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【Judo】]10th Blind Student Judo Meet Uncovers Promising Players in Men's 66kg and 100kg+ Classes

The Blind Student Judo Meet started in 2008 with the purpose of discovering and training younger athletes. On its tenth anniversary this year, it was held at the Hamamatsu Budokan in Shizuoka prefecture. A total of 14 blind students gathered from 11 schools for the blind, high schools and universities.

Some of the weight classes had champions by default, but there were tough matches in the men's 60-kilogram and 66-kilogram classes.

Taiga Kato wins 60-kilogram class for third consecutive time

The men's 60-kilogram class had the most competitors, and the champion was Taiga Kato (Hokkaido College of Childcare), who also won the event in 2015 and 2016. He won all four matches with ippons (highest scoring win). Kato says he is "good at ashi-barai (tripping) techniques," but used a variety of techniques to win including okuri-ashi-barai (foot sweep), uchi-mata (inner thigh throw), kosoto-gake (minor outer hook), and osoto-gari (major outer reap) combined with kuzure-kesa-gatame (side control hold), showing the well-balanced training he has been doing.

Three-time champion Kato

Regarding his current goals, he said, "I am looking at the Japanese Blind Judo Championships this November. I want to defeat Takaaki Hirai, who is in the same class as myself and is a Japanese representative. For this reason I am training newaza (pinning techniques) which he is good at... I want to beat Mr. Hirai and represent Japan at the international championships next year. I think this will lead to the 2020 Tokyo Games in the future."

Rising star Yujiro Seto wins the men's 66-kilogram class

66-kilogram class, despite it being his first blind judo event to attend. Seto had been attending regular judo tournaments as a member of his school's judo club, up until the Kinshuki National High School Judo Tournament held this July. Although it took some time to get used to the way blind judo starts (opponents holding each other), he won all games with ippons. He says he is not great at newaza, but showed composure even when the match went to the mat, getting into position and finishing with a kata-gatame (arm triangle choke) ippon.
After the event Seto said, "I didn't think it would be this tough," but exhibited his ambition with the words, "If I can compete well at the Japanese Blind Judo Championships this November, I hope to aim for the Tokyo Paralympics three years from now." Satoshi Fujimoto, a Paralympic legend, is in the same 66-kilogram class, but we hope Seto becomes a threatening presence for him in their quest towards Tokyo 2020.

A promising player in the over 100-kilogram class

Expectations rise for 29-year old promising newcomer Tsumagari (right)

The default winners played against each other in open matches, which is where Ryoji Tsumagari (Osaka Minami Prefectural Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired) of the men's over 100-kilogram class created buzz. This was also Tsumagari's first time to attend an official blind judo event, but he beat Terumasa Uchiyama (100-kilogram class), who has extensive experience in competing at national events.

Uchiyama took a waza-ari (half point) first, showcasing his superior experience, but Tsumagari began to counterattack in the latter half of the game. He later said, "In the middle of the game I lost my calm and couldn't think anymore, and in the end that helped." Using his physical advantage (180 centimeters tall and 130 kilograms in weight) he took two waza-ari and won the match. Tsumagari is 29 years old. He had played judo as a student and started again at the school for visually impaired, in which he enrolled to help with his work. He said, "I knew blind judo started in a hold, but I did not think we would be so close to each other, so it was tough at first." Once he got used to it, he was able to regain his own style.
The men's over 100-kilogram class in Japan is dominated by Kento Masaki, and the emergence of a strong rival should be good news for Masaki. Tsumagari also mentioned, "I will train hard to someday be called Mr. Masaki's rival." This gives us one more match to look forward to at the Japanese Blind Judo Championships this November.

Kazusa Ogawa attends ahead of the World Cup

Kazusa Ogawa attends ahead of the World Cup

Kazusa Ogawa (Chiba Prefectural School for Visually Impaired) won the women's 70-kilogram class for the third consecutive time. Although a default win, she showed off her skills at the unofficial group match held in the afternoon with members divided by eastern and western districts. Playing against men, she took two waza-ari and at the last game won with a kesa-gatame ippon. Before the event Ogawa said, "I signed up because I just want to do judo." She will compete at the World Cup to be held this October in Uzbekistan, and she believes "accumulating experience at competitions is the best training." She is already looking three years ahead: "I think the World Cup will be another great experience, so I am looking forward to it. I think it will show me issues to work on towards the Tokyo Games."

After the meet, committee chairman Yoshiyasu Endo (men's coach for the Rio Paralympic Japan Team) said, "It is a shame that the number of participants is on a downward trend, but this year there were victories by promising athletes like Seto and Tsumagari. I believe the event has contributed to the initial purpose of discovering and training young athletes. Once the two get used to the format of blind judo, I think they will show their abilities even more." We are looking forward to the judo competition at the Tokyo Games three years hence.

Kimoto won the men's 90-kilogram class.

Uchiyama (second from right) won for the third consecutive year with a default victory.

text by Shigeki Masutani
photo by Asuka Senaga
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