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by Julie Cox

As a parent you hope that you are teaching your children to be gracious and appreciate the blessings of their life. The opportunity to join the team and travel to Japan for SANIX 2016 allowed my family many opportunities to reinforce the life lessons of appreciation and gratitude. The blessings began before we even packed for our trip.

The day that we received the call that our daughter would be a member of the team changed her level of commitment to her training. She quite literally cleaned out her room and her life to increase the level of focus in what we felt was already a pretty focused teenager. The distractions of our society were tossed aside and replaced with workouts and training. She was told that she should train and condition like she never had before in preparation of this trip. So, that is what she did … every day. She was grateful for this advice as it proved to be so valuable while in Japan.

As news spread in our small farm community that our daughter would be traveling to Japan to train and compete in a sport that very few practice in our county, the well-wishes and gracious gifts started to stream in. We were very blessed when our local newspaper wrote a lovely article about the trip. That article turned in to opportunities for our daughter to speak with local organizations like Kiwanis, Optimist Club, Lions Club, and Rotary. These speaking engagements taught our daughter public speaking skills that few teens have the opportunity to practice. The small community organizations were very generous with their time and resources. We were so thankful for the opportunity for our daughter to share her passion and love of judo with community members that knew nothing about judo. The trip was a springboard to introduce judo to people that thought that all martial arts were violent. It was an eye-opening experience to watch adults have their opinions of judo changed by a 13-year-old.

The summer’s speaking engagements evolved into an autumn radio interview which reached members of a second county in our area. By fall 2016, when the stress of a new school year could push a teen over the edge to lose her focus, more cards and positive pushes arrived. The motivational notes of family and friends were inspiring. With each day an email, card or letter arrived, the feeling of appreciation increased and kept our daughter training and working hard. She knew there was a support system behind her. We were so thankful for those notes.

The trip to Japan was an experience of a lifetime that we want to share with everyone, especially those that helped make it possible for our daughter. We have only returned home for a few days and have already been able to share this experience with so many. We love to listen to our daughter tell family and friends about the amazing judo partners that she was able to train with and activities that she was blessed to participate in. However, as parents, our favorite parts of her stories are how she noticed the environment around her during our travels and the people that she met. She noticed that there are not huge lavish yards in Japan like there are at home. The yards in Japan are replaced with gardens and fields. She talks of how the areas that we visited were clean and clearly not a disposable society. The thankfulness of the Japanese children, teens and adults when she presented them with gifts was inspiring to her. The small trinket that we shared that seemed so insignificant to us before we left was transformed into an opportunity to make a new friend or bring a smile to the face of a small child patiently waiting for the tournament to end. Thanks to social media, our family has already been in touch with and corresponding with our new friends from all over the world.

At last, we would like to thank you to USJF/Konan Yudashakai for the grant which paid for Global Arena cost, Mr. Munemasa for hosting the Sanix event for last 14 years, Global Arena staffs started with Mr. Kondo for hospitality. Kugisaki Sensei for organizing Amazing International Camp, which attended all Japan Cadet Team under 14. Lastly Taisei Middle School for incredible experience that we had. Mr. Adachi thank you! Out going Ms. Rika Nishida for making travel arrangement and fun to be around. Taisei Judo sensei’s for making incredible tournament that we enjoyed so much.

This truly was an amazing experience that we will always be grateful for!