While the best judoka on the planet competed in the Tbilisi Grand Slam 2023, another major event for the judo family was taking place in a different corner of the Earth, in Bhutan, in the heart of the Himalayas. This event, involving Haruki Uemura, Kodokan President and IJF EC member, Sabrina Filzmoser, Head of the IJF Athletes Commission, and Ayumi Tanimoto, double Olympic champion, was a great success.
Haruki Uemura (left) and Chikara Kariya (right)

It is not every day that a country, whose federation was only created in 2016, benefits from a visit such as this, a gathering of big names in judo. This nevertheless corresponds to the desire of the Kodokan and the IJF, to promote the values of our sport throughout the world.

The three-day programme was packed and began on 24th March with an audience with His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the King of Bhutan. The next two days were dedicated to judo sessions, while the third day saw the organisation of the first ‘Jita-Kyoei Cup.’

Karma Dorji, President of the Bhutan Judo Association and Haruki Uemura

This visit had several objectives. While the co-operation between the young Bhutan Judo Association, the Kodokan and the IJF is now a few years old, this was Mr Uemura's first visit to the country. Accompanied by Ayumi Tanimoto, he wanted to show his support for the Bhutanese people, who have undertaken a process of learning the spirit of jita-kyoei.

Jita-kyoei indicates that as long as we coexist, each member of society must function in harmony and co-operation with the others, since nothing is more important than living prosperously together. Acting with the spirit of mutual co-operation makes everyone benefit personally and for others. This great principle of harmony and co-operation is, in other words, the concept of jita-kyoei or mutual prosperity for self and others.

The Bhutan Judo Association and their coaches are committed to promoting judo properly as an education system, especially for the younger generation who are showing passion for the sport.

On the occasion of the tournament opening speech, Mr Uemura said, "First of all, I would like to congratulate all of you on the occasion of the first edition of the Jita-Kyoei Cup. Good relations with Bhutan Judo have been held since 2011, when His Majesty the King and Her Majesty Queen visited the Kodokan. The visit of the King and Queen gave Japan, which at the time was suffering from the earthquake and tsunami, positive energy and courage.

Since then, several Japanese instructors have contributed to the development of judo in Bhutan by linking their skills and passion together.

On the occasion of the memorable first edition of the Jita-Kyoei Cup, I sincerely wish that all the Bhutan judoka take this opportunity positively to deliver energetic and emotional excitement to Bhutan and the rest of the world.

I do expect that you can demonstrate judo discipline to fight for ippon, while respecting manners and proper attitudes, to show dynamic and brave judo matches to the maximum of your mental, physical and technical strengths."

Ayumi Tanimoto commented, "I am impressed by the beautiful eyes of the children, who were trying to catch our coaching words more and more. It was a new awareness of judo for me. Awareness means realising that we are a society that lives together with others, that connections with others are important and this is jita-kyoei. I hope that many judoka will visit Bhutan, just as I have, to find a new awareness.”

Ayumi Tanimoto and Sabrina Filzmoser

Sabrina Filzmoser, who travelled from Annapurna base camp to join the Kodokan delegation, added, "From the bottom of my high-altitude judo heart, ‘domo arigato gozaimasu’ for coming, visiting, supporting and contributing to Bhutan Judo. I'm sure it's just another step. Their progress is in each direction more than valuable and impressively mind-blowing.

Bhutan people, their culture and their philosophy are able to change our own mindsets and perspectives, as you could feel while we all enjoyed and shared so many emotions. I strongly believe in the similar inspirational and educational values which all of us have in common. We'll be able to connect the Himalayan people of Bhutan, Nepal, Everest Judo and other different remote places for sure, more and more, step by step."

Judo is a sport as demonstrated in Tbilisi and it is also an amazing educational tool that brings people together to create a better society. These dimensions are intimately linked. In Bhutan, the Kodokan and the IJF proved that we can all live by the principle of jita-kyoei, a principle that we can apply on and off the tatami, a principle that will make the lives of everyone easier.

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