Wednesday, April 21, 1999
The Moanalua senior hasBy Cindy Luis
a shot at his third league
championship in as
Brandon Maki has split his time between two dojos (schools), absorbing two styles of judo from two sensei (teachers). Instead of pulling him apart, it has only made the Moanalua High senior that much more of a complete judoka.
Maki, the only male black belt competing in the Oahu Interscholastic Association this season, is considered one of the top judoka in the state. His dream is the Olympics; his reality could be a third OIA individual title and second team title next month.
"Going into the OIAs, I'm feeling pretty good," said Maki, who is undefeated at 8-0 in the 141-pound class this season. "I would like that third title. But I'm also looking forward to the Junior Nationals this summer (in California) where I'll be competing along with my brothers (Derron, 8, and Aaron, a Moanalua junior).
"What I like about the sport is what you continually learn from it -- the discipline, the respect, the focus. It teaches you to be humble when you win and not to get down on yourself when you lose. It helps you cope with life."
Maki first took up the sport when he was 6, encouraged by his father and coerced by his kindergarten friend, David Fujikawa. He joined the Salt Lake Judo Club, run by his friend's uncle, Dan Fujikawa.
Maki excelled almost from the beginning. This summer, he will go for his fourth junior national title at the U.S. Championships at Irvine, Calif.
"I think what places Brandon above everyone else is his training," said Moanalua assistant coach Lance Yamada, a former OIA judo champion for the Menehunes. "He's in one of the most competitive weight classes and he trains harder than most people. He has a certain instinct to constantly attack, go all out. That's what a lot of opponents don't do.
"He has the experience that others lack. He is willing to go all out to achieve what he wants."
As a freshman, Maki learned the hard way how important the sport was to him. He was struggling with his academics and his parents said he could not compete in the OIA championships.
"A few weeks after the OIAs, I beat the guy who had won," said Maki. "It made me want to work harder."
Maki trains in the afternoons with the Menehunes and is at Salt Lake Judo Club in the evenings. The traditional old-school style learned from sensei Takao Fujitani at Moanalua sometimes conflicts with the style of sensei Fujikawa at Salt Lake but Maki manages to find harmony.
His future in the sport is bright . . . if he chooses to pursue it.
Maki's plan is to train in Hawaii while attending Honolulu Community College, with the hope of transferring to San Jose State, one of the few schools with a collegiate judo program.
And the Olympics?
"That's a dream," Maki said. "If I pursue judo then that is the No. 1 goal.
"I think of Kevin Asano, who was the first U.S. medalist in the sport at the Olympics (silver in the 1988 Seoul Olympics). Here he was, from a small place like Hawaii, but he made it."
Maki's confidence is tempered with humility. Moanalua currently shares the OIA West lead at 4-1, after beating previously undefeated Pearl City.
"We're flying pretty high after that," said Maki. "We were fortunate to beat them. Now we have to come down from that and refocus."
If Maki loses, there will be no excuses.
"Judo shows you how to cope with life," he said. "It's an individual sport, and you can't blame anyone else if you lose.
"And if your opponent is better than you that day, you take the experience and learn from it."