When I was 8 years old I presented my mother with an ultimatum.
I handed her a crayon-written note, “I want to go Judo. It is not fighting. I want to go NOW or I will go on strike.”
I was pretty serious about this, but Mama Kesting wasn’t going to be that easily bullied. Needless to say I didn’t get to go to Judo that year.
In fact it took another 3 years of campaigning before I was actually allowed to attend my first class. The irresistible force (me) finally overwhelmed the immovable object (my mom), but it took some time.
I still remember climbing the narrow flight of stairs heading up to the second floor that first Monday night. There was a heavy smell of sweat in the air and loud booms reverberated as people practiced their throws.
A elderly but fit Japanese man met us at the front desk. That man was Frank Hatashita, the head of the dojo and the president of Judo Canada.
He took a look at my gangly 11 year old body, my enthusiastic face, and decided right then that I would be allowed to train in the adults class.
At age 11 I was about the same size as the smallest Asian women in the class so we spent the next few years being training partners.
Class consisted of a very classical Judo format: a warmup, (ukemi) breakfalls, uchi-komi (throw repetition), tachi-waza randori (standing sparring) and ne-waza randori (ground sparring).
Most of the classes were taught by the senior students but once in a while Frank himself would come onto the mats to elaborate some finer points for off-balancing your opponent or finalising a pin on the ground. Being a classical dojo the atmosphere was always respectful, but when he stepped on the mats that respect would get dialed up to the next level, no bluster or swagger required!
Those early Judo lessons, and the general atmosphere of civility and respect fostered by Frank Hatashita had a huge impact not only on my martial arts training but also on my ideas about teaching, hierarchy, and leadership in the rest of my life.
Many martial arts academy owners often relegate the teaching of kids’ classes to their junior instructors.
But based on my own experience, and on how much of an impression Frank Hatashita made on me, I think that might be a mistake.
Kids deserve the best instruction you can give them because it might just end up changing their lives. I know it changed mine.
Sadly Frank passed in 1996, but that’s not the end of the story…
I reconnected with the younger members of the Hatashita clan a few years ago.
More specifically I met Roman Hatashita, Frank’s nephew, who now runs Hatashita International.
Roman and I even ended up designing The Limited Edition Grapplearts Signature Gi which you can order for another 10 days or so.
Between my BJJ expertise and his manufacturing expertise it’s going to be a hell of a gi for a hell of a good price. Click here to find out more or to place your pre-order.
You just never know where the connections you make while training are going to lead you.
40 years after going to my first Judo class I’m now working with my first teacher’s nephew making gi’s for more people to train in.
I think Frank would be proud.