Manzanar Concentration Camp

My visit to Manzanar in 2006 while leading a fundraising road trip for the CHP's 11-99 Foundation.

Being a judoka inspired by Bruce Lee at age 10 after and training under the late Kyu Ha Kim, I always respected and admired people of Asian descent. That's why I find it hard to rationalize that the U.S. during World War II instituted a system of internment camps to house Japanese Americans removing them from their homes and neighborhoods.

A few weeks ago my friend judo archivist Jerry Hays gave me a 300+ page historic book on Manzanar.


Manzanar Historic Book
This stirred my thinking about the recent disturbing uptick in hate crimes symbolic of the unfortunate continued polarization we're experiencing in our country. Asians are now being targeted for racial as well as political reasons.

Anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 150% in 2020 from the year prior, according to an analysis of hate crimes in 16 US cities recently released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled much of this anti-Asian racism and xenophobia.

Jigoro Kano preached world unity through judo. In a judogi we learn to judge people by their character and actions rather than. exterior things such as race, gender, etc.

In reflecting on life for these Japanese Americans at Manzanar, it's intriguing how judo continued flourish within this compound.

Manzanar's judo dojo began in early June of 1942, using canvas-covered sawdust as a mat for the judoka. The dojo wasn't easy to find. It had open sides all around. The internees had a special name for it Shindo Kan because the building was so rickety, shindo means shaking and quaking.

Manzanar Dojo

A group of judoka outside the Manzanar dojo

Manzanar was not the only internment camp to have judo. Camps in Tule Lake, California, Crystal City, Texas, Santa Anita, California, Park County, Wyoming (Heart Mountain Camp), Puyallup, Washington (Camp Harmony), Millard County, Utah (Topaz Camp), Desha County, Arkansas (Rohwer Camp), and Jerome County, Idaho (Minidoka Camp) all allowed judoka to begin their own judo clubs. Though some were short-lived and others may not have been as large as the judo club/dojo in Manzanar Camp, judo still proved to be a connective community activity that kept issei and nisei together.

The following month after the formation of the judo platform, new student registration began in Manzanar Camp, bringing in both issei and nisei. In the same month, the camp judoka received "a loaned sum of $250 to construct a judo platform" from Caucasian judoka in North Hollywood, California, demonstrating the importance of the cultural sport to non-Japanese.

150 judoka participated in the opening ceremonies. According to Manzanar Free Press, about 400 judoka were turning out daily for training. In September, the camp held its first judo shiai tournament which outdrew an important softball game in number of participate and spectators. Many of these judoka, both issei and nisei, were students of the art prior to internment.

Jack Sergel, a black belt who taught judo at the Los Angeles Police Academy was accused of 'Emperor worship' because of a photo taken of him and the students reverently bowing at the beginning of class to a portrait of their interned teacher. Sergel's loyalty as an American was questioned by an LAPD review board said he not only had to quit teaching judo at the academy (because they had service weapons and didn't need to 'resort to tactics of the enemy' as an alternative to lethal force), but also that he had to give up practicing judo in his private life or he'd be fired."

In late 1944, Sergel quit the LAPD and went to work for actor James Cagney, who hired him as a judo instructor for an upcoming war propaganda film; Blood on the Sun. The movie's climactic scene was a bout between Cagney and Sergel (playing the villainous Captain Oshima under the stage name John Halloran) crashing through the rice-paper walls of a burning ryokan.

Jack Sergel

Jack Sergel (back row, left) received criticism for bringing LA kids to a Manzanar for judo tournaments.

manzanar randori Randori during the nightly workouts in the Manzanar Shindo Kan Dojo.

Footnote – Racial strife and religious prejudice continues to be a recurring theme today.

Shlomo Noginski

Rabbi Shlomo Noginski, of the Chabad, a father of 12, has returned safely home after he was stabbed in Brighton around 1 p.m. last Thursday July 1, 2021. A friend says he was able to use his judo training to protect himself and keep the suspect away from children who were nearby, according to NBC Boston.

Click here to view my full talk (title image below).

Gary Goltz Talk

Judo brings people together by neutralizing differences of race, gender, religion, nationality, language, politics, wealth, education, professions, etc. In a judogi we are all equal. Our love of this sport is the common denominator to build upon friendships, mutual respect, and self-confidence.

Introducing Martial Arts School Listings on Black Belt Mag!
Sign Up Now To Be One Of The First School Listed In Our Database.
SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the worlds largest magazine of martial arts.
Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon
d2e111jq13me73.cloudfront.net / Enter the Dragon/ Warner Bros.
Bruce Lee really did have the Midas touch when it came to training. Most people think Bruce was advanced and complicated, but he was the master of simplicity. He was not worried about doing the jump-up flip spin-around back kick. Not sure if there is one. But by the time you land, Bruce would just throw a simple kick or punch to knock you down as you landed to the ground. However, that is the point. Simplicity is often overlooked because of the coolness and the latest and greatest workout when simplicity produces the most significant effect. Super complicated does not mean superior. This is actually reverse in fact. We see super complex exercises that don’t need to be. Truthfully, if an exercise or method is not straightforward in its approach, then it probably is not good.
Keep Reading Show less
 Anthony Netzler

Anthony Netzler was a top martial artist and MMA fighter.

Anthony Netzler, a 53-year-old martial arts instructor, was sentenced on Monday to 15 years and seven months in prison by a New Zealand court for helping to mastermind the importation of what's been described as the second largest illegal shipment of methamphetamine in the country's history.
Keep Reading Show less
Christine Bannon Rodrigues
Photo Courtesy: Christopher Rappold via Facebook

Black Belt Magazine's 1989 Competitor of the Year Christine Bannon-Rodrigues was promoted to 10th degree black belt in Oki-ryu on December 5th. She is pictured above at the ceremony with her family, including Dante (left), Chris (right), and legendary Team Paul Mitchell coach Don Rodrigues. Chris and Dante were also promoted at the event, achieving the ranks of 6th degree and 2nd degree black belt, respectively. Chris Rappold, the executive director of Team Paul Mitchell who was at the event as a friend of the Rodrigues family, reported that 35 martial artists in total were promoted at the ceremony.

Bannon-Rodrigues is one of the most prolific sport karate competitors of all time, amassing numerous wins throughout her career in forms, weapons, and fighting. She won the coveted women's sparring diamond ring at the Diamond Nationals in 1992, and was inducted into the Diamond Nationals Hall of Fame in 2008. She is a nine-time world champion as recognized by the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO). Her success as a competitor led to opportunities in the film industry, where she is still active and has had a phenomenal career performing stunts as Batgirl and acting as a double for Hilary Swank in The Next Karate Kid.

Keep Reading Show less