Yoshihiro Uchida, Yawara, Ryoko Tani, and Judo

Judo is one of the many forms of martial arts around the world. Did you know Chuck Norris is a judo practitioner? (Then again, what is Chuck Norris not good at?) Anyways, a few days ago, a video on the front page of ESPN caught my eye; it was a small piece covering Yoshihiro Uchida, the head judo coach at San Jose State. Under his guidance, San Jose State has won 45 national championships (his most recent this year) since judo became an official college sport in 1962. He’s practically the godfather of judo in America and was even the first U.S. Olympic judo coach for the 1964 Tokyo games, when the sport was first integrated into the Olympics. Watch the video below and marvel at this man’s greatness.

After watching the video, I wondered if there was a sports anime about judo (because the only anime related judo thing that comes to mind is Matsushita 5-dan); turns out, there was one in particular called Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl. It’s an older anime (1989-1992), and it’s long (124 episodes).  Here’s a quick summary from ANN:

Inokuma Yawara is just another young high school girl. Well, not quite – for Yawara is being raised by her grandfather, 7th dan Judo master Inokuma Jigorou, to be Japan’s great hope for the women’s Judo competition at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. All the same, Yawara just wants to live a normal life…

Well being a (self-proclaimed) sports aficionado, I had to check this out. Turns out AnimEigo licensed the first 40 episodes and released them in a 6-disc set in 2009 (which I promptly bought on eBay), but unfortunately, like with many old anime, they haven’t been able to license the rest. But this is where fansubs come to the rescue! FroZen (Frostii and Saizen) has been subbing the rest of the episodes, and I have already downloaded 41-90 (and in case you’re wondering, they did not sub the first 40). Many thanks to them!

Now for some other cool stuff. Yawara! also has some historical and cultural significance. You see, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics was the first time that Women’s Judo would be a full competition event. So when real life Japanese teenager Ryoko Tamura won a silver medal for judo at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, she was seen as a real-life “Yawara” and promptly nicknamed “Yawara-chan,” which she is still known by to this day.  She went on to win the silver medal again at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and back-t0-back gold medals at the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics. She barely missed out on her third straight gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a controversial penalty point in the semi-finals against the eventual champion, Romania’s Alina Dumitru. Nonetheless, Tamura is still a beloved Japanese icon.

Personal story time! Much like my last sports article, it’s time to share a story. (Once you compete in a sport, you’ll be able to relate to many things in the sporting world.) I remember a match in my wrestling career during my senior year where I went up against this scrawny white kid from a school that had far from a good wrestling program. I thought to myself, “How could a kid this scrawny be 13o pounds?” I was a 6 year veteran, and I thought I would destroy him. Well…that was hardly the case. He pinned me with a throw that totally caught me off guard; I later found out he was a judo practitioner, which explained his incredible balance and throwing technique. Needless to say, the next time I faced him, I didn’t underestimate him and promptly went on to destroy him. Moral of the story? Never underestimate anyone, and if you do, make sure you destroy them the next time around.

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Just a simple man, trying to find his way in the universe. Image hosted by servimg.com

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