I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and a Happy New Year.
I'm reading a very interesting book which I would like to recommend to you. A Slow Boat to Yokohama-A Judo Odyssey by Syd Hoare, Hachidan, from England.
Syd was a training partner with Jon, Bill Backus, and me while we where in Japan. It brings back memories..some good and some sad..of very dedicated martial artists struggling to become the best technicians we could be, while living in a "foreign land" trying to make some money for our next meal. To say it was hard doesn't even come close to describing the training we went through AND the struggles to survive.
Syd, thanks so much for the friendship and for the memories. Thanks for being there every morning, afternoon, and evening keeping me going and moving in the right direction. Hayward Nishioka coined the phase, "The Golden Years" of Judo and so they were! Thanks, Hayward for your life long friendship and I'll never forget "OUR" Nage No Kata at the Opening Ceremonies of the 1963 All Japan Championships. Two "kids" selected to open the grand tournament! What an honor.
I met George Harris and Ben Campbell in Tampa, Florida in 1960 at the National Championships. They won their divisions and I was amazed at their skill and courage. They spoke to me then when I was 18. They took the time to talk to me!
They too were my inspiration, my friends, and my 1964 Olympic Team mates. Paul Maruyama was our fourth member and I met him at the Kodokan and he inspired me to keep going by his example of determination. He never stopped and neither did any of us!
We were all Kenshusei Students (Kodokan Special Research Students) and I believe we made our Sensei proud. I never fully understood the Kenshusei concept but I did know we got very "special attention". Sometimes, not necessarily wanted, mind you.
It is a tribute to the perseverance, patience, and dedication required to become a martial arts expert. Jon, you have been an inspiration to me since I was 18 years old and first met you at the Kodokan. Bill, we started Judo at the Washington Judo Club in the Pentagon. I was perhaps 13 years old. Without Jon, Bill, Hayward and Syd and many others, I would have never survived the training. I would never have become a "wazashi"! I would never have had the understanding, stamina, courage and determination to become a Federal Senior Executive and Corporate President.
Amazingly, I can still do a little judo!(-: I'm retired from the Senior Executive Service and the Corporate environment.
George Harris would tell me often, "Jim, we never, never, ever give up! WE may give out, but never give up." I owe my life to mentors like Jon, Bill, Syd, Ben Campbell and George Harris, Paul Hayward and I can never ever thank them enough for being my friends and fellow martial artists. A very special remembrance to Donn Draeger, our friend, and mentor and to Ishikawa Sensei. I miss them.
Hope to see you all soon
Peace and Good Health!