volunteer to act as the Emergency Doctor at nearby Tournaments. This seemed like a good idea for obvious reasons. Injuries were more frequent and more serious then they are today thanks to new rules, better Referees, and two inch foam mats.

The ongoing plan was simple. Whatever else happened, I must not end up with the injured party as being my patient. Otherwise, it would appear that I was doing this to make money. To avoid that, I would triage with the parent or Sensei of the injured student by asking who their Family Doctor or Pediatrician was and to have the parent or Sensei call him or her right now or later depending on the case. If a serious injury, or maybe a ‘nothing at all,’ were to be mishandled it could very easily lead to insurmountable anger or even a law suit with its bad publicity and a worse reputation for Judo.

I was present, as a Doctor, at 95%, or more, of all Junior and Senior National Tournaments in America for Years and Years and as many local and State Tournaments as were in sight. I am still attending the Junior Federation and Junior Association Nationals but not the Senior Nationals.

At first, I would call or write the person in charge of the Tournament to get his permission to act as the Emergency Doctor so that I would not appear to be too aggressive or “pushy.”

It is not necessary to have an Orthopedic Surgeon or even a Sports Doctor in attendance at a Tournament but it increases your chances of getting the right answer at a time when it is very important. An older EMT or Emergency Room Nurse, male or female, should be fine. I am leery of a brash attendant.

The only first aid equipment you can depend on being present at the Tournament is what you bring to the tournament yourself. Yesterday I saw a list of “necessary” things that covered a sheet of paper. That is not common sense. Ice and plastic bags, lunch, and bottles of water should be provided by the Tournament Director. Maybe a little chocolate candy would help a little.

Soon after I was promoted to Sankyu, Sensei Mits Kimura had a Senior Nationwide and later a Junior Nationwide Tournament and he asked me to take on both.Soon, I was going with Teams outside of the country. There were five World Tournaments: Germany, Korea, Switzerland, Paris, and Russia (twice, one a World and another was a Friendship Game), China, Colombia, Mexico City (twice) and Italy. Sometimes at my own expense.

Doctor Koiwai asked me to be a Medical Doctor for the U. S. Team in Atlanta, Georgia, for the Olympics. I was proud to be named and I accepted. It was great.

Besides the Medical part of the United States Judo Federation I was involved with other administrative things that made the USJF viable, warm, and likely to survive.In that respect the First Rule would be: ”Attend All Of The Meetings and Clinics You Possibly Can”…and I did.

1) The first thing I did was to conceive, announce, and have the Delegates debate, vote, and pass the Bylaw, “No President of the USJF shall serve more than two, four Year Terms.”

2) The second Bylaw was: get an idea about what the Judo World thought and felt about the Double Drop Knee SeoiNage in youngsters around the World. Seven out of ten well known Senseis did not feel it was a good idea and some thought it was dangerous. So, the Bylaw was established to Rule Out the Double Drop Knee SeoiNage For Youngsters in competition.

3) The third Bylaw change was the result of Questionnaires being sent to Senseis around the United States asking them “What would be the harm in permitting young boys and girls to compete together in the Dojo and in regularly scheduled Tournaments? What would the ages be that this would be permissible? What rules would you establish and/or change?” There is a Bylaw now permitting young boys and girls to compete together in the Dojo and in Tournaments.

I inherited the Term Medical Director for several years after Dr. Koiwai retired then the outcry was “Give the youngsters a chance.” So I retired.

The same thing happened with the Athlete Scholar Award. So I resigned and now Jeff Takeda is running that very well.

It was quite an honor to be awarded by Vaughan Imada the Jeremy Glick Silver Trophy for a Year to be shown around for Judo events. He was a Judoka that banded together a small group of fellow jet passengers to make sure that his particular hi-jacked jet did not reach the White House on 9/11/2001.

I have been the President of Hokka for more than ten years. Hokka has its ups and downs but no more than others have had. I do not mind attending funerals of my friends from San Jose to Los Angeles.

Dr Fitzsimmons at the 2016 Junior Nationals. Photo by Arik Dao.

Mac Takeda wrote a letter of recommendation for Dr Fitzsimmons.

I have known Dr. Joseph Fitzsimmons for over Thirty years since I joined Hokka Yudanshakai sometime in the 1980s. He has always been a great leader as the President of Hokka and has moved our organization to great heights and direction after the death of Sensei Mitsuo Kimura. He has also represented us as a goodwill ambassador of Judo at local, State, Regional, National and International events giving his time freely caring for Judo athletes who got injured in competition as a medical doctor.

He is an individual that is the essence of Judo Philosophy at the age of 92, he is still involved in Judo as an official and medical doctor at local, regional and national judo level events and meetings. He truly is dedicated to Judo and understands Sensei Jigoro Kano’s idiom “Mutual Welfare and Benefit”. He has given a lot back to Judo and has not asked for anything in return. He has made our Judo community a better place.

I admire his demeanor as a person. He is humble, unselfish, caring, dedicated and fair to everyone. He is an individual that I would like to be. Society would be a better place if we had more individuals like him.

I highly recommend him to the USJF Hall of Fame.

Dr Fitzsimmons died in March 2017. A dinner was held in his honor on 1 April 2017. See a copy of the Dr. Joseph Fitzsimmons Tribute program.