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In 1882, the late Professor Kano founded the Kodokan Judo. He learned Jujitsu when he was just 18 years old and made a thorough study of the subject, including grappling tricks and all the joint tricks of the Tenjin Shin Yo school, the throwing tricks of the Nito school and many other methods of attack and defense then taught in the country. After many contrivances in studies, he retained those which were excellent in these schools and eliminated those which were dangerous for the physical culture, and substituted them with new ones invented by him. To define Judo is by nature beyond the scope of any short article, but it is an exercise, a sport, a system of self defense, a physical, moral and ethical code rigidly followed by it's advocates. It has for it's object, health, utility, spiritual, physical and mental training. Judo is not just a martial art, it is a way of life for Joe and his students. It embraces other than physical arts of throwing and submission. It has scientific principles of philosophy, psychology, anatomy and physics. The principles are not haphazard teachings, but written records requiring a lifetime of study. There is only one Judo - the Judo of Professor Jigoro Kano, the founder of the Kodokan Judo system. This is the Judo that Joe Turchiano teaches at his dojo in Ronkonkoma, NY (The only Long Island full-time Judo Dojo). Joe is dedicated to the art of Judo and it shows when he is teaching his students, which range in age anywhere from 5 years old to 85 years old.
Judo Memories: Joe Turchiano
I was in a unique position, being stationed at Yokota Air Force Base in Japan for 4 years--18 to 21 years old. We had a dojo on base and I also trained in a Japanese dojo in town. I used to walk two miles to get there and then limp back to the base.
I was an Ikkyu when Bill Miyazaki came to the base. Shortly after Bill arrived I won the PACAF--(Pacific Air Command Air Force), as an Ikkyu, beating several Shodans and a Nidan. It was a two day contest. Many high ranking senseis attended from the Kodokan. They came as a good will gesture. There was even a General and other high ranking officers there. Inokuma refereed one of my matches. He was a flower of the Kodokan from Otaki sensei’s university. I then went to the Kodokan for a special test. It was in the foreign student dojo. I did the knowledge test---show me this and show me that, all in Japanese, then they brought a Shodan off the big floor. He was dripping with sweat, I threw him with uchimata and they stopped it. Kotani sensei was over seeing the match, and I received Shodan just before leaving for the states to fight in the Air Force contest in 1962, losing to Tosh Seino and taking second. Not that I was any way near Tosh in experience. He taught me the left foot entry into hane goshi, and it became very successful for me.
After returning to the base, I and Stan Okahara began working out regularly with Bill and he tossed us with his uchimata. He was an Air Force champion. After a year in grade under Miyazaki sensei’s training, I did the kata test and was promoted to Nidan.
Bill was friends with Otaki sensei. We had a meeting to discuss if he could get Otaki sensei to come to the base 2 times a week. This Otaki sensei did, for 3 ½ years. We trained 5 nights-each week, 3 hour work outs. After the first year, I went back to the dojo in town and tossed all the young black belts that had been giving me a beating.
On Saturdays I took the train 11/2 hours each way to the Kodokan.
I trained in the foreign student’s dojo. One day I heard a Japanese judoka in perfect English say, "let’s go down stairs and beat some of them up.” Later I found out, it was Haywood Nishioka...
As you entered the Kodokan, you would walk to the right, then along the wall. Next you would pass a cluster of Godans, and then Yodans. You would just keep walking, for if you did stop, one of them might ask you to do randori. When I was still a Shodan, I, myself, would usually keep going till I came to the Shodans, where, I would spend a couple of hours fighting. When we were all spent and on our way out, we sometimes would stop at the Godans to get slammed around, just to feel their waza and so it went like that.
Most Sundays we were fighting in the local Japanese shiai. I fought in the red and white shiai each month. They would take 60 or so Shodans and make a red team and a white team. My first contest, I threw three in a row and had a draw. I was a little disappointed because Miyazaki sensei had wanted me to get 5 in a row. When I went to the dojo he asked me how I did. I said that I only got three. He went nuts saying it was great. When I asked him how he did his first time? He said, “I got thrown.”
Later, I got 13 ippons in 7 contests and by then, as I mentioned earlier, I had one year-time-in-grade. After I did the kata test and was promoted to Nidan, I then went over to the Nidan area and had three wins at Nidan. The training was intense; the magic number was at least 18 hours a week of training. Today most train three to 6 hours a week.
When the SAC team came to the Kodokan I would take leave and go in every day, since most of those guys I knew from the Air Force team.
I remember sitting with Harris and Campbell in the Kodokan restaurant and hearing them discuss who was going in the Heavyweight Division and who would be in the Open Division, at the US Olympic trials, to be held soon.
The contest was held at the World’s Fair. One week end the Nationals and the next weekend the Olympic Trails.
I remember once standing in front of the contest mat when Campbell threw Asada, one of the first American judoka to penetrate that high into the Japanese high ranks.
Being a 5th Air Force 160 lb winner, I had two trips back to the states with the Far East Air Force team to participate in the All Air Force Championship. Nelson Cross and I flew back to the states with Kotani sensei, who I was close to and he was close to my sensei Tadao Otaki sensei, with whom I had trained with for 3 1/2 years. We were flying in a 4 engine prop. We landed on Wake Island and had a 6 hour delay so we walked the beautiful beach and aqua water, listening to his stories and hanging unto every word. It was so pleasant. We walked past two of our landing craft, rusted out and dug into the sand. We just kept listening to sensei and never mentioned the craft. It was a powerful moment on how far judo had brought us together, with a student of Kano sensei. It impacted my life.
In the Air Force Championship I fought and beat Leonard Shull in the 160 lb Weight class, after he had put 4 guys to sleep. I was standing over him; he was on his back, telling me to come on, come in. No way was I going down on the mat with him. I threw his legs aside and told him to get up and the place went crazy. I later caught him with harai for wazari and won the decision. I was just a kid, he was a seasoned pro strangle expert.
The 1963 All Air Force team was made up of George Harris, Tosh Seino, Ron Hubbard, Dale Lehman, Jim Jarvis, Nelson Cross--my mentor, Horton, a couple guys I do not remember and myself. I was discharged from the Air Force in 1963 and returned home to New York and joined the Waseda Judo Club. After training there for 13 months I was promoted to Sandan.
I trained at Waseda dojo in New York City for 7 years. While training there, 5 Godans came in from Waseda University in Japan, I can say I threw each of them from time to time, catching a beating also........
I was talking to Jim Bregman at the New York Open. I asked him how many Sandans he threw in a row and he said six---that was astounding.
In my years at the nationals they let the imports play us and fight it out for the Grand Championship. Of course, a few of the old Champions held their own with them, Seino, Nishioka, Bregman, Harris ,Campbell. I had 4 solid 4th place finishes in the 205 and under, knocking off some past champions along the way ....I retired at 30 years old with enough points for Godan which I made under Vince Tamura when I lived in Texas for 12 years. Years later at 38, I won the Southwest Championship in the seniors 205lb. Vince Tamura was promoted to Kudan in 2004.
I will be 67 in March, 2009, just starting out......each day......still on the tatami.....
May this story be an inspiration for some of you who go to the Far East with the military, to spend some of your time there, training in one of the martial arts.
It was such a long time ago..... Joe Turchiano
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Instructor: Joe Turchiano, 8th Dan
Joe Turchiano is also a student of Sant Guru Kirpal Singh. A mystic adept in Surat Shabd Yoga of the celestial sound current, go to www.ruhanisatsangusa.org