The New Dojo
The sport of judo has been good to Hank Tagawa. A sixth-degree black belt in the
sport, Hank was
born in Osaka, Japan, in 1965. He competed for years at the highest
international level and won both
a world championship and a silver medal in the
1992 Olympics. Eventually he settled in Pensacola,
Florida, where he met and
married an Anglo woman and began to put down roots in the community.
A shy, focused, but highly likeable man, Hank had been encouraged for years to
consider opening his own judo school (dojo). About a year ago, Hank got the money
together and did so. At first,
the new dojo, at which Hank was the head teacher
(sensei), had few students, but he was not interested in advertising, which he felt
would appear too pushy. After a few months, however, there was
an explosion of
interest, both from parents bringing their small children for lessons and from men
and women from a nearby military base who had heard of Hank’s history and
sought out the new
dojo as a solid place to train. He set up classes for both children
and adults and enjoyed both the cash
flow and the camaraderie. He recruited a
number of his former Olympic teammates from Osaka to
visit for extended periods
and to help out as instructors in the new dojo.
Hank’s foremost concern is his desire to teach judo the “right” way—the way he
was taught at
the Kodokan Judo Dojo in Japan. This includes enforcing strict rules
for the cleanliness and appearance of mats and uniforms as well as rules for the
respectful address of people of more senior ranks.
Students are taught to bow to their
teachers and superiors, speak some Japanese, and carry themselves with a quiet
dignity both in and outside of the dojo.
After a year in operation, however, the dojo’s attendance is starting to drop off.
has not deviated in his commitment to “doing things the right way,”
but many students have been
unwilling or unable to tolerate his discipline.
Furthermore, students from the military base resent his
characterization of them as
too aggressive, and parents are concerned about the visiting instructors,
their children to do push-ups for bad behavior or, worse yet, to exercise to the point of