|Japanese judo legend Yasuhiro Yamashita wrestled his way to a gold medal in his sports. Now he wants to achieve an even higher goal: creating world peace by promoting judo internationally. |
In April, the 48-year-old launched his new dream with the creation of a nonprofit organization, Judo & Education Solidarity.
He said it was inspired by something that his mentor, the late Shigeyoshi Matsumae, the founder of Tokai University, often said to him: “I’d like you to deepen friendship with the youth of the world through judo, the marshal art that originated in Japan, and thus contribute to world peace.
A gold medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Yamashita is now going to pursue this mission as head of the nonprofit organization.
The secretariat is based at his alma mater, Tokai University, at which he currently serves as professor of physical education.
Explaining the use of the word “solidarity” in the name of the organization, he said, “The organization will fulfill its mission if it conducts its activities in cooperation with people from everywhere.”
Judo & Education Solidarity has already distributed judo uniforms for free to developing countries, sent judo coaches overseas and trained foreign judo athletes in Japan.
Other activities are planned, including assisting female coaches and organizing symposiums and other events to help bring the sport’s leading figures together.
The organization has also begun extending support to Chinese judo athletes in response to the request of a judo association there.
He acknowledged that some people had criticized the plan to support Chinese judoists amid strong anti-Japanese sentiment in China.
But Yamashita said, “It’s sad to see our country remain at odds with neighboring nations.”
He added, “We’ll be glad if Japanese and Chinese athletes make it to the final match (at the 2008 Beijing Olympics).”
Yamashita considers that fulfilling the nonprofit organization’s peace mission will help crown his career as a judoist.
He joked that if the ambitious goal was achieved, Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), the founder of the Kodokan school of judo, might pat him on the back and say to him when he meets him in heaven, “So you’re the Yamashita who reached the ultimate in judo!”