What a month for the country and for SSJ Judo!

Whew! What a month!

I am very glad to report that our fundraiser has been a complete success! THANK YOU to everyone for all your terrific support! The bake sale alone raised $903! Congratulations, Iullia, and her wonderful family for organizing this, and to all the volunteers who came out to help! Another big thank you goes out to Paul Rittenhouse for getting the dojo established in social media, which provided a critical point of communication and brought our story out into a much wider world than I could have hoped. As a result, our GoFundMe campaign met the online goal of $3,000 in just over two weeks. And a special thank you to Jeb Livingood who has been instrumental in every aspect of the development drive.

One of the big side effects of diving into social media for me has been the inundation of news and stories from the small and trivial amusing, like this video about a kitten investigating ducklings, to the shocking events in McKinney, TX and Charleston, SC. However, just when it seemed like things could not get any crazier and more distressing, our country has seen a tremendous upsurge of goodwill and sanity,from recognizing that the Confederate flag needs to come down, to the wonderful news this week about the Supreme Court rulings upholding the Affordable Care Act, and that the 14th Amendment protects equal marriage rights for all American Citizens.

In the context of such dramatic stories, the troubles of one little dojo doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, except for this point.

When we get together to practice judo, we do so to make ourselves better, little by little, day by day. We work hard, and sweat, and challenge ourselves and each other to perfect skills, not in the hope that we will use them in earnest, but because we see that the effort of perfection is a worthy endeavor in itself, and that as we work together, the benefit we each derive from it improves us all along the way.

So, it seems particularly timely that, when we set out to raise the money to keep our dojo going, we didn’t do so just for ourselves, we took it as an opportunity to reach out to the community and make judo accessible to kids who otherwise would never be able to afford membership. This is working out very well; I am very happy to announce that we already have several strong candidates doing their trial run, and they are having a great time! In essence, we have taken a huge challenge and turned it into a big opportunity. This is good judo.

However, as good as that point is, it’s critically important to recognize that, by expanding opportunities to the community, we are also giving ourselves the chance to grow, to make new connections, and to make ourselves better through the study of judo as we learn how to help others learn. It’s already begun. I’m already learning new things about kids, teaching, and judo just in this week.

So, in our small way, I feel certain that we are advancing the story of our nation in just the way it most needs to grow. We’ll never make the news, but we are making the kinds of connections that matter in the lives of everyone connected to SSJ Judo. During this fundraiser I’ve heard from many people over the last few weeks who have traveled far and wide, who have said how much our dojo means to them, and to each of them I have the same reply; this is their judo home, and they will always have a place in it. It is better for every person who has made it theirs.

And now, we’re finding ways to welcome even more people in. By welcoming others, we are improving ourselves That is judo. That is Jita Kyoei. You are doing this, and I am deeply grateful.

Arigato gozaimashita.


Thank you.


SSJ Judo featured in Charlottesville Family Magazine

Well, sort of.

If you have been in the dojo for a while, you have probably heard me mention my father and/or my mother on occasion. This is because, of all the teachers I have been so lucky to learn from throughout my life, they remain the ones most central to my experience. (For a more detailed description of what that means, please see the pages about my judo bio and judo lineage.)

Ironically, even though the primary purpose of the dojo was to establish a place where I could pass on my parents’ legacy to my own children, I never really thought to wonder what this illustrates about me as a father. I have simply focused more or less on doing the best job I could.

So, when I was contacted by Charlottesville Family Magazine to do an article, it took a little while to understand that they really didn’t want to do one about martial arts, or judo, or even about the dojo. They wanted to do an article about me. 

It’s really, really flattering, and feels very undeserved. Maybe that’s why its taken six months to really sink in and understand what an honor it is for the premier family publication in our community to include me in their ongoing series about parenting. Of course, even that pales compared to what it means for other families to entrust me with the care and instruction of their children in judo.

Anyway, since we are in the midst of a serious fundraiser, it seemed like a good idea to get a third party’s view of who I am and what I bring to the dojo. So, here is the Charlottesville Family article, Both a Sensei and a Dad. 

Thank you, Charlottesville Family Magazine!

February Newsletter

I hope your year has started well. It’s hard to believe that January is already almost fled, and that we are well into 2010! As I have said in class, I am looking forward to a great year of judo; there will be many events for people to enjoy at all levels. To make events easier to track, I have created an online SSJ Judo Calendar you can access both events and lesson plan details.

