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Ole Bischof

When’s the last time you were able to talk to an Olympic Champion? Well for those of us who came in October, we were able to learn from, practice with and listen to 2008 Olympic gold Medalist Ole Bischof. He had showed the kids various interesting new warm-ups, as well as two different methods of Ouchi-Gari (big inner reaping sweap).

Again our kids got to hear first hand from a champion in their own ring the trials and hard work it takes to become a champion, not only in Judo, but in life

Ezra Heleski

Do you remember the remarkable run our Waipio LL Kids did this last summer? It was a wild ride.  They were able to win elimination games for 5 days straight. Everyday it was win or go home…the kids decided to win and stick around, many times after being down through much of the game. They were able to win the US championship in a landslide, the game was called on the mercy rule, Waipio had won, 10-0. 

In the midst of all of this was “star” pitcher Ezra Heleski. Ezra is the older brother of Leeward’s own Noah Heleski. Funny thing is, on this All-Star team, Ezra was not always the star. Ezra came by our club and spoke about having  faith, and waiting his turn. We were reminded by Ezra’s talk that hard work will pay off. We may not know when, we may not know how, but in the end if you put in the work, the rewards will be great.  For Ezra and the Waipio LL team, that reward was a trip to the 2010 Little League World Series, where in a tough defeat, they went down to a fresh talented team from Japan.


Jonathan Leung
English 1A, Essay # 1


“Ongaeshi” was his favorite word. In 1984, Tsuruo Fukushima founded the Leeward Judo in Hawaii, and thus is the patriarch of the what I consider to be my family. After returning from Afghanistan due to a permanent injury, I found myself stuck in a a deep depression and wallowing in self pity. I joined the Leeward Judo Club on the suggestion of a friend and was immediately amazed at their spirit, generosity, and acceptance. It was their expression of ongaeshi; they were merely trying to give back what was given to them, but what they had given me was a sense of family and the ability to see life in a positive light again. If ongaeshi, to give back, can save a man from a pathetic existence, surely it is a most beautiful and important function of a family.

Every student of judo hopes to one day become as proficient as their instructors, but the desire for likeness does not end there. The instructors of the Leeward Judo Club are men of character and their influence is felt even off of the mat. They admire hard work and instill motivation into everyone under their charge, providing the tools needed to excel in judo, while simultaneously encouraging integrity and excellence in other aspects of life, such as work, academics, and even other athletic endeavors. Furthermore, it was evident that they genuinely cared for each of their students. All of this is fueled by their genuine desire to give back, which became the greatest inspiration they could give me.

Every night, mothers, fathers, siblings, and grandparents patiently waited off of the mat as their children and siblings participate in the class. Of all the members in the club, it is they who probably have the least reason to give. They thanklessly performed tasks which are easily overlooked (book keeping), but also organized parties and fund raisers to keep up the club's morale and financial survivability. Even sitting for two hours a night and three nights a week is a great sacrifice. Working behind the scenes, they received nothing. It is the family members on the side, even more so than the instructors on the mat, who exemplify unconditional love towards the club. Through their example, I came to better appreciate the joy of caring for something even if it seems it does not care for you.

Everybody wants to be admired, and, in my experience, there is nothing so pure or inspiring as the admiration of a child. To the children of the Leeward Judo Club, I was a giant among men. They were in awe of what they thought were great feats of strengths (being able to lift one of them up in each arm), an amazing throwing arm (I could make a cafeteria table shake by throwing a playground ball at it), and superior acrobatic skills (the most advance move I can land is only a one-handed cartwheel). Certainly it would be shallow to just revel in this, but I wanted to be better for them. They gave me their admiration, so it was only fair that I gave them something worth admiring. They strove to be better, which inspired me to improve as well. In this way, we were continually giving back to each other. Through this cycle, more than anything else, I found myself able to appreciate and enjoy life once again. It is the spirit of ongaeshi that fosters growth, not only in the club, but in the individuals themselves.

If the members of the Leeward Judo Club ceased to give back, the club, my family, would quickly die. When there is no one to learn, there will soon be no one left to teach. Without the mutual inspiration, the club would soon waste away and disappear. As I sat during Fukushima Sensei's funeral, speaker after speaker recalled stories of his generous and caring nature. Although his life was dominated by judo, it was undeniable that his judo was dominated by the utmost desire to give to others what he had been given. Perhaps it was by design, or maybe it is simply a profound coincidence, but the greatest thing Tsuruo Fukushima gave back was that very ideal: ongaeshi.

