A couple of weeks ago, I attended the 40th anniversary of the birth of the Shidokan Judo Club as a National Training Centre. I saw and partied with some friends I literally hadn't seen in 40 years. Some I recognized, and some... I had to ask friends, "Who's that?"
A few of the older judokas who attended included Phil Illingworth who competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics in the then middleweight division (we both trained in Japan at the same time at different universities back in 1970-71), Peter Tilsner and Terry Farnsworth (both from Quebec). Another top international Canadian judoka who had planned to attend but couldn't make it was Pat Bolger of Ontario.
I had been to a couple of previous anniversaries but this one was special because our very successful judo team from the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico City were all going to be there. No Pan Am judo team since those Games has been able to duplicate that success. That was 38 years ago!
(Note: The exciting film of Brad Farrow's very controversial final match against Hector Rodriguez of Cuba in the 139-lb weight division is available in another post on this site. Unfortunately, in the era of pre-smartphones and camcorders, not much else was recorded. Other than a few photos, all we have is our memories.)
Judoka Travelled Great Distances To Be There
Judoka travelled from as far away as both coasts and Nunavit (Mike Soares) to attend this special function. As well, special guests at the Saturday evening banquet included judo legend Isao Okanoand his lovely wife Robin, Chuo University president Hiroshi Takamiya (who courageously gave his speech in English), dignitaries such as MPP Marc Garneau and the Japanese Consul General to Montreal Yoshiaki Hatta, and several other high-ranking judoka.
All came to honour and acknowledge the pride of Quebec, the Shidokan Judo Club and its founder, Sensei Hiroshi Nakamura, kudan.
The weekend started with a Friday clinic by Okano-sensei (which I missed) followed by an outdoor barbecue where we got to meet up with old comrades and nemeses. We reminisced about long-ago matches and training, and remembered teammates no longer with us. And laughed about practical jokes that were fondly remembered.
Saturday was made up of a morning clinic by Okano and an afternoon clinic given by current national coach and Olympic double medalist, Nicholas Gill of Quebec. The evening was taken up by the well-attended banquet at Hotel Ruby Foos, and the weekend finished with golf on Sunday.
At events such as these, there tends to be a lot of history on show, made up of old photos, magazine and newspaper articles. Unfortunately in the early years of the Shidokan, technology was not what it is today and very little exists in the way of film or video. So it's always a special occasion when some of the older members can attend.
Shidokan pioneers - Alain Legal, Rainer Fischer, Wayne Erdman, National Coach Hiroshi Nakamura, Phil Illingworth and Brad Farrow
In honour of the 40th anniversary, many of the early judoka who attended and trained at Shidokan in the past were present. As a matter of fact, it wasn't easy to get some of them there, so it was extra special that the original Shidokan members - Alain Legal, Brad Farrow, Phil Illingworth, Wayne Erdman and myself got together.
On Saturday, sandwiched between the morning and afternoon clinics, there was also a special hour scheduled for an 'Old-Timers' Randori.
So why am I bringing up this old-timer stuff?
We Owe A Debt To Those Who Came Before
I am a firm believer that the victories we achieve are never isolated events. They are not achieved because we suddenly took it upon ourselves to train the right way with the right people in the right places. We should all be so lucky to have such powerful insight that we know exactly what and when and where to do what we need to do to win.
The Shidokan is not just a Quebec judo club that produces Olympic medalists. The Shidokan became a national training centre because a handful of NON-Quebec judoka took it upon themselves to move to Montreal prior to the 1976 Montreal Olympics and devote themselves to train and build a powerful Canadian judo team. No money, no jobs, no food, just sheer dedication.
In 1973-74, judoka from BC, Alberta and Ontario created the foundation of what has now become the strongest judo province in Canada - Quebec. But make no mistake - without the dedication of these original judoka from outside Quebec, it would've been a lot tougher to bring back any Olympic medals other than the one silver from Doug Rogers back in 1964. Odds are that it would still be the only Olympic medal for Canada.