I have also created a more structured schedule for instruction. From now on, each week will have the following instructional schedule:
Monday: Technical instruction. A specific nage waza (throwing technique) will be presented for each level, according to their promotional requirements. Mondays will primarily focus on presenting details of that new waza, and provide time for students to work on their uchi komi.
Wednesday: Ne waza night. This is the class that focuses specifically on ground techniques, e.g. pins, chokes and armbars, as appropriate for age and level, as well as techniques and strategies for attack and defense on the ground.
Thursday: Review and randori. We will focus on practicing any throw that needs perfecting for age and level, and spend at least 50% of the time in randori (free practice).
Saturday: Special focus/Open Mat. Saturdays will concentrate on special focuses, such as competition, promotional testing, or self defense, as well as provide open mat time for students to focus on the area of their choice or need.

Membership Fees announcements
February membership fees due; Please help us pay the bills on time!
With the new fiscal year, quarterly and annual membership fee discounts will no longer be available. We will continue to have discounts for multiple family members.
Membership numbers are steady. This has been a great year for the dojo with several wonderful families and individuals joining up, but we have also seen some attrition due to moves and the economy. However, as we end the fourth year of the dojo’s life at this location I am determined to make the 5th year our best one yet, and I would like to encourage everyone to help grow our community! As an incentive, if we can increase our membership to 100 members, I will reduce rates.
Saturday, 2/6: Bring a friend to Judo, and get a free patch! Great to put on your gi, bookbag, or favorite jacket! If your friend joins for three months, you get a free month of judo!

4th Annual Anniversary PartySSJ Judo will be four years old this month! Come help celebrate at our annual potluck dinner on Saturday, 2/27 at the Ragosta’s house. If you would like to help organize the event, please contact Katy at kmullin@scitent.com, and Kiyoko Asao at kasao@adelphia.net.

Competition AnnouncementsFebruary starts to get busy in terms of competitions. The Pedro’s Challenge is on 2/13, and is held in Boston, MA. This is recommended for highly experienced players only, and at this point, we only have one player attending. Please be sure to wish Sachi Ragosta the best of luck in her first time playing at this prestigious tournament!

The VA Open is on Saturday, 2/20. This is a great tournament for all levels. It’s a very good way for beginners to get started in competitive judo, as well as providing stronger matches for higher level players. For more information, please see the attached registration form. Let me know if you are interested in attending, or have any questions. I’ll have an official discussion about this tournament this Saturday 1/27 at the end of the kids’ class.

Schedule Changes:
Saturday, 1/30: In the event we get more than 1″ of snow, all classes will be cancelled. I will email by 9:30 a.m. to confirm.
Saturday, 2/20: There will be no class because we will be going to the VA Open. Sprouts Parents: if you would like to attend a makeup class in on Sunday 2/21, please let me know ASAP what time up until 3:00 that day would work best for you.

Demonstrations:Friday, February 19, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM (exact time TBD), SSJ Judo will participate in the Sutherland Middle School 3rd Annual Cultural Celebration. This is great exposure for the dojo and a fun way to celebrate judo with the community! I would love to have representatives from every level participate. This will take about an hour, including set up and breakdown time. Please let me know if you can participate! Tell your friends!

SSJ Judo Needs Rental Partners:The dojo is a great space for all kinds of activities and is available for rent outside of judo hours. If you know of someone who may be interested, please have them contact me.

Special Thanks:To Deb Zehner for bringing in the rugs for the changing rooms! They really make a huge difference!

SSJ Judo Supports Barack Obama

As a very late child of the boomer generation, I was too young to understand and appreciate the 60’s. I remember the 70’s vaguely, and the national politics of that era not at all.

But I do remember growing up as one of the only Asian kids in an all-white suburb of Chicago, and learning very deeply the lessons of being the Other. Even though my family was very fortunate and strong, even though my parents were the hardest working people I knew, and provided my brothers and me with every advantage and comfort they could, while instilling in us an appreciation for hard work, intelligence, reason, compassion, and joy in life, the simple fact was they could not protect me from the consequences of being half-Korean in a culture that had no room and very little tolerance for difference.

School was the place where I learned many, many wonderful things, but it was also where I learned in 4th grade that when four 5th graders beat me until I couldn’t stand, and then kicked me as I lay in the snow, calling me “gook”, and “nip”, and “chink”, that the beating was nothing compared to the shame of looking up and seeing a crowd of other kids watch and do nothing to help me. The alienation of that moment was a lesson I will never forget.

