Roots of U.S. Air Force Judo

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jeffbeish

jeffbeish

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When the spirit moves me I'll think up stuff to post. If someone has questions then it helps my spirit :)

Here is some images of my old freind, who was the best man at my wedding back 37 years ago! Robby Robinson with old me. Robby is retired from the USAF and is a FERS living in Germany, thinking about retiring too. He's five years older than me.

We had the largest Judo clubs in the world in 1965 and 1965. Another old buddy was Wayne Atkins, Texas heavy-weight champ back in the 1960's. It was a SAC base then but they moved SAC out and we all departed. Robby found me 22 years later in florida, but we still havn't found Wayne yet. He was last heard of in the Azores. That's the way life is though. Meet people and become friends, then depart forever.

Several of the old gang have passed on to the big tatami in the sky. I think we were a special bunch back then.
 

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jeffbeish

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USAF 1958

Left to right standing: Lenwood Willimans, Ed Mede, George Harris, John Reding.

Left to right kneeling: Jerry Reid, Bill Moxley, Mike O'Connor.
 

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jeffbeish

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USAF 1969

Left to right standing: Mel Bruno, (?), (?), Phil Porter, Paul Shafer, Mike O'Connor.

Left to right kneeling: Roby Reed, (?), Bill Moxley ,Lenwood Williams.

Left to right sitting: (?), (?), Jerry Reid, George Harris
 

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jeffbeish

jeffbeish

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1957 USAF Judo

Left to right standing: John Reding, Lenwood Willimans, Ed Mede, Roby Reed, Bill Moxley, ???

Left to right kneeling: Jerry Reid, Frank Florence, George Harris, Mike O'Connor.
 

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arnisador

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Largest in the world--that's some accomplishment.

What's your thought on why the U.S. has never taken a gold in Olympic judo?
 
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jeffbeish

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Hard to say why the USA is so far behind the world in Olympic Judo. If you go back and look at the Pan American games and other international Judo events we participated in you would think we were on top of it. It looked like Ben Campbell was a favorite for the Olympics in 1964 after taking the heavyweight Gold in the 1963 Pan American Judo. He defeated Asada, Japans Heavyweight College Champ, in the 1963 Pre-Olympics and the later in 1963 threw Japans Oka and Welsh Heavyweight Camp in a big international Judo tour in Europe and Japan. Jim Bregman was our first Olympic medal winner and went with a great American team that should have won more medals.

One problem we faced here was available training facilities like other countries had, like Japans Kodokan, etc. IMHO, we were second to Japan during the 1950s and early 1960s, but by 1963 other countries began to take more interest in International Judo and it was only a matter of time that the USA would fall behind. We really had little to offer Judo competitors in the way of training halls, funding, and coaches. Another IMHO: many of our best Judo competitors lacked teaching and coaching experience they were playing the sport and not learning how to coach. And the less-than-competitive sensei and coach types were shut out by the Judo body politic of those times. What we needed then was sponsored organizers and some large Judo training facilities. It was growing of course, but not in time to save us from all the nasty internal and external Judo politics of the AAU and other groups.

If I had the answer to your question then the problem would have been solved in 1963. My opinions are just that -- opinions. Since my interest in Judo was not to compete, but to just participate and someday maybe teach it, I lost interest in what sport Judo was going though.

Rick Mertens, Executive Director of the AFJA/USJA for many years, had the right idea back years ago. He, and many of us, wanted to build up strong grass roots Judo by organizing juniors so that someday those kids would grow up to be great senior Judo players -- and coaches as well. We had more than 25,000 members in the mid-1970s and it looked like we could grow and grow, but the body politic blocked our progress.

I came to realize the very essence of the problem back in 1974 when a young boy joined my club that had more natural ability in sports than anyone I had ever known. This kid did everything great. He was the top little league baseball player in the area; the top swimmer, runner, and he wanted to compete in Judo. He learned every technique right away and took first place in every event we went to. It was scary! This kid was great! I took extra time to coach him and I believe that if circumstances had remained at the same at our club he would have gone on to be in the Olympics some day and a winner too.

Well, all good things must end Newtons secret theory of err-relativity. What appears to go up must not be able to succeed. This particular club was in a local community school and others just wouldnt leave it as is. It was just too much for some people that the Judo club was ten times the size and income than the other activities. So, the club funding was diverted to some senior citizen programs and I had to cut the hours and make way for the sewing circle, so to speak. So many of the members went elsewhere including Mr. Natural Ability. His father pointed him into baseball and he ended up playing major league baseball, then getting hurt and dropping out and never returned to Judo. This is just one in a millions stories that defines the failure of American Judo, IMHO.

That's life.
 

tshadowchaser

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I really hate it when politics get involed in things. Why people have to mess with something (a club, organisaton, whatever) when it is running well is beyound me.
I understand what you mean about seeing that "natural" walk in the door and how much it hurts when they leave. Different Art maybe but that raw talent wanting to learn and obsorbing everythig to perfection is frighting sometimes Then to have them leave becaue their parents what more glory and exposure for their kids stinks.
Love the pictures your lucky to have them.

as far as other judo people haveing a different view or memories that may be good. We all remember things in our own way and hearing someone else discribe an event or person sometimes opens our memories even more.