All of us stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Canada had many powerful judoka back in the 1950s and 60s that we emulated in our day. Judoka like Doug Rogers, Fred Matt, Mike Johnson, Pat Bolger and many more were quite successful internationally and were trail blazers in their time. We looked up to them, and we stood on their shoulders so we could reach a little bit higher.
Today's Canadian judoka, whether they come from the Shidokan or elsewhere in Canada, stand on OUR shoulders.
So in Montreal from July 26-28th, 2013, we celebrated the achievements of the Shidokan since 1973. Former national coach, Sensei Nakamura, has produced world calibre judoka and has personally achieved the rank of kudan. Wonderful achievements that rightfully need to be celebrated.
However, the people that helped him to achieve these goals were also all there on this one occasion. The original 'Shidokan Pioneer 5' were all in attendance (see photo above) as well as the most successful Pan American judo team ever, the '1975 Pan Am 4' were ALSO in attendance.
1975 Pan Am Judo Team: Brad Farrow (Gold -139 lb), Wayne Erdman (Gold -154 lb), Rainer Fischer (Gold -176 lb), Chris Preobrazenski (Bronze -205 lb & Bronze Open) and Sensei Nakamura.
If we go back even further, the person responsible for bringing Sensei Nakamura to Canada, Terry Farnsworth, was also in attendance! There was no mention of the late Ben Shimoda either who made a significant contribution to our achievements.
Just imagine the contribution that these people made to the Shidokan!
So, What's The Problem?
Other than a few photos, newspaper clippings and quick mentions in the official program, there was no recognition of these people during the banquet, barbecue or even the clinics! Officially, I guess we were never actually members of the Shidokan, just builders
Oversight? A snub? Arrogance? Political? Who knows? Somebody missed a golden opportunity to expand on the rich history of the Shidokan.
What was the purpose of the 'Old-Timers' randori. For sure, it wasn't for the old-timers to work out with each other. It was for anybody else who wanted to LEARN. Maybe try us on for size.
One judoka had the courage to ask me for newaza randori. One judoka learned something. Where was everyone else? Too intimidated? Too hungry for lunch? Afraid to look bad in front of friends? Didn't know who we were? I guess with no introduction at the clinic, maybe no one knew! After all, it has been almost 40 years.
But some of us old-timers are still in half decent shape, and you just may have learned a thing or two. We are always willing to help when asked. In our heyday, we 'pioneers' never let an opportunity go by to work out with a past champion.
Time travels faster than we realize, and as you get older, it travels even faster. Maybe the past 40 years have just come by too fast and because we're not being pushed around in wheelchairs yet, you think we will be around forever. What do you think the odds are that all of the Pioneer 5 or the Pan Am 4 will ever get together again at this kind of function? Five years from now - doubt it. Ten years from now - not very likely.
We are not looking for a dojo to be named after us, and we certainly don't need statues to be put up in our honour. But when the opportunity comes whereby important contributors to the Shidokan are all present, you might want to seize the day and welcome them home.
Personal Note: I'd like to say that I had a great time meeting up with all my (old but young at heart) judo friends. I for one recognize what you have all done, and I salute you. Everyone stay healthy, so stay off the tatami.
Okay, so now it's a year later since my last post - and what's happened with my hip?
The recovery from my last hip surgery was not what I had hoped for. On the other hand, it's still improving.
If you had read my last post, I had to get a hip revision surgery. Part of the original re-surfacing implant came loose and left me with few options.
I ended up with a total hip replacement (THR) which meant that the implant replaces the natural head and neck of the femur and is affixed inside the channel of the femur bone.
On the left is my original resurfaced hip and on the right is my new THR.
One positive outcome of the surgery (going to a THR rather than resurfacing was not the ideal option) was that only half of the implant needed to be replaced. The acetabular cup which is more or less the female portion of the device remained in the pelvis area as the new and old components were compatible.
This compatible-ness was good because it meant less swelling and pain. Compared to my first surgery, there was very little bruising and pain. Healing would be faster.
Well, at least for the first couple of months.