It was a lesson to be repeated and reinforced in a thousand ways, which I will not recount here, but thankfully my children have never known one day when they were derided, or ignored, or abused because of their heritage. I truly believed this lesson of my childhood has become weaker over time; that the politics of hatred have faded from the national discourse, and we were truly emerging from the long, angry night.

Until now.

This presidential campaign has been the most exciting political event I have ever seen, and I feel deeply fortunate to have been able to witness it. I was impressed by Obama from the very beginning, and I was even excited by the best candidates from both parties. They offered a clear hope for changing the disastrous course the Bush Administration has taken the country.

I had already decided that Barack Obama was by far the best candidate for president, for reasons other, far better writers than I have expressed, but, despite the closeness of the race, I felt there was little I could add to the conversation. However, since John McCain has chosen to revitalize his campain through demagoguery, anger, and specious, hateful, lies, I now have something to say.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said “A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimension.” But I have found that the mind can all too easily relax into familar patterns of thought. America has matured and learned many things, but the lessons of compassion and understanding must be continually learned. I may not have understood the larger political issues of my childhood, but I know what I lived through. America has grown, but as a nation we have learned through great pain that fear, anger, and hate remain powerful forces in the world, both abroad and sadly, as the past few days of Republican campaigning have shown, at home. Out of desperation, McCain is grasping at the darkest elements of our nature, and thereby threatens to erase not only Obama’s chance to be President, but decades of national growth towards the idea that we are all created equal.

Through condescending and cynical tactics, McCain and Palin have shamelessly tried to manipulate the “Joe Six-Packs” and the “Hockey Mom’s” of the nation, to say that they understand “Main Street” America. But as this speech by former United Mine Workers President Richard Trumka, who is now secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO shows, this only serves to draw a false distinction between the “elite” and the “common”, to exacerbate and antagonize, and create divisions.

The tactics of fear and hate must not be allowed to regain their sway. We have a chance to take a brilliant step forward as a nation, and given the current political and financial crises we face, we must call upon our highest ideals, our bravest virtues to meet them. I believe one candidate represents our best hope for leading our continued growth as a nation and a society. Please join me, and help elect Barack Obama as our next President.

Latest Olympics News Video and Photos

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Exclusive Summer Olympics news & widgets at NBC Olympics.com!

If you watch the Top Ippon highlights from the Aug 9th Mens -60 Kg division, take a good look at the Korean coach when his player wins the gold; he’s an old friend of mine, Ahn Byung Keun, who taught me a lot about shime waza. “I’m going to send you to see your father!”

Well, we had an interesting evening…

I apologize for being absent from class last night. Many thanks to Brian for filling in. He let me know that everything went well, and I certainly hope that was your experience.

Just to let you know, I was absent for two reasons.

First, I came home from work feeling quite ill, with a severe headache and nausea. After being sick in the bathroom I called Brian and asked him if would be able to run the kids and the adult classes.

I was sitting outside in the sunshine recuperating when I heard a terrible thump and Pilot howling in pain and fear. Asa and Noah were also screaming. I dashed around the side of the house saw that both boys were in the front yard, staring in horror as Pilot was staggering in circles in the road, howling and clenched in a tight half circle. Katy had come home early and was about to pull in the driveway and Pilot ran into the road to greet her, and was hit by a second oncoming car. Both boys were unhurt, but terrified by what had just happened. Pilot was bleeding slightly from a scape on his muzzle, and was holding his left hind leg very stiffly.

The driver never stopped.

After some frantic discussion we bundled Pilot in the car and took off for the vet. At first, we headed for our own, but upon calling his office on my cell phone, learned that he was gone for the day, and his technician said we should go to emergency pet services in Charlottesville. So we turned around and Katy started driving as fast as she could in the other direction. Many of you know that we live on Garth road, and that it is quite winding in places. Taking those curves at high speed was doing my stomach no good at all, but it’s truly amazing what adrenaline does for minor things like that.

Even more amazing was to see Pilot improve clearly with each passing minute. By the time we got to the vet, he was walking on his own, with his ears up and tail wagging, and clearly quite happy to have this unusual treat of a car ride on a Thursday evening. The vet said he looked ok, and gave us some pain medication for him (I’ll talk another time about side effects!), and sent us on our way.

Today, Pilot is doing fine, and I am feeling much better. I would much rather have been at judo, though. Oh, and avoid the egg rolls at the Chinese restaurant downtown.