I have competed in lightest Olympic weight class (106lbs) for the last twenty five years.


I was introduced to judo my freshman year at the College of Idaho under Mas Yamashita.  A sweet sensai of Japanese decent.  He appeared very old and small but when you gave him a hug he felt like he had roots that came out of his feet that spread for several states.  I trained faithfully and traveled to Boise on the off days to hit extra classes but to be honest, I had very few skills that worked.  I was perpetually the smallest person in class and often the only female.


I received what I refer to as my classical judo black belt at Idaho State University in 1997 under Sami Tatahara.  When I was at ISU I met an amazing friend from Japan who was a judo practitioner.  He had VHS footage of Olympic level competitions (nearly impossible to find in those days).  I became obsessed with a 106lb fighter named Ryoko Tani.  She was bold, dynamic and an absolute power house in her division. I watched those tapes over and over for years, they filled me with inspiration and passion for the sport.  I watched them in slow motion and even though I was blown away by her skills it bothered me that I almost never saw throws happen the way we were being taught to do them.


I moved to Montana and had a judo girlfriend that I trained with as often as we could get together.  We would be training in the gym by ourselves and then have to move out for a scheduled step aerobics class.  We would look at all these fabulous, athletic, socially well adjusted women come in and we would be perplexed as to why women like that were never signing up for Introduction to Judo or even Womens judo.  I decided I was going to provide a class called Aerobic Judo that taught shadow judo movements to good music.  Some of the movements came from classical judo but I also added movements that I saw in videos of world level judo tournaments.  The class was a hit and some of my students went on to learn judo and come to competitions with me.  We went to the Idaho State Championships and we all took gold.  It was so good to see my old Sensai Yamashita.  I explained to him how I found and trained my all female team and with worry in his eyes he warned me to not tell anyone in the judo community what I was doing, for fear that I would be ostracized and ridiculed.  


A few years later I met my Coach, John Holm who proudly refers to himself as the Most Hated Man in Judo.  He gave me his card at the Montana State Championships and told me he wanted to train me.  His card had a picture of an insanely fierce throw with the words, "I can teach you this, plus a whole lot more.  I promise." on it.  I was eager to advance my skills so I decided to call his bluff and show up in Washington to see what he had to teach.  He warned me that what he was going to teach me was going to be contrary to what I had been taught in classical judo.  I was very nervous to show up but my desire to learn judo was stronger than my fear.  I expected to get beat up and possibly injured but I took the leap and walked in.  His tatami mats were on a spring loaded floor and there were crash pads everywhere. (I had never seen crash pads in any of the other places I trained).  The first thing I noticed that was so different from any other place was his extensive list of safety rules.  Things like throwing without having a hold of the outside arm was a huge safety violation in his world... I had never thought about how dangerous that would be for your partners shoulder.  The way he taught to throw was exactly like I had seen in world level competitions.  FINALLY I was practicing what I was seeing instead of waiting for it to develop pragmatically through hours of dynamic training.  I did more real throws my first weekend of training with Coach Holm than I had done accumulativly all my years in classical judo.  I was hooked.  All of his students could throw on their left and right sides, something very rare that I had been trying to teach myself to do for years, and by the end of the weekend I was so comfortable on both sides I no longer could remember which was my "good side". His modern approach to judo won him no friends in the judo community.  Despite having produced 42 national champions, he has virtually no respect in the classical judo community.  He taught me to never judge a coach based on his belt rank but instead to judge him on how many national judo champions he has produced.  


My goal today is to start producing National Judo Champions.


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