Judo students rally to keep Sensei
Mark Beierly, Staff Writer
October 19, 2011
Filed under News
It is the ultimate sign of respect when a student has honored their master. That is what judo instructor Jimmy Tanaka feels every Wednesday night when his judo class takes to the Vallejo dojo. Students both new and old attend the class, learning the teachings of a man who has studied the art of judo since the age of four.
The students listen to Tanaka’s every word as he relates past experiences and current events into a message he does his best to convey to his students– “seize every moment.”
The message comes from the heart of a man who, in the beginning of the semester didn’t know the fate of his judo class hung in the balance. Tanaka’s judo class was in danger of being cancelled by the college budget cuts. Facing the possibility of the judo class being canceled, current and former students wrote letters to the college administration and demanded Tanaka’s class to be saved. Some of Tanaka’s current students and assistant coaches, including Jared Riley, went to the college governing board and pleaded that Tanaka’s class be spared.
The heart-felt letters convinced the board to let Tanaka teach the judo class all the way to the spring 2012 semester.
“He is much more effective than any of the judo instructors I had in Berkeley or even the coaches in Japan,” said former student and assistant judo coach Ian Cipperly.
Tanaka’s class is a diverse group of students ranging from math instructors to prison guards, brought together by their passion for the art of judo. Former Student Ron Tolintino believes that the class is more than a physical education; it is also a criminal justice benefit,
“Half of Tanaka’s students are criminal justice majors,” Tolintino said.
The judo class is so well liked at the Vallejo campus that even the young students from the dojo are invited to watch and participate in practicing thier techniques, like “Hadaka Jime,” (naked chokehold) on their judo partners.
The importance of the art of judo is reflective of the students’ respect for Tanaka, a former judo coach for the U.S. Air Force, and a teacher of judo for 30 years.
“Since I was four I started practicing judo all my life,” said Tanaka, who is 78 years old.
Tolintino points out that Tanaka’s presence in judo is profound and relevant to the sport.
Tanaka’s judo team, which was formed in 1989, has never had a losing season. His teams have fought the ranks of NCAA Division I-A schools, such as San Jose State and UC Berkeley.
As much as the accomplishments Tanaka’s class and teams have achieved over the years, Tanaka is just glad that he is able to teach the sport he loves.
Recently, Tanaka was able to present a black belt to his assistant coach and former student Jared Riley, one of the people who strongly made the pleas to save Tanaka’s class. The ceremony is one of honor, not only because the work of the student, but because the teacher is honored with the chance to have taught him.