Richard (Dick) Hugh

Copyright 2020 Charles Medani. All rights reserved.

Richard (Dick) Hugh

Inducted 2020

In 1953, while serving in the U.S. Air Force, during a tour of duty with the Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Puerto Rico Ramey Air Force Base, Richard Hugh enrolled in a sport judo class started by a sergeant who had just come back from training at the Kodokan. Within less than a year, Kotani Sensei, then a Hachidan, promoted Mr. Hugh to Sankyu during a tour of SAC bases, and gave him membership to the Kodokan.

Mr. Hugh sought out the author of one of the few books on Judo available in English and was invited to work out with his group at the Flushing YMCA in New York City. He learned of the New York Dojo headed by George Yoshida. Later, he learned of the Washington Judo Club at the Pentagon where Donn Draeger and Jimmy Takemori were instructors.

After his discharge in 1954, Mr. Hugh started school at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He founded a judo club there and started his membership with Shufu Judo Yudanshakai and the USJF.

After graduation in 1957, Mr. Hugh moved to Elizabeth, NJ, to work and began practicing judo at the Elizabeth YMCA Judo Club and at the New Brunswick YMCA Judo Club with Tim Dalton.

In 1958, Mr. Hugh changed jobs and moved to Delaware. He started the Wilmington YMCA Judo Club. During this period, he also traveled almost every weekend to the Baltimore Judo Club for workouts on Saturdays and received lessons from Kenzo Uyeno and Lanny Miyamoto. On Sundays, Mr. Hugh and Kenzo Uyeno traveled to the Washington Judo Club.

During the early 1960s, two-time All-Japan Champion Takahiko Ishikawa moved to the United States and settled in the Philadelphia area. Mr. Hugh became an assistant instructor at the Ishikawa Judo Club. With the encouragement of Dr. E.K. Koiwai, he started attending AAU meetings, first locally and later nationally.

Because of the presence of Mr. Ishikawa, many high-ranking senseis visited his club, among them: Mr. Kudo, Mr. Ishikawa’s teacher; Mr. Daigo, an All-Japan Champion (now Judan and head instructor at the Kodokan); Mr. Hosokawa, a well-known expert in unarmed defense; and Mr. Murata, a police champion.

Shufu Judo Yudanshakai encouraged competitors to become teachers and referees even during their shiai career. Hugh Sensei became an IJF-referee in 1976.

Even today, at age 91, Hugh Sensei guides referees and teaches at the Delaware Judo & Ju-Jitsu Association.

Current judo positions

  • Hachidan, United States Judo Federation
  • Member, Board of Directors, Shufu Judo Yudanshakai
  • Member, Board of Examiners, Shufu Judo Yudanshakai
  • Technical Advisor, Delaware Judo and Ju-Jitsu Association
  • Instructor, Delaware Judo Club
  • Class A International Referee, International Judo Federation
  • Class A Teacher, USA Judo

Judo History

  • Began judo in 1953 while with USAF in Puerto Rico
  • Founder and instructor of VPI Judo Club in Blacksburg, VA
  • Founder and instructor of Wilmington YMCA Judo Club in Wilmington, DE
  • Assistant instructor of Ishikawa Judo Club in Philadelphia, PA
  • Tournament director for the Wilmington Invitation Tournaments for more than 15 years
  • Tournament director for the 1972 Senior Nationals in Philadelphia, PA
  • AAU Judo Chairman for Virginia district
  • AAU Judo Chairman for Middle Atlantic district
  • Chairman of USJF Referee Development and Certification Committee
  • Chairman of USA Judo Referees Commission
  • Chairman of USA Judo Rules Sub-Committee
  • Certified Kata Judge for nage-no-kata, katame-no-kata, and ju-no-kata
  • President of Delaware State Judo
From Shufu’s letter of recommendation (Roy Engler)

Dick Hugh, at the age of 91, continues to contribute to judo. He attends the overwhelming majority of Shufu events. He still runs a judo club in Wilmington, Delaware. He has mentored hundreds of judo referees. Shufu believes that he would be an excellent addition to the USJF Hall of Fame.

