Professor Jigoro Kano

"The aim of Judo is to utilize physical and mental strength most effectively. Its training is to understand the true meaning of life through the mental and physical training of attack and defense. You must develop as a citizen to society."

Professor Jigoro Kano Founder of Kodokan Judo

Judo came into existence as forms of unarmed combat, which were grouped under the general name "Jujitsu" or "the gentle practice." The object of all these martial arts forms was to avoid an enemy's strength through leverage, speed, and technique. Medieval Japanese warriors practiced many different combat skills. Since Jujitsu was strictly a combat technique, contests were rare and were decided only by the death or crippling of one of the contestants.

When Japanese society began to change structurally in the 1860's, feudal lords no longer retained their private armies; the martial arts, including Jujitsu, began to die out. In the early 1880's, Professor Jigoro Kano, a teacher from Tokyo and an expert in many types of Jujitsu, decided to save some of these ancient arts. He modified or eliminated the most dangerous of the Jujitsu techniques and created a new discipline, which he called "Judo" or "the gentle way."

Judo is "the gentle way" because the end result is maximum efficiency with minimum effort. As a sport, rather than simply a combat form, Judo includes a code of sportsmanship, a sense of mutual respect, and a system of ethical and moral development. Judo is both an art and a science. As an art, Judo enables its practitioners to gain self-respect, self-confidence, and self-expression; as a science, it involves a mastery of such basic natural laws as gravity, friction, momentum, weight transmission, and unity of forces.

From its simple beginnings in nineteenth-century Japan, Judo has spread in popularity throughout the world, even to the point of being introduced as an Olympic Sport in 1964. Its rich, medieval heritage combined with Professor Kano's modern, scientific approach has made Judo into the exciting sport it is today.

Judo has a long history here in Bakersfield as well. Find out more below!

The History of Judo in Bakersfield


So far as anyone can remember, there is no history of Judo in Bakersfield, California, prior to 1934. In that year, according to the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Buddhist Churches of America, the Reverend Ryujo Nagoya began offering a Judo class; his wife also gave lessons in flower arranging. In 1935, after the departure of the Reverend Nagoya, the local Buddhist Church at 2207 "N" Street began Judo classes for seniors (age 17+) held in the church, which bought twenty-eight new straw mats for the young men to practice on. The class was taught by Mr. Hisao Abe, who was a First-Degree Black Belt. He and Mr. Glenn Sogo (then a White Belt) brought in many guest instructors from the Los Angeles area. One of the new students was Mr. Kinya Sakamoto, who began practice in 1936 at the age of thirteen.

In January, 1940, the church hired a new Buddhist Priest who was a Fifth-Degree Black Belt in Judo. Reverend Tamanaha began teaching classes and taking students to competitions in Los Angeles. At the first five-man team tournament in March, 1940, our entire Bakersfield team showed up wearing White Belts. Since this was their first official tournament, none of the boys had yet been promoted. When the audience first saw our team, many people laughed--especially when we were assigned to compete against the powerful team from Hollywood, which contained two Sandans and three Nidans. Although our team was eventually defeated, the laughter turned to a standing ovation from the crowd in honor of the brave and skillful way in which our judokas competed. After the match, many local senseis urged Reverend Tamanaha to promote his students so that their belt ranks accurately reflected their skill on the mat.

After this tournament, another in Bakersfield (May, 1940), and a third in Stockton (June, 1940), Mr. Tamanaha promoted the following competitors to Shodan: Don Nakamoto, Paul Kawasaki, and Tom Fujii. In addition, Johnny Ogden was promoted to Ikkyu, Joe Fujii to Nikkyu, and Kinya Sakamoto (who won his first trophy as a 16-year-old intermediate by defeating eight straight competitors) was promoted to Ikkyu. At a tournament in San Francisco in November, 1940, Don Nakamoto took third place and was promoted to 2nd Dan, and Kinya Sakamoto was promoted to Shodan.

In March, 1941, Reverend Tamanaha was transferred to another temple, and in December, 1941, the war started, which meant that Judo went dormant in Bakersfield for the next several years. In May, 1942, all citizens of Japanese descent in Bakersfield were sent to internment camps on an Indian Reservation in Poston, Arizona. In September, 1945, most of Mr. Sakamoto's family returned to Bakersfield. Kinya Sakamoto was drafted into the United States Army, where he spent some time in Camp Robinson in Little Rock, Arkansas, and later nine months at the MIS Japanese Language School in Fort Snelling, Minnesota. In November, 1946, Mr. Sakamoto returned to Bakersfield, where he began work as a landscape gardener.

