Judo in the world today

San Paulo, Brazil

An ocean away, Judo has put down roots in Brazil, South America's largest country

San Paulo, Brazil

Brazil boasts a land area approximately 23 times that of Japan, and a vast natural environment that includes the Amazon tropical rain forest, etc. Moreover, a recent BRICs survey lists this largest country in South America as one of the countries where economic growth is notably fast-paced (the others are Russia, India, and China).
When discussing the popular martial arts in this country, "Brazilian Judo" comes immediately to min-a style of Judo with roots in Japan. Originally brought to Brazil by Japanese immigrants, it was gradually absorbed into Brazilian society, and 90% of its practitioners are now non-Japanese.
There is no shortage of Brazilians knocking on the dojo door not only to strengthen their bodies but to strengthen their mind as well.

A Japanese Judo practitioner in Brazil, and a first Olympic medal

Judo was introduced to Brazil in the early 1920's by Mitsuyo Maeda (or "Conde Koma" in Brazilian Portuguese). Known as the "pioneer of Brazil Judo", he subsequently opened a dojo in 1938, together with another immigrant named Ryuzo Ogawa.
In 1972, Chiaki Ishii (from Tochigi Prefecture), a Japanese who took Brazilian citizenship, won a Judo medal for Brazil (its first) in the Munich Olympiad, setting off a Judo boom in this country.
Boasting a history of more than 100 years, and extending over an area of 170,000 square meters, South America's largest sports club, "Esporte Clube Pinheiros", has a Judo dojo where 30 of Brazil's top Judo competitors currently train.

South America's largest sports club, 'Esporte Clube Pinheiros'

Born in a Judo family, a Judo prodigy makes Brazil's national team

Ms. Sachie Vania Ishii in Keiko

The famous "Esporte Clube Pinheiros" sent a contingent of 40 swimming and track-and-field athletes to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympiad. Sachie Vania Ishii is a talented member of this club's women's Judo department, and represented Brazil in the 63kg division at the Sydney Olympiad.
Vania is the daughter of men's Olympic medalist Chiaki Ishii, and her older sister, Tania Chie was also an Olympic competitor at the Barcelona Olympiad.
Although Vania just missed making the Beijing Olympic team, she nonetheless attended that Olympiad as a Judo commentator.

Learning to know her father through Judo, she dreamed of following in her sister's footsteps to the world-class level

Vania began Judo at the age of 4, at the urging of her mother rather than her father. She explains, "Father was the silent type, and mother thought that Judo would be a good way for me to communicate with him."
In the beginning Vania continued with Judo because she enjoyed playing with her Judo friends, but then she began to be impressed with the beautiful Waza of her older sister, Tania. Around the age of 10, "I thought, well, if I'm going to do this, I'll aim for the top!". That's when Vania began serious Keiko. With her talent gradually becoming evident, she spent the 3 years (1991 to 1994) as a Judo student at the Komatsu Seisakusho company in Japan, and played a role in that club's 2 consecutive All Japan victories.
After returning to Brazil, she won 5 South American championships from 1994 to 1999. She also won the gold medal at the Pan American Judo Championships in 1999 (in Canada), the silver medal in the 2003 Dominican Republic Championships, compiling an impressive record indeed.

Ms. Sachie Vania Ishii in Keiko

The Japanese fundamental practice methods of Uchi-komi and Randori are the core of her practice routine

South America's largest sports club, 'Esporte Clube Pinheiros'

Vania spends every Monday to Friday morning in muscle training, and then performs a 1-hour Keiko from 7:00 PM at the sports club. In addition to fundamental Uchi-komi, she also performs 5 to 10 minutes of Randori, etc.
"I had many Japanese teachers, so my training consisted mostly of Japanese style basic training methods. Recently, I've also been working on the European style of Judo that focuses on catching the leg," says Vania, whose practice partners are all larger men. Even so, when she boldly grasps their lapels, they know she means business.

"Together with my Judo friends, I'd like to use Judo's "fighting spirit" to help underprivileged children"

"I'd like to end my competitive career after one more year," says Vania. In fact, she's already laying the plans for fulfilling a 10-year dream.
Together with Sydney silver medalist Carlos Honorato and 3 other Judo competitors, Vania has proposed a project called "PROJETO KIAI" (Kiai Project) in which Judo practitioners volunteer their time to teach Judo to underprivileged children in their free time after school, etc., in order to prevent them from drifting into drug use and crime.
Beginning from August, 2008, Judo lessons for 5 to 7 year olds will be offered free of charge at a public school located next to the city's Emboy Mirin district slums. With eyes shining, Vania says, "If we're able to attract a powerful sponsor, we'd like to open more classes in order to help the ones who really need help: the15 and 16 year olds."

Members of 'PROJETO KIÀI'

Vania's message to the Japanese

Ms. Sachie Vania Ishii

"During my 2 and a half years in Japan as a student, I was able to endure the hard training thanks to the support of many Japanese people, and that's what got me to where I am today. I'd like to say thank you to everyone!
And to all those learning Judo, I've hung in there through some tough injuries, and so can you. There are times when you feel good and times when you feel bad, but please keep believing in yourself no matter what, and keep moving ahead."

Esporte Clube Pinheiros

  • AddressRua Angelina Maffei Vita, 493 - Jardim Europa - Sao Paulo/SP- CEP: 01455-902
  • CONTACTCentral de Atendimento [TEL] 11-3598-9728 (Portugese or English)
  • URLhttp://www.ecp.org.br/

* The above information is current as of August, 2008.