After about a month, I started doing a lot of walking. At two months post-op, I had worked up to about five kilometres a day. As an athlete, walking had never been on my radar before. But I soon realized that it was pretty good exercise when you're recovering from major body trauma.
One day, however, I developed a pain in my quadriceps (front thigh muscles). It felt like a minor charley horse, or bruised muscle. Even though I backed off the walking for awhile, the pain didn't go away.
For the next year, basically during all of 2012, the pain in the thigh would not go away. As a matter of fact, it would move around, so that it would hurt anywhere from the top of the quads near the hip to my knee. I tried many different therapies including physiotherapy, active release, massage, rollers, etc., all of which had minimal or little effect.
No One Can Find Anything Wrong
I waited many months to see different hip surgeons, mostly very accomplished and respected specialists.They all looked at my x-rays and could see nothing wrong with the placement of the implant. No movement. No cracks in the bone.
To rule ouit inflammation from an infection, I was tested in a special machine but there was none in the hip, or really not much anywhere in my body. In my last meeting with a hip surgeon in Toronto, he pretty well summed it up to what I had suspected. The leg pain is probably a soft tissue problem due to the past recent two hip surgeries (three in total), meaning that there is nothing that needs, or can, be done with the implant.
Apparently, thigh pain is fairly common with THRs, compared to resurfacing, and in most cases eventually subsides.
HOWEVER, in some cases, it persists for up to two years, or may NEVER disappear!
At six months post-op, implants have basically settled into the bone and there is no damage that can be done to the hip itself. It was at that point that I decided to start back on the weights. No judo until I had this issue resolved.
Most of the pain has now gone, mostly due to the weight program that I have been on since May 2012.
In my next post, I'll outline what that program is. If you want to get really strong and fit, stay tuned.
It's been awhile since my last post, and just so nobody thinks I abandoned this site, here's what's been going on.
I'm a little more b-i-o-n-i-c than I was just six months ago.
Actually, +2 more bionic.
Here's what happened.
If you know me or have read the WHY BIONIC JUDO? page on this site, you'll know that I've had a number of surgeries, mostly for joint damage caused by extreme judo training.
One of my surgeries was for a hip replacement. It was not the traditional total hip replacement (THR) but a more bone-conserving surgery called hip resurfacing (HR). It's a perfect solution for athletes and physically active people. Many judoka have had this type of surgery, and I still get calls from friends who are interested in hip resurfacing.
Cormet Hip Resurfacing System
It's basically a 'no limits' remedy for hip replacement, and once properly healed, you're good to go. You can pick up where you left off before your hip took a nose dive.
Depending on the device AND the surgeon, your risks of failure are extremely low, even after 10 years. As low as 5% failure rate.
Starting in 2000 when my problem was diagnosed by the now infamous Dr. Tony Galea, I researched and waited 5 long years before deciding on my surgeon. So in April 2005, I received a new lease on life with a new hip.
But instead of the 10, 15 even 20 years of a problem-free hip, I ended up with only 6-1/2 years.
But still, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's backtrack.
I Had Excruciating Bursitis That Wouldn't Go Away
About 1-1/2 years ago, I started experiencing nasty bursitis on my operated hip. I treated it with ice and anti-infammatories, but still, it would come and go. But at one point, it refused to go away and was causing me a lot of sleepless nights.
Eventually, after three separate sets of x-rays, it was determined that the bursitis was being caused by an abnormal bone growth called hetero ossification (HO) inside the muscle. The pressure on the hip bursa by the HO was causing the bursitis. It can be quite common after the trauma of hip surgery and the only way to fix it is to remove it with surgery.
Where Do I Sign Up? Let's Get This Over With.
So in August 2011, I had a second hip surgery to remove a large chunk of bone from the side of my hip. Since I was awake with a spinal epidural throughout the 30-minute surgery, the doctor showed me the offending piece of HO. It was quite large - about the size of a toonie (for you south of the border, that's a $2 coin) but at least 1/4" thick.
