History of Nanka Judo Yudanshakai
Judo was established at the Yamato building around 1917 because in 1915 the Japanese Consulate was established in Little Tokyo/LA and thereby created the Japanese Children Home, the first Japanese Hospital, Maryknoll Mission, the Yamato Community Center, etc. This dojo was known as Rafu Judo Dojo, with Head Instructor Tokugoro Ito, as head instructor. My grandfather learned judo from Ito sensei for years at that location, and then transfer to another dojo that Ito sensei established in the McArthur Park/Westlake area, since it was closer to my grandfather place of residents (Uptown District of LA, now known as Korean Town).
In the mid 1920-35, there were over 40,000 Japanese living in the LA area. Majority of the Japanese lived within three miles of Little Tokyo and there were several thousand families living in outlying areas as farmers and in agriculture business. Not only in the LA County area but Orange County, San Bernardino as well as Central and Northern California. My dad was a picker at a farmer in French Camp, south of Stockton, and he was a member of the Stockton Judo club in the 1931-40s. During this period, an increasing number of Nisei made its impact on judo.
In 1929, there were eight dojos and judo spread statewide in all communities as well as the number of black belts.
There was a meeting with the judo instructors, and they decided to unite and try to establish a group for judo. In 1929, ten of the LA Head Judo instructors jointly wrote letters to the Kodokan, and subsequently received approval to visit Kano sensei. Thereafter, the senseis traveled to Japan and actually met Master Kano. (Remember in the old days, you had to FIRST meet a lower rank person, and then another and another BEFORE you are able to see Kano sensei.) This must have been a financial hardship for the sensei, since most of them were gardeners or farm workers.
In March of 1930, Kano sensei approved the establishment of a Yudansha-kai in the Los Angeles area, on the condition that all the Yudansha:
- Cooperate with friendship between ALL dojos.
- Enhance the art and teaching of judo
- Spread the teaching of anyone who wanted to learn the sport of judo.
15 Head Instructors met at the Yamato Building in Little Tokyo and established the KODOKAN NANKA JUDO YUDANSHA-KAI. Yasutaro Matsuura of Seinen Dojo was the first President of Nanka.
Throughout the years, the “Nanka Judo Yudanshakai” name was changed, due to politics and personal conflict reasons .
After the Yudanshakai establishment, many dojos begin to open, especially at Japanese Community Center across California. That is the reason why there were numerous pictures with Master Kano at various dojos in 1932. Kano sensei came for the Olympics BUT he also wanted to inspect all the dojos established by various Yudanshakai, including Central California and Seattle.
Another perspective from another resource
The story of judo in southern California begins with Professor Ito. Prof. Yamashita and Tomita were his contemporaries in American Judo, but of the three only Ito made a lasting contribution to the development of American Judo. Wherever Ito stayed, judo took hold and flourished. In 1915 he moved to Los Angeles and established the Rafu Dojo on the first floor of the Yamato Hall, near Jackson and San Pedro Streets. When Prof. Ito returned to Japan after seven years in Los Angeles, the Rafu Dojo continued under the management of Prof. Seigoro Murakami, Dr. Matsutaro Nittat and Ryuii Tatsuno. ln July 1917, there were still only two dojos in southern California.
The Nanka Judo Yudanshakai was formed in 1928, then In 1930, we were renamed as the Kodokan Nanka Judo Yudanshakai. Yasutaro Matsuura, a 4th dan, was elected president. Still only eight dojos and fewer than twenty black belts existed in southern California.
The Kodokan Nanka Judo Yudanshakai was reorganized at the direction of Prof. Jigoro Kano in 1932 while he was visiting the Los Angeles Olympic Games. The yudanshakai was renamed once more, this time the Hokubei Judo Yudanshakai or Southern California Judo Black Belt Association of North America; its presidency to devolve permanently upon the Los Angeles Consul General of Japan. A formal organization of judo occurred as a result of Prof. Kano’s visit, and four yudanshakais, or judo black belt associations, were formed: Southern California, Northern California, Seattle, and Hawaii.
When World War II started in Dec. 1941, there were twenty-six dojos in southern California, with 422 black belts and about 2,000 students. The black belts were distributed in the following manner: 6th dan-2; 5th dan-5; 4th dan-6; 3rd dan-42; 2nd dan-101; 1st dan-264; and 2 honorary black belts.
During World War II, judo continued to flourish in relocation camps such as Manzanar, Heart Mountain, Post Gila River, and Rule Lake. Although all other judo clubs ceased operations during the war years, Seinan Dojo kept its doors open. Jack Sirgel, then a 2nd dan, the head instructor, visited the Manzanar Relocation Camp with his students to improve their judo techniques, even though the war was at its peak.
If anyone has photos from the past that you would like to share, please send it to Communications@nankajudo.com