"Virginia Judo Incorporated
has existed for 26 years.VJI
is giving out today an award its has never before given in its 26-year history, a Lifetime Achievement Award.There is only one person who could possibly get VJI's first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award: Jimmy Takemori
. Jimmy Takemori was born February 3, 1926.
If you do the math, you'll see he
turned 80 last month.Jimmy
is still going strong as a judo person.As most of you know, he's
an 8th-degree black belt. Jimmy was born in California, and after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor he was subjected to the same harsh treatment as other Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast.He
was removed from his
home and taken to an internment camp.When he became old enough to join the military, he joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and fought for the United States in Italy.
The 442nd RCT was the most decorated unit in the war for its size and length of service.It consisted entirely of Japanese-Americans who fought for the United States despite the way Japanese-Americans were being treated in the United States. After the war, Jimmy
moved to the East Coast.Relationships between Japan and the United States, and between Japanese-Americans and the United States, were not very good right after the war, considering that the two nations had been enemies and the United States had not treated Japanse-Americans well.But Jimmy
did not behave in a bitter manner.Instead, he
used judo to build a bridge between nations and between communities. In the early 1950s, Jimmy -- along with others -- founded the Washington Judo Club and Shufu Yudanshakai.
These were watershed events in promoting the spread of judo on the entire East Coast.By 1964, when judo made its first appearance in the Olympic Games, Jimmy
and people whose lives were touched by Jimmy
had several notable accomplishments.
And, at the Tokyo Olympics, the very first American to win an Olympic medal in judo was Jim Bregman, who had been Jimmy Takemori's
During that time, Jimmy
has coached players and teams nationally and internationally and has held just about every leadership position imaginable in local, national, and international organizations.He
has been honored by many organizations for all of his
activities.Especially noteworthy is an award he
was given just about a year ago by the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays.The award recognized Jimmy
"contributions to the promotion of mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and the United States as well as between our two peoples."For me, seeing Jimmy
receive that award was a reminder of how difficult it must have been for Jimmy
to promote a Japanese art right after a war in which Japan and the United States were enemies, and how important his
efforts have been in contributing to the excellent relationship that exists today. In some ways, an award from Virginia Judo Incorporated
must seem far less significant than the awards Jimmy
has received from national and international organizations.But for the entire 38 years I have known Jimmy he
has lived in Virginia.In fact, he
has had the same address on Lamond Place in Alexandria all that time.And, as much as Jimmy has had broad-based leadership positions, those who know him know that what he loves best is teaching judo one on one.
It doesn't matter whether you were born in the year 1920 or in the year 2000, if Jimmy
sees you trying to do judo and sees an opportunity to help you improve, he
wants to take that opportunity.He
doesn't want to yell at you -- although he
may do that too -- but to help you get better, because he
loves judo, loves teaching judo, and loves judoka.So it is very fitting that, here at the grass-roots level, we join the larger organizations that have honored Jimmy. I am pleased to present the first-ever Virginia Judo Incorporated
Lifetime Achievement Award to James Takemori