Even though it was a relatively minor surgery, I nevertheless had to follow up with physio to strengthen the muscles that he had to cut through. At this time, I started experiencing some snapping and pain in my groin area. This was different from the bursitis pain which originated on the side of my hip. I was told by both my surgeon and physio that it was probably something called snapping hip syndrome caused by a tight ilio-psoas muscle deep inside the groin.
That sounded somewhat strange to me because the ilio-psoas on my good hip was tighter than my right, and I had no problems there. Anyways, I was told that the physio and deep massage would clear it up.
After 4 weeks of treatment and agonizing, sometimes sleepless nights, I said this is enough. I couldn't even lie on my right side without feeling as if my hip joint had dislocated . It would take an agonizing five minutes to roll over onto my back. I then stopped all physio and exercise until my 6-week follow-up appointment for the HO surgery.
Golden Rule: Groin Pain That Won't Go Away Is A Red Flag And Should ALWAYS Be Checked Out
"No wonder you're having pain. Your femoral cap is loose!" said my doctor when he looked at my x-rays at my followup appointment.
My jaw dropped.
"Somehow the bone didn't bond to the cap and it needs to be replaced," he quietly continued.
"Okay," I muttered, all thoughts now focused on a quick fix. "We can just put on a new cap, right?"
"No can do," he replied. "You need a total hip replacement."
I couldn't believe it. This is great! Really f***ing great, I thought to myself. How could this happen?
After all the years of research, appointments and dreams of a normal hip, I was devastated. My physically active life was over! It was never going to be the same again.
"And what's more," he added. "It's an emergency and you need immediate surgery. Your hip could collapse at any time."
That part I knew was true because I had reverted back to crutches for the first time in almost seven years since I stopped the physio. My hip was clunking and moving around inside me.
But my mind was whirring , and I figured there's got to be another way.
For 12 long years, I had been dealing with this hip problem, and I thought it had been a done deal.
But deals can fall apart.
With A Fury I hadn't Experienced Since My Competition Days, I Immersed Myself Into Saving My Hip
The next day, my surgeon's office called and said, "Come into emergency tomorrow and Dr. Smith will do the surgery."
I declined the generous offer.
Over the next 3 weeks, I contacted hip specialists in Canada, England, India and the U.S. When they saw my x-rays, they said that only a THR was the solution in my case. Only one surgeon, Dr. Derek McMinn in the UK, offered the possibility of implanting a unique resurfacing device called the Birmingham Medial Hip Resurfacing (BMHR) system, a device that he invented. However, it depended on the condition of the bone under the loose cap.
And he would only know that once I was on the table with his surgical knife in hand.
Stryker ADM X3 Hip Replacement System
And... it would cost me $30k to find that out.
Nothing was guaranteed, and I could still come back with a THR, something I could get here in Ontario.
By now, three more weeks had passed since my condition had been diagnosed as urgent. It would be months before I could get in to even consult with a hip surgeon for another opinion, much less get a surgery date. Things were looking pretty gruesome - and dangerous.
Suddenly I got another surgery date from Doc Smith. It was in five days, and if I passed on it this time, I could end up in a very vulnerable, painful and dangerous position.
So in the end, because of all the uncertainty, and the delay in getting a surgery date anywhere else, I settled on his chosen THR device called the Stryker ADM X3.
That was 3 months ago.
However, there were a couple of positives with the stemmed Stryker. Because it was the same manufacturer as my original resurfacing implant, I was able to keep the cup which is the part that sits inside the pelvic bone. No need to use a hammer and chisel (literally) to dig it out. And because it's a dual mobility model with two articulating heads, the ADM also gives me a little more range of motion.
Recovery was much less severe than the initial resurfacing surgery. Not having to remove the cup was a big help. There was less tissue damage and a lot less swelling. Only my quadriceps were sore for a while. My biggest goal now is to get back the half of my butt that seems to have disappeared.
My doc wants me to be stay out of the gym for at least four months this time around. The general feeling seems to be that hip replacement surgeons are becoming more conservative with recovery times.
What's My Prognosis?
Doc Smith says it's a 'no limits' device.
"Can I run?" I asked.
"I wouldn't advise it," he said. "Too much impact."