With more exposure to the oplimpics on TV today I for one am saddened at the little exposure to judo on TV. It seems that if the US players are not number one in the world that television dosn't give us much coverage.

Shadow:asian:
 
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whackjob-san

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Originally posted by arnisador
What's your thought on why the U.S. has never taken a gold in Olympic judo?

Didn't Allen Coage take it in '72?

I've got a scrapbook around here somewhere, thought I cut something out about him years ago...
 
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whackjob-san

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Jeff, my father served from '52 to '59 (I believe). He did 7 1/2 years, mostly in Puerto Rico. His name is Ray Gould, though I don't know the likelyhood of you two having ever met. He was Air-Police. I should get you two together to reminisce about the good-old days. He loves talking about judo at that time.

-Ken
 
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whackjob-san

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I stand corrected by myself... Allen Coege won the gold in the PanAm games a couple years there as well as then AAU Nationals, never took a medal in the Olympics.
 
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jeffbeish

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Seeoms like I ran into Ray Gould somewhere. Sorry it took so long to reply, I forgot this forum was here! :)
 
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whackjob-san

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I figured there was a chance of you two meeting since the years coincided. I showed him the pictures you posted and he started rattling off which of the guys he competed against, who was good at which techniques, and a few comical drinking stories to boot.

He doesn't train much anymore, we've got a small club in South Florida, mainly a bunch of old-timers that compain about bad knees but we have fun!

-Ken
 
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jeffbeish

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Where abouts in south Florida? I lived in Cutler Ridge for 24 years and started Judo clubs in Mimai during the ealry 1970's.

Kolligan Judo Club (1973-75), assisted Henry in several of his clubs.
Sylvania Judo Club (1973-78), founder (120 members)
Silver Bluff Judo Club (1973-78), founder (155 members)
Homestead Judo Club (1978-80), took over for Len Vieria (50 members)

I stopped building clubs in 1980 and my best students would work out in my back yard. I stopped Judo in 1988. Knees problems and the rest of me was just tired. I left Miami in Sep 1996 for Washington, DC then retired to central FLorida (Lake Placid) in May 2001. Now I just eat :)

Jeff
 
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whackjob-san

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Lake Placid- The Caladium Capital Of The World!!! I was just there a week or so ago picking up bulbs, I own a nursery down in West Palm Beach. I'm originally from New York, my parents moved down here in '86, I moved down for college back in '90 and ended up staying.

I'm still not aware of most of the judo clubs down here, I concentrate more on jujutsu nowadays though have been training on and off with Hector Vega at the West Palm Beach Judo Club since '94 and occasionally at Tomodachi down in Boca Raton. I will always have a soft spot for judo and need to get my fix every now and then, but the whole competition thing (not to mention the problems with the JA and JF) has left a bad taste in my mouth. I've got a couple acres for my nursery and turned a section of it into an outdoor dojo that a few fellow rogue judoka come out and train on. We mix up our routines to suit, there's a bunch of guys (and gals) with diverse backgrounds so you never know what we'll be working on.

Oh yeah, I too have unwittingly mastered the art of Gluttonjutsu! :asian:
 
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jeffbeish

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Yeah, then why cant our Caladiums last very long :) August is a great time here with the Caladium festival. My wife and I enjoy the hot rod show down town each year. The big circle down town has some very impressive stuff exhibited by locals. :supcool: %-} :idunno:

In my experience no other region I have been at rivals the Judo politics in south Florida. When I moved to Miami in early-1973 the JF Vs JA war was in full swing. I had never witnessed such hatred nor have I seen it since. Then the Cuban thing! Many of my associated and assistants in clubs were boat people from Cuba in the 1950s and 1960s. It took us several years to test or certify many of them for ranks that were denied them by certain people. In Cuba, Lorenzo Mesa had assisted the only 9th dan in the western hemisphere and came to Miami here in the late 1950s to open up what was the largest Judo club in the south at the time and for many years afterward. He was a nidan for so many decades I lost count. Henry and I sent for Rick Mertens to do come clinics and the first thing we set in motion to certify Mesas rank that he had attained while in Cuba and subsequent promotions. He had little interest in rank, as it should be.

