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2011 Howard Fish

I first became aware of judo in about 1953 when I saw a demonstration on the TV show, “You Asked For 
It.” But it wasn’t until several years later that I saw an in-person demonstration by Jim Shackett and Bob 
Jarvis. They suggested I try judo out at the Milwaukee Central YMCA. I started taking lessons from Neal 
Rosenberg, a great teacher/coach. I still greatly appreciate Neal not just for teaching judo classes but also 
for making learning the sport a lot of fun. 

While all the higher rank judoka were helpful, I would like to mention Ed Happ who was very proficient 
at ashiwaza. Being a young white belt, I was a bit apprehensive about approaching Ed, a black belt who I 
perceived as somewhat reserved and stern. However, to my surprise he was very gracious and more than 
willing to give me instruction on ashiwaza techniques. This was a good start and led to my success with 
okuri-ashi-harai in particular. 

I was 15 or 16 years old when I started Judo and continued practicing at the YMCA until about 1963 when 
I transferred colleges from General Motors Institute in Flint Michigan to San Jose State College (SJS) in 
San Jose, California.

While in Milwaukee I reached the grade of Ikkyu and had been successful in a variety of tournaments, one 
of which was a Wisconsin State Championship.

My first day at SJS was a bit of a culture shock. I was at the entrance to the dojo which was on the 
second floor of the gym. I was being grilled by Coach Yosh Uchida about my school grades and being 
advised in no uncertain terms that he expected his players to get good grades in school as well practicing 
very hard every day at judo.

While paying close attention to Yosh, I peered to the right and saw more black-belt judoka on the mat than I had ever seen in any one place at any one time. Then I snuck a glance to the left and I saw Mako 2Obayashi hopping up the two flights of stairs with Kay Yamasaki on his back. While all this was going on, I still remember asking myself how long it would take to get back to Wisconsin if I left that day!! Yosh gave me approval to join the team and I stayed. Because I had just recovered from a broken ankle, the first few months were a bit brutal for me but I eventually adjusted to the workouts and the SJS style of judo.

In the summer of 1963 Yosh arranged a tour of Japan for the team. This was believed to be the first competitive tour by a foreign team since World War II. This was a great trip. There were about 30 of us and we were exposed to the culture of Japan and judo in Japan. Ben Campbell joined us when we arrived. He was studying judo at Meiji University, then the toughest college judo team in Japan. On the way back home we stopped in Hawaii and had a tournament with the Hawaiian All-Star Team and spent a few days on the beach before heading home to university life at SJS. We each gave Yosh $500.00 to pay for the trip which included air fare, meals and lodging. When we returned we got a refund of $70.00! Quite a bargain even in 1963!!

In the fall of 1963 and the spring of 1964 I began doing well in brown belt tournaments and was chosen to 
represent SJS in the 1964 college nationals. I had just been promoted to shodan. I won the heavy weight 
division. I was given the SJS Most Improved Judoka Award for 1964.

In 1965 I represented SJS at the college nationals and won the heavy weight division. I fought Yuzo Koga 
(130# division) for the grand championship of that tournament. Since I had never come close to getting 
him off balance let alone throwing him in practice, I had a plan to do some sort of foot stop and hopefully 
get him to the ground and pin him (he never did ne-waza in practice or competition). However, my plan 
was interrupted when he threw me with a perfect seoi-nage!! 

I was honored with the SJS Most Outstanding Judoka Award for 1965, the highest of the SJS awards.
In 1966 I placed second in the Senior National Tournament behind the late, great Allen Coage in a close 
decision. I was selected to be on the 1966 National AAU All American Judo Team.

In 1967 I placed first in the Senior National Tournament defeating Allen Coage with a last second Osoto-gari. I defeated Gene Morrow and Doug Nelson in the competition for Grand Champion. While the lower three weight division playoffs were won by Yashuhiko Nagatoshi (an alternate on the 1964 Japan Olympic Judo Team). I knew nothing about him at this point. I got a few last minute instructions from Yuzo Koga of what to watch out for, to no avail, as he threw me with seoi-nage. I began to hate that 
throw!!

I was selected to be on the 1967 National AAU All American Judo Team and was awarded with the PAC 
AAU 1967 Outstanding Athlete award.
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