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Looking back, I’m extremely thankful for Saito sensei’s words of encouragement to join the Sanix delegation and in turn, altering my winter comfort routine into a meaningful experience. Most of my travel outcomes in the past have been centered on the individual(s) that have accompanied me or the people I have had the good fortune to meet. This year’s coaching staff, competitors and parents have fulfilled both aspects.

A commitment to “others first”, best describes our delegate leader, Saito sensei. Coach Takahashi and Roethke were at home in the competitive surroundings, providing technical insights and positive feedback; Coach Bogdanic’s enthusiasm immediately bonded the coaches, parents and our youth. It was a unique learning experience and a privilege to serve with all of them.

There were a lot of father and son members in the group. Personally, it allowed me to get to know my son a lot better. I’m sure that Jeremy and Bryson would back me on this natural occurence. Although there were no mother and daughter team members, Coach Roethke nurtured and mentored the girls’ team members through intense matches, vigorous training sessions and during down time.

The judo experience was comprised of international team competition for boys and girls, international training sessions, technical clinics demonstrated by world-class competitors, and legendary former competitors-senseis (Kugisaki sensei, Asahi sensei, Kai sensei), in Fukuoka. The quantity and quality of matches, as well as randori sessions, provided incomparable experience to our U.S. competitors. Additionally, our youth developed a greater awareness of time, independence and personal responsibilities during their stay at the Global Arena sport resort. I could share the details of our great accommodations, the edible aesthetics created from the on-site restaurants and bakery, but there are some things you just have to experience on your own.

For those of you who have ever been part of any form of event planning, you already know the logistical demands. I cannot begin to express our appreciation to the Sanix Corporation-Global Arena administrators and staff for seamlessly providing transportation, lodging, meals and an international venue for competition. We left Fukuoka with an upmost admiration for Mr. Hiroshi Munemasa, Mr. Isamu Kondou, Mr. Stefan Getov, Mr. Toshiyuki Watanabe and supporting staff members.

Our trip continued by visiting Osaka via a ferry. We approached the New Year by participating in Taisei Middle School’s “Mochitsuki” (making of traditional rice confection). We were greeted by Adachi sensei, principal of Taisei and later introduced to Kamiya sensei, Taisei’s judo head instructor. The U.S. team participated in Taisei’s regional team and individual tournament, followed by an extensive randori session. Nishida sensei coordinated our travel schedule and navigated us through Osaka. It is important to note that multiple translators were provided for us whether we were on or off the mat in both Fukuoka and Osaka.

We all began our return to home from Osaka on December 30. Our diverse group of personalities were assembled from various parts of the U.S., each possessing different skill sets; however, we all came together and developed a chemistry with “Judo” as the vehicle to better understand the sport, the culture and oneself.

Interesting enough, one of the translators (originally from Australia) who actually practiced judo in Japan stated, “Japanese Judo starts with courtesy and ends with courtesy”. In that spirit, I want to thank my Sanix predecessors (Tsutsui sensei and Oishi sensei) for their preparatory recommendations and support. Similarly, I want to express my gratitude to Saito sensei, Konan Judo Club, the Michigan Judo Development Association and USJF.

I look forward to reciprocating when a delegation from Japan visits the Los Angeles area in 2019, or any visit to the U.S. in the future.