The Vision to See

The Vision to See

Article written for the USJF Magazine, Summer 1996


Just the other day a friend of mine asked a group of us the question, “What animal would you use to describe yourself?” Immediately, I thought I was like an eagle. After all, the eagle is the most magnificent of all the birds, and it would paint me in the best light in front of all my friends. As I gave the question a little more thought, the mole kept popping into my mind. I wanted to use the eagle, but I decided to take a chance and describe myself as a mole. Back at San Jose State when I was on the judo team, an alumnus was commenting how Mike Swain and I were like moles because we both liked newaza (matwork). As you know, moles love to dig and burrow in the ground. He said that we enjoy having our faces smashed into the mat and shoved under someone’s sweaty armpit. I enjoyed (I’m normal now) newaza because I liked the sensation of receiving and inflicting pain–it’s the equivalent to a runner’s high. To be honest with you, I liked newaza because I got more results than trying to throw someone.

As I continued to analyze my similarities with the mole, I realized that we have more things in common. I enjoy dark places, I like rain on cold days (in Hawaii), and I love to sleep. Probably the greatest similarity that I have with a mole is that stereotypically they have bad vision. How bad is my vision? When I look at an eye chart at the doctor’s office I can’t even make out the big “E” at the top of the chart. When I took a color blindness test the doctor thought I was color blind. The real problem was that I just couldn’t see any of the images at all. One of the girls in the group commented that when I take off my glasses and squint, I do look like a mole. Now is that anyway to talk about a former Olympian?

Although I have terrible natural vision, I’d like to discuss a different type of vision. This type of vision relies on the heart and mind. It is the driving force behind every successful person. Business and personal development speakers use the word in relation to success, winning, and purpose. A good definition of vision is the ability to “see” with the mind’s eye a photographic image of a desired goal. Vision is the landmark that keeps us focused on the objective that we have set before us. In my book, “Everyone Loves a Winner” (a vision for myself–it’s not written yet), I commented that Americans worship success. Wherever there is success vision is the thing that created it.

What makes vision such a powerful force in success in any aspect of life is the enthusiasm that it generates. It creates a passion to achieve the goal that is placed before the person. When I was a freshman in high school my goal was to win the high school nationals. I pictured, in my mind, standing on the victory platform with my arm raised holding the number one sign. This vision created such a strong passion inside of me I made it a point to give 100% throughout the whole practice. My intensity at practices became natural to me because there was an enthusiasm to win. Many nights I left the dojo totally drained, but I looked forward to the next day to have another profitable practice. It’s not that I was more talented than my teammates, but my vision was so strong and clear that my enthusiasm overflowed in practice.

When I trained at Tokai University in Japan for two years, I saw the difference in the average players and the elite players. The elite players had a vision and sense of purpose. You could clearly see who the good players were because they were the ones who were focused and intense throughout practice. At times I dreaded working out with them because I knew that the entire six minutes of randori (sparing) would be a battle of life and death. When they worked out there was a hunger for excellence in their eyes.

In order to keep a vision alive and the intensity up, it is important to constantly rehearse your vision to yourself. When I was training to make the 1988 Olympic team, I spent five years of constantly rehearsing the vision in my mind. Making the Olympic team was more than just a wish. It was a consuming desire that was at the forefront of my mind. My life and schedule revolved around my Olympic dream. Before I ever made it to the Olympics, I had already won the tournament in my mind thousands of times over. With your vision in the forefront of your mind, it doesn’t have a chance to become old and stale. It will always remain fresh and exciting.

There is a popular phrase, “no man is an island.” Anyone who thinks that they can reach their dreams alone is only fooling themselves. You need others to help you fulfill your vision. If you communicate your vision and make it clear to others, they will gladly help you see it come to pass. Throughout my judo career, I have been fortunate to have a team of friends who were dedicated to help each other become successful. When I lost the first Olympic trials my roommate and team members at San Jose made it a personal goal to help me get to the Olympics. They saw me work hard for four years and caught the vision that I had. Even though they didn’t have a chance to make the Olympic Team, they willingly gave their all to see my goal become a reality. When I won the trials and went on to win a silver medal, I did it for the people who helped me get there. Don’t be shy about communicating your vision to others. If they see it as a worthwhile dream they will come and rally behind you. Likewise, someday you will be able to do the same for someone who has a vision of success.

How many times have we heard the phrase, “Leaders are made and not born?” I’d like to slightly modify that statement to read, “Visionaries are made and not born.” Every person can have a vision for something bigger than themselves. Dare to dream dreams that seem impossible and begin to work toward it. I can assure you that you don’t need to have good eye sight for this one. What really counts is the eye of your mind to see a clear picture which will guide you into the future. Success awaits those who will take the step of courage and faith.