Dick began teaching judo as the Chief Instructor of the Wilmington YMCA Judo Club in 1958. He has served as chairman of the Referee Development and Certification Committee of USJF. He is a USJF and Kodokan Shichidan, last promoted some 14 years ago in 2006. He has held a Class A Referee License from the IJF since 1976 – some 44 years! He has served as Chairman of the Rules Subcommittee and Referee Commission of USA Judo.

Studying to become a referee and ascend the referee ranks under Dick has never been for the faint of heart, and still isn’t. But he has generously shared his technical knowledge and experience with lower-ranked or beginning referees for the almost five decades; I have personally known him, and he still does. He encourages people to enter and rise through the referee ranks. He played key roles in my own path from National to IJF-B to IJF-A referee in the 1980s and 1990s. He ably led both the USJF and USA Judo referee commissions.

Shufu is a geographically large Yudanshakai. Although it no longer blankets the entire East Coast as it did when it was formed in 1953, it still has clubs from Maine to Mississippi and a few members in Texas. We have had to hold promotionals in “Shufu North” separately from the “Shufu Central” promotionals. It exemplifies Dick’s continuing commitment to judo that, as recently as last year, in his 90s, Dick traveled to Massachusetts to help with the Shufu North promotional.

Dick Hugh’s reminiscences

I started judo sixty-seven years ago. On a Wednesday afternoon in January 1953 I enrolled in a sport judo class on Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico while stationed there. The class was conducted by Sgt. Paddy McDonald and his assistant Sgt. Kajalahti. Sgt. McDonald just completed his judo and karate training at the Kodokan in Japan. They were instructors in the Physical Conditioning and Combative Measure Unit of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) of USAF. In August that year, a memorable event took place: the visit of the Kodokan team of judo and karate masters led by Kotani Sensei. I and my partner, George Maeda, did randori with them on stage. Before departure the team promoted us to the rank of sankyu each with a brown belt and a Kodokan membership.

Mr. Charles Yerkow was a sportswriter and a judoka who had written books in judo. He taught judo at the New York City Flushing YMCA. I contacted and visited him. From there I learned about and visited the New York Dojo with George Yoshida sensei and the Washington Judo Club at the Pentagon with Donn Draeger and Jimmy Takemori.

After being discharged in 1954, I studied chemical engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute under the GI Bill and started the VPI Judo Club. My first judo competition was in 1955. I and my roommate hitchhiked from Blacksburg, VA to Wayne, Pa to compete at the Valley Forge Military Academy.

After graduation in 1957, I went to work for the Esso Oil Company in Linden, NJ, and started the Elizabeth YMCA Judo Club. I also practiced judo at the New Brunswick YMCA Judo Club with Tim Dalton. In 1958 I received my shodan promotion and later that year I accepted a position with the Tidewater Oil Company in Delaware City, DE, and started the Wilmington YMCA Judo Club, where I was the instruction for over 30 years. I also initiated the Wilmington YMCA Judo Invitational Tournament which ran for over a decade.

Between 1958 and 1960, I traveled most weekends to practice at the Baltimore Judo Club with Kenzo Ueno Sensei, Lanny Miyamoto Sensei, and John Anderson on Saturdays and the Washington Judo Club on Sundays.

Because of injuries, I retired from active competition, but continued to teach and to randori. In fact I became assistant instructor for Ishikawa Judo in Philadelphia where I learned to play the game of go. I never got beyond the rank of yonkyu in go. At the urging of Dr. E.K. Kowai, I began attending Middle Atlantic AAU monthly meetings and national judo meetings.

In 1972, I was the tournament director for the Senior National Judo Championships held at the Temple University McGonigle Hall in Philadelphia. With the formation of USA Judo I was appointed rules subcommittee chairman and certified as national judge for nage-no-kata, katame-no-kata and ju-no-kata.

In 1976, I was certified as an IJF International Referee and nominated to referee at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, but because of the boycott I could not attend. In 1989 I refereed at the World Judo Championships in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

I have been judo referee chairman of USA Judo and the USJF. In that position I implemented the current national referee certification and evaluation programs.

Today I am a shichidan of USJF and hold membership in all three national judo organizations – a requirement to serve the judo community. I am still active in assisting dojos and tournaments with advice and teaching.
Old soldiers never die they just fade away.