-ita Ky­oei: Mu­tual Wel­fare and Ben­e­fit in -udo

Forty years ago, James Brewster Thomp­son was a young phe­nom train­ing with the San Jose State rniver­sity judo team, the coun­try’s premier collegiate pro­gram, when judo leg­end Masahiko Kimura — he of the famed bent-arm lock now pop­u­larly called the kimura —

Black Belt - - FIGHTBOOK - by Mark Jacobs

“He was around 60, but he threw us all,” Thomp­son re­called. “I asked him how some­one as old as he was could be so fast, and he said, ‘How can some­one as young as you be so slow?’”

Years later, things have come full cir­cle with Thomp­son, now a grap­pling vet­eran, show­ing the kids a thing or two. In 2008 the 55-year-old Thomp ϐ Ǥ Ǥ - ; ϐ Ǥ says he’s con­tem­plat­ing com­ing out of re­tire­ment once again in 2017 to com Ǥ Ǥ - ! =͵Ǥ who be­gan his judo ca­reer with only two throws and didn’t ex­pand his ar­se­nal for nearly a decade. “I STARTED at age 13 when I earned a ǡdz - son said. “I tried box­ing there but got beat up by the older kids, so I didn’t like that. I tried weightlift­ing but was too skinny for that. Then I tried judo. They showed us two throws: the cir­cle throw and the hip throw. I prac­ticed them all week, then at the end of the camp, I beat ev­ery­one with them and fell in love with judo.”

Thomp­son re­turned home at the end of the week and didn’t get to for­mally

prac­tice judo at a club again un­til he was al­most 21. But dur­ing all that time, he honed those two throws on friends, fam­ily mem­bers and any­one else who’d let him toss them. He also be­came a multi-sport star in high school in his na­tive Sali­nas, Cal­i­for­nia, be­fore go­ing on to play bas­ket­ball and track at Hart­nell Col­lege.

But Thomp­son be­came dis­en­chanted with collegiate sports. Look­ing for some­thing he thought would in­volve ! ǡ ϐ found a judo class at a lo­cal YMCA and re­sumed train­ing in earnest.

He as­cended quickly through the judo ranks, earn­ing his black belt in less than 11 months and go­ing to his ϐ " ! in 1976 af­ter only two years of se­ri­ous prac­tice. Although he would re­turn to the tri­als again in 1980, 1984, 1996 and 2008, his only na­tional cham­pion 1985 in the open-weight division.

“I al­ways felt I hadn’t ac­com­plished some things I wanted to in the sport, so I just kept try­ing,” he said. “The one thing I al­ways had was per­se­ver­ance.” THOMP­SON WAS never averse to any form of chal­lenge in the grap­pling art. When San Jose State judo stand­out Dave Ca­mar­illo be­gan tout­ing the ben ϐ V jiu-jitsu in the 1990s, Thomp­son de­cided to test him. The two ar­ranged a pri­vate match at the school of Ca­mar­illo’s in­struc­tor Ralph Gra­cie.

“Dave was the best judo mad­man at San Jose State back then but was only like 150 pounds,” Thomp­son re­called. “We agreed to just do mat work, and I wouldn’t be able to slam him.”

Ca­mar­illo man­aged to catch Thomp­son in an arm­bar, at which point Thomp­son used his great strength to lift Ca­mar­illo and carry him off the mat. Thomp­son said he was just show­ing what he could do and didn’t in­tend to slam Ca­mar­illo, but oth­ers in­ter­preted his move­ment toward the front door as in­tent to carry Ca­mar­illo out­side and smash him into the side­walk.

Ca­mar­illo said that he couldn’t re­call what ex­act rules they’d agreed to but that when he sunk in the arm­bar, he had his eyes closed, and when he opened them, Thomp­son was run­ning toward the door, mak­ing him be­lieve the sit­u­a­tion was turn­ing se­ri­ous. He even­tu­ally cranked the arm­bar with ev­ery­thing he had, break­ing Thomp­son’s arm. ALTHOUGH THE con­fronta­tion has been in­ter­preted as an an­gry chal­lenge match, both men down­play that por­trayal. “Brewster is sim­ply a nice guy,” Ca­mar­illo said. “He’s al­ways been a nice guy.”

For his part, Thomp­son ad­mit­ted that he learned from the ex­pe­ri­ence: “My ego was such that I didn’t think he could get an arm­bar on me, but he did. I un­der­es­ti­mated him, and he got an hon­est arm­bar and beat me. I learned an im­por­tant les­son that you shouldn’t let your ego get the best of you and not ϐ ! Ǥdz

Thomp­son’s de­sire to keep com­pet­ing was so strong that it soon led him to new challenges. He took up sumo wrestling in 1994 when a judo coach he knew was re­cruit­ing an Amer­i­can team in the run-up to the world cham­pi­onships. Thomp­son leapt at the chance and man­aged to be­come part of Ǥ Ǥ ϐ event. He en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence so much that he con­tin­ued to com­pete in ǡ ʹ\\^ ϐ $ the world cham­pi­onships at age 52.

“In a way, I ac­tu­ally liked sumo the best of any­thing I’ve com­peted in,” he said. “It’s the most hon­or­able and re­spect­ful event I’ve ever been in. You watch other sports, and peo­ple aren’t hum­ble when they win. But you watch the Ja­panese when they do sumo, and af­ter a match, you can’t tell if they won or lost from look­ing at them. I al­ways liked the idea of han­dling your­self in that hum­ble, classy way.” IN AD­DI­TION to the lack of hu­mil­ity, ! ϐ - ing with the cur­rent state of the arts is ego get­ting in the way of train­ing. He ϐ ! train with at lo­cal judo schools be­cause many just don’t want to get on the mat with him.

“In my day, a lower belt would never turn down the chance to work out with a black belt, but now a lot of kids don’t want to prac­tice with me,” he said. “I think a lot of it is ego — they don’t want to take the chance of los­ing to some­one my age.”

Thomp­son at­tributes his re­mark­able longevity in judo to a fa­nat­i­cal ded­ica ϐ Ǥ ǡ ǯ " ϐ ! on tele­vi­sion and be­came de­ter­mined to build his body so he could per­form sim­i­lar feats of strength. Among his no­table ac­com­plish­ments: do­ing push-ups on his thumbs and bag­ging the world record for jump­ing rope — with 410 pounds on his back. In fact, he turned this rou­tine into a strength act that he’s per­formed around the coun­try, in­clud­ing twice at the White House. Thomp­son also com­bines his strength rou­tine with a ven­tril­o­quism ǡ " ! V ! ϐ Ǧ ! aware­ness among youth.

“In 1994 I was the re­cip­i­ent of the Bay Area Good Neigh­bor Award for com­mu­nity ser­vice,” Thomp­son said. “That’s prob­a­bly the thing I’m most proud of in my ca­reer. Help­ing out in your own neigh­bor­hood is the best way a mar­tial artist can give back to so­ci­ety.”

James Brewster Thomp­son also com­bines his strength rou­tine with a ven­tril­o­quism act, which he does at events or­ga­nized to en­cour­age fit­ness and anti-drug aware­ness among youth.

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