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Kodomo no Tame ni (For the Sake of the Children)

Kodomo no Tame ni (For the Sake of the Children)

Article Published in the USJF Magazine, Fall 1993


Dear Dad and Mom,

Last month I gave a short two-day training session in Kona. While I was there, I quietly and uneventfully celebrated my 5th year anniversary of the Seoul Olympics (September 25, 1988). What a contrast it was to be in Kona, where five years ago I was competing with the best in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve hung up my competition gi and look forward to teaching the young athletes what I’ve learned along the way. Not only did this trip bring back memories of my Olympic experience, more than anything else, it made me realize, again, how much of a role you played in my life as an athlete and as a person.

Dad, you may not realize this but you gave me the confidence to believe in myself. May be it bordered on brainwashing, but your belief in me helped me realize my dreams and potential. I remember that you always used to call me “Tiger” from when I was seven years old and just starting judo. I can hear myself telling you 23 years ago to stop calling me “Tiger” because it was embarrassing. But as I grew older, the heart of the tiger which you planted in seed form began to grow in me, and it was as if I could hear your voice encouraging me all the way to the Olympics. My heart heard you yelling, “come on, Tiger” while I competed in Seoul against the best.

Mom, you were always the one who calmed my nerves before every tournament. When I used to compete, I was never very nervous because I knew that you were nervous for me. You had the headaches, stomach aches, butterflies, diarrhea, and vomit. With that kind of support, how could I possibly lose my composure? As a young boy, your voice, cheering me on above everyone else’s, made me embarrassed, but it also gave me the calming effect to perform at my best. During my matches at the Olympics, it’s amazing how I could hear your voice over the seven thousand other spectators in the arena. Your abilities never cease to amaze me.

And Dad, when I was 16 years old I felt that you betrayed me. I think you remember the event as clearly as I do. When I wanted to quit judo and go to a Christian high school to prepare to become a missionary, you gave your consent. I was ready to give up everything for God, but two weeks later you changed your mind and insisted that I go back to judo and the public school I had been attending. I can still hear your voice telling me that someday when I was older, I would understand why I had to go back to judo. I’m not so sure you understood yourself, but in tears and utter despair, I obeyed you. I told God that I didn’t understand why HE would want me to do judo after I was ready to give HIM my life in full-time ministry. I didn’t realize the magnitude of your decision until 1988 when I won a silver medal in Seoul. In the whole scheme of life, going to the Olympics was really no big thing, but to see God work through me and through judo was incredible. Thanks, Dad, for taking an unpopular stance at the time for my future good (hey, God does speak through parents after all, doesn’t HE?).

Mom and Dad, after high school when I said that I wanted to train in Japan to try for the 1984 Olympic team, you were there to wholeheartedly take up the financial challenge. Only recently, after I started working and earning my own money did I realize that your challenge was much tougher than my training schedule. You had no extra money, didn’t even know how you would send me to Japan. Still, you believed in me and loved me enough to work harder to make sure that I had the finances to travel and train. No one really understands the financial, personal, and family stress that you had to go through to give me the best, even though I didn’t even get a chance to compete in the 1984 Olympic Trials.

And Mom, remember when I went to San Jose State to train for the 1988 Olympics? You visited and gave me a loving rebuke. I was trying to train six days a week, maintain my grades, and hold down a part-time job. You knew that I felt guilty for putting you and Dad through the financial strain, but saw how I was falling apart mentally and physically. Harshly, yet lovingly you said, “YOU STUPID KID!”, and encouraged me to quit my job, concentrate on judo, and let you and Dad worry about the finances. You were willing to support me for four more years.

Mom and Dad, sitting on my bookshelf in my study is the book, “Kodomo no tame ni (for the sake of the children).” I remember seeing you read this book over 18 years ago. Actually, I’ve never read this book, but I understand that it’s about the first and second generation Japanese-American parents in Hawaii who did everything for the sake of their children. They worked hard in the sugar cane and pineapple fields, went without many luxuries, and saved to give their children a good education and a better future. Mom and Dad, you gave up so much for my sake so that I could achieve my dreams. If I looked through this book hard enough, I wouldn’t be surprised to find your names mentioned somewhere in the pages. You could have relaxed and enjoyed yourselves all these years, but instead you put everything you had into your children– Gary, Michelle, and myself.

I know you don’t have the perfect kids (well, maybe I am), and we don’t have the perfect family, but please don’t feel as if you failed any of us. Your love has been constant throughout the years even when we had our bitter disagreements. Mom, Dad, you know that I’m not very good at expressing my true feeling to you, but I want you to know that I really do love you. Thank you for spending 30 years of your lives for my sake.

Your son (the stupid kid),