In May, 1956, Dr. Jerry Young, a local dentist and Sandan in Judo, re-opened the Bakersfield Judo Club, calling on Mr. Sakamoto (still a Shodan) and Don Nakamoto to help him as co-instructors. Sensei Sakamoto located the original twenty-eight Judo mats (which had been loaned to the Reedley Judo Club), had them returned to Bakersfield, covered them with canvas, and moved everything back to the Bakersfield Buddhist Church in September, 1958. Soon after that, the club officially joined Chuka Yudanshakai (The Central California Judo Association), which had been recently chartered in 1954.

In 1961, the ceiling of the Buddhist Church was in such disrepair that the club decided to move to a 22'x44' handball court at the corner of 8th and R Streets in downtown Bakersfield. The club bought new mats and had very successful practices there for the next five years, till the roof of that building began leaking. This necessitated a move to a printing shop near the corner of Truxtun and N Streets, where a large mat was placed over sawdust strewn on the floor. From 1965-1970, the club practiced in this location and routinely had 60-70 students. Ultimately, however, the rental fee was too costly, and in 1970 the club was forced to move back to the Bakersfield Buddhist Church, which had since repaired its roof.

In 1972, a young college professor named Dr. Michael Flachmann moved to Bakersfield and brought the sport of Judo, with the blessing of Mr. Sakamoto, to California State University, Bakersfield, where it has been practiced under his direction for the past thirty years (assisted by Mr. Dale Kinoshita and Mr. Steve Walsh). Dr. Flachmann and Mr. Kinoshita are now both Godans and have over fifty students each quarter in these popular physical education classes at the university, where they have taught nearly eight thousand Judo students during the past three decades.

Over the years, the Bakersfield Judo Club has won many team matches in the Central California area, including a period of time when they won the same tournament three years in a row and permanently retired the trophy. Prominent team members during this time included Mr. Brett Sakamoto (4th Dan), Mr. Dale Kinoshita (4th Dan), Mr. Kirk Sakamoto (2nd Dan), Mr. Ronald Nakagawa (1st Dan), Mr. David Roland (1st Dan), and Mr. Mark Loomis (1st Dan)--who was also a national collegiate wrestling champion. The team also won several junior and intermediate team matches, including one year when it took first place in each of the three levels.

During the past fifty years, the Bakersfield Judo Club has produced over sixty Black Belts and Brown Belts, including such important local competitors and teachers as Kinya Sakamoto (6th Dan), Brett Sakamoto (4th Dan), Sid Kinoshita (4th Dan), Dale Kinoshita (4th Dan), Michael Flachmann (4th Dan), David Jones (3rd Dan), Glenn Sogo Jr. (3rd Dan), David Sogo (3rd Dan), Don Nakamoto (2nd Dan), Kirk Sakamoto (2nd Dan), Glenn Sogo (2nd Dan), Danny Kinoshita (1st Dan), David Roland (1st Dan), Ronald Nakagawa (1st Dan), Jim Burchett (1st Dan), Steve Walsh (1st Dan), and Paul Wolverton (1st Dan), along with Andrew Okumoto (Ikkyu), Jennifer Chaney (Nikkyu), Jeff Brockett (Nikkyu), Steve Sanchez (Nikkyu), Sgt. Lori Valente (Sankyu), Chris Thomas (Sankyu), Chris Simmons (Sankyu), and Larry Kinoshita (Sankyu). Some chief supporters of the club have included Ben Kinoshita, Todd Itokazu, Bradley Itokazu, and Dr. Warren Itokazu.

Mr. Sakamoto, our Head Sensei, is now a Rokudan and member of the Board of Examiners of Chuka Yudanshakai. Dale Kinoshita is Vice President, and Brett Sakamoto is Treasurer of Chuka Yudanshakai. Mr. Sakamoto's chief assistant instructors at the Bakersfield Judo Club are Dale Kinoshita, Brett Sakamoto, and Paul Wolverton, who preside over all the daily workouts and take students to competitions.

For further information about Judo in Bakersfield,California, please contact Dr. Michael Flachmann,, (661) 654-2121.