of Combative Sport, Apr 2005
Judo in Southern and Central
California, 1910-1942: Clubs Associated with Nanka Yudanshakai
Copyright © EJMAS 2005. All rights reserved.
Editor's note: The following is based heavily on the research of
Ancho Mas Uchima and Larry Kobayashi. Their book, Fighting Sprit:
Judo in Southern California, 1931-1940, is forthcoming.
The first Kodokan judo dojo in Los Angeles (and Southern
California) was probably Rafu Dojo.
Rafu is the Japanese pronunciation of the English "L.A.," and over the
years, the club had various homes in the city's Little Tokyo district.
Rafu Dojo was established about 1910. The club's first known
instructor, Mogusa Nina, 1-dan, was a student of Hajime Isogai
Shihan. From 1915-1922, the club was associated with the professional
wrestler Tokugoro Ito. Toshitaka Yamauchi Sensei was head instructor in
Nanka Yudanshakai (Southern
California Judo Grade Holder's Association) was organized during the
winter of 1929-1930. Its purpose was to facilitate harmony, friendship,
and so on via tournaments. It also standardized promotions. The first
Nanka Grand Tournament took place in 1930.
Other judo clubs in Southern
California in 1930 included the following. Clubs are listed
alphabetically. The name of the club is followed by the names of its
pioneering instructors and the approximate date of establishment.
Note that judo was taught at other
venues, to include the Los Angeles Athletic Club and gyms catering to
professional wrestlers. Thus, the following is only a listing of judo
clubs that participated in Nanka Yudanshakai events.
Also note that with the U.S.
government's forcible relocation of Japanese Americans in 1942, most of
these clubs closed permanently. Known exceptions are indicated.
- Garden Grove Dojo
(Orange County). Yaju Yamada Sensei. Established November 1928.
Yamada returned to California from a trip to Japan in 1931, two
separate clubs in Talbert and Garden Grove combined to form the Orange
- Coyote Pass Dojo
(Monterey Park). Tadasu Iida Sensei.
Established about 1929. Iida was a teacher for several Japanese
Language Schools; thus, his association with several dojo.
. Toshitaka Yamauchi Sensei. Established late 1920s. Yamauchi was
a former student of Kyuzo Mifune Shihan.
- Norwalk Dojo
. Yasutaro Matsuura Sensei. Established
1920s. The club was reestablished after WWII, and people associated
with it in the 1950s and 1960s included Shigeo Tashima, Masao Fukuma,
Kaimon Kudo, and Jim Uyekawa.
- San Gabriel Dojo
. Originally Setsuzo Ota, later
Tadasu Iida Sensei. Established around 1925. Ota was a professional
wrestler who became notorious after marrying a wealthy white divorcee,
and parents probably thought schoolteacher Iida a better role model for
their sons. Mits Kimura was a member of this club. The San Gabriel Dojo
reorganized in 1957, and today it is known as West Covina Judo Dojo.
Seigoro Murakami Sensei. Established 1923. LA policeman Jack
Sergel was a member of this club.
- Sawtelle Dojo.
Ryushi Kikuchi Sensei. Established October 1930.
(Southwest LA) Dojo
. Matsuura and Nagano Sensei.
Established 1928. Ken Kuniyuki Sensei taught here both before and after
WWII. Warren Lewis, probably California's first African American yudansha,
trained here during the 1930s. Seinan Dojo was one of just two Southern
California judo clubs to stay open during WWII. During that time, Jack
Sergel was the instructor. The postwar descendent club is located in
- Venice (originally Venice-Palms) Dojo.
Kenzo Kawachi Sensei. Established about 1930. The club was
reestablished after WWII.
Subsequent clubs included:
- Bangle Dojo
(Long Beach). Yaju Yamada Sensei. Established about 1935.
(Imperial Valley). Instructor unknown. Established about 1937.
Toshihiro Kawachi Sensei. Established fall 1932. Frank Emi
started here in 1934.
- Delano Dojo
(San Joaquin Valley, 30 miles north of Bakersfield). Instructor
unknown. Established about 1939.
- Downey Dojo.
Ryusei Inouye Sensei. Established about 1928, while Inouye was
still attending high school.
- East Whittier Dojo.
Instructor unknown. Established about 1935.
- Glendale Dojo
. Originally Aki Yokoyama Sensei, then
Tasuke Hagio and Aki Yokoyama Sensei. Yaju Yamada also taught here.
Established about 1932. Hik Nagao, a future president of the Chicago
Yudanshakai, started here.
- Harbor City Dojo
. Toshitaka Yamauchi and Marumoto Sensei. Established about 1934.
- Hawthorne Dojo.
Date Sensei. Established about 1932.
- Hollywood Dojo
. Originally Aki Yokoyama Sensei, then
Tadasu Iida and Tasuke Hagio Sensei. Established December 1931.
Reestablished after WWII with Ryushi Kikuchi as head instructor. Frank
Emi is currently head instructor.
- Lomita Dojo.
Instructor unknown. Date of establishment before 1934.
Toshikazu Fujimoto Sensei. Established 1930. It closed for a
couple years, then reopened in 1935 under Ryushi Inouye Sensei.
Originally Sugano Sensei, then Seigoro Murakami Sensei.
- Palos Verdes Dojo
. Toshitaka Yamauchi Sensei. Established 1934.
(Boyle Heights). Ryusei Inouye Sensei.
Established about 1935. The club reorganized after WWII, still under
Inouye Sensei. Hayward Nishioka was probably Inouye's best-known
- Terminal Island Dojo
(San Pedro). Yaju Yamada Sensei. Established late 1933.
. Original instructor unknown,
but after 1937, its head instructor was Ken Kuniyuki Sensei. Uyemachi
was the other Southern California judo club to remain open during WWII.
Its wartime instructor was LA policeman George E. Tate. Uyemachi Dojo
is no longer in existence.
Mid California United Judo Association
Mid California United Judo Association clubs competed in tournaments
with Nanka clubs. Member clubs included:
- Arroyo Grande Dojo
. Tamanaha Sensei and Kohei Yoshida Sensei. Established
- Guadalupe Dojo
(west of Santa Maria). Kohei Yoshida and Shimada Sensei.
Established before 1935.
- Lompoc Dojo
. Instructor unknown. Established 1930s.
- Santa Maria Dojo
. Instructor unknown. Established about 1936.
(Santa Barbara). Instructor unknown. Established 1935.