The rivalry was so intense that I just threw in the towel and walked away from organized Judo. We would have meetings with people to try and clean things up, but it never happened. We had meetings at homes of Judoka on a rotating basis and once when it was my time I was at work so my wife hosted the thing. One of the local antagonists was there and on his way to our bathroom, for the pause, he spotted my old shodan certificate hanging in a short hallway that was nearly out of sight. He asked my wife where I got it from whereas she told him I received it at the Kodokan in Japan in 1961. He was irritated that he did not have a similar certificate and voiced his whiny concerns to Rick Mertens later on. Rick simply told him to purchase a ticket and fly to Japan, then do as I did -- fight the required number of qualified Judoka, then test, and if good enough he could receive a paper as I had done in 1961. The guy was so miffed he got up and left the clinic. :idunno:

That was only a mild case of stupidity and it got worse. Some of the locals really were miffed at me when my kids began taking their trophies at tournaments. It just got worse. They hated to see my guys and gals coming! One of my girls, a shodan, beat the daughter of one of the local big shots some much that he banned her from competition. Hum, I just ran another girl in, this time a white belt who beat this guys daughter summarily each and ever contest. She was also banned. Sometimes you just can win for losing! Such a place, Miami. I am so glad I moved. :asian:

Jeff
 
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jeffbeish

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Well, I have lost some lists about Judo and am looking for a list of who was on the 1968 U.S. Olympic Judo Team. My memory is just too foggy to remember them.

Anyome esle have any information on this?

:partyon:
 
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whackjob-san

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Jeff, man-oh-man-oh-man could I go on and on about all the bullcrap politics in Florida judo!!! I don't have much experience with judo in any other parts of the U.S. other than New York, but it it verifiably HORRENDOUS down here!!! It truly has angered me because it chased me away from the art that is closest to my heart!

Believe me, nothing has changed in regards to the Cuban vs. American vs. Puerto Rican vs. USJA vs. USJF vs. rational logic! What a mess!!!

After 24 years of devotion to the art I believe the JA or JF (can't remember which I ended up with because the last dojo I attended kept switching from organization to organization) regards me as a 5th Kyu, maybe 4th, I think the last change came right after testing and I don't know if my last exam was recognized. (Of course my check got cashed though!) That was 8 years ago and I'm so far past caring now. Now I concentrate on jujutsu, the only annoyance is that I have several young students who would like to compete in judo and I have no way of "officially" ranking them. I've talked with several instructors from local schools and most are willing to test my kids, though they would be listed as a member of that club and most are asking for the kids to pay membership fees and outright sign them up to their club!

Most of the senior ranking judoka that I train with have been out of it for a while, were certified by the AAU, and are unwilling or unable to jump through the necessary hoops to gain current certification. I guess at the age of 32 I should be the one to shoulder the inconvenience and just get it done, I just can't put up with all the horse-pucky down here!

Ah well, we'll see where the future takes us. Look and see how much judo, the art and the politics, have changed since you and your buddies brought it to the masses in the 50's and 60's. I have a feeling the next 10-20 years are going to be revolutionary for the martial arts, in both a good and a bad way.

-Ken
 
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jeffbeish

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Dont let them get to you. After moving there I found that the only Judo player who had ever trained in Japan/Okinawa or had ever been in international competition was me! Most of them must have gotten their promotions from a Cracker Jack box because they certainly were unknown to the rest of us. :supcool:

I am not sure it was some much the official USJA Vs USJF organizations that caused the problems there. I had been in the JBBF for some years before my old buddies broke off from them to take our AFJA to form the USJA. Cant remember exactly when it happened but Mertens or someone else wrote me that it was happening and I could be a life member if I would pay $100. I sent it off right away but still ended up as #139. Most of my students in the 1970s were of Cuban heritage and spoke flawless English. By the time I left many had reverted to their versions of Spanish. The different groups hate each other. The Mexicans hate Cubans much they sneer at us Gringos attempting to speak their lingo the accent or wording is different and they can tell.

I had been a shodan for 9 years when the JA was out doing a clinic and forced me to test. I made nidan and sandan in record time, but fell back to my old way and it took 20 year more until they promoted me to yodan. I still have my godan and rokudan papers that I never paid for :jedi1: My shodan membership in the JBBF was 1-1988 and OI alwsy thoiygh that meant I would be nidan in 1988 :ultracool

The only jujitsu guy I know the is Frank Payne. He ran a Judo club in a middle school close to where I lived down in Cutler Ridge. I always thought he would kill himself driving in Miami because he was a blind ads a bat! Havent spoken with him since 1980 maybe. Another guy I knew well was a nidan in Aikido and he worked with me out the Sylvania Club that I started. I barely knew Jack whats-his-name who ran the USJF there. He always treated me nicely but other JA guys hated him.

Someday when all the players in the bug drama are gone then Judo will have a chance. You have to remember that we were fighting an uphill battle with the Japanese-Americans during those early days. Many of my friends were nisei (2nd. Generation) and some friendships were lost because of the older Japanese Judo sensei just would never accept that a round-eye could excel in Judo. One of my best nisei buddies could never get over the fact that I went to the Kodokan and beat the hell out of 6 ikkyu do earn shodan. Six of their finest! Hey, nobody told I wasnt supposed to do that. :ultracool

Remember, just practice and forget the idiot politics. Rank don't mean diddly squast anyway, so don;t woory about it. Remember this -- The Master said: Do not worry about lack of fame; worry about lack of ability. :asian:


Jeff
 

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