I’m very excited for the men and women who will represent us at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The memory of my Olympics is still very alive in my mind. As I watch the Olympics, the area that I’ll be looking at the closest is the personal side of each athlete and coach. I’ll be asking myself the question, “What makes this person great?” I’m not so concerned with the outcome of the competition as much as I am about the character of each competitor. As we cheer on our team, let’s also watch with an eye of a student to help us to soar like an eagle to greater heights.

Preparation—The Key To Success

Preparation—The Key To Success

Article published in the USJF Magazine, Spring 1997


Whenever I have the opportunity to talk with judo athletes about success, I always tell them that judo tournaments are won or lost in the dojo. After I get some bewildered looks, I go on to explain that preparation before the tournament day is the key to success. Henry Ford said, “before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.” Some athletes feel that if they could just have a good day at the tournament, get a good draw in the pool, or have luck on their side, then they have a chance to do well. In reality, though, success in competition has more to do with preparation weeks, months, and years before the actual competition than it does with tournament- day circumstances.

Preparation is a lot like depositing money into a bank account. The more money you put in over a period of time, the more your investment grows. Every time you go to practice, you invest into your judo success account. After a period of time of faithful and disciplined preparation, you can use your investment in a tournament. The more you have invested in your judo success account, the better you can do in competition. Let me make it clear that just because you go to practice does not guarantee that you will have enough to draw from during competition. You can choose to train hard and put $100 worth of preparation into your account every practice, or you can choose to take it easy and put 1¢ worth of preparation into your account. The results will be obvious.

When I was training to make the 1988 Olympic team, one of my coaches, Keith Nakasone (1980 Olympic team member) used to tell us that every time we came to practice we must give 110% effort into our training. If we didn’t give 110% there was really no reason to practice. I can remember a few occasions when after a lecture on the importance of 110% effort, our whole team was dismissed from practice early because we didn’t give our best effort. We were wasting our time and energy by just going through the motions of practice. Perhaps one of the greatest disappointments that a coach can experience is to see his or her students squander their potential by putting in anything less than their best. Not only will the lack of effort result in poor judo performance, this same mind set will eventually spill over to performance in school, work, and other endeavors.

As I reflect back on my own competitive career, I realize that my greatest level of confidence came when I had my greatest level of preparation. When I was prepared going into a competition I had an inner confidence. I knew that my techniques were sharp, my stamina would last, and my mental attitude would carry me throughout the tournament. I experienced this confidence at the 1988 Olympics as I waited on deck for my first match. As I loosened up and waited to be called onto the mat, I sensed an inner voice tell me that I would do well that day. I had no idea what “well” meant, whether I would win the tournament or not, but I had a measure of confidence that I had never experienced before. I believe a part of this confidence had to do with the fact that I had diligently prepared 18 years for this day.

This concept of confidence and preparation can carry over to all aspects of life. Preparing for a tournament is similar to preparing for a test at school. When you adequately study for a test, you can enjoy walking into class with only a pencil in hand while others are frantically doing their last minute cramming. When you have to give a speech or perform in front of an audience, you have a confidence when you know that you have prepared for the event. There is no substitute for preparation. More often than not you’ll get shot down when you try to “just wing it.” Joe Frazier said it this way: “You can map out a fight plan or a life plan. But when the action starts, you’re down to your reflexes. That’s where your roadwork shows. If you cheated on that in the dark of the morning, you’re getting found out now under the bright lights.”

Obviously, just because you prepare for a tournament doesn’t mean that you will win all of your matches. In fact, of my seven years of international competition, I managed to win first place in only one international tournament. I believe that true success in competitive judo is competing to your own potential. Even after I lost in the finals of the 1988 Olympics, I still felt like a champion because I prepared and competed to my potential. As an instructor I would much rather see an athlete give his or her 110% in the dojo and lose at a tournament than to give a half-hearted effort in the dojo and win at a tournament. The men and women in judo whom I admire the most are not the champions with all the medals, trophies, and accolades, but those who despite disappointments and failures, continued to pay the price of long hours and 110% effort in preparation.

If you desire to be a winner in judo as well as in life, you must put in the time and effort. There is no shortcut or detour to success. The next time you go to practice, remember that tournaments are won or lost in the dojo weeks, months, and even years before the actual competition. Go back to your dojo and invest your 110%!

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