"What about cycling?" I asked. "No problem. Some even ski, play tennis and hockey," he replied.
Here's A Glimpse Into The Training of
The Canadian Judo Team Back In 1975
(Note: I had to split this video into 2 parts since it was too long for one upload to YouTube.)
A few months ago, I posted a video from the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico City. That short clip was from a larger reel of old 16mm film that was recently discovered after having been "lost" for the past 35 years.
However, there was more footage.
And people have been asking about it.
So, I have decided to upload more of this old footage - with no editing, other than adding some captions here and there.
This particular footage reveals some of the training that was done by the Canadian National Judo Team, as well as other judoka who occasionally came to train with us.
The year was 1975.
A handful of us were training full-time in preparation for the 1976 Montreal Olympics at the newly established National Training Centre located at the Shidokan Judo Club. Club Sensei and National Coach, Hiroshi Nakamura, former Japanese champion (and drill sergeant), was in charge and put us through the paces during that time.
In this footage, we are shown going through a couple of training sessions.
Time has certainly taken its toll. Tom Greenway is no longer with us (RIP, Tom) and Alain Legal actually did have hair at one time. The film is unedited but it gives you a small sense of what we were doing back in the mid 1970s.
Enjoy it - and your comments (especially from you old geezers) are always welcome.
Those Days Were A Time of My Life That Seem Nostalgic But I Realize Now That They Were Probably
The Most Important Part of My Judo Career.
Note: These series of articles were first published in 1980 in the Judo Ontario Newsletter. Other than some grammatical changes, they have not been revised and contain the original content.
The Ishikawa Judo School publishes a very impressive magazine called the Judo Journal Magazine. It is rather unlike any other judo publication and contains mostly photographs along with reprints of correspondence, some of which goes back to the 1940s and 50s. Thumbing through these old pictures and stories, I began reminiscing about my early years in judo.
I remember watching over a period of months a series about judo on television many years ago and my father telling me that I should give judo a try. We both enjoyed any kind of contact sport, especially wrestling, and while judo was certainly this, it also had the appeal of being fun.
It was a Sunday sometime in November of 1962 that my father took me down to the Kitchener-Waterloo Hatashita Judo Club which was then located on Ontario Street in Kitchener. The front entrance was at the end of a narrow alley between Boehmer's Gas and a travel agency, and across the street from Jamieson Toys and Gordon's Optical. It wasn't the easiest place to find. The membership at the time was a nominal $5.00 and lessons were $1.00 per week.
I progressed rather rapidly through my yellow and orange belts until I hit the green belt stage. At that grade, I managed to win a medal at the CNE (Note: Canadian National Exhibition) which was a still a big competition then. I was even teaching other junior classes.
Monthly grading tournaments were quite a regular item at our dojo in those days and I would attend every one. There was one tournament I particularly remember because it reminded me that having a green belt did not automatically make you the 'head cheese.' I was competing against a sturdy, muscular judoka named Jim Little of Brantford who at the time was an orange belt, and since I was a green belt, I figured I would have no trouble with him.
A few seconds after hajime, I did the most beautiful breakfall for the most beautiful okuri-ashi-barai. It is difficult to describe the disappointment and shame I felt at that time. I had disgraced my self and my sensei, John Hatashita, who had recently promoted me.
This was a difficult time for me because I became dissatisfied with judo. I went to the Saturday morning classes only once every three or four weeks and would miss the monthly grading tournaments. I would be nervous for days and could not sleep the night before worrying about whether I would compete or not. This continued for a few months and finally through sheer will power, I went back to regular classes.
Sensei told me that I should also be going to the senior classes during the week in order to build up my strength and weight. At about this time, another rugged kid started judo and after a few short weeks of instruction, managed to drag me all over the place because of his natural strength. He didn't return for a few weeks after that but when he did, he never left, and has been with the club ever since. His name was Wayne Erdman.
The two of us became inseparable and trained whenever we could - almost every evening and Saturdays and Sundays. Sensei noticed our dedication to training and entrusted us with a key to the dojo so we could train at any time. On one occasion, we stayed overnight and happened to have a film of the early world championships and a rented projector from the public library. We already knew how these matches had turned out because we had read about them in the now-defunct Judo World magazines. They always contained the results of the All-Japan and World championships from the early years - 1956, 1958, 1961, etc. These champions lived on through us. On this occasion, we watched the film over and over again and were so spurred on by what we saw that we held our own 'World Championships' at 3 o'clock in the morning. I still don't remember who won more matches - Geesink or Inokuma.
Our dojo was not a fancy one but it held about 50 tatami which were broken up by a big post. This post was a real thorn in our sides because it took away about 1/4 of the mat area. But because it held up the building and would've been too expensive to remove, we gave it as much abuse as possible. We did uchikomi on it; the karate class punched and kicked it; we dressed it up in kendo equipment and beat it with sticks. One night though it got its revenge on us, or I should say on Wayne.
We were playing tag in the dark with another friend, Angelo Casella who unfortunately returned to Argentina soon afterwards, and as we chased Wayne in the semi-darkness along the tatami. he ran full-force backwards into the post. With a resounding crack, he almost succeeded in removing the post single-handedly. Poor Wayne. He was still woozy from his encounter with the immovable object and we were just laughing ourselves silly.
There was also the time we helped ourselves to the pop machine one night, and between the two of us, Wayne and I managed to drink 28 bottles! Saturdays became more interesting as time went on. We held many different parties not soon to be forgotten - birthday parties, endurance contests, photography sessions, randori contests, candy scrabbles and others. After the practices, Sensei would often take us for milkshakes in hopes of fattening us up.
But we trained hard in the spartan conditions. Snow came in through the front door and there was always cold air coming in from a broken pane of glass. The pilot light on the water heater was continually turning itself off and the shower was then reduced to a trickle of cold water. These were the days of marathon situp and pushup contests. One night after a workout, I remember doing 1,000 squats (I had heard that Hindu wrestlers did 500 a day) and then falling down a flight of stairs the next day because my legs gave out on me. One Monday morning following a situp contest during a Saturday morning class, I woke up in a fetal position and stayed like that for the next two days. My abdominal muscles had completely cramped up on me. And on the days after doing too many pushups between benches, I couldn't push open a door - it was too painful.
We did uchikomi and randori night and day, and we did all kinds of ukemi. The record for distance rolling breakfall was 12 people and that stopped only because we ran out of running room. Training was done to an extreme, and while it contradicted many of today's scientific training principles, it gave us that one thing that today's training so often lacks - mental toughness. It prepared me for my training in Japan and Montreal. While others complained about too much this and too much that, I was able to accept it because of my previous training. I was remembering the old champions and the spirit they had in those days.
Our dojo has since moved across town to the Waterloo Square. (Note: It is also gone now.) The Ontario Street building was condemned and replaced by a parking lot. The eighth parking spot from the street now rests where our infamous post used to be. Somehow I had expected it to be standing in the middle of the lot. Those days were a time of my life that seem nostalgic but I realize now that they were probably the most important part of my judo career.
Stay tuned for Japan - The Rough Years (Part Two).
If You Ask 10 Past Champions What Their Secret To Success Is, You Will Probably Get 10 Different Answers. Here Are My 'Secrets'...
Someone asked me the other day what it takes to win the 'big ones?'
While 'big ones' is a relative term and can mean different things to different people, it made me think back to probably my 'biggest one' at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Over the years, I've re-played in my mind my disastrous first-round to Endre Kiss of Hungary trying to understand what went wrong.
I've had enough time to think about it since then, and so if someone asked me again what it takes, I would answer like this...
1. Be Physically Prepared At the international level, especially at the Olympics, everyone is physically fit. Countries spend millions of dollars getting their athletes ready for this world-wide spectacle, and the very first thing on the agenda will be physical readiness. No athletes would dare go to the Olympics not in physical shape.
But there's a fine line where an athlete can become over-trained. It's like not being in shape at all.
2. Avoid Over-Training This was one of the biggest reasons for my performance on that day - not enough rest or time to recover from our high intensity training.