Club Sweeps State Judo Games
Mililani Judo Club had plenty to celebrate after taking home nine medals Dec. 6 at the Hawaii State Judo Championships.
The annual competition pitted the state’s best in 62 categories of weight and age. Mililani placed 11 students into the competition and tallied three gold, three silver and three bronze medals.
Assistant coach Sanford Kaga said he wasn’t surprised by his students’ success.
“We have a tournament every month, and these same kids have been placing the whole time,” he said. “ So ( at) the state championships, it wasn’t a surprise.”
Their success is based on desire and the enjoy of training, he said.
“ They like coming to practice. What makes them successful is that if they want to do it, they will get better,” he said. “If they are forced to go they don’t try so hard.”
Keeping youths interest- ed in the repetitive nature of training is a chore for all instructors, regardless of the dojo in which they train.
Kaga said head instructor Mark Muranaka has done a good job keeping the children’s focus by creating games that incorporate proper judo techniques — one of which is a version of “tag,” where throws or pins replace simple tags.
Mililani’s team is quite young and 70 percent female. The youngest state medalist was 7-year-old David Lopes, who took third place. His sister Tanya also took home a bronze medal. Senior medalist was Kalen Kobashigawa, who is all of 16 years old. Kalen took home a silver.
Their youth is typical, but the division between boys and girls is not. Kaga said Mililani YMCA, where they practice, attracts many more girls than boys, and that may be the reason for such a high turnout of young females.
The club currently trains about 45 students, with each class enrolling about 35 students. The classes are broken into two age groups, with the older kids helping the younger. Such an arrangement, said Kaga, is beneficial to both as the young kids get more attention and the older ones are forced to really think about and understand the techniques. Mililani’s winners were: • Gold medal: Kelly Rivera, Nick Rivera and Robert Kutzen
• Silver: Miki Kubo, Jamie Cambra and Kalen Kobashigawa
• Bronze: Tanya Lopes, David Lopes and Adrian Cruz.
Lindsey Cambra and Paxton Horiuchi competed but did not medal.