What was the diet like during this time? How did it change?
There is no particular difference in meals and nutrition, but being at home, I have had more time to cook for my family. It made me realise how much effort my wife has been making every day for our family. I cannot thank her enough.
How important is the psychological aspect, keeping judoka focussed in such a difficult period?
It has without a doubt been a difficult period for judokas, to train with these restrictions. However, they are staying patient and making their best effort every day to prepare for the day they can compete. I am impressed by these athletes, showing such compassion in this period of crisis and making various contributions to society. I believe these are the fundamental values of Judo and these actions will further enrich our sport.
The psychological aspect is one, if not the most important aspect for competing. To achieve true excellence, I believe an individual needs to approach a challenge with a positive mindset, while facing their negative feelings head on.
What did you tell them in order to keep them training and to not lose hope?
I don’t think my words play a big part in each athlete’s journey. They are preparing for their next opportunity with autonomy and independency. My role has not changed, it is to arrange a safe environment in which each athlete can realize their potential.
Team Japan athletes, staffs and coaches are in close communication with online time meetings. “We will overcome this invisible enemy and create brighter future!” – This is our theme.
How about you? What did you tell yourself?
Whatever I say to my athletes, I say to myself. Tough times bring opportunity. I am always looking for new ways to improve myself.
Are they staying together to train continuously? If not together, how do they keep contact?
Each athlete is training at their own company, university, and school.
Personally, how do you handle your time now? Is it different? Time at home versus time at work?
The state of emergency has been lifted by the Japanese government. Activities, including sport, are slowly restarting. Just waiting for something does not make progress, so we are taking the initiative to restart our activities. We are however remaining vigilant and thinking of safety first. I think this time in isolation has taught us valuable lessons which can be fruitful for our future. We will keep what we deem essential and be willing to adapt to the current conditions.
What is your personal feeling/thought about the global situation and how do you see the future of judo looking?
I share feelings of empathy with judokas, coaches, staffs and all those involved in our sport. There are various situations in the world. Judo has restarted in some places. In others it’s still heavily restricted. All I can do is to hope that the COVID-19 situation betters on a global scale, and make actions to realize these hopes.
I think individuals need to have goals to move forward with our daily lives. With competitions and events being cancelled and postposed it may be difficult for the judokas to stay motivated. In the case of Japan, all competitions for all ages and groups are currently postponed or cancelled. I hope we can enact smart policies so that these events can be restarted as soon as possible, in a safe matter. Fully restarting Judo activities will take time as Judo is a contact sport. We need to adjust to this situation by testing for COVID-19 and antibodies, as well as create new approaches to trainings and organizing events.
We need to realize that this global pandemic is not only impacting sport. The damaged global economy, low social economic status, domestic violence, racism and rising suicide rates are serious issues. Judo, and sport’s true value is to unite people regardless of race, religion, gender and political beliefs. When the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are held, I hope we will all be reminded about the power of sport, and how these fundamental values can develop us individuals and enrich our society.
Have you modified the specific judo techniques used in training for the team at this time?
The Japanese government has lifted the restrictions on trainings so we are moving on to the next phase of restarting our activities. Like the IJF, the sport ministries and sport organizations including the All Japan Judo Federation are publishing guidelines. We will follow these guidelines and restart our activities while remaining vigilant.
What training equipment do you like judoka to use when training alone/in isolation? (Such as Uchi-Komi bands, kettlebells, rowing machine, Bulgarian bag, wobble board, Swiss ball or many others)
Judokas need to be creative and do what they can. Athletes are generally doing fundamental trainings such as running, body weight exercises, weight training and uchikomi by yourself. Also, they are trying new activities such as cooking or reading in order to develop themselves outside the dojo.
Do you think there are some positives to take from this challenging global situation? Which positives apply to you, your life or your work?
There are many lessons learned by adapting and doing your best in the given situation.
Humans from all generations have faced various global challenges like the one we have now. By overcoming them we develop as individuals and societies. There is no time or energy to be pessimistic in these times. We need to be courageous, cooperate, and rely on others as a team.
Which judoka really impresses you at the moment and why?
I want to express my appreciation to all the medical and essential workers who are working on the frontline to keep our society afloat during this pandemic. Among these heroes are Judokas who are applying what they learned in Judo to their daily work.
Many judokas are making various activities to promote Judo. My close friends NOMURA Tadahiro, HAGA Ryunosuke, EBINUMA Masashi, SHICHINOHE Ryu, AKIMOTO Hiroyuki, YOSHIDA Yuya and SHINOHARA Shinichi to name a few. These activities not only promote the competitive aspect of Judo, but the value of sport.
In these times we need to keep at heart the words of Kano Jigoro Shihan: “The ultimate goal of Judo is to strive for personal perfection and to benefit the world”.
As an individual I will continue to do what I can for Judo, Sport and society as a whole.
If you found Aladdins lamp and were granted 3 wishes, what would you wish for?
I have many wishes! However, wishing something will magically happen does not make life interesting. I will face reality and realize these wishes with my own actions.