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Shobukan celebrates 100 years of judo history


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POSTED: Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thousands have removed their footwear, bowed before entering and recognized what the kanji on the banner above the dojo's doorway represents.

The literal translation of "Shobukan" means "place of challenge," and so it has been since the judo club was founded in 1908. National champions, Olympians and simple lovers of the sport have trained at Shobukan, the last 51 years at the dojo tucked down Kunawai Lane in Liliha.

But the kanji, hand-painted on the banner by kokodan judo founder Jigoro Kano, "has a supernatural meaning as well," Dr. Lloyd Migita, head instructor since 1979, said. "It represents the concept of a bamboo and its strength. It bends but doesn't break.

"That's what the (kanji) character means. The club has had its challenges over the years and has always come back bigger, better and stronger."

The Shobukan centennial celebration officially begins tomorrow with a sold-out anniversary dinner for 250 at the Japanese Cultural Center.

Saturday's open house at the dojo starts at 9 a.m. and will include a traditional blessing and display of photos representing every decade of the club's existence.

The 100th anniversary tournament is Sunday at Salt Lake District Park beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Olympian Taylor Takata (Iolani '00), returning to Hawaii for the first time since the Beijing Games, will attend all three events to help mark the centennial. He is one in a long line of champions the club has produced over the years, a list that includes Olympian Clifton Sunada and Migita, an AAU silver medalist and alternate on the U.S. Olympic team in 1964.

However, every Shobukan student is a champion, according to Migita.

"When I speak to the class, the question I ask is 'How many of you are champions? Raise your hand,' " Migita said. "If a new student doesn't raise their hand, I ask again. Soon, everyone has their hand raised.

"I tell them, there is a champion inside of everyone. It is the instructor's job to unlock that."

Migita began judo training at age 7. His father, the late Sunao Migita, was the head instructor, a position he held for 55 years.

Lloyd Migita estimates the club has had more than 2,500 members over the 100 years, including generations of families. Currently, there are more than 200 members.

Shobukan survived the prejudices of World War II and has been relocated five times, the last in 1957 to make way for H-1.

"We expect a lot of old-timers to come this weekend," he said. "There will be lots of reminiscing.

"Judo gives you valuable lessons, lessons that last. It builds self-confidence. It gets in your blood."