2020 marked the 90th Anniversary of the Nanka Judo Yudanshakai, the SoCal Judo Black Belt Consortium. When I was growing up doing judo in Pittsburgh during the late 60's I was always impressed with Nanka and Black Belt Magazine which came from the mecca of US Judo; Los Angeles.
Judo in Los Angeles was established at the Yamato building around 1917. The dojo was known as Rafu Judo Dojo with Tokugoro Ito, as the Head Sensei. By 1929 there were eight dojos and a meeting was held with their Head Sensei in which it was decided to unite and try to establish yudanshakai.
During that year, ten of the Head Sensei from Los Angles jointly wrote letters to the Kodokan, and subsequently received approval to visit Kano Shihan. The ten Sensei were Tasuke Hagio, Raitaro Hagio, Yamauchi, Yasutaro Matsuur, Yamasa, Murakami (San Fernando dojo), Iida, Matsutaro Nita, Kiro Nagano and Riyuji Tatsamo. These Sensei traveled to Japan in 1930 and actually met with Kano who gave his approval for them to establish a local Yudanshakai as branch of Kodokan in Los Angeles.
The name Nanka Judo Yudanshakai was adopted with understanding that all the Yudansha black belt members must agree to:
- Cooperate with friendship between ALL dojos.
- Enhance the art and teaching of judo.
- Spread the teaching of anyone who wanted to learn the sport of judo.
After Nanka was established many new dojos began to open, especially at Japanese Community Centers. Yasutaro Matsuura of Seinen Dojo then a 4th degree black belt was Nanka's first President. Growth accelerated following Kano's visit to several Los Angeles dojos as a delegate to the 1932 Olympics.
Professor Jigoro Kano visits Southern California
Professor Jigoro Kano visits the San Gabriel Dojo
Professor Jigoro Kano visits the Norwalk Dojo
At the outbreak of World War II in Dec. 1941, there were twenty-six dojos in southern California, with 422 black belts and about 2,000 students. The black belts were distributed in the following manner: 6th dan-2; 5th dan-5; 4th dan-6; 3rd dan-42; 2nd dan-101; 1st dan-264; and 2 honorary black belts.
Judo continued to flourish in relocation camps such as Manzanar, Heart Mountain, Post Gila River, and Rule Lake although all other judo clubs ceased operations during the war years.
Manzanar Memorial visit in 2006 during a charity ride with my classic Highway Patrol Buick to pay respect.
Nanka became part of the Judo Black Belt Federation of the United States in 1952 which later changed its name to the United States Judo Federation (USJF). It is one of the largest and most influential yudanshakais within that national organization.I'm proud to have served as the past President of Nanka from 2017 to 2019. Today, Nanka has over 40 active Dojos with more than 1,000 members. In addition, Nanka hosts 4 regional tournaments each year.
Certificate of Appreciation given to me for donating the Judo Winter Nationals® (video) I founded to Nanka in 2019, presented by Hayward Nishioka a Nanka stalwart and Ken Teshima, CPA, Nanka's CFO and Treasurer of the USJF. Hayward is a two-time Black Belt Hall of Fame member and author. I read my first articles in Black Belt by Hayward back in 1968. He has been a lifetime mentor and judo hero to me!
Fighting Spirit Judo in Southern California is an excellent resource for further information
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