Hatashita judo legacy alive and well

Thursday November 29th, 2007
JAMES CHRISTIE Globe and Mail Update November 23, 2007 at 6:27 PM EST In a tradition-bound martial sport like judo, newcomers must to wait their turn. It's about respect, about learning. Calgary judoka Scott Edward is 22, but he's shown the skills to take over centre stage as Canada's top fighter in any category. Edwards, a three-time national champion at 100 kilograms, was the open class Grand Champion against all comers at the Hatashita International tournament this week, taking on all comers in all weight classes, and all degrees of black belts. That's an impressive dance card, given the size of the Hatashita tournament. One of the largest tournaments in North America, the matches at Mississauga's Hershey Centre drew 800 judokas from juvenile to masters levels. The event has been going on for 20 years, previously known as the Ontario Open, and was renamed two years ago to honours Canada's first family of the Olympic sport. It wasn't the first starring role for Edward, a national team member who trains in Montreal under two-time Olympic medalist Nicolas Gill and Hiroshi Nakamura. Earlier this year, Edward won both the Tre-Torri International tournament in Italy, the New York Open and was second in the British Open and the Rendez-Vous International at Montreal. In Montreal, it was an old nemesis who came out of retirement to flip Edward for the full point, or ippon, as 33-year-old veteran Keith Morgan came back to school the younger man. Edward won five matches in his rise to the top of the Hatashita ladder, four of them by ippon, in a field that included finalist Rodrigo Resende from New Brunswick and fast-rising U.S. star Nick Delpopolo. Though Edward and Depopolo represent a new generation in the sport, there' was much tradition wrapped up in the Hatashita victory. The Grand Champion received $1,000 -- double what weight-class winners earned -- a samurai sword and saw his name engraved on the Hatashita Cup, a piece of Canadian judo history. The trophy itself dates back to the 1930s and was bestowed by the Kodokan Institute of Tokyo to the best Canadian judoka. The Kodokan is the legendary home of the sport, judo's equivalent of golf's Royal and Ancient Club of St. Andrews or baseball's Cooperstown. It was awarded to the man who would become the patriarch of the judo in Canada, Frank Hatashita when he was only 15 years old. He worked days loading and unloading on his father's fishing vessel in Vancouver, building his strength by tossing 2,000 large salmon a day. During the Second World War, when the Hatashita was rounded up and interned along with 22,000 Japanese Canadians, the trophy survived abuse and several fires. It spent the past 15 years in storage in several pieces until it was reconditioned by one of Frank Hatashita's sons, Rick. Frank Hatashita, who died in 1994, was a three-time Canadian champion as a judoka and was the coach at matside for a moment in history when Doug Rogers won Canada's first Olympic medal in the sport, a silver taken in Tokyo. He went on to be president of both the Canadian and Pan American judo federations. Hatashita was elected the the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame (1974), Ontario Judo Hall of Fame (1996) and the Pan American Judo Hall of Fame (1996). The family's fostering of judo in Canada didn't stop with Frank. John Hatashita, the brother of Frank, is a 6th degree black belt and two-time president of the Judo Ontario. He trained three Olympians: Wayne Erdman, Rainer Fischer and his son, Roman Hatashita. Roman, a fourth-degree black belt, was a four-time Canadian champion and a member of the 1992 Olympic team. He remains one of the sport's major corporate donors and one of the tournament organizers.

View more news