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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 25, 2006

Fukushima developed judo champs, solid citizens

Advertiser Staff

Tsuruo Fukushima, a longtime judo teacher who coached 1988 Olympic silver medalist Kevin Asano and developed more than 100 Hawai'i students to the rank of black belt or higher, died May 12. He was 81.

Fukushima established Leeward Judo Club in 1984, and watched it grow into a century club, one that has at least 100 participants signed up with the U.S. Judo Federation.

"He saw judo as a vehicle to build solid individuals," said Asano, who is the head instructor at Leeward Judo Club. "He loved judo, and he loved the kids."

Fukushima, a 7th-degree black belt who coached judo for 60 years, moved to O'ahu in 1977 after retiring from his Department of Defense job in Okinawa, Japan, said former Leeward coach Leigh Nakamoto, who now teaches at Kapolei Judo Club.

Fukushima was a "trailblazer" for bringing intense training methods to Hawai'i, such as longer practices, and strength and running exercises, Nakamoto said.

"He would have us kick buckets of sand to slide them across the cement garage to build up our leg power in our foot sweeps," Nakamoto said. "He would have one person be hung up by bicycle tires against a strong post in the garage, and another person would practice uchikomi (entering the technique)."

Fukushima's intense practices and emphasis on schoolwork became accepted as championship training, Nakamoto said.

Fukushima promoted at least 200 students to the rank of black belt or higher in Japan and Hawai'i, Nakamoto said. Many won national titles, and some represented the United States in international competition.

Fukushima, a World War II veteran, was born in Maui, and lived in Pearl City. He is survived by wife, Terry; sons, Robert and Scotty; three grandchildren; brother, Dick; and sister, Namiko Nakagawa.

Visitation will be from 9:30 a.m. tomorrow at Mililani Mortuary, Waipi'o, Makai Chapel; memorial service at 11 a.m.; burial at 1:30 p.m. at Mililani Memorial Park